Passage Ranking - What the new rollout means

The world of Digital has been inundated with the news of Google’s possible departure in Search in Australia and Facebook banning news overnight. Today we take a break from these worldwide happenings and focus on a new ranking factor quietly rolled out by Google called Passage Ranking.

What is Passage Ranking?

In October 2020, Google announced an update called “passage ranking” or “passage indexing” which is a new way for Google to rank specific passages on a web page. According to Google, the reason for this update is that “very specific searches can be the hardest to get right”. The idea is that often, single sentence answers can be buried deep within a webpage, Google wants to be able to rank specific passages on a webpage and not just the entire page.

Google said that this update would affect 7% of all search queries when rolled out Globally. Its is also different from Featured Snippets, here’ is what the change may look like-


What’s Happened Since October 2020?

On February 10th this update rolled out, affecting US English search results. Most of the conversation on Twitter and from well-known SEO’s suggest that very little impact has been felt so far. There are many great tools which show fluctuation in SERP results before and after large Google algorithm updates and most observed showed very little fluctuation. 

Here is an example from Moz:

Source: Mozcast

Large fluctuations in the columns over time would show turbulence in the SERPs but the above suggests very little change.

Why Do We Care?

The messaging from well-known SEO’s as well as the lack of change in SERPs suggest that there is very little change so far and not much for SEO’s to do.Google’s original messaging around Passage Ranking suggested that there was very little to do to prepare and not much of a change to SERP’s would be noticed. 

From the first indication this seems to hold true and provided you have well written and laid out content and your passages that answer your potential customers' needs and concerns, you should be set and ready for an update like this.

Google did say that this would impact 7% of Global queries once rolled out which seems small but can actually have a huge impact. When the Panda update launched it impacted around 11% of queries and Penguin was around 3%. Penguin had a huge impact on SEO’s doing link building while Panda heavily affected SEO’s producing content. 

As you can see, these updates made more of an impact to SEO’s than expected so why isn’t Passage Ranking showing the same large-scale changes? Time will tell but we think that if you have been producing high-quality and unique content that answers your potential customers needs, there is little to do and you will most likely benefit from this update.

As always CleverClicks carefully monitors your website rankings and we are aware of the changes. To-date we have also observed very little change overall and we will continue to monitor this update over the next while.

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