When Google announced passage indexing at the Search On 2020 event, there was great confusion. We have cleared the big one, i.e. H. It's a ranking, not an indexing. But there is another one, how does this differ from the snippets presented.

Danny Sullivan of Google was asked about this and said on Twitter that the indexing of passages is different from the presented snippets. He said that presented snippets "are already identified with systems other than passages". Yes, first of all there have been snippets that have been featured for years, while the indexing of passages in Google search is not yet active.

Danny also said featured snippets are used in voice searches. Does this mean that the indexing of passages is not used in the voice search?

He wrote: "Selected snippets are used for voice search. They are already identified as passages with other systems."

Selected snippets are used for voice search. They are already identified as passages with other systems.

– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 21, 2020

Some of the examples and blog posts on the web calling them live are incorrect. The passage indexing is not yet active. Instead, screenshots of the presented snippets are displayed. We should probably not confuse the two.

Passage indexing may start and look like this:

Click for full size

However, it's less about what it looks like in Google Search than how Google can rate content that hasn't been rated before. I don't even know why google needs to change the look of search results for passage indexing. It is a ranking, not an indexing or a user interface.

Selected snippets are ranked too, they use a lot of machine learning and BERT (as indexing passages probably does), so far we're on the same page. However, the featured snippets are answers that Google extracts from pages to provide instant answers to searchers. It's different and looks and behaves differently in search results.

As I described in my Search Engine Country post during my Q&A on Google, how does this differ from feature snippets where Google shows a passage of your content as the answer at the top of Google search results. Google said its "systems determine the relevance of a web document by understanding passages. Selected excerpts, on the other hand, identify the most relevant passage in a document that we have determined overall to be relevant to the query."

I think we'll see and learn more when it goes live, but until then, that's how Google has described the difference between indexing passages and the snippets that are featured.

Forum discussion on Twitter.

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