Google Passage Ranking allows the search engine to rank specific passages on pages in hopes of better answering detailed, specific inquiries made during searches

Search engine giant Google recently announced a new way of ranking specific passages, no matter where they are on the page. Called Google Passage Ranking, it could signal the need for some businesses to change content strategy.

How it impacts businesses will depend on how they currently design their webpages. Sites with clear, structured content may better benefit from the work they have already done, while others with a more unstructured approach may want to make changes.

What Google Passage Ranking Does

Google Passage Ranking allows Google to include pages with relevant passage to an inquiry within the search engine results page (SERP).  In a post on the Google blog, the company listed the ranking of passages as one of the ways artificial intelligence “is powering a more helpful Google.”

Writing about Google Passage Ranking, the blog stated that “very specific searches can be the hardest to get right, since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page.”

“We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages,” they continued. “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.”

Google Passage Ranking is expected to impact about 7% of all searches one it is rolled out around the world in all languages.

What Google Has to Say About Passage Ranking

In a webmaster hangout on YouTube, Google’s John Mueller addressed the addition of Google Passage Ranking, saying a well-structured website will do fine. For those sites, there’s likely little reason to re-optimize pages.

He said passage ranking is “not what we would consider a core update. It’s more about ranking these passages from existing pages rather than indexing them individually. So more about recognizing this is a big page, and this is a part of the page that is particularly relevant to this query that is coming, so we’ll focus on that part of the page.”

He also said that there is not a separate passage index. Passage is more “about understanding the page and the different parts of the page, and being able to recognize which of those parts are relevant for a user’s query,” he said.

What Sites Need For Google Passage Ranking

According to Mueller, what sites need to do well with Google Passage Ranking includes clear headings on content, with well-structured content where it is easy to recognize different sections. For those sites with less structured data, the goal is to recognize that some web pages are “messy and unstructured” and try to understand them better.

But it won’t help to change from a clear, structured setup to a messy one just to try to meet the search engine giant’s expectations with Google Passage.

“If you already have clean pages, if they’re already easy to recognize by search engines, if they have clean titles and headings and they focus on individual topics, then that’s essentially what search engines need to be able to understand what this page is about and when to show it to users,” he said.

For businesses, it will help to have pages reviewed by digital marketing professionals to find out if they meet the benchmark for clear headings and structured content. Whether Google Passage Rankings will impact your website may depend on your current content strategy and how you have it displayed on your site.