Technical SEO
June 4, 2021
2.5 minute read

Algorithm Updates 2021: February, Passage Ranking

Google's February 2021 Core Algorithm update enabled Passage Ranking. What does that mean for websites and SEOs?
Jodie C Ball

Google’s February 2021 update Good News for Some Sites? Maybe!

What is Passage Ranking & Who Does it Impact?

In February of 2021, Google announced an update that enabled Passage Ranking in the United states, the aim of which is to better understand longer pages of content and help it to surface when it’s relevant to a query.

In other words, it’s looking at smaller passages of text within a page in addition to the overall page topic in order to figure out what keywords it should rank for.

Google Tries to Keep Up with UX Trends

This could be good news for some sites, especially ones that have done the “ever-forbidden” one-page dropdown site. Designers and Developers use this style every now and then -- you click a button or a link in the navigation bar and it automatically scrolls your page to the right section of the site.  These pages have a tendency to feel more modern, and from a user’s perspective, it affords a more “fun” user experience when it’s done well. 

That said, I still wouldn’t hang my hat on this style of site if organic search is a big part of your marketing strategy unless you’re solely focused on featured snippets and knowledge cards.

When Google rolls out these kinds of updates, it usually takes a few tries to get it right.

What does this mean for e-commerce?

Generally speaking, the way Google presented this is that it’s predominantly meant to impact content driven pages. In the world of e-commerce, these kinds of pages are few and far between simply because people aren’t really going to e-commerce sites to read content or get information because they trust third party content to be less biased. 

However, I wouldn’t even put it past Google to do the opposite for e-commerce brands (ie: content on a category page beyond an H1 or H2 is always a clear indicator that you’re trying to find a place to keywords in, so they may even try to weed out companies trying to trick the algorithm into indexing e-commerce pages. This is a pretty common thing for Google to attempt.. Because how dare you try to earn money?... I digress).

Put users first + wait and see

Long story short is that it seems like another attempt by Google to keep up with UX trends that users like, which is always a good thing. They know this by measuring things like bounce rate, scrolls, time on page, etc. It also seems like they're trying to give better rankings to more thorough content that is genuinely aimed at helping users. This is a contrast from the typical "optimized" & pigeonholed content: short and sweet articles that only cover a small portion of a topic. While they're somewhat valuable for a more educated audience that already has additional context, but posting the whole of the topic is much better for a wider array of users. 

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