SEO Stop Words can harm your website ranking on search engine. By avoiding the use of Stop words, you can rank your website on Google. Many bloggers plunge into the blogosphere without having a fair idea of SEO. While it may not be harmful in the beginning but in the long run, it proves immensely helpful to have knowledge of SEO Rankings Basics. Moreover, lots of bloggers are of the opinion that Stop Words are harmful, especially when you are optimizing your blog post for Google.
What Are SEO Stop Words ?
Stop words in SEO, also known as ‘Google stop words’, are common words that don’t change the meaning of the keyword or keyword.
For example, in the search query ‘show me paris hotels’, ‘show me’ is a stop phrase because it doesn’t change the meaning of the search term (the search engine knows that you want to see Paris hotels).
Stop words include:
- articles (a, an, the)
- pronouns (I, you, your, his, hers, him, her, ours, etc)
- prepositions (as, at, by, to, for, from, in, into, of, onto, etc)
- conjunctions (and, or, but, unless, since, because, although, etc)
- most auxiliary verbs (am, is, are, was, were, etc).
It’s widely estimated that stop words make up 25% of the English language.
And that became a problem for search engines. Why?
Because it meant there were a lot of unnecessary words clogging up the search engine databases. To put it another way, the search engines realized they could deliver search results faster if they filtered out stop words.
Why are they Called by this name ?
According to one explanation, the term ‘stop words’ was coined by Hans Peter Luhn, who was a pioneer of computers and information retrieval techniques. In computing, stop words are words which are filtered out before or after processing of natural language data. They are considered one of the SEO problems.
Another explanation is that it comes from the days of telegrams. Telegrams used to be peppered with the word STOP.
There was no charge for the word ‘stop’, whereas a period or a full-stop was charged.
Because each word in a telegram was charged, people leave out any word that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Over time, those unnecessary words came to be known as ‘stop words’.
How does Google Treat SEO Stop Words ?
Stop Words ignored or filtered out by search engines in search queries and results. Stop Words hinder your SEO efforts if they are frequently used in your site’s title.
They are a source of the problem to search engines like ambiguity, server load problems, etc. Also they hinder search engines in delivering instant results. They have nothing to do with the retrieval of the results, and so search engines including Google ignore and filter out Stop Words from search queries and results.
Let’s take that a blog post @ example.com/stop-words is ranking for the keyword, “what is the meaning of stop word.” Then, according to the treatment of Google for Stop Words, it would also rank for “what is stop word.” Here, the search engines have ignored the stop word “the meaning of.” By ignoring the beautifying stop words, search engines like Google go on to save a lot of time.
When Stop Words considered by search engines?
Are stop words filtered and ignored by search engines in every query or search result?
The answer is “No.”
That’s the reason; stop words are not harmful in every case.
In fact, when there is a difference in meaning in search queries, Stop Words are not filtered out but are considered.
The search engines go on to interpret the meaning of the search query by having a look at the words along the main keyword.
For example, let’s consider the search query,
The Matrix: Movie.
Matrix: Math Concept.
In this example, “the” is the Stop Word.
And Google does consider the Stop Word here.
If Google had not considered the stop word (“the”), the meaning would have been completely changed.
Now, you may ask a question as to how search engines can differentiate the meaning of the above two search terms.
Actually, search engines maintain the list of phrases where stop words are not to be filtered out. Search engines like Google do include those queries in their exception list whose search results (with and without stop words) are different.
Sometimes Google returns irrelevant results for some search queries. In such cases, the Stop Words have been ignored.
Are Stop Words Beneficial for SEO ?
There’s a time and place for SEO stop words. First and foremost, stop words help the reader understand the content. It can be confusing to read titles and sub-headers without stop words.
You also might find instances where stop words help you differentiate between two topics. For example, you can search ‘flamingos’ and you’ll see information about beautiful, bright pink birds. Add ‘the’ to the front, and you’ll be directed to YouTube to listen to the band, The Flamingos. This tiny, three-letter stop word makes a world of a difference in this case.
Removing Google Stop Words
Should you be removing stop words from all of your content?
Like anything else, it depends on how you’re using them. If your titles, headings, URL slugs, and keywords make sense without them, then it can be beneficial to remove them.
SEO Stop Words in Titles
If your titles don’t make sense when you take out those articles or prepositions, then it’s best to leave them be. After all, you want your audience to actually click and read your content. If the most prominent parts — including the title — don’t make sense, the website could come off as unprofessional or even spammy.
It usually makes the most sense to leave stop words in titles and headings, as these are wayfinding elements for users navigating your content. Just keep in mind that the optimal character count for titles is 50-60 characters, as search engines cut off longer titles, which could omit important information for the visitor. If you have lengthy stop words in your title, consider rewriting them to balance brevity and clarity.
StopWords in URL Slugs
When it comes to URL slugs, stop words typically don’t have much significance in SEO. They’re relevant, however, if they make your URL slug particularly long. Google ranks URLs based on their length, and longer URLs typically rank lower than shorter ones — as outlined by the chart below.
Stop Words as Keywords
As we touched on in the last section, there are some times when stop words are crucial to keywording because they differentiate a proper noun from something else. For example, if you searched “Jets New York” you’d probably get a list of flights coming in and out of New York City. But, if you searched, “The New York Jets,” you would get content about the professional football team instead.
Now that we’re familiar with what stop words are and when we should use them, let’s look at a broader list of stopwords that you should be aware of when creating and optimizing content.
Stop Words and the Hummingbird Algorithm
The Hummingbird algorithm, which Google introduced in 2013, is all about natural language. It allows Google to better understand conversational queries. And of course, stop words are the essence of natural language. That’s why they’re so common – we can’t speak English without them. So with Hummingbird, Google is no longer ignoring stop words. The algorithm understands that stop words affect the meaning of the keywords in a search query.
This trend has continued with the BERT algorithm.
Good SEO practices
If you are writing online, it always helps to have some basic knowledge of SEO practices.
When you are writing for clients or trying to improve your blog’s SEO performance, it is important to be aware of these areas.
You can use an SEO plugin like Yoast or All In One SEO to help you check the ranking potential of your new posts.
Most importantly, you have to think about are the words that an online reader could be searching for. Try to match the search term the best you can.
SEO Practice Example:
If the reader is looking for a case study writing service, let’s consider the following two options.
The best case study writing service in London
Best Case Study Writing Service London
Google filters out stop words and will only rank search terms that are more probable to be used by people searching for an answer.
Google might also rank writing service London or case study writing.
If you have any linking words as part of your keywords, you might miss the opportunity of being discovered online. Therefore, the second example will work much better.
Even if your work is the best, and your article writing is high-quality content, these small words can hinder your success.
So back to the main question: what are stop words and are they bad for SEO? Here are the main takeaways:
- Stop words are mostly common words that don’t change the meaning of a keyword or keyword phrase
- But sometimes they are part of the meaning of the keyword – remove them and the meaning of the keyword changes
- With natural language processing, search engines are paying more attention to stop words and how they affect the meaning of a query
- Stop words still take up valuable space in things like your SEO title, meta description and permalink slug
- In general, always give preference to keywords over stop words
- But don’t remove stop words from URLs if they are part of the meaning of the keyword phrase