SEO News You Can Use: Passage Ranking Is Live, So Here Are 5 Things to Remember |

SEO News You Can Use: Passage Ranking Is Live, So Here Are 5 Things to Remember

SEO News You Can Use

Sound the alarms! After months of back-and-forth about what passage ranking is, what it isn’t and what it actually means, passage ranking (or passage indexing, as it was originally introduced) is now live in the U.S. Google’s Danny Sullivan tweeted the announcement on Thursday, saying that the update had gone live a day earlier.

Late last year, Google’s Martin Splitt, along with SEO experts Cindy Krum, Tomek Rudzi and Bartosz Góralewicz, met virtually to discuss passage ranking and its impact on Search for a Search Engine Journal (SEJ) webinar. Upon the announcement of passage ranking going live, SEJ’s Roger Montti put together a summary of the 16 major insights from the hour-long webinar.

Some of the key takeaways that could now help SEO professionals better understand what to expect from the update:

  • At its core, passage ranking exists to help long web pages: Google’s goal is that lengthy web pages or pages that tackle multiple topics will stand a better chance of ranking, even if just one part of the web page answers a user’s search query.
  • Reviewing and rewriting heading elements could help: It might be a good idea to revisit titles and subtitles to ensure they communicate what each page section covers. Splitt confirmed that a good content structure makes it easier for automated systems to understand what your content is about – but he also added that Google could still be able to pick out relevant passages, even without the help of explicit headings.
  • Passage ranking shouldn’t affect eCommerce: Because there likely wouldn’t be enough content even on a very long product category page, passage ranking would not apply. 
  • Featured snippets and passages are two separate things: They’re so separate, in fact, that they exist on entirely different systems. Featured snippets are a response to search queries with a question that can be answered in just a few sentences without requiring a click-through. Passages, on the other hand, may not provide such concise answers.
  • If you have a website that already ranks well, passage ranking isn’t really something you need to think about: Google is rolling this update out as a way to improve rankings for pages that aren’t ranking as well as they should. Splitt said that the update would ideally give a boost to publishers who are not that familiar with SEO or content strategy.

It’s always slightly terrifying when Google updates its algorithms (even more so when we’re given ample warning), but a fact that Splitt continuously brings up is that, if you already have a good website, content strategy and understanding of SEO, passage ranking should have little effect on your rankings. Of course, this is the idea, but the reality could always prove different. We’ll be watching this space – and our own position on search engine results pages (SERPs) – carefully to see if passage ranking is really as innocent as it claims to be.

More SEO News You Can Use

Google Has Introduced 12 New Manual Action Penalties for Google News and Google Discover: Previously, manual action penalties were reserved only for Google Search violations, and the enforcement of News and Discover policies were automated. Now, 12 new manual penalties will be issued by human reviewers who determine a site is not in compliance with the guidelines laid out by Google. While a manual penalty for Search would result in a page or site ranking lower on SERPs, it’s still unclear what the repercussions of News and Discover violations will be. Manual penalties are the most serious of all, and they can be incredibly difficult to bounce back from. It may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Google News and Google Discover content policies to avoid any potential mishaps.

12 Tips for Image SEO, Straight From Google: In the latest Search Central Lightning Talk, Google’s John Mueller discusses everything web owners could ever want to know about optimizing images. The 10-minute video covers 12 actionable steps site owners can take to ensure images are helping, not hindering, SEO efforts. Mueller also talks through ways to implement and measure each of these best practices. This is one of the more detailed SEO presentations shared by Google and following each step should leave little room for error. Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz provides a helpful summary of the video, and it’s definitely worth it to check if your site images meet these standards – after all, they’re straight from the horse’s mouth.

Microsoft’s Speller100 Can Correct Search Query Spellings in Over 100 Languages: Microsoft announced on its Research Blog the launch of Speller100 – multilingual spelling correction models that work across 100-plus languages. Microsoft said Speller100 was born as a result of 15 percent of all Microsoft Bing search queries being misspelled. While Microsoft’s spelling correction AI has been effective for around two dozen languages for some time now, the company’s focus has been on improving search results in an additional 70-plus languages. Since the launch of Speller100, Microsoft said it has seen a “double-digit improvement in both spelling correction precision and recall.” With search engine users residing all over the world – but search engines skewed towards a few popular languages – this step towards internet inclusivity is a win for Bing.

Removing Blog Comments Could Hurt Your Search Rankings: In Google’s latest Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, a user posed an interesting question to Google’s John Mueller: Could removing all blog comments have an adverse effect on Search rankings? The answer is yes. Mueller confirmed that Google does factor this form of user-generated content into its ranking algorithms, and comments being removed from a site entirely will likely impact rankings. Interestingly, Google views comments as part of the content but it is also able to distinguish between the comment section and the main content section, meaning comments get treated slightly different. Before removing comments from your site, Mueller recommends first determining whether a comment could be offering a user additional value.

An Unconfirmed Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update Is Causing a Stir in the SEO Community: If you’ve seen some inexplicable rankings fluctuations, you’re not alone. Google is tight-lipped, but the search community is convinced of an algorithm update on Feb. 8. Barry Schwartz reported that tracking tools have been behaving strangely, with Search rankings dropping across the web. The changes haven’t been small, either – many site owners have reported massive dips seemingly overnight. A WebmasterWorld forum discussion highlights just a few of the anomalies, as do the comments in Schwartz’s article. We’ll keep you posted if we learn anything new.

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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