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  • Mordy Oberstein

Episode #1: Going Hog Wild With Google Passages Speculation


The SEO Rant Podcast Banner for Episode #1



More Speculation on Google Passages! Summary Transcript of Episode #1


Resources:


  1. Jeannie Hill Tweets Danny Sullivan about Passages

  2. Google Search On Passages Announcement




Why Google Passages Being Optimized for with Tons of Headers Seems Silly



Today we’re talking about Passages. Passages are like pandemics: when they happen, everyone’s an expert all of a sudden.


What are Passages? They’re the next great thing for wild SEO speculation, but according to what I’ve found, they’re about Google being able to hone in on a smaller section of text to pull out a really specific answer to a question.


This obviously impacts Featured Snippets, but could apply to all snippets of content, like a meta-description. If that’s true, it definitely shows you how valuable the ol’ Googs thinks that meta-descriptions are. It also means sites will be ranked according to that “Passage”. Of course, at this point, it’s all speculation.


Look, I’m all for speculation, I’m about to do some of it myself in a moment. But the problem with speculation is that we can’t say anything with absolute confidence. We need to see what this is and how the SERP behaves. Instead, we get, “Oh snap, better get more of those highly-specific headers so Google knows what’s in a paragraph and can pull a Passage”.


My thoughts: why not have every sentence placed under a header. Perfect. Good for Google, good the reader. I mean who wants actual content? I prefer reading headers only. In fact, everything should just be in H2! Every word on the page. Featured Snippet manna from heaven baby.


Okay wait, I’m not saying that the idea of more specific headers is wrong in terms of Passages. I don’t know for sure because again, none of us have seen this in the wild and we really don’t know.


I wonder if Google is spending tons of money on AI so that it can be forced to rely on more and more headers. Does that make total sense? We have BERT, why? So that we can rely more on page structure instead of contextual understanding?


Look, I don’t know what Passages will or will not be. But if you now need to create a lot of headings - headings everywhere - doesn’t that go against the entire grain of what Google and its ML are trying to do?


I mean, the freaking title of the post that Passages was announced in was:


“How AI is powering a more helpful Google”


But headings. Really. Headings. That’s it?


Google says “We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking”. Is that breakthrough an over-reliance on H2s and H3s? Am I missing something?


If we had to speculate, which we do, would we say that Google’s big breakthrough is utilizing more headers to pull more specific content?


By the way, BERT now touches all English queries. And personally, I’ve seen Google pull some very nuanced Featured Snippets from some very UNSTRUCTURED content. Meaning, Google is already doing what I personally think Passages will be about… understanding unstructured content and pulling specific small chucks out for the user to see.


Is the way to handle by this over-optimizing headers? How about H27s?


Also, if Google is specifically looking for unstructured content because it knows that's where all the good juicy details are, then more and more headers could actually hurt you. Now that’s some real SEO speculation. Let me repeat, I don’t know for sure. It’s a theory - one that I personally like. And as a responsible member of the SEO community, I’m going to let you know that so you can take or leave it.


We don’t know how Passages will look and function and whatever. Flying in the dark here… But more headings, are you freaking me kidding me? C’mon.