PSA: Google's Passage Indexing / Ranking Helps Google Better Understand Messy Content

Dec 28, 2022 • 7:11 am | comments (1) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Clutter

It has been a while since I heard anyone talk about Google's passage ranking (formerly known as passage indexing). So when it came up on Mastodon again, I figured I'd remind you all what it is and what it is not.

In short, passage ranking is Google's way of algorithmically sifting through a long piece of content and being able to understand that a specific passage or set of passages is about query X, while another specific passage or set of passages in that same document can be about query Y. Google is able to rank the same piece of content but different passages within that content separately and for different queries. Google is not indexing them separately but ranking them separately.

Andrew Prince asked about it on Mastodon, saying, "When it comes to passage indexing, is there a limit as to the size of the passage Google will consider? I’ll caveat this with that I understand full pages should be helpful and I know passage indexing is a less than ideal use case."

I immediately replied with this, "no, passage indexing is about Google understanding content on a page with a ton of content. It just helps Google understand messy content pages better." John Mueller of Google then validated what I wrote by saying, "Yep, exactly."

Google initially calling it passage "indexing" caused a tremendous amount of confusion, even years later.

As a reminder, passage ranking is live in the US English since February 2021 and I have a ton of stories on this topic, here are most (if not all) of them:

Forum discussion at Mastodon.

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