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Google Passage Indexing – A New Way of Google Ranking

What is Google Passage Indexing?

Passage ranking or indexing is a small google update, that helps the search engine better understand the web page content, and present the best result to the user.

Google passage indexing is an automated update that extracts sections from a web page and shows them to the user. So, why is it special? After this update, for search queries, Google would display a particular portion of the article, though the whole article may not talk about that query.

Example to better understand

For example, if a web page talks about SEO Marketing, and has multiple paragraphs like SEO trends 2020, SEO updates, Google algorithm, and so on. Though the article is long, it wouldn’t be listed for the “SEO marketing” search query, however, if someone is looking for “SEO trends 2020”, Google might extract that particular paragraph of SEO trends, and display it to the user. So, that’s how passage indexing works.

With passage indexing, Google displays sections of the article and ranks them independently, though the rest of the article isn’t optimized for that particular query. The chances are high that a particular section may get listed on search results like displaying only the “SEO trends 2020” section from the above example.

The passage indexing, not only displays the section, but Google also highlights certain words that seem relevant to the search query. As this google update ranks section irrespective of the article content, Google’s Martin Splitt, calls it “Google Passage Ranking”. Indexing and ranking are interchangeable 🙂

Difference between Google Passage Indexing and Featured Snippets

When Google displays the section as search result output, it looks like the featured snippets. However, there is a difference.

Featured snippet – Google displays sections, that generally answer particular questions. A featured snippet is more of an instant answer to short questions, and everything the user needs is displayed as an answer.

For Example, “What time is it in Turkey” and Google displays the time.

Passage indexing or ranking is a completely different process. Google goes through the content of the page, and displays only a particular section, highlighting the keywords as search engine result page.

How does Google Passage indexing work?

Like most Google updates, the work has never been transparent. However, according to Google Blogs, the AI work has been roughly explained. Passage indexing uses the BERT algorithm and neural nets, to understand the content and also for a better rank system.

Google crawls and indexes the entire web page as before, additionally looks for meaning and content while parsing through each section in the page. Thus within a web page, Google also annotates each passage and then this helps in ranking and scoring each section independently.

Ranking and traffic after Google passage indexing update

Google says, this passage indexing update, would impact only 7% of search queries. So, this update doesn’t have huge impacts. If the web pages are ranking well, then passage ranking wouldn’t impact the webpage much. However, if a webpage with long content without optimization, might a small boost in their ranking, this might also increase traffic.

Remember passage indexing doesn’t impact page indexing but adds a new dimension to the ranking system. Passage indexing ranks specific sections or passages from the webpage.

How does Google Passage Indexing affect SEO?

Though passage indexing is a small change, one needs to pay attention to it. Google has always focused on keeping users first, and this small change moves one step closer to the user! Also, it shows, Google is focusing more on artificial intelligence. RankBrain, BERT, DeepMind, natural language processing, machine learning, and other algorithms help Google in better understanding of context. As Google is working on keeping the search results more relevant to the user, it is a piece of good news!

Passage indexing will have little or no impact on SEO, however, there are few points to keep an eye on, like –

-> Long-form content will have more chances of being ranked for many keywords. This means, webpages with small content will not have much difference in ranking, however, the long content web page ranking might get a small boost.

-> Optimizing on-page like heading tags and anchor text has more importance now, as they would help in ranking the sections.

-> Long-term content with useful, and relevant content will have a better chance of ranking individual sections. Here, even if the page is not perfectly optimized, good and relevant content would rank the sections via passage indexing.

Site with shorter content like e-commerce would hardly see any change in ranking.

Google passage indexing is a minor change, after which websites with great content would see a small boost in traffic, and websites with less content might not see any change in traffic or ranking.

The most important thing is, with this update, there wouldn’t be any penalizing or huge drop in ranking 🙂

Benefits of Passage Indexing

This update may not have a huge drop in ranking or penalty, it is a minor change, after which there are a few benefits of passage indexing:

-> Longer-form content might get a boost in ranking. In webpages with long content, with passage ranking, there might be chances that one or many sections might get listed for certain keywords. The chances of section ranking increase for long content web pages.

-> Long-tail keywords are more important than ever. Including related terms, and long phrases are more likely to trigger passage indexing.

-> Focus more on relevant and useful content, not on bots. Create content for users with more detailing and variations, than writing for bots with keyword stuffing. Passage indexing update focuses on content quality.

How to optimize for passage indexing?

No need to make complete changes to the webpage, but doing a few changes could help in optimizing the site for passage indexing. Such as –

-> Add long-term keywords in links, stats, and resources.

-> Use the keywords clearly in headings and sub-heading. Don’t over-optimize, and try to use related phrases in sections.

-> Research more keywords, and get related phrases ready, and integrate them properly in long-content form.


Passage indexing is a minor change, and this change might not penalize you, or suddenly drop your rankings, but has impacts on long-content websites. Passage indexing is a new way to rank sections rather than whole article. Hence, focus on creating useful and relevant content with more long-term keywords and related phrases. Hope this article helps you!


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