In October 2020, Google announced passage indexing, a new way of Google ranking specific passages from a web page in search. Google has updated us that passage ranking, as they are now properly calling it, went live on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, in the afternoon Pacific Time for queries in the US in English.
What is passage ranking. “Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right,” said Google, “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. 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 said passage-based indexing will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally.
Passage rankings vs indexing. When Google first announced passage ranking, the company called it passage indexing. It was not a true accurate description of what it does – so now Google is calling it passage ranking. We explain this more in our story named How Google indexes passages of a page and what it means for SEO.
It is live. Here is Google’s announcement that this is live:
Update: passage ranking launched yesterday afternoon Pacific Time for queries in the US in English. It will come for more countries in English in the near future, then to other countries and languages after that. We’ll update this thread as those further launches happen.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) February 11, 2021
Why we care. Google said passage ranking will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally. It is now live in the US/English results, so it should have an about 7% impact in the US/English search results.
If your rankings changed in the past 24-hours or so, it might be related to this change. Although, Google has said there is nothing SEOs need to change for passage ranking, it is more about how Google understands your content. So do not rush to make any changes to your content yet.