Google This Week: Passages, Subtopics Now Ranking, New Tools & More

by | Oct 23, 2020

Google This Week
18 min read

Once again, it’s been an absolutely enormous week at Google This Week with huge news out of Google’s Search On event, including Google now “indexing” text content and video passages and ranking subtopics, as well as a new spelling algorithm. There’s also a lot of new tools and features for shopping and ads to get ready for the holiday season.

ICYMI, here’s what happened at Google This Week.

Google Tests Ads in Autocomplete Suggestions in Maps

Google looks to be testing a new ad unit in the autocomplete search suggestions in Google Maps. As you type, search suggestions appear and the top location is now an ad.

Google Tests Ads in Autocomplete Suggestions in Maps


BERT Now Used in Almost 100% of Cases

Last week, Google revealed that Google BERT is now used in almost 100% of search queries. When it was first released BERT was used in around 10% of cases. Now, BERT will impact nearly every English search query.

“Today we’re excited to share that BERT is now used in almost every query in English, helping you get higher quality results for your questions.”


BERT Now Used in Almost 100% of Cases

New Google Spelling Algorithm

Google also announced a new spelling algorithm last week, that helps Google to better understand misspelt words. They said it’s the biggest improvement to spelling in five years. This algorithm update will help Google better understand the context of misspelt words.

New Google Spelling Algorithm

Google Now Indexing Passages

Google is now “indexing” passages as well as web pages. This is a huge change that will create a visible impact to the Search pages. Essentially, passages from a web page can now be treated as pages themselves when returning a search query.

Google said that it will impact 7% of search queries. This will allow Google to show pages where the answer to a user query is deep within the content of the page. Google said that rather than rank a web page about the topic, they can now rank a specific passage for a search query, a huge shift in how pages are ranked. Note that this is really a ranking change, Google will not be indexing the passages separately.

Google Now Indexing Passages

Google Now Ranking Subtopics

In potentially good news for smaller biz, Google has introduced Subtopic Ranking. This will make it harder to rank for high traffic broad keyword phrases but will benefit businesses that are optimising for subtopics and more niche categories.

“We’ve applied neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad. As an example, if you search for “home exercise equipment”, we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page. We’ll start rolling this out by the end of this year.”

Google Now Ranking Subtopics

Video Passages to Affect 10% of Searches

In another big change to SEO, Google is introducing a change to the way video results surface. Now, Google can use AI to understand the different passages within videos and surface results for that passage rather than for the entire video.

Similar to the way Google is now “indexing” passages from web pages, they can essentially do the same thing with videos, so rather than rank an entire video for a topic, Google will analyse videos, assign a tag to each section and describe what it’s about in order to send searchers directly to specific sections of a video. Google has estimated that it will affect around 10% of searches.

“Using a new AI-driven approach, we’re now able to understand the deep semantics of a video and automatically identify key moments. This lets us tag those moments in the video, so you can navigate them like chapters in a book. We’ve started testing this technology this year, and by the end of 2020 we expect that 10 percent of searches on Google will use this new technology.”

Video Passages to Affect 10% of Searches

Zero Click Search Results for Data Sets

Data sets will start appearing in search and will mostly impact sites that rank for statistical information and that sell reports. This feature will bypass web pages and instead show the statistic directly in the search results to answer a user query.

“Sometimes the best search result is a statistic. But often stats are buried in large datasets and not easily comprehensible or accessible online. Since 2018, we’ve been working on the Data Commons Project, an open knowledge database of statistical data… now we’re making this information more accessible and useful through Google Search.”

Zero Click Search Results for Data Sets

New Tools for Ads Data Hub

Google is improving the user experience for privacy check in Ads Data Hub as well as adding new tools to run customised analysis. Google is now offering Shapley value and Markov chain analysis methods as native Ads Data Hub functions to assign credit to touchpoints along the customer journey.

They can be used with Campaign Manager and Display & Video 360 data and your own business data in Ads Data Hub. These functions are now available in beta and will be rolled out to all Ads Data Hub users by the end of the year.

99% of Google’s Indexing Issues Resolved

Google posted another update this week about the indexation issues. They have said that they now have “about 99% of the URLs restored”. Google expects the remaining 1% of cases to be fully resolved within the next couple of weeks.

New Features for Smart Shopping Campaigns

Google is upping its game for the holiday season by bringing new tools to help you capture real-time holiday demand with Smart Shopping campaigns.

You’ll be able to optimise for new customers with a new customer acquisition goal and setting their conversion value target. They’re also adding a layout in dynamic display ads that dynamically curates a carousel of your most relevant products. No action is needed and you can preview them when creating or editing your Smart Shopping campaigns.

Highlight your brand and products in rich creatives

You can now also add videos to your Smart Shopping campaigns or if you don’t have any, use videos that are auto-generated from your product data. More reporting features have also been added, including target and budget simulators so you can estimate how changes to your return on ad spend or budget will impact your metrics based on your recent data.

Get the full picture of your performance with more insights


Google is also bringing auction insights to retail category reporting in the Google Ads Report Editor so you can assess your impression share, overlap rate and outranking share for specific product categories compared to others in the same auction.

In Merchant Center you’ll be able to use the new Report Editor to view additional metrics including impressions and click-through rate across your free listings and ads. Google is also reducing the eligibility requirements for Smart Shopping campaigns.

New Features for Listing Your Promotions

Google is making it easier for shoppers in the U.S. to find products on sale. All eligible retailers will now be automatically enabled to use promotions in Merchant Center. Retailers can now edit promotions easily in Merchant Center and Google has dropped the average approval time on promotions to just hours instead of days so you can better react to shopper demand. By tagging your on-sale or promotional inventory with custom labels you can now expect better reporting.


Reaching shoppers in all Google surfaces


What does this mean for shoppers? There’s now an ‘on-sale’ filter in the Shopping tab and  shoppers will be able to see on-sale items within the free listings in the product knowledge panel. Products on promotion will now have an annotation on Google Images (mobile-only) and local inventory ads. For local inventory ads you can also highlight your contactless fulfilment options like curbside pickup. This feature is currently in Beta.

Promotions on local inventory ads


Introducing Campaign Manager 360

Google is increasing its investment in Campaign Manager as a standalone ad server and adding it to Google Marketing Platform as Campaign Manager 360. Google is focussing on investments in 3 key areas: comprehensive measurement, streamlined workflows, and trusted ad management for video and emerging formats.

Comprehensive measurement for paid media

Google is launching conversion modelling in Campaign Manager 360, which will enable accurate measurement with a privacy-centric view of how people are responding to ads so even when direct measurement isn’t available, you’ll still get accurate insights about your campaigns. Google is investing in two recently launched attribution reports, Full Path and Path Attribution.

Streamlined workflows and integrations

The new Campaign Manager 360 will help you centralise your advertising workflows and integrations with Google and third-party products help you to work more seamlessly across buying and measurement. Google has also launched automated third-party verification.

Trusted ad management for video and emerging formats

Campaign Manager 360 gives you deeper insights into your video performance using video verification and enhanced YouTube measurement. They’ve also expanded unique reach reporting to include demographic data to give you a centralised view of performance across channels including video and connected TV.


New and Revamped Features on Google Shopping

Google is gearing up for the holiday season with new and revamped features on Google Shopping in the U.S. Now consumers can quickly know whether they’ve found a good price.

On the Shopping product page Google will now show whether the price for the item is high, low or typical compared to other prices across the web and in nearby stores. Consumers can now also more easily compare prices and shipping options. In the same page, you can now see various prices and purchasing options from different stores.

New and Revamped Features on Google Shopping

Soon you’ll also be able to see curbside and in-store pickup annotations. Now you can also track prices to get a good deal. If you’re still in the price comparison stage of the consumer journey you can turn on price tracking from Shopping product pages to receive alerts on price drops.

price tracking on from shopping product pages

Introducing AppSheet to Quickly Create Apps

Google has recently introduced AppSheet in Google Workspace, Google Cloud’s no-code development platform. It’s designed to enable anyone to create an app without having to write a single line of code. You can create your app using AppSheet directly from Google Sheets. AppSheet will then take care of the coding, analysing the data structure and creating a prototype app. AppSheet also integrates with tools like Google Calendar and Maps.

Introducing AppSheet to Quickly Create Apps

Vignette Ads Now Supported on Wider Screens

Google has announced that vignette ads are now supported on wider screens.

“Vignette ads now support a larger range of screen sizes. For sites that have vignettes turned on, vignette ads will soon start to appear on wider screens such as desktop.”

They stated that experiments displaying vignette ads on wider screens performed very well so they’ve fully launched it for wider screens. You can turn this option off if you do not wish to display vignette ads using the new “wide screen” control in your Auto ads settings. Vignettes won’t start serving on wider screens until after November 3, 2020.

One Step Closer to Personalised and Private Ads

In January Google announced the end of support for third-party cookies in Chrome by 2022. In a significant step closer to both personalised and private ads, Google has released its findings of a preliminary study testing audience cohorts, users with similar browsing histories and interests to target collectively rather than individually.

Interest Based CohortsGoogle was able to show that targeting interest-based cohorts performs significantly better than random user groupings. This would preserve the users privacy but of course there is a trade-off in terms of marketing precision when not personalising individually. Google stated,

“[A] cohort assignment algorithm presents us with a privacy-utility trade-off: the more users share a cohort id, the harder it is to use this signal to derive individual user’s behaviour from across the web. On the other hand, a large cohort is more likely to have a diverse set of users, thus making it harder to use this information for fine-grained ads personalization purposes. An ideal cohort assignment is one that generates cohorts by grouping together a large number of users interested in similar things.”

It’s early days yet but it does show proof of concept and shows the possibility of marketers to still deliver more meaningful ads in a post-cookie world.


Thank You for Reading

Have you noticed any changes from Google this week?

Check back next Friday for the latest from Google This Week.


Paul Hewett

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