If you are an SEO freak, you definitely may have come across the term stop words. And you may also have heard that stop words are harmful, especially when you're optimizing your blog post for Google.
So what are stop words? What's their role in SEO? Are they really harmful? These are the exact questions, which I'm going to answer in this blog post.
stop words and how Google treats them?
Stop words are some words, which are partially or completely ignored by search engines.Words like, the, an, a, of, or, many, etc. Constitutes about 25% of the blog posts around the web. They have nothing to do with the content. Search engines, in both search queries and in results, often ignore them.
Why search engines including Google ignore stop words? They often cause many problems to search engines like ambiguity, server load problems, etc. It also helps search engines deliver instant results.
If these words have nothing to do with the retrieval of the results, then it does make sense to filter out stop words from search queries and results.
For example, If a blog post @ example.com/stop-words is ranking for the keyword, “what is meant by stop word” then it would also rank for “what is stop word” as you might expect. The stop word here is “is meant by”. Search engines, save a lot of time by ignoring these beautifying stop words.
When will search engines consider stop words as meaningful?
When there is a difference in meaning when stop words are filtered out, then stop words should be included.
The search engine interprets the meaning of the search query by looking at the words along the main keyword.
Consider the example search query, Matrix: Math concept. The Matrix: Movie.
In here, “the” is the stop word. Google DOES consider the stop word in this case. Because, in this case, without the stop word (“the”), the meaning would be completely different.
A question may arise, how search engines distinguish between the meanings of the above two search terms. Search engines do maintain the list of phrases, in which stop words should not be filtered out.
If the search results of the two queries (with and without stop words) are different, search engines like Google include those two queries to their exception list. This happens simultaneously as the user searches.
Sometimes you may have noticed Google returning irrelevant results for some search queries. In that case, search engines ignore stop words when it was actually necessary.
What's their role in SEO? Many of the SEO experts and even Yoast plugin suggests you to remove stop words from a Blog post URL, Blog post title, and focus keyword. They say that including stop words, lowers the ranking of blog posts in SERPs.
Stop words hurt SEO: It’s not completely true.
I myself have come across many blogs, who even not bother about stop words and rank higher in Google.
Google’s main aim is to enhance user experience. Filtering out stop words, many of the times spoils the user experience.
Stop words are necessary for beautifying the sentences. They fill meaning to the sentences. Google is becoming smarter day by day; it’s also realizing that discouraging usage of stop words spoils the user experience.
Especially, with the rise of conversational search queries, voice searches, Google is not really worrying so much about you using stop words in the permalinks.
How to determine whether to use stop words or not?
In some cases, stop words may hurt.
Then how to know when?
Here's the little hack.
Search for the main keyword of your blog post, first time with stop words and then without them. If the results are different in both the cases, then it is clear that Google is considering the stop words. So, it makes sense for you to retain stop words in your title.
Also, remember that it is advisable to keep the blog post URL, short, and self-explanatory. Filtering out all stop words in the URLs seems unnatural. The same also applies to the post titles.
Google and other search engines are becoming smarter day by day. They recognize most of the stop words as useful words. However, it's a best practice to filter out unnecessary stop words from the blog post title and URL.
If you have, any doubts do comment and if this post has helped, do share.