What is Google’s New Passage Ranking System and How Might it Effect You?
In a move hotly anticipated by many, Wednesday, February 10th was the day that Google began its passage ranking (formerly known as passage indexing). Currently, the system is only live in US English search results but they have plans to bring the ranking system to more countries that are English speaking and then countries and territories that utilise other languages.
Google passage ranking is Google’s new way of algorithmically crawling through a long piece of content looking for a specific section, sentence or passage/ set of passages is about a specific query or subject, while another specific passage or set of passages in that same document can be about a completely separate query. Google is able to rank the same piece of content despite the various different subjects and content examples that are discussed in the passages. Very impressively, Google can separate this different content precisely and for different queries. However, Google is not indexing them separately but ranking them separately.
This could be big news within the SEO industry, with Google stating passage ranking would impact about 7% of search queries when it was first announced back in October. Google said at the time that “this will be a global change improving 7% of queries.” From the start, it hasn’t been a global impact, with right now passage ranking only covering US English results. There would have been a noticeable impact after the update went live on the 10th within these US English results, but once the update goes global there could be a potentially seismic change in the SEO world.
So, how does this differ from featured snippets, where Google shows a passage of your content as an answer at the top of the Google Search Results?
Google stated back last year that its “systems determine the relevance of any web document via an understanding of passages. Featured snippets, on the other hand, identifies the most relevant passage in a document we’ve overall determined to be relevant to the query.”
An important thing to consider for anyone in the SEO industry is the need to understand while consuming this that while Google wrote the new system is called “passage indexing,” it is not “indexing.” Google has stated it is a “ranking thing” more than an indexing procedure. In fact, Google has specifically stated that has not changed how it indexes when it comes to this, it still indexes the full page as it did before.
So, in simple terms, how might this affect you or your site?
Your bigger, multi-layered stories and articles on a topic, that may cover various subtopics, will likely have a better chance of ranking for the content surrounding the subtopic in that article now this has gone live. So, if you write about Lamborghinis and then cover all the various models of the Lamborghini, including the Lamborghini Urus. If someone searches for the Urus specifically, that bigger article on Lamborghinis might rank well for the query on the Lamborghini Urus. However, being such early days, its important to take this with a pinch of salt. What the purpose of the update is and how effective it actually is, remains to be seen.
If you think Google Passage Ranking might be something that your site could benefit from but don’t know how to take full advantage of your on-site optimisation, contact us today to speak to our experts!