SEO Insights: October 2023 Report


In October, Google rolled out another two major updates: the new Spam update and another Core update.

These were rolled out practically at the same time, meaning that fluctuations in the search results from these updates may be difficult to attribute to a specific update.

There have been a significant number of updates over the last few months, with some, such as the Helpful Content Update, being particularly disruptive.

This isn’t quite the end of it either. It’s likely we will see another update (or two) before the end of the year. Christmas is a time when spam tends to increase, in line with an increase in online shopping, so we can expect to see more disruption over the coming weeks.

Stable search results? That’s definitely a thing of the past now!

Information gain – The need to add value

Have you ever studied the search results and wondered why a specific website may be ranking, when it possibly doesn’t quite align with the other results being displayed?

There are hundreds of signals that Google uses to rank pages, and there can be many reasons why some pages rank and others don’t. However, there is an interesting patent that Google was granted in 2022 which covers the subject of “information gain”, and this is definitely a concept which we are increasingly seeing reflected in the search results.

The concept of “information gain” is relatively easy to explain…

If you carry out a search and the first 2 or 3 results answer your question, do you really want to see a 4th and 5th result, etc., that cover the same thing? No, you probably want to see something a little different if the first results haven’t quite answered it completely for you.

What would be more helpful then is to have some related results which offer something in addition to the initial results, something extra…some “information gain”.

That’s now a much more useful set of results.

The standard practice with SEO is to try and match what the top-ranking websites are doing, and hopefully do it a bit better. But in doing this, there is nothing new being created, it’s more of the same and it makes it harder for a website to then outrank the top competitors. Adding more content, for example, isn’t always the best approach, if anything it can actually cause a dilution of the page and make it worse, and possibly ruin the general user experience, which then impacts conversions.

However, taking a different approach and thinking about what’s missing, what other information would be useful for the searcher and how to present it, that’s a more useful strategy. For example, maybe including helpful videos, more visual content, diagrams, or interactive elements such as “before-and-after image sliders”.

By just doing the same as other websites, it’s difficult to stand out. It’s better to consider what added value can be provided to a searcher as it’s more likely that this approach will yield better results.

Keeping it fresh

We’ve previously discussed the freshness of content on several occasions, but it’s possibly getting increasingly more important as a ranking factor.

With the recent updates, it does seem that pages that are updated on a regular basis are featuring more and more in the search results. Even searches for queries which, in theory, do not require freshening are returning improved results. Here’s an example…a search for “how to boil an egg”:

how to boil an egg SERPs

Notice how some of the results show that the pages have been updated over the last few months. Maybe I’m missing something here, but the way to boil an egg has always been the same and it’s unlikely to change!

It is interesting to note how the two highlighted websites have appeared in the results after keeping their pages updated in 2023. Look at the chart below; it’s intriguing how (indicated by the green line) appears on the first page of the search results as of only a few months ago, while downshiftology has been active a lot longer and is now seeing good SERP performance after a recent update:

SERP performance img

There will be other factors always helping these pages to rank, but it’s interesting to see that they are the two websites mostly updating their pages frequently.

Freshness matters, even pertaining to things that aren’t likely to change, such as boiling an egg. The challenge is how to maintain larger websites, and always ensuring that content is updated and still relevant today.

Google ultimately wants to show users the best, most relevant search results for a given search query. Content that is updated may appear to be more relevant today than it was when it was first written, say, five years ago. It also shows that a website owner is taking the time to maintain their website, an important factor when it comes to building some trust and authority online.

As part of the ongoing work that we do for our clients, we regularly review and update pages to keep them updated and fresh as well as looking for new opportunities to enhance the value of key pages. Our strategy ensures that we achieve great, long-term rankings for our clients as well as being best positioned to positively benefit from Google’s barrage of regular updates.