Recent articles claim that “Passage Ranking will replace Keyword Ranking.” In our estimation, that sounds like an overstatement. 

Make no mistake, Passage Ranking matters. It should be an intentional aspect of your SEO strategy to ask yourself: can I answer a question that solves a user’s problem better than anyone else?” But before we get ahead of ourselves…

Passage Ranking: What is it?

Passage Ranking is Google’s ability to focus on a specific segment of text within a page to allow Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) provide specific answers to queries. What this means is that although a full URL may not rank for targeted keywords, it is possible for the best content within a URL to rank for specific passages that address users’ needs

That’s an enticing concept. Brands don’t even need the entire page to rank now. If you have the most accurate, constructive useful content on a concept/product, etc.; we can ensure that specific section of the URL populates the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Sounds cool, right? But at its core, it’s still keyword ranking. It’s a matter of focus: Page vs Passage.

And as with most things, there’s a catch…or two.

First, bear in mind that passage ranking is geared toward long-tail keywords. Those with very small monthly search frequency values. So, it’s language that’s not likely to drive much organic traffic in the first place, even if your URL was served in the top organic position. That said, if you accumulate enough top of the SERP listings for enough long-tail keywords, that can have a meaningful impact.

Second, passage ranking’s primary objective is to populate Google’s Zero Click Results. It’s meant to occupy “People Also Ask” results, and all the other SERP listings are designed to capture and hold a user inside Google preventing the user from clicking through to other properties. So, while your content may show up on Google, it may not improve your traffic in a direct and measurable way.

Why Should We Care?

While there may not always be quantifiable value (i.e.: rankings and organic traffic) there is value in getting your brand name out there in the Zero Click results. Being present in those results reinforces your brand’s reputation as an authority on your subject matter. Any time your domain can occupy earned real estate in Google’s results page, that’s driving home the message that your brand is the expert…and from a defensive posture, you’re now preventing a competitor from holding the same space.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

Ultimately, passage ranking doesn’t change the ground rules or the fundamental basics of Search Engine Optimization. SEO should be specific, user-based and should directly address user need above all else.

Optimizing for passage ranking should support not replace current strategies and tactics. Passage Ranking provides website owners a direct avenue to continue to compete in the SERPs against informational domains.

If you need assistance establishing the right SERPS for you brand, please contact us. Our SEO experts are here to help.

POV By: Paul Krellwitz, Executive Director, SEO