What is Google’s Passage Ranking Update?

A picture of Googles Algorithm

Google’s algorithm is a complex system used to retrieve data from Google’s massive and ever-expanding search index. The exact details of the mythical ‘Google algorithm’ are a closely guarded secret, but one of its most recent developments is Google’s Passage Ranking Update. 

A website’s success often depends on its online visibility i.e. being found! As such, many content creators spend a lot of time ensuring that they satisfy these algorithms.  Since the beginning, people have tried to ‘game the system’. In the early days, blogs appeared on page one of Google did so because they were repeating the same keywords and phrases in every other sentence! 

This made research tiresome and reading uninspiring.  Thankfully Google began to penalise websites that did this.  Over time Google improved its algorithms to ensure that the content it pointed to was more relevant and useful –  and has continued to do this ever since.

What is Google's Passage Ranking update?

One of the most visible changes to the algorithm was Google’s Passage Ranking. Whereas Google used to only point to a page, it can now rank and point towards a specific passage within a website. 

If you ask “what is passage-based ranking”, you will see the following information without having to click through to the site itself.   In this case, the answer was provided from a snippet of information from an SEO website called SEOSLY. In this case, given my search term, Google decided that SEOSLY had the best answer for me! 

A screen shot of googles What is Google's Passage Ranking Update and how it appears in Google search results

How can Google's passage ranking update increase website traffic

This new addition is very useful and time-efficient for the end-user, and this is what Google cares about.  One can locate and find the information without even having to leave Google search results. However, given that you may be researching more than what is covered in the highlighted passage, a user may decide to click into the passage (and therefore go to your website). The result is increased traffic to your website.

Photo of Cathy Edwards


“Passage ranking is Google’s ability to hone in on a specific passage within a page to help results pages deliver nuanced answers to niche queries.”

Cathy Edwards,
VP of Engineering at Google



How to Create Content that will be Passage Indexed

Google Search Liasion says ‘There’s nothing special creators need to do here. Continue to focus on great content”. The folks at Google have been saying this forever. The key to ensuring that your work and content has the best chance of being seen is to create quality content. Like most things worth doing in life, there are sadly no shortcuts!  Having said that, there are are few things that you can do to give yourself the best shot of being noticed by passage indexing:  

1. Answer the Question! 

It may seem obvious, but you must ensure that the central question is, at some point, addressed in a succinct manner on your page.  

2. Use Long-Tail Key Words: 

Long-tail key words are generally three to five words related to your subject that allow you to target a key demographic. Think of the difference (and competition between) “Pizza Gold Coast” and “Miami Beach Pizza Takeaway”.  The second term is more specific. The more specific it is the higher quality of traffic it attracts compared to more generic terms. Another effective Long-Tail Key Word would be “Vegan Pizza Miami Beach’. Naturally, you will want to use multiple Long Tail Key Words to cut through to different demographics, as not everyone will be looking for vegan pizza! 

3. Structure your website webpage content to please Google’s passage ranking update:

Structured content, i.e. with titles, paragraphs and good grammar, are easier for Google bots to index. It is not just the way you write and present your content that matters. Site design is also very important. Sites that have a high level of flash animation and imagery can often hide your content. Ensure that you have the right foundational structure of the website to ensure that it not stopping passage indexing from occurring on your site.

Picture of Phil Frost of ROI


“Successful SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about PARTNERING with Google to provide the best search results for Google’s users.”

Phil Frost
CEO Main Street ROI



What next for Passage Index Ranking?

This latest AI tech from Google is currently only being applied on English sites in 2021.  Google does plan to implement this update multiple languages globally.  Passage Indexing gives businesses a chance to be seen and promoted and is more proof that Google continues to emphasise quality, well-written content.

If you feel that you need to improve your content, begin here by reading this article “Are YOU getting in the Way of your marketing Success”. 

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Ben Saravia

Ben Saravia

Content creation and copyright work is where Ben’s passions lie – and he is good at what he does! Taking your vision and bringing it to life is what Ben lives for!

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