Google’s Algorithm Update - Passage Based Indexing
Google is notoriously famous for updating its search algorithm to provide the best user experience. To enable better search results for highly niche-specific queries, Google is rolling out - Passage based Indexing.
When searching on Google, you get the most relevant webpage links along with some useful meta-information about the entire page. However, the latest update on the Google search engine allows Google to provide answers to user’s questions even from a specific passage of the page.
What Does Passage-Based Indexing Mean?
When Google ranks a web page, it takes into consideration several factors such as the Title, Description, Headings, Content, Links, Alt Text on Images, etc. Using all these factors, Google can understand the context of the entire page to provide better results to a user query.
In addition to the context of the entire page, Passage-based Indexing allows Google to understand the context of individual passages as well. This context helps the search engine find the most relevant piece of information for a query even if the topic is not associated with the content.
For example, one might have a tutorial on how to become a successful blogger. This post might contain a section pertaining to a specific Web Hosting related question. Therefore, when someone searches for that specific query, this post would be ranked even if the “overall” context of the article is blogging.
How Does This Change Affect Existing Pages?
The thing to note about this algorithm change is that this isn’t a change in how Google indexes a page. The algorithm only causes a change in how Google ranks content based on the information that it finds on a web page.
Google doesn’t index individual passages of a page separately, it just got better at finding the context of these passages. This helps the search engine find that needle in a haystack - the most relevant piece of information.
How is it Different from Featured Snippets?
When performing a search, Google often returns a snippet of your content based on the search query. Passage-based indexing might seem similar to Featured Snippets, but it is quite the opposite.
Traditionally, Google finds an entire page that best matches a user search query. Then, based on the query, it finds the passage in the document that is most relevant. Passage-based Indexing, on the other hand, finds the paragraph that is most relevant to the search query irrespective of the content on the entire document.
Google said its “systems determine the relevance of any web document via an understanding of passages. Featured snippets, on the other hand, identifies the most relevant passage in a document we’ve overall determined to be relevant to the query.”
Note that Google is NOT indexing passages or sections of a page. It is still indexing the entire page, but Google’s system now considers the meaning of the content on individual sections while determining relevancy.
What Does This Mean For Tags - Title, Heading, Paragraph, etc.?
When questioned, Google didn’t have a definitive answer for this, but it is obvious that all the meta tags, such as Titles, Headings, Alt text, are still just as important as before. The difference, however, might be that Heading tags get more weightage when the algorithm rolls out completely.
The reason is that a passage’s heading and content determine how well a section matches to a query even if the rest of the page is about a slightly different or overall less relevant topic.
When Is This Going To Be Rolled Out?
Google said that passage-based indexing is going to affect 7% of search queries across all languages when rolled out globally. Starting from next month, Google is going to roll out passage-based indexing for English in the United States followed by other countries and languages.Final Thoughts
With new passage understanding capabilities, Google can now understand that the specific passage is a lot more relevant to a specific query than a broader page on that topic. Google said, “this is helpful for queries where the specific bit of information the person is looking for is hidden in a single passage on a page that is not necessarily the main topic of that page.”
This change is going to be well-received by SEO specialists and content writers as it gives them a chance to rank some of their passages as well instead of the entire web page.