How to Understand Google’s New Passage Indexing

At the beginning of every year, digital marketers are always on the lookout for new trends that impact SEO. And this 2021, Google has once again launched another factor that will impact search rankings. Passage indexing, according to every professional SEO company, needs attention. And because it’s new, there’s much that requires understanding. It’s also necessary to determine how it benefits your SEO strategy, and if there is any disadvantage should you choose not to optimize without considering this factor.

What is passage indexing and why does every SEO company consider it important?

Back in September 2019, Google announced BERT. It refers to an open-source algorithm that Google uses to process every word used in a search. Among many other upgrades, this algorithm is more effective in processing prepositions used in search strings. Every Boston SEO company knows that BERT will not replace RankBrain. Instead, the simultaneous application of these two algorithms will improve decoding the search intent. Hence, results will be more relevant and accurate.

Essentially, passage indexing will build on BERT and the purpose is to have a better understanding of what the user wants to get from the search results. So, what does this mean for you? According to every expert SEO company, Google will pick up on other topics discussed within the article and show it in the results. For example, an article about rocket ships that also discusses the composition of rocket fuel will also pick up on these details and show it in the results.

This update doesn’t come as a surprise since Google has been focusing more on content and contextual relevance. And according to the official announcement about passage indexing, the new algorithm will have a granular understanding of content relevance in every page. So, think of it as like finding a needle in a pile of hay. Even if the answer to your search query is buried in an article, Google will search for it and display it in the results.

What is the focus of passage indexing and how does it affect SEO company strategies?

Now that you have an overview of how passage indexing works, the next concern is how it affects your SEO strategy. In general, there’s no need to make major adjustments to your current SEO strategy. It works more as an internal ranking update anyway. However, your Boston SEO company should know that using the right content structure will make passage indexing easier. Therefore, articles with longer content such as how-to or guides will benefit more from this update. Unfortunately, online stores and eCommerce sites may not benefit as much.

Upon rolling out the passage indexing update, the search results on Google will display featured snippets. What this means is that each page will not be indexed separately. Instead, only the appropriate or relevant passages within the article will appear in the results.

Does this mean Google will only index some and not all parts of each page?

Fortunately, Google confirmed that regular indexing processes will still apply. Website crawlers will still index individual pages. But, in the process, the algorithm will attempt to understand each passage within the text. This could add another layer to the way Google ranks and displays search results.

How should digital marketers respond to the update?

Although featured snippets are different from passage indexing, experts predict that the new passage indexing update will result in higher featured snippet results. Digital marketers need to regularly check on long-tail keywords for any changes that may be relevant. Also, the length of an article no longer matters, as what’s more important is the relevance of the content. Long-form articles that discuss in detail every subtopic will likely fare better.

Digital marketers should focus on making holistic content. Key questions asked by users should be answered in the main topic. It also helps if the page is easy to navigate and structured well. With the new indexing algorithm, even long-tail searches will achieve high rankings and gain better conversion rates.

What does this new feature mean for users?

As Google moves towards a more sophisticated approach to its search function, the main focus is enhanced user experience. This new feature aims to give users the most relevant answers in the least amount of time. For Google, the situation is favourable because if users are more satisfied with results, they are less likely to use a different search engine. Also, users directly benefit because they get the answer they’re looking for with as few clicks as possible.

What can an SEO company do to improve web pages?

There are many techniques your marketing team can use to make web pages more holistic. For starters, there are SEO tools available so that you can optimize content for passage indexing. Some of these are:

  • Use the “people also search for” widget on Google. This feature can be used to get inspiration on specific topics that appeal to users. When you use this widget, there will be a list of questions and corresponding answers.
  • Use Google suggest. This feature has been around for a long time and can be used as a guide to know the trendiest topics. This tool can also help identify topics with the most connection to the main topic for your article.

Apart from these two, there are other third-party tools available that can help marketers optimize content for passage indexing.

Final thoughts

The new indexing algorithm is taking Google’s role as a search engine one step further. AI-driven features that aim to understand the user’s intent are all beneficial for the searcher. But does it also bode well for the website owner? If you ask any Boston SEO company, their response depends on how you will react and adapt to the changes. This new indexing feature benefits website owners who have long been invested in creating quality and relevant content. If a few tweaks to content structure, you can capitalize on passage indexing so that it helps increase search rankings. Also, Google isn’t likely to stop implementing algorithm changes. An intuitive approach to SEO should always welcome these changes and take full advantage of their benefits.

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