Information gain content: Stand out from the crowd

Monday, August 14, 2023


Written by

Content & DPR Specialist

Digital marketing is a crowded space, with virtually every brand out there trying to be heard above the noise. So much focus on the same areas of marketing can lead to lots of repetitive, unoriginal and even monotonous content being pushed out, vying for space at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

With so many articles using the same keywords and containing the same - or very similar - information, content marketing and SEO may have started to feel like a bit of an uphill, never-ending struggle to achieve visibility. To combat this, Google filed a patent in 2020 for 'information gain'.

What is information gain?

As per Google's original patent from April 2020, "an information gain score for a given document is indicative of additional information that is included in the document beyond information contained in documents that were previously viewed by the user." The term originates in computer science and refers to the use of data models to optimise data sets.

In content marketing, put simply, information gain scores are based on search results adding new, supplementary information versus competitors. So, let's say there are two articles about electric bikes. If one also includes information on the different subcategories of electric bikes, details about electric bike batteries, or FAQs on maintenance and repair, it will rank higher in terms of information gain.

It’s also about each user as an individual, and making sure that at each point in their journey through the marketing funnel they are served content that adds more value, rather than just the same information written in different words.

Ultimately, information gain is about giving users more helpful and valuable content. Good content writing should always centre the reader anyway, so consider this an extension of that mindset. Information gain is intended to increase SERP competition and force brands to improve their content in terms of informational value and relevancy.

Why is information gain important?

Obviously, the fact that Google is using information gain as a ranking factor means that you should consider it a key tool for SEO reasons. However, the reasons to focus on making your content say more than competitors go far beyond that.

Content with information gain is typically more engaging - it provides extra information and is more useful than other results. It's also a key trust signal, as your audience will gain more value from your content and will most likely consider it worth their while to read. As well as boosting engagement, well-targeted and expanded content can therefore feed lead generation and conversions.

Information gain - game changer?

Information gain opens up the door for new players in the SERPs. A new article that adds something new to a conversation may rank more highly than a piece that says the same old thing - even if it's meticulously written, optimised and targeted.

It also means that old adage "it's good to be unique!" finally applies to more than school bullying and botched haircuts. This update essentially means that content is rewarded for being different to the rest - rather than just better. It means that content marketing efforts can afford to be a bit bolder.

In effect, it means that lots of SERPs are now more fragmented. As anyone who works in SEO knows, many results pages for key terms have been a homogenous monolith. Variations on the exact same message, content and information have often sat stagnant in the top positions thanks to various other ranking factors, and it's been nigh on impossible to make headway. However, this idea of a static search result with one overarching answer is becoming less dominant. The rise of generative AI (explored further in theFuture of Search) and personalised results means multiple relevant answers can be served across the same searches by different users.

How to use information gain for content marketing

So, the rise of information gain as a ranking measurement means we need a slightly fresh approach to planning content marketing strategy. It will likely mean revisiting existing content as a priority, incorporating strategies that consider the user's individual journey (i.e. generative AI chat bots and smart search), and using proprietary data to your advantage.

In simple terms, here are some of the key opportunities for incorporating information gain and helping your content stand out from the crowd(ed SERPS):

Collaborate more, compete less