Google passage ranking now live in US English results

Posted by Edith MacLeod on 16 Feb, 2021
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Google able to hone in on relevant information buried deep in a webpage.

Google passage ranking.

In October 2020, Google announced a series of new developments in Search. It included the news that Google is now able to better understand the relevancy of individual passages in web pages and so has the ability to hone in on very specific information that might be otherwise buried. It will use this to improve search results by surfacing the most relevant information.

In a tweet last week, Google said that passage ranking, as it is now called, is now live in the US for queries in English.

Passage ranking live.

Google said passage ranking would impact 7% of search queries when fully rolled out globally.

It described it as finding what might be a single sentence that answers a searcher’s very specific query, and which could be buried deep in a webpage.

“By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.“

What will this look like?

There has been some confusion about what passage ranking will look like in the search results. In October, in response to a question about this, Google's Danny Sullivan said things would not look any different in the search results.

Danny Sullivan.

Google has hugely expanded its use of natural language understanding systems in recent years and BERT is now used in almost every query in English.

Passage ranking is another application of the technology, enabling Google to deliver better, more relevant results.

There’s nothing specific content creators need to do in relation to passages and Google’s advice remains to focus on creating quality content. The change just means that Google, with a more granular understanding of content on a webpage, will improve its ability to surface the most relevant content in answer to a search query.

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