Google’s John Mueller answered a question about the Passages algorithm in a Google SEO Office Hours Hangout. Mueller gave feedback on what the industry is saying about search engine optimization for passages and what Google wants to achieve with it.
Question about Google Passages
The question was about the new algorithm as part of a core update, but it was really about what publishers should be doing to better optimize their pages so that they appear in 7% of searches affected by the new passage algorithm.
That is the question:
“I have a question about passages.
So it’s more about how Google sees the structure of a paragraph. Because we’ve obviously been seeing more conversational blog posts lately … and I was wondering if there is a minimum number of words or characters in a paragraph for Google to know that this is a paragraph? “
Google’s announcement about AI updates, including ranking passages (which affect 7% of search queries), was supposedly about finding answers.
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There is nothing in the announcement about the Passages Algorithm being a better understanding of conversational blog posts.
This is what Google’s announcement said about Passages:
“If we better understand the relevance of certain passages, rather than just the overall page, we can find the information you’re looking for.”
Google’s John Mueller replied:
“I dont know.”
Then he offered an explanation based on what he understood:
“I don’t have the details of all the passages.
It’s not a core update … it’s not what we would consider a core update.
It is more about ordering these passages from existing pages than indexing them individually.
So recognizing this page is a big page, and this is part of the page that is particularly relevant to this upcoming query. Hence, we will focus on this part of the page.
So it is not that there is a separate passage index or anything like that.
It’s really more about understanding the page and the different parts of the page and realizing which of those parts are relevant to the user query.
In addition, I don’t have many details left to share on our part. “
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SEO for Google Passages
Mueller then gave his feedback on some posts about optimizing passages so that they rank well.
“I’ve noticed that some people have been digging up patents and papers and more… educational or theoretical content on some of these subjects.
And they mentioned that there are things you should make sure you have clear headings and well-structured content on your pages so that we can identify those sections, which is obvious to me.
If you want a search engine to recognize part of your page, you should structure your page so that it is easy to identify.
But maybe that’s a direction to go in.
In general, with a lot of these changes I would caution against jumping on the train to try and optimize for these things because a lot of the changes we make like this are essentially changes we make because we do notice that web pages are kind of chaotic and unstructured.
And it’s not so much that those messy and unstructured web pages suddenly have an advantage over clean and structured pages.
It’s more, well … we can understand these messy pages more or less the same way we can understand clean pages. “
I think he’s trying to say that Google is better able to pick an answer from a larger group of websites.
Rather than restricting itself to ranking websites that are well organized and explicitly related to a specific topic, Google can now rate a larger or broader article that has the answer in one section, thus expanding the pool of candidate pages.
Next, Müller warned against optimizing the passage algorithm by deliberately messing up the website’s content.
“So if you create a clean page and try to mess it up so that it works well for this new type of setup, then you probably wouldn’t get any advantage over what you had before.
If you already have clean pages, if they are already easy to spot by search engines, if they have clean titles and headings, and focus on individual topics, then, in essence, search engines need to understand what that page is, when, and what it is all about To show users. “
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What Google Passages means for content creation
It seems that Mueller is essentially saying that publishers should already be creating pages that are easy to understand because of well-structured content with the right titles and headings. And if a passage from these pages contains an answer, it will be rated by Google.
He also pointed out that Google would also try to rate passages from websites that are not that well organized.
This seems to mean that Google is better able to rate pages with answers that may not have been rated prior to the introduction of the Passages algorithm.