Passage Ranking

Since the invention of the internet, Google has steadily become the most powerful and helpful knowledge gaining tool. The Google search engine makes it easy for absolutely anyone with an internet connection to look for information effortlessly. In turn, it’s made life easier since everything we need to know can be accessed with a simple click.

Over the years, Google has made additions to the search engine that’s made it easy for both businesses to post about their products and services and for consumers to find out about them in detail. But, with all the sites and information popping up, it became difficult to find the more relevant pages.

In 2020, Google’s Passage Ranking update came into effect – it’s a new algorithm ranking update that digital marketers instantly took interest in.

But, how what exactly did it do and how does it help you become visible online?

We’ll discuss all the details on how it works, how it affects your rankings, and much more.

What is Passage Ranking?

Passage ranking is an automated feature that allows Google to scan through the content of websites and pull the most relevant sections from its pages into search engine results.

Google passage ranking, also known as passage indexing, is a slight ranking change that Google implemented back in 2020 and remains to be the biggest search related announcement.

With this development, Google can separate pieces of your content from the rest of the page and rank them separately.

Even if the rest of the content of your page isn’t optimised for that particular section Google recognizes as relevant, your page might still rank for it.

What Passage Ranking is Not?

Since Google announced this particular change, there’s been a lot of confusion about it. So, let’s discuss what passage ranking isn’t.

While the meaning of passages will be considered by Google when determining which results to show for a query.

Google Passages are not an indexing update.

It also doesn’t mean that Google only indexes web page passages. It doesn’t affect indexing either, and Google Passage Ranking won’t cease to index entire web pages as it has been in the past.

How Does Passage Ranking Work?

When we search for something on Google, we’re shown the most relevant passage to our query. So, it’s crucial to note that Google Passage Ranking has no effect on how people interact with search engine results pages (SERPs). Only the way Google AI evaluates webpage content and information in terms of relevancy for very specific searches has changed as a result of this upgrade.

Google may extract specific passages of your text and rank them separately from the rest of the same page using passage indexing. So, if you search for something like “baking”, a page with a section on “the best baking tools” might rank for the keyword even if the post isn’t optimized for it.

As a result, Google can now search a webpage for a very particular sentence, paragraph, or portion of text that answers a long-tail keyword or topic. It can rank individual passages and displays that webpage in search results for that term or question, even if the page isn’t entirely relevant to the inquiry.

How Does Passage Ranking Affect SEO?

In the search results, you can rank the passages. Passage Ranking allows it to detect particular passages on a page and evaluate them as potentially relevant for a given query, even if they aren’t part of the page’s primary theme.

Passage Ranking is geared toward those who aren’t as familiar with search engine optimization (SEO).

What Types of Sites Will Passage Indexing Impact? 

Passage Ranking is largely designed to assist content producers who aren’t following SEO best practices. The adjustment will especially benefit websites with long-form material that isn’t well optimized. So, publishers with a well-defined SEO strategy, eCommerce sites with shorter material, and websites lacking long-form content are unlikely to see any changes.

This update will affect 7% of all search queries in all languages.

Some pages may benefit more than others, like the ones listed here:

  • Pages that have a wide range of topics
  • Articles without proper subheadings, bullet points, or are poorly structured
  • Pages that aren’t SEO optimized

Benefits of Passage Ranking

Google passage ranking is one way of bringing more traffic to your web pages that might have otherwise been considered irrelevant if it’s being analyzed as a whole. In short, it’s a way for web pages that haven’t been SEO optimized to get a proper boost in rankings.

Some benefits of passage indexing include:

  • Focus on users, not Google bots: Google again indicates that it prefers site owners to create information that is valuable to users rather than what the search bots want.
  • Long-tail keywords have never been more important: Keywords and related topics are more likely to trigger passage indexing, which includes phrases and longer terms, just like for voice search.
  • Longer-form content will benefit from passage indexing, which will help it rank higher for more precise keywords.

This update actually helps long-form content pages rank higher since there’s a higher chance of more specific keywords being included. These keywords and related terms are more likely to trigger passage ranking.

It’s also worth mentioning that this adjustment will have no impact on Google penalties or traffic for most websites.

How Can You Optimize for Google Passage Ranking?

You can optimize for Google passage ranking by keeping the following in mind:

  • Long-form content should be updated with fresh resources, stats, and links.
  • To help Google comprehend all of the topics covered in a piece, use clear, keyword-rich headlines for each part.
  • Try to avoid using subheaders that are overly optimized.
  • Create long-form content. Cover as much of the subject as you can, respond to typical inquiries, and employ long-form key terms.
  • Research long-tail keywords and incorporate them into your long-form content.

How Do You Change Your Content Strategy for Google Passage Ranking?

Simply put, you don’t need to change your content approach for passage ranking. After all, this modification isn’t intended to alter people’s search habits. It’s designed to accommodate how people are already looking by cutting one or two steps between their query and the answer.

With that in mind, you should think about producing material that addresses both broad and specific inquiries. If you aren’t already doing so, now is the time to update old posts and prepare for new content.

Title Tags & Header Tags

Title tags, headers, and other similar structures were once utilized as strong indicators for the context of a page in Google Passage ranking, but the algorithm no longer has to rely on them as much as it once did.

However, these are still best practices as they make it easier for readers to scan through your content, get to the information they need faster, and grasp it better overall.

Is There a Tool to Help Sites Optimize for Google Passage Indexing?

Unfortunately, there currently isn’t any tool available to check if your site’s eligible for this. So, it’s best to stick to creating content that consumers look for.

How Will Passage Ranking Affect the Future of Search Marketing?

Users and the user journey will always be the core focus of Google. While being able to rank and index web pages is a small change in the system, it’s one worth noticing as it’s another addition to help users better.

It also demonstrates Google’s commitment to leveraging AI to comprehend a page’s context. Google uses RankBrain, DeepMind, machine learning, and natural language processing to interpret context better. This is a follow-up to their efforts.

So, it’s fantastic news for digital marketers! Google strives to make its search results as relevant to users as possible.

How Will Passage Ranking Impact Ecommerce?

Most eCommerce pages contain more images than it does worded content. So, even if the site is a long product category page, it’s highly unlikely that passage ranking applies since there isn’t enough content to analyze.

The site may still benefit, but not as much as it would if it contained more text. Now, for product queries, a specific product page with specific content should outrank a category page.

What Is The Difference Between Passage Ranking and Featured Snippets?

Featured Snippets and Passage Ranking are two distinct processes. Featured Snippets are the highlighted results of your search that show at the top of Google’s search results web page for a given query.

The goal of these featured snippets is to provide a quick solution to the searcher’s query without the need to leave Google.

On the other hand, the Google passage ranking is a completely distinct mechanism that influences ordinary ‘blue link’ search results and isn’t confined to short, succinct responses.

What Is The Difference Between Passage Ranking and Rank Brain?

RankBrain is a machine learning-based system that aids Google in processing the results of your search and delivering the most relevant results to users.

The Passage ranking update is an automated method that annotates long passages of content.

How Does Google Understand Passages vs. Subtopics?

Google’s ability to offer a variety of replies for broad search queries is referred to as subtopics. It’s a means of deciphering inquiries or providing users with options for zooming in on stuff.

Unlike passage ranking, which is useful for narrow searches, subtopics are useful for broad searches. When someone types in a broad search term, the algorithm tries to give a larger range of results. This increases the chances of finding a solution without having to refine the search.

The only element of a subtopic that people can see is the results, thus it won’t seem any different even if the algorithm has changed.

What’s the Connection Between BERT and Passages?

Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a Google-developed transformer-based machine learning technique for pre-training natural language processing.

BERT is a method of comprehending content, and before the Passages ranking can take place, Google must comprehend the text.

Internally, separating these concepts and figuring out how they relate to one another is a different process from figuring out what this page is about. It may be similar, but it’s two distinct processes. This means we can’t perform one of these things if we don’t understand natural language first.

Will Passages Help Long Webpages?

In short, yes, it will help. The entire goal of the Google passage ranking update is to show those sites that have poor content structure (e.g. those that lack clear sections, headings, and segments), lack SEO optimizations, or those that cover multiple topics.

It helps by ranking a small section of the entire long form content instead of the entire article.

As a result, if your page already has a high ranking, it may have little effect on your site. Sites with useful long-form content that isn’t properly optimized, on the other hand, may notice a slight increase in rankings and, as a result, traffic.

What Should Publishers Do About Google Passage Ranking?

There actually isn’t anything you need to do; no modifications to your website, no changes to your existing pages, no changes to any of your articles, and no changes to your markup are required.

There’s no need for you to do anything unusual.

It’s just a matter of us growing better at understanding the content of a page at a more granular level and being able to score different elements of a page separately.

How should content creators & SEOs respond to the passage ranking update?

Content creators should continue to create and distribute quality content! You won’t need to change much since the key is that the algorithm does all of the heavy lifting for you.

Always ensure that your posts, especially the long-form posts, have content that addresses both broad and specific questions.

Popular Questions

Will I lose or gain traffic once passage-based ranking comes into effect? 

Most websites will benefit from this and possibly gain traffic since web pages will now be relevant for a wider range of keywords, rather than only those related to their main theme.

Can Sites Rely on Passages If It Has Bad Content Structure?

Publishers with a poorly structured web page benefit more from Passage Ranking. However, sites with badly structured material, on the other hand, should not count on Passages to help them rank.

What is Indexed By Google?

A page is indexed by Google if the Google crawler “Googlebot” has visited it, examined it for content and relevance, and saved it in the Google index. If pages are indexed and fulfil Google’s webmaster guidelines, they will appear in Google Search results.

Is Passage Indexing Part of the SMITH Algorithm Update?

Although Google has yet to verify that the new algorithm is in use, the assumption that passage indexing is part of the SMITH algorithm is speculated by many.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that the SMITH algorithm upgrade includes Google passage indexing. SMITH thrives in understanding and reviewing passages, which seems to be coincidental.

In early January 2021, Google announced the existence of the SMITH algorithm. Researchers rapidly determined that SMITH outperforms BERT.

SMITH excels at comprehending long-form content, whereas BERT understands context within words.

Is Passage Ranking Another Move Toward Long Form Content?

Short-form written content has its time and place, but this passage indexing upgrade does favour long-form content.

Google passage indexing makes it  easier to sort through pages (maybe to the point where people won’t need to click at all, but we’ll have to wait and see).

Will There Be a Jump Anchor for Google Passages, like with Featured Snippets?

Jump anchors are a Chrome feature that allows a URL to be set up so that when the link is clicked, Chrome jumps to a relevant portion and highlights it in yellow.

Many passage links, according to early indications, include scroll to text features, so don’t be shocked if you encounter them in your Google Search Console.


Google is a top search console that houses more data than you can imagine. But, using it means you won’t be stuck looking for a needle in a haystack when you’re looking for a specific passage or page. That’s because Google’s constantly working to improve the way it presents the results of your search query, and the latest update they’ve given is the Google Passage Ranking feature.

Thanks to this algorithm update, people will be able to write more deliberately written content and have better chances of being seen by relevant consumers. Though the tweak will have little effect on how individuals search, it will confirm wider SEO trends. You won’t go wrong if you provide content, cover themes pertinent to your business, and focus on search intent.

The significance of focusing on SEO recommended practices hasn’t altered, even though passage ranking is new. So, continue to create high-value, search-optimized content, and you’ll land a top spot in Google’s search results page.