Google starts rolling out the ranking based on passages from websites

In autumn 2020, Google announced the update for the ranking, and the roll-out is now starting in the USA. It could also explain recent fluctuations there.

Seven percent of all search queries on Google are said to be positively influenced by Google’s new passage ranking. The update was announced in October 2020 and now the search engine company has confirmed the start of the roll-out. Initially, only English-language results in the US are affected. With the Passage Ranking, Google wants to highlight individual passages of websites in the SERPs if they are more relevant for specific search queries than the display of an entire article or a website. Google emphasizes that SEOs don’t have to adjust to the change; however, it should explain some of the strong ranking fluctuations that recently occurred with US traffic on many sites.

Google digs up relevant passages from the depths of the websites

The update on the ranking of passages that are available on individual pages, which may not even be so relevant for a search query, relates in particular to very specific search queries. In the autumn blog post, Google explained that these passages should be highlighted in the SERPs in order to be able to offer searchers even better answers – even if these are hidden somewhere in a text.

Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right, since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages. By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for. This technology will improve 7 percent of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally.

With the passage ranking, Google highlights relevant text passages and ranks them (and the associated pages) accordingly positively, © Google

Since this update could have such a strong impact on search queries, it makes sense to use it to explain fluctuations in ranking that site operators perceive. In the USA some SEOs had recently speculated about a possible small ranking update from Google, now Google’s announcement that the passage ranking in the USA for English-language results is now live could offer them an explanation.

Individual passages are not indexed individually

Google also explains via Twitter that, especially with posts on websites that are very long or deal with different topics, an aspect relevant to a search query can sometimes be lost. With the passage ranking, however, this should be able to be highlighted so that the page is still classified as relevant in the SERPs. In this way, content gets more attention for ranking that it would not have received without Google’s new technology.

However, the passages are not indexed regardless of the pages on which they appear. Google does:

We’re still indexing pages and considering info about entire pages for ranking. But now we can also consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor.

The Passage Ranking has now been launched for search queries in English in the USA. It will then be rolled out for other countries and English-language search queries before it is expanded to include more countries and languages. The global roll-out should then bring some movement into the SERPs. However, SEOs cannot make direct preparations for this. Google simply advises to always create relevant content for the respective target groups; and to make it as accessible as possible for Google’s crawlers. The company also delivers for this a help document in the Google Searh Central. We can now eagerly wait for the Passage Ranking to be rolled out in Germany and to influence the ranking. SEOs should definitely keep an eye on this change.

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