Marketing 3 min read

Google Confirms Launching Subtopics Ranking Update

Mitchell Luo /

Mitchell Luo /

In response to a tweet, Google‘s Danny Sullivan confirmed the launch of a subtopics ranking.

Google’s Search On event last October came with a slew of announcements. Along with introducing new advancements in language understanding technology, the event featured other highlights.

These include using AI for videos, humming to search, and new Lens and AR features. Yes, the event also included talks of a new subtopics ranking.

While Google didn’t confirm the ranking update back in November 2020, it appears to have rolled out. According to Sullivan, the subtopics ranking feature went live as far back as November 2020.

The tweet to the Google Search Liaison reads:

“Hi Danny. Sorry, I should have asked this last night. Do you know when subtopics rolled out? Thanks again for replying to my tweet about this!”

In response, Sullivan simply wrote, “Mid-November 2020.”

So, what’s this ranking update, and how does it work?

What is the Subtopics Ranking Feature?

In October, Google described the subtopics ranking as “neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest.” With that, the search engine can deliver a wider content diversity for broad topic searches.

For example, if you search for “home exercise equipment,” the search engine can quickly identify other relevant topics. These include content such as budget equipment, small space ideas, or premium picks.

In the end, the search result page will provide a broader range of content based on the subtopics.

Like any change to Google’s search algorithm, the recent update raises an essential question.

How can you Optimize Your Site for Google’s Subtopics Ranking?

Industry experts believe that there’s no way to optimize for the subtopics ranking update.

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land wrote:

“Is there anything you can change on your site due to subtopics rolling out in mid-November to improve your rankings in Google Search? I highly doubt it.”

According to the SEO professional, subtopic rankings involve improving Google’s understanding of web content. That way, it can identify the most useful ones and match them to the relevant queries.

As such, it’s unlikely that publishers can optimize for this new search ranking update.

Moreover, Sullivan pointed out that the new subtopics ranking doesn’t change the search result page‘s looks. Instead, it broadens the diversity of content when useful.

Admittedly, the subtopics ranking may have caused some ranking changes in Google Search. However, SEO experts believe that it’s minimal compared to changes expected from the passagebased indexing update.

Read More: What You Should Know About Google’s new SMITH Algorithm

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