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Google Passage – A SEO Game Changer?

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You may have heard the term Google Passage, Passage Ranking or Passage Index thrown around recently. These terms refer to a change by Google in its search engine ranking system in 2020. These changes would occasionally rank passages or sections from a page instead of the whole page when deemed appropriate.

This means it is not detrimental if your title does not cover the keyword as long as a subsection covers the specific question. Naturally, anything related to ranking on Google has implications for SEO. For digital marketers, this change points towards a favourable shift in long-form content and keyword-focused sections and headings.

 

How Does it Work?

Have you seen Passage Indexes before? They differ from snippets in a few ways. Featured Snippets work to provide instant answers to short questions and don’t require any further clicks or research. An example of featured snippets can be searching up the Queen of UK on Google.

 

Example of a Featured Snippet SEO | SEO Sydney

Passage Indexes work using a different system to see if your page has a section or passage within it which accurately answers the question asked. From the image below, you can see that instead of ranking a whole page, Google has found the answer from a passage of a particular page, bolding the important terms relating to the question.

Example of a Passage Index | SEO Sydney

Google has implemented Passage Indexing through BERT and neural nets to better understand and decipher the content that is within a page. This gives a better chance for the most relevant information to be the most accessible for users. However, it is important to note that despite these changes, Google still indexes pages as a whole for the majority of searches. Passage Indexing affects 7% of all search results. 

 

What does Google Passage mean for SEO?

Long-form content has always been a crucial aspect of SEO to garner more clicks and traffic towards your site. With these changes by Google, this is even more so the case. Previously, if you write a long piece of content covering a broad topic, it would be hard to rank regarding searches of particular subsections within the piece. Now, Google can find the relevant subsections to pull out and present as an index before any other full-page result.

This change may encourage short-form pages to potentially group similar pages into a single long-form piece of content. However, with only 7% of search results utilising Passage Indexes, this trend will have to be observed further.

Naturally, to optimise your pages for a chance at having their passage ranked, it will be important to ensure relevant and clearly segmented headings and sections within your content. The clearer it is, the easier Google’s system can divide these sections into separate passages which can be ranked when a relevant question is asked.

However, the general consensus is that this change is a relatively small one. Google’s Martin Splitt answered various questions regarding Google Passage. Importantly, he stated the change was mostly an internal one, and websites do not necessarily have to make massive changes to their pages. But the option of long-form content is now more attractive than ever, so consider this as a sign to start now.

 

Summary

Google Passage is NOT a groundbreaking change that will force us to alter our websites and change how we optimise. It merely seeks to delve into pages to search for relevant information within passages and subsections. It is a change that favours long-form content as a relevant passage has a chance to index at the top of the page. Make sure you consistently employ relevant and clear headings and subsections to separate your information. You may benefit from a larger SERP real-estate and a higher ranking if you do so.

If you want to learn more about optimising your brand, check out SEO Sydney, the #1 SEO service in Sydney.

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