What is Passage Based Indexing

Passage based indexing is an algorithmic method for indexing content on the basis of passages rather than the usual indexing of individual webpages as a whole. This type of alteration in a search engine algorithm has been estimated to enhance the overall search experience for users

Google has Launched Passage Based Indexing

Google as well as Bing are currently using BERT as a network-based technique to determine the context of words. Previously Google was indexing web pages so although keyword search features were extremely efficient, query search features were not as effective in comparison. In the undermentioned public statement which premiered Oct 15th of 2020 on the Official Youtube Channel of Google, Cathy Edwards outlines how this improves specific or niche search queries.

“At the heart of Search is an index, like the one at the back of a book and our index contains not just webpages, but images, places, books, products, streets, buildings, videos, and more. We’ve recently made another breakthrough and are now able to not just index webpages, but individual passages from those pages. This helps us find that needle in a haystack because now the whole of that one passage is relevant… We all look for very specific things sometimes and starting next month, this technology will improve 7% of search queries across all languages. And that’s just the beginning.”

These changes were launched in the December 2020 Core Algorithm Update of Google.

How does Passage Based Indexing work?

Passage based indexing works on the principle of analyzing individual passages or sections of content to estimate the proper ranking for that particular content. As we have established, this makes it easier to find content relevant to what a user is searching for.

So for example, if a user is searching for a specific query like, “How can I change the light bulb on my Antique lamp?” A webpage based indexing algorithm will show the top results relevant to “Antique Lamps” and “light bulbs” rather than finding the answer for the query. With passage-based indexing, on the other hand, this problem can be solved. The algorithm indexes based on passages so the passage most relevant to the question, will be shown in the top results. As Cathy Edwards states;

“We’ve now started to use AI to learn about these subtopics, which lets us capture the particular nuance of what each page is really about. We can then use this information in ranking to show a wider range of results for broad queries, so we can be more helpful to all the types of people who want to find something that’s just right for their particular need.”

The Expected Impact of Passage Based Indexing

Although the passage-based indexing is still relatively new, it may prove to have a huge impact on a lot of the search engine related communities and how content is ranked in the long run.

How Google is Ranking Content?

Google has modified its ranking strategy for content, however the overall indexing is still unchanged. To improve the content ranking in the passage-based indexing algorithm certain key components must be kept at the forefront.

1. Page Title and/or Headings

Relevancy of a title or heading to a query can help rank that particular content higher in search results.

2. Header Tags

Header tags can also help in the ranking as they are important signals that Google uses to locate specific information.

3. Featured Snippets

Featured snippets of a particular content identifies the most relevant passage in that content that is relevant to the query that was searched for.

Why is Passage Based Indexing a big change for the SEO Community?

The SEO community relies so heavily on search engines for their content that such a change could greatly impact them as a whole. However, this change could prove to be very efficient in the long run. Due to the reason that this algorithm update is more efficient at determining the niche of content, it benefits the SEO community in a multitude of ways.

  • It gives more freedom for SEO content creators to focus on their audiences instead of random search crawlers.
  • This also gives the content more exposure as it ranks specific relevant passages even if the rest of the content is not as relevant.
  • It enables SEO content creators to not worry about bots from a content ranking perspective.
  • This change is flexible for creators as now they do not have to organize content specifically for search engines.
  • It also enables creators to be more free in organizing content that can cater better to their target audience.


All these changes in the new update of the Google algorithm has only improved the overall experience of both creators and users.



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