Google can now understand and rank individual passages from pages based on relevance and quality.
We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages.
This breakthrough will help the search engine surface content buried deep within high-quality long-form content.
If you’re creating low-quality long-form content around long-tail keywords, you might need to rethink your strategy. This breakthrough expands the scope of competition, which might make it more difficult to rank for certain long-tail keywords. Instead of competing with other pages specifically about the long-tail keyword, you’re competing with high-quality long-form content that provides information about the long-tail keyword.
Take a look at this passage from a page on Market Muse and compare it to the article from Wordstream.
The page on Wordstream appears to be more specific to the long-tail keyword, but Google has determined the page on Market Muse offers the best result. This isn’t the best example, as both websites offer high-quality content, but it does shine a light on how this feature works.
Click the passage and Google sends you to the area of the page on which the passage lives, highlighted in yellow until you scroll or click your mouse.
The wording of the announcement was a little confusing, as it implied Google will be indexing passages individually. Google later clarified it does not index passages independently of pages, it merely considers the passage as an additional ranking factor.
When asked how passages differ from other featured snippets, Google said the following:
“Systems determine the relevance of any web document via understanding of passages. Featured snippets, on the other hand, identifies the most relevant passage in a document we’ve overall determined to be relevant to the query.”
This breakthrough will help Google provide their users with the best results from high-quality websites.
If you’re starting a new website or attempting to rank shallow long-form content for long-tail keywords, it might be more difficult if this expands the scope of competition.
As of now, Google says this will affect around 7% of all search queries. However, this number will probably go up significantly as Google refines the algorithm.