Google Search has historically evaluated “all content on a web page to determine if it is relevant to a query.” Back in October, alongside the launch of Hum to Search, Google announced passage ranking, and it’s now starting to roll out. 

The company wants to address how sometimes the “single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page” that is either very long or covers multiple topics. Previously, those surrounding circumstances could decrease the chance of a page appearing in Search even though it has the correct answer.

Google is addressing this problem with a “breakthrough in ranking” that allows Search to identify and understand individual passages. In the example query below, “how can I determine if my house windows are UV glass” now provides an immediate answer rather than a more general result.

By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.

Search will continue to index entire pages and use that for organizing results, but the engine now has an additional ranking factor. Meanwhile, the company does not have any new advice for website owners beyond “focus on great content.”

Passage ranking in Google Search launched yesterday afternoon (Pacific Time) for English queries in the US. More countries and languages will follow.

Once globally rolled out, Google expects this feature to improve 7% of search queries across all languages.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: