Among a number of AI changes that Google announced on October 15, 2020, one stands out: Passages.
It will not just impact search as a whole (specifically, an estimated 7% of search queries across all languages). It also has the potential to transform the blogging world.
Later this year, Google will start indexing separate passages within entire pages.
Here is why this is big news.
Google is targeting a particular subset of search queries here: the niche, specific ones.
If you ask a very narrow question in the search, the results that come up rarely provide an answer. You might need to weed through several results – or even several pages – before you can find what you’re looking for. Or, you might have to try to play with different keyword combinations.
And this is the crux of it. For a page to appear in your search results, the keywords inside it would have to be a close match to the keywords you typed into the search bar. Very often, the keywords we type in, as much as we try to narrow them down, produce results of generic pages.
This will change when Google starts indexing passages. When you type in a very narrow question, you will get pages that contain passages that match your question.
And the main topic of these pages does not have to match your search. If only one passage fits, it will still appear in your search results.
For example, if you’re searching for information on a specific functionality of a phone or laptop model, currently your search results will look pretty much the same: generic descriptions of the model, vague mentions of the functionality you’re interested in, and mostly repetitive information. When Google starts indexing passages, you might get results like blog posts that compare models, user testimonials in forums – in other words, pages that, as a whole, do not match your search, but contain specific content that does.
Google describes this as “finding a needle in a haystack.” The purpose is to match the search intent of readers and to find exactly what they’re looking for.
In the days following the announcement, there was some confusion and misconceptions about how exactly the change will work. After a follow-up conversation with Google, Search Engine Land published a vital clarification.
The implementation of passages by Google won’t impact indexing. It will impact ranking.
Google will continue to crawl and index web pages as before. It won’t prioritize some passages over others at the indexing stage.
What it will do is use the data it has gathered after having indexed the web content to determine what is more relevant to the search intent.
Put simply? This is great news for bloggers.
The change is big but it’s not coming out of the blue. It’s in line with multiple tweaks to Google the algorithm over the past years that have aimed to understand search intent and context – and above all, to promote relevant high-quality content.
By helping relevant passages rank higher in search results at the expense of more generic web pages, Google is essentially promoting content that offers tangible value.
How will this impact blogs?
Bloggers that focus too much on “gaming” and “hacking” the algorithm, who overuse keywords, and who are more concerned with gaining traffic than keeping it, will not benefit from this change.
Bloggers who offer value in their posts, who put in the effort to write content that is useful, who don’t spread thin their knowledge but instead focus on making each blog post the best it can possibly be – they will benefit from this change. Massively.
With the passages indexing change, any piece of content you’ve published – even if it was a stray observation in a post about something else – has the chance to rank in search results, as long as it matches someone’s search intent.
So what are the main takeaways for your blog regarding Google’s Passage Indexing?