How Is Google Going To Identify Individual Passages?

Following on from Google’s BERT update announcement last week (covered in Search Drop 35), Google’s public Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan has gone into more detail surrounding how the search engine is going to identify individual passages of a web page.

Set to come out in 2021, the update will roll out along with a new spelling algorithm, a feature that identifies sections of video content, and subtopics of broad search terms.

How Does It Work?

Moving away from evaluating a whole page to decide whether it’s relevant for a particular search query, Google will now begin to understand the different topics and sections within a singular page. A feature that will affect 7% of global search queries will use artificial intelligence technology and 3D search functionality to allow Google to better understand and identify the key passages to a user’s query.

With many SEOs questioning how different this feature will be from featured snippets, Sullivan took to Twitter to explain that it will show barely any difference in appearance but the improved ranking technology behind it will better ensure that users find the needle-in-a-haystack information that they’re looking for faster:

Will This Affect Rankings?

As Google continues to learn and understand more about high-quality content, the significance of backlinks decreases. If a page has a multitude of high-quality backlinks leading to it but Google views it as a page with poor information, the influence of the proxy of backlinks may decrease. This has not been suggested by Google itself but the theory does fall in line with their aims of delivering the information you need, not the information that’s been linked to the most times.

Passage ranking may also mean that your website begins ranking a lot higher for some keywords than it currently does. If Google begins pushing out more ‘featured snippet’ like results, this allows for the pages beneath it to pushed further up the rankings.

What Can I Do?

To get ahead of the game, begin to learn and understand what Google looks for within the content that it pushes out to its users. By analysing the ‘People Also Asked’ feature as well as the copy within featured snippets, you will very quickly become familiar with the aspects Google desires when answering a long tail search query.

You can also use tools such as Answer The Public to gain an insight into what users are asking surrounding a certain topic. You can then take these questions and make sure they are clearly answered within your content and therefore increase your chances of scoring a place at the top of the SERPs.

To find out more about this topic, check out this Search Engine Journal article.

Following on from Google’s BERT update announcement last week (covered in Search Drop 35), Google’s public Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan has gone into more detail surrounding how the search engine is going to identify individual passages of a web page.