What Does Google’s Passage Indexing And Natural Language Processing Mean For The Future Of SEO?

With almost every update released from Google, we seem to hear more about the search giants move towards the understanding of speech patterns and away from creating content for bots. And in some ways, this should be liberating for SEO consultants and digital marketers because it means we can focus on the user more, which is what we’re always taught to do as marketers.

Google is going to start ranking passages in search results rather than mainly ranking pages. This means that Google will now be able to surface and serve passages from content and include it in the SERPs if they think it best suits the search query, even if that passage isn’t what the page is about. This is the important bit.

Google believes around 7% of all search queries will be affected by this change when it’s rolled out. 7% is big and there are always consequences from that kind of changes to Google’s rankings factors.

One of the big consequences is that the BERT factors – which mean Google ‘understands words in context’ rather than just indexing words – will go from around 10% of search queries to 100% of queries. Again, that is a big change.

This is going to help Google to really understand the users intent and one of the big ways in which it will help is the way Google will be able to better understand the 10% of all searches that are misspelt. That means that a lot more searchers will more easily find the information they are looking for and makes it less likely they’ll miss your content if you’re the best fit.

I’ve spent years as an SEO consultant and PPC consultant optimising for misspellings in some pieces of content in order to get those opportunities other businesses may miss but now that will be fairly unnecessary, if not a waste of time.

So one of the things that may come out of this will not only affect SEOs but also inbound content marketers because since featured snippets we’ve been creating loads of topical content and making it really focused. But now, Google can find results from anywhere.

So let’s give you an example of how this might change things. I write content on GrowTraffic about SEO, content marketing, various other digital marketing activities, but I also put content up that’s about my interests outside marketing. Some of that might relate to my role in the redevelopment of Bacup or in my role in promoting Lancashire or my role at Cunliffe Hall, or just my thoughts on business or perhaps mental health. But in all of these, I provide insights about what I do and it’s likely in one of those pieces there could be a nugget that people could find useful about marketing. So you might get a great SEO tip from a post about mental health. It’s never worked like that before.

It’s also going to bring an end to the long-form/short-form debate, as the length of a piece of content will no longer matter.

We’re moving away from the era of keyword research and moving towards the era of intent research. Keyword research will still be important for some time to come though, because only 7% of queries will need intent research, to begin with.

I’ve been waiting for the Content Crunch to come for a long time. And this could be one of the ways Google are trying to address the proliferation of content on the internet. You’ve got to realise from Google’s perspective more content costs them more money. But if one piece of content is relevant to more queries there will be less need for more and more content.

I don’t think this is going to kill inbound content marketing for SEO for now, but it’s definitely something we all need to be conscious of.

I can also imagine this resulting in lots of even longer-form pieces of content that cover lot more topics in one piece.

Whatever happens, it’s going to provide SEO consultants with a lot to go at for some time to come.

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