Google has confirmed that its new passage ranking is now live in search results in US English and will be rolling out to other languages and regions in 2021.
The new passage indexing, which was announced in October last year, will make it easier for Google to find “needle-in-a-haystack” information for searchers by analysing specific blocks of text in longer blogs and articles.
“We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages,” Google said.
The news prompted fears from marketers that paragraphs may soon be ranked over complete pages, but Google said that this would not be the case.
Instead, passage indexing will allow Google to better understand the relevancy of certain passages and how they contribute to the greater whole.
Google previously admitted that “very specific searches can be the hardest to get right”.
It noted that sentences buried deep within pages can often provide nuggets of valuable information and that the new indexing will be deployed to find them.
While the latest update is not part of Google’s broad core algorithm changes, it is likely to have an impact on search rankings.
Google revealed that around 7% of queries will be affected by passage indexing when it rolls out to all regions this year.
This means that webmasters may see some fluctuations in rankings when it goes live.
However, Google stressed that there is no need to make any specific amendments to SEO strategies to accommodate passage ranking as it is purely designed to help search bots.
The Google SearchLiaison account said that it expects passage ranking to roll out to more countries in English “in the near future”.
It added that other countries and languages will also be included eventually and that it will announce updates on Twitter when that happens.