SEO News You Can Use: Google’s New ‘Passage Indexing’ Isn’t Really ‘Indexing’

SEO News You Can Use

Google’s algorithm updates and changes should make our online lives a lot easier (hello, new spelling algorithm!), but one, in particular, is set to have a huge impact on the future of SEO: passage indexing. We briefly reported on this in last week’s news blog, but since then there’s been some misunderstanding.

Google announced it will be able to index individual passages of a web page, not just the web page as a whole, but that’s not an accurate description of this update at all.

If you’re part of the SEO community, you’ve likely been in a tailspin about this announcement, particularly the word “indexing.” While the official term is “passage indexing,” Google said the update was a “ranking thing” more than an “indexing thing.” Why does this distinction matter? It means Google will still index full pages but will now also consider the content and meaning of individual passages – it’s not that Google is indexing parts of a page. 

So, more than anything, Google will change how it looks at content after the content has been indexed. And, yes, this “ranking thing” will shake things up. 

The new update will have a visible effect on the search engine result pages (SERPs) for targeted search queries going forward – and the impact is quantifiable. Google has stated, in so many words, that passage indexing will “improve” seven percent of search queries. 

Since the announcement (and the confusion that followed), Google’s Danny Sullivan has shared in a Twitter thread a few more details that clarify the update. Simply, long web pages or web pages that touch on multiple topics now stand a better chance of ranking if one part of the page is relevant to a user’s search query. Sullivan stressed that Google will still be indexing pages as normal, and passages will just become an additional consideration.

In its latest Search On blog, Google shows passage indexing in action on a mobile search. The top search result for “how can I determine if my house windows are UV glass” differs depending on the device. Assuming this update is being rolled out on mobile before desktop – which, with mobile-first indexing being on the horizon, is likely the case – SEOs who are facing sudden traffic drops could potentially be feeling the effects. The update is already live for this particular search query, and who knows how many others?

Google hasn’t yet revealed the official date of the rollout, and while Sullivan said there’s “nothing special” creators need to do to prepare for the update, it may be worth it to keep a close eye on your desktop and mobile results – for all you know, a competitor’s passage could already have been pushed to the top of mobile SERPs.

More SEO News You Can Use

Microsoft is Quietly Making SEO a Little Easier: Don’t you love a good freebie? On a Bing webmaster blog, Microsoft announced that its new user behavior analytics tool, Microsoft Clarity, is available to website owners – and it’s pretty great. Clarity is 100 percent compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), showing you how site visitors are using your site while respecting their privacy. Optimized and intuitive, the tool is almost too good to be true: It allows you to see where visitors have clicked and scrolled, how much time is sent on your site, how many concurrent JavaScript errors are occurring – and there are zero traffic caps. At a time when other major search engines are facing serious antitrust lawsuits, Bing is only getting better.

Travel Juggernaut Tripadvisor Has Launched Two Tools to Help Struggling Restaurants and Hotels: It’s no secret that restaurants and hotels have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 – and these happen to be two of Tripadvisor’s biggest customer audiences. The travel platform recently announced the launch of two new technology solutions: Spotlight, a demand-prediction tool, and Reputation Pro, a reputation management service. These tools should help hard-hit businesses gain insights and boost their visibility at a time when they need it most. Tripadvisor’s growing list of promotional and analytical tools is likely an attempt to claw back some of the traffic taken from online travel agencies (OTAs) by Google Search, which added a number of travel features back in August.

A Video App and an eCommerce Platform Walk Into a Bar… Two of the biggest names in the digital world today, Shopify and TikTok, have announced a partnership that will likely attract many more merchants to the eCommerce giant. Shopify said it would be made super-simple for merchants to advertise their products on the popular video-sharing app. How? TikTok users will be presented with shoppable video ads, allowing them simply to click on an ad to purchase a product. With the future of TikTok in the U.S still on somewhat shaky ground, this wasn’t the TikTok update we were expecting. Watch this space. 

Here’s What Google Really Thinks About GIFs: Remember GIFs? Circa 2014, you would have been hard-pressed to find an article that wasn’t peppered with them. Today, not so much. But do GIFs positively affect your search rankings, or are they best left for tweets and Slack chats? Chandal Nolasco da Silva has the answers in a helpful deep-dive for Search Engine Journal (SEJ). It’s definitely worth a read if you feel like your content is missing that little extra je ne sais quoi, and some of the findings might surprise you.

Search Engine Journal’s 2021 eSummit Is Scheduled and Open for Registration: SEJ has announced the return of its annual eSummit on January 12 and 13 next year. The virtual conference will host a number of expert speakers providing actionable tips to help you step up your SEO, paid search and content marketing games. The digital marketing masterclass has already announced big names in its lineup, including Martin Splitt and Lily Ray, and it’s bound to give you the perfect springboard for developing an SEO strategy that works. Register for your tickets as the first step to dominating the search scene in 2021.

Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.

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