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min read
November 2, 2023

Why Information Gain Matters for SEO

Parthi Loganathan
CEO of Letterdrop, former Product Manager on Google Search

As a Content Marketer, you know that the struggle to compete on SERPs oversaturated with content is real. Everyone wants those high-performing keywords, so everyone creates the same content.

You have to fight tooth and nail for authority over every keyword and every possible content avenue, and even then, your content can get lost in a sea of sameness. It's exhausting.

But the SEO game is changing. Google brought out a patent on information gain scoring in 2020 that determines the value of search results beyond relevance alone. Google also demoed its new Search Generative Experience, or SGE, at its 2023 I/O event, but you can read that story in another of our blog posts.

So, what does this mean? If you want your content to rank better, you must bring a fresh new take on topics through original research. SEO isn't a lost cause; you don't have to be a huge company to compete for top spots.

Think of becoming the purple cow of Seth Godlin's imagination — memorable, because you were helpful and creative. It pays to be different — literally.

What Is Information Gain?

What is information gain, anyway?

In 2020, Google released a patent introducing its intention to rank search results according to how different they are from similar results. Resources that offer new information are ranked higher through "information gain scoring."

For example, suppose two articles crop up for the query "How to Change a Car Tire." The second article answers the search query and also discusses winter tires. It differentiates itself from the first article and will rank higher on Google.

User search history also influences the score. Resources that haven't been seen yet and share additional information receive higher scores.

How Google scores information gain and presents results | Source: Google
How Google scores information gain and presents results | Source: Google

As you can guess, this scoring system holds major implications for SEO — relevance alone won't get you into the coveted top three spots on the SERP.

Why Does Information Gain Matter for SEO?

SERPs are all starting to look the same — very "Attack of the Clones."

SERPs are full of copycat content
SERPs these days are full of copycat content

‎Over the past decade, SERPs have been clogged with "skyscraper" articles that incrementally build on each other. The top few results are all essentially the same. But this kind of tactic hasn't worked for a few years. Google needs coverage from different angles on a topic, not more of the same.

This is particularly relevant after Google demoed its SGE at its 2023 I/O event. The AI will generate answers according to search results, and if five resources say the same thing, it will not cite all five.

TL;DR? You need to be different if you want a prominent place on the SERP.

The Death of Keywords

The time for keyword stuffing and seeing which company can shout keywords the loudest is long past.

Google has a better understanding of pages, and how people view them, so it's more important than ever to write for people, not bots. You need to move from keywords to topics for a more holistic evaluation of what a page says.

This includes new never-been-seen-before information that no one else is saying online (it still has to be true; we're not asking you to make up UFO conspiracies).

If you want to be seen as worthy enough of ranking high and being featured in Google's SGE summary, your page actually needs to answer search intent and share hard-earned perspectives that no one else is sharing.

How To Introduce Information Gain In Your Content

Getting your content cited in that SGE snapshot is the SERP equivalent of a giant billboard for your brand. It doesn't just scream keyword relevance — it shows that your content is valuable and offers new perspectives.

There are a couple of ways to increase the information gain scoring on your content and earn a top spot on the SERP.

1. Prioritize Original Research

The last thing you want users to think when they see your article headline is, "Been there, read that." The same can be said of Google with information gain — you want to stand out with new perspectives and stats.

Here are some ways you can gather original research:

1. Record and get marketing insights from sales calls with tools like Fireflies, Fathom, and Letterdrop's Gong.io integration. You can see what problems your customers face and what questions they ask.

2. Talk to customers and industry experts through surveys or through your LinkedIn network.

3. Use personal and business experience to offer unique insights into the topic.

2. Find Gaps in Existing Content

Look at what's been covered on a topic before and what hasn't, using your content to fill the gaps.

Gaps in Competitors' Content

Do some competitor research and see where your competitors have missed something on a particular topic.

Logical Next Steps on the Topic

You can test possible follow-up questions by searching keywords related to your topic.

For instance, if a user is searching "Where to Buy Car Tires," a logical next question could be the example from earlier: "How to Change a Car Tire."

Searching related keywords with Letterdrop's Keyword Research tool

How You Can Go Into More Detail

Ask yourself what questions customers may have even after seeing top results on the SERP.

Sure, there are many articles on "How to Change a Car Tire", but what about changing those winter tires?

Do some research on what top pages may be missing out on

3. Consider the 4 Stages of Customer Awareness

Understanding the stages of a customer's journey can help you differentiate your content for each stage.

The customer journey typically has four stages of awareness: unaware, problem-aware, solution-aware, and product-aware.

Matching content to customers' changing information needs with a content framework increases your chances of appearing in original and follow-up search results.

Match the buyer's search journey with a content framework

Save Hours of Manual Research on Content Gaps

Manual research on gaps in the market can take hours. Letterdrop has a tool that can tell you the top topics covered by the SERP and topics that are yet to be covered.

You can then auto-generate sections on covered topics, or "Tablestakes," and add sections based on the tool's information gain suggestions.

Letterdrop identifies gaps in your content to increase information gain scoring
Letterdrop identifies gaps in your content to increase information gain scoring

Adding Value Has Never Been More Important for SEO

With Google's SGE announcement still so fresh in the minds of Content Marketers and SEOs everywhere, it's never been more important to rethink SEO on content.

Content that simply rehashes existing information or doesn't go beyond keyword relevance will slowly get buried by thousands of resources just like it. And if customers don't see your content, your traffic and conversions will plummet.

Google's information gain scoring system is designed to reward search results that go beyond just improving existing pieces. It encourages content that adds something new and valuable to the discussion and stands out from all the copycat pieces that populate the SERP.

So, what's the way forward for SEO? Re-structuring your content strategy around providing fresh perspectives through original research.

Letterdrop can help you stand out in this rapidly shifting search climate with its suite of intuitive SEO and automation tools. Talk to us to get started today.

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