I see a lot, absolutely a lot of confusion in the SEO industry around the start of the passage-based ranking by Google. As a reminder, according to Google, a passage-based ranking was published in US English on the afternoon of February 10th PST time. But honestly, I don't see any signs of an update coming out after this time, much later.
Here is the launch announcement:
Update: Passage ranking started yesterday afternoon Pacific Time for inquiries in the US in English. It will come in English for more countries in the near future, followed by other countries and languages. We will update this thread as soon as these additional launches take place.
– Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) February 11, 2021
Update: Danny Sullivan posted on Twitter after posting this story. "It was completed last Monday, February 15th. It is now fully rolled out."
The rollout was completed last Monday, February 15th. The introduction is now fully completed.
– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 18, 2021
I saw signs of a Google update days before its February 8th release. Google's Danny Sullivan said on Twitter, "This is before we started the Passage ranking." This update, which has not yet been confirmed, had nothing to do with the passage-based ranking. And I saw an update a few days after the passage-based ranking started on February 17th or so.
If this is done by the 15th then I am pretty confident that this update has really not been felt in large measure by SEOs or most of the people.
Chatter on the SEO forums and on Twitter was very quiet February 10-16, with chatters on Google organic search rankings or traffic changes. And the tracking tools that might pick this up were super relaxed too.
Here is Mozcast, who was very quiet the day after it was released and really until February 17th:
SERPMetrics shows the increase after the update from February 8th, was pretty quiet again until the update from February 17th. Again very quiet around February 10th and 11th, when the passage ranking was started:
RankRanger appeared to be picking up the February 8th update about a day later, and then things quieted down and came to a head again for the February 17th update:
SEMRush, picked up in the February 8th update, settled down by the February 17th update:
The only tools that might have picked up something, but maybe their data is a little lagged, I don't know, were these two.
Advanced Web Rankings rose sharply on February 10th, things calmed down a bit, and rose again on February 17th:
Cognitive SEO too, but these too could be from the February 8 update. It's difficult to say.
But overall, the chatter in the SEO industry about rank changes after February 10 was virtually nil. The only thing I saw was the confusion around SEOs who thought they would see it because the Google Search Console was scrolling down to the text that simply related to selected snippets and had nothing to do with passage-based rankings.
Glenn Gabe, who often deals with such updates, also said he didn't see anything and that he spent a lot of time looking for signs and still trying to find signs:
Quick update to the passage-based ranking. I've dug myself in pretty intensely since launch and haven't seen any major effects. This makes sense when you consider what Google said about breeder rights. It only affects longer, unstructured content. The yawn below sums up what I've found so far. 🙂 https://t.co/5d36LhsBWX
– Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) February 16, 2021
I even asked if anyone saw anything and it was crickets as an answer:
Has anyone seen major changes in the ranking after the introduction of the Google Passagen based ranking? Would this show up in your tools for US / English websites after February 10th (so February 11th)? Comment here or on Glenn's thread. https://t.co/4WvkT4C1E7
– Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) February 16, 2021
So last night I asked Danny Sullivan from Google about the roll-out and haven't received a response. He posted an update this afternoon and I updated the story above to determine that.
@dannysullivan Do you know / can you say whether the passage-based ranking publication was carried out quickly or whether it is a slow rollout? If a slow rollout is in progress, is the rollout complete? Is there a time period for this rank change to be posted or all on February 10th afternoon PST.
– Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) February 17, 2021
In short, I really think that Google's messaging that SEOs don't have to do anything was legitimate and it wasn't a huge change that SEOs would have noticed. Google's Martin Splitt previously said: "If you already have good, structured pages, the passage-based ranking is the least interesting thing that has ever happened to you."
Yes, Google said it would affect 7% of requests. But when Panda started it affected 11% and Penguin was around 3%. Penguin was felt very strongly by link building SEOs, and Panda was felt to be greatly by SEOs who create content. This passage-based ranking was about websites that do not do SEO and to improve the ranking of these websites. Maybe it was just nothing on our radar?
If you have evidence that you saw an update, let me know. But everything I am following seemed pretty calm the day after the official launch.
Here are most of the stories I've written on the subject if you need more information about this update:
Forum discussion on Twitter.