Google Passage Ranking is a search engine algorithm update that allows Google to understand and rank individual passages of a webpage rather than just the entire page.
The goal of this update is to provide more accurate and relevant search results to users, particularly for longer and more complex queries.
Why did they launch Google Passage Ranking?
This algorithm is designed to show a specific answer to a user’s multiaspect request in the search results. Therefore, text fragments from pages may appear in the search results even if the page doesn’t correspond the subject of the user request.
At first glance, the content of such pages does not answer the question, but this is only at first glance. A page can contain the best answer to a user’s query, even if the other 80% of the text is irrelevant.
Roughly speaking, Google Passage Ranking ranks sites with an emphasis on text fragments to make the search detailed, focused on finer points and niche queries.
At the same time, Google draws attention to the fact that this algorithm does not replace the main one, only serves as an addition to it.
Google explained the implementation of the new algorithm by the difficulty occurred to obtain reliable information on many specific queries from the search. Most often, the answer is a single sentence and it is buried somewhere deep inside the page, the content of which is only indirectly related to the request. Google loves longreads, the top 10 most often includes pages with bulky content – and it can be very inconvenient for user to search for the answer of one specific question there.
Therefore, Google called this update a ranking breakthrough able to find a needle in a haystack.
Google does a lot to serve users as the best provider of answers. In return,
Google gains attention by keeping visitors within its SERP, promoting its own services, and displaying ads.
How does the algorithm work?
For users, the operation of the algorithm occurs mostly invisible: it is impossible to see what work the search engine is doing to find a passage of text that answers the query. This is different from Google Chrome’s (Scroll To Text) browser mechanism, which highlights words and sentences from a search query on a website page in yellow.
Google, in every way, makes it clear that search bots do not index text fragments apart from the rest of the page content, as it is technically difficult task that can slow down the loading of results. Therefore, the algorithm first indexes the entire page, and then analyzes how best to use the content for ranking, which passages best respond to user requests
Google, in every way, makes it clear that search bots do not index text fragments apart from the rest of the page content, as it is technically difficult task that can slow down the loading of results.
Therefore, the algorithm first indexes the entire page, and then analyzes how best to use the content for ranking, which passages best respond to user requests.
How optimizers need to act?
This kind of update does not require changes in the website promotion strategy from webmasters and optimizers – it is impossible to optimize the site for this algorithm.
Nevertheless, this update once again confirms the importance of content. It would be a good idea to check the texts on your site and make sure that they not only cover the topic from all sides, but provide answers to the most detailed questions.
Also, Google Passage Ranking again raised the question of whether meta tags (title, description) are needed and what role H1 headings and H2-H6 subheadings play.
These elements certainly help users get information, navigate the page faster and better understand the content in general.
In the past, Google did use meta tags and subheadings as important indicators of a page’s subject matter. It is not clear now whether they are as important for the search engine as they are for users or not. Google Passage Ranking prevents bots from having to go to the tags for this information. But filling in tags and structuring the text is still worth it – if not for search engines, then for site visitors.
What changes are visible now and what should be expected in the future?
Google Passage Ranking was first announced a year ago, in October 2020. It was launched 7 months ago, in February 2021.
According to Google representatives, the implementation of the new algorithm should have affected about 7% of search queries in English in the USA.
Optimizers didn’t notice a serious impact on rankings: apparently, Google’s data on 7 % of queries were close to the truth. Moz specialists did not notice significant fluctuations either.
At the same time, many of the SEO specialists are of the opinion that Google Passage Ranking is just the beginning of a large update that will affect many more queries and sites. This is how the story began with the BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) algorithm, a pre-trained machine learning algorithm for natural language processing tasks developed by Google.
By launching this update, Google once again emphasized the importance of content quality. However, you should be prepared for an increase in the number of zero-click queries and the launch of the Google Passage Ranking report in the Search Console.