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Google’s Late-2020 Index Ranking Change

November 5, 2020 | Northwoods Team, Your Trusted Digital Trail Guides

4 Minute Read

In mid-October, Google announced an index ranking change for English language, to be released in late 2020. The passaged-based ranking update aims to deliver correct answers to very specific queries. Google will still index full pages, but the system will factor in the meaning of particular passages within page content as the system determines relevance and selects information to display in search results. Indexing will not change, but how Google ranks content will.

Google is changing the way it looks at content on your website after that content has been indexed. Google will also change its presentation of content on search results pages.  Note that Google will not index individual passages on a page, but it will better understand what is on the page and apply that better understanding to page rank.

Here is an example of how search results will change after the indexing ranking update:

example of how search results will change after the indexing ranking update

Note the resemblance to Google’s featured snippets

How Does the New Indexing Ranking Search Result Differ from Featured Snippets?

Featured snippets identify the passages in a document that Google determined, overall, to be most relevant to a particular query.

Under the indexing ranking update, Google will show a passage of the content on your site as an answer at the top of the search results page, just like a featured snippet. However, the relevant content that Google pulls out for display might come from a webpage that otherwise has little or nothing to do with the particular query. According to Google, “Systems determine the relevance of any web document via understanding of passages”

How to Optimize Content for the Ranking Change 

What Signals Will Google Look At?

In the past, Google would analyze the stronger signals on a page, such as titles and headings, to determine the relevance of that page to a search query. For the new ranking update, Google will identify that have at least one section that matches a search query, even if the rest of the page is irrelevant.

Will Header Tags Still Be Important?

Since Google will pay extra attention to header titles, does this mean header tags or the equivalent are more important? Less important? Google hasn’t said, so far. But headers may be more important when the update rolls out. Keeping your web content clean and structured is always great practice.

Where is this Passage Algorithm Most Useful?

The passage algorithm will respond best to highly specific search queries. Google will be able to find the needle in the haystack. Google has announced that identifying individual passages of a page will improve of queries.

When Will Google Release the Update?

Google has not yet announced a specific date beyond “later this year.”

Example of a tweet from Google Search Liaison

What Should You Do in the Meantime?

The new index ranking update really means that Google will do a better job at bringing relevant content to search results. So, for now, stick with the tried and true:

Google is always changing their algorithms to better suit the user. Google updates can seem intimidating and can tempt you into hasty and not necessarily productive optimization effort. 

If you have questions or need assistance in optimizing your website, don’t hesitate to contact us.