Google Launches Passage Ranking in the U.S.

This BERT-Like Update Will Affect 7%
of All Queries

Google passage rankingOn February 11, Google announced that passage ranking was pushed live in the U.S. after introducing the update in October of 2020.

From what we have gauged so far, it seems to be a similar language-based update that better helps identify user intent, just as BERT was in 2019.

Keep on reading to learn more details on what we know so far.

What Exactly Is Passage Ranking?

In a series of tweets from Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison of search, the specifics of the update were explained:

“Typically, we evaluate all content on a web page to determine if it is relevant to a query. But sometimes web pages can be very long, or on multiple topics, which might dilute how parts of a page are relevant for particular queries…

With our new technology, we’ll be able to better identify and understand key passages on a web page. This will help us surface content that might otherwise not be seen as relevant when considering a page only as a whole…

This change doesn’t mean we’re indexing individual passages independently of pages. 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…

There’s nothing special creators need to do here. Continue to focus on great content, with all the advice we offer: https://google.com/webmasters/learn/…

It just means in some cases, we may now do a better job of surfacing content, with no work required on the part of creators.” (Source: @searchliaison on Twitter)

Example of Passage Rank

As you can see in the example below, a before and after comparison for a specific query displayed different results. The second result showcases a better answer, identifying an exact passage on a page that presented what the searcher was looking for:

screenshot

Key Points Passage Ranking Is Addressing

In their initial announcement in 2020, Google noted a few aspects other than passages that this new ranking rollout will help fix or improve on, including:

  • Spelling
  • Subtopics
  • COVID-19 info
  • Moments in videos
  • Quality journalism
  • 3D search
  • Voice search
  • Much more

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