Google Passage Ranking, It Is Not Passage Indexing

06 November 2020 . minute read

In the slew of Google Search announcements from last week, one of the more interesting bits was a section on passage indexing.

As I wrote in my coverage, I asked Google for more information on that and I wrote it up in detail on Search Engine Land. But I think it is important I cover it in detail here as well, as there is still confusion around this upcoming Google Search launch.

An important thing that SEOs kind of need to understand while reading this is that while Google wrote it is called "passage indexing," it is not "indexing." Google told me it is a "ranking thing" more than an indexing thing. In fact, Google said it has not changed how it indexes when it comes to this, it still indexes the full page.

The distinction is important because we covered before that Google does not index parts of a page - it indexes the full page and then after it is indexed, it determines how to use the content on the page in ranking.

This is what I wrote at Search Engine Land, "we asked Google if Google is now indexing passage or sections of the page. Google is not. Google is still indexing full pages but Google’s systems will

consider the content and meaning of passages when determining what is most relevant versus previously we were largely looking at the page overall, a Google spokesperson told us." "So indexing really has not changed here. It is more of a ranking change, how Google ranks content, based on what it finds on your web page. Google is not, I repeat, not, indexing individual passages on the page. It is however better at zoning into what is on the page and surfacing those passages better for ranking purposes."

When Google launched this, even though I dug into this in more detail on Search Engine Land, I am still seeing people say that Google has changed how it indexes content on the web.

No, it has not changed how it indexes content on the web. It is going to change how it looks at your content, after it is indexed, and how that content is ranked in Google Search and how that content is displayed in the Google search results page.

This is what it might look like when it is launched and Google shows passages in search:


This is different from featured snippets.

And this is a big change, very big, impacting 7% of all queries. So this will be big when it launches.

Your big massive stories and articles on a topic, that covers many subtopics, will likely have a better chance of ranking for the subtopics in that article when this goes live. So if you write about iPhones and then cover all the various models of the iPhone, including the iPhone 12 Pro Max. If someone searches for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, that bigger article on iPhones might rank well for the query on iPhone 12 Pro Max. Might...

Will this means that header tags are going to be more important, maybe even more important on some pages than title tags? I do not know. But it will be fun to test...

Note: This is also not live now, it won't be live until the end of the year.

Google did say they will consider clarifying this via official Google channels. I'll let you know if they post something on this.


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