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So when Google announced Passage Indexing at the Search On 2020 event, there was a lot of confusion around it. We cleared the big one up, i.e. it’s ranking, not indexing. But there is another one, how is this different than featured snippets.

Danny Sullivan of Google was asked about this and he said on Twitter that passage indexing is different from featured snippets. He said that featured snippets “are already identified using different systems than passages.” Yes, first of all, featured snippets have been around for years already while passage indexing is still not live in Google Search.

Danny also said that featured snippets are used in voice search. Does that mean that passaging indexing won’t be used in voice search?

Here is what he wrote “Featured snippet are used for voice search. They are already identified using different systems than passages.”

Some of the examples and blog posts on the web citing it is live, is wrong. Passage indexing is not live yet. But they do show screen shots of featured snippets instead. We should probably not confuse the two.

Passage Indexing may launch and look like this:

click for full size

But it is less about how it looks in Google Search versus how Google is able to rank content it was not ranking previously. I don’t even know why Google needs to change the look of the search results for passage indexing, it is a ranking thing, not an indexing or user interface thing.

Featured snippets are ranking related as well, they use a lot of machine learning and BERT (as probably passage indexing does), so far we are on the same page. But featured snippets are answers Google extracts from pages to give searchers immediate answers. It is different and looks and acts different in the search results.

As I described in my Search Engine Land post during my Q&A with Google, how does this differ from features snippets, where Google shows a passage of your content as an answer at the top of the Google Search Results. Google said its “systems determine the relevance of any web document via understanding of passages. Featured snippets, on the other hand, identifies the most relevant passage in a document we’ve overall determined to be relevant to the query.”

I guess we will see and learn more as it goes live but until then, this is how Google described the difference between passage indexing and featured snippets.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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