Have you heard about people talking about how ‘stop words’ can be bad for SEO, but unsure what they exactly are and why they are (potentially) bad?
Well, it just so happens that you have stumbled across the right blog. Here is your guide to SEO stop words in 2020, including a comprehensive list of words alphabetically arranged.
Along with a comprehensive list of stop words, this guide will also answer the following:
Search engines such as Google will ignore extremely common words so that they can save space in their databases and speed up both crawling and indexing. These are known as stop words. In general computing stop words are filtered out before and after the processing of natural language data eg text.
Quick answer: Stop words themselves do not hurt your SEO, it’s the excessive usage of them. Always write for the end user and think about intent, especially with Google announcing last year their BERT model. Use keywords and synonyms when relevant and only use stop words when necessary. Don’t go stop word crazy.
When people are surfing the web, they will often use stop words in their search queries. Search engines receive millions of searches every minute. Google alone receives 63,000 searches every second.
Stop words can cause lags in load times (how long it takes Google to show results to an end user) and also some ambiguity in the search results, which can result in wrong information showing up. Again, thanks to BERT this will get better.
By ignoring stop words, Google and other search engines can provide faster and more accurate search results for their users. Even though they do from time to get it wrong with the results they display.
So, let’s talk about a few examples of when stop words are ignored, using Google as the example, let’s be honest does anyone use anything else 😉.
Let’s say you search ‘a hairdresser in Leicester’. The words a and in don’t change the meaning of the query, so Google would ignore and provide results for ‘hairdresser Leicester’ instead.
You may ask Google a question such as, ‘what are the best vegan restaurants in Leicester?’ Again, Google will filter out the unnecessary words and show results for ‘best vegan restaurants Leicester’.
Google still provides the best answer but by working smarter and not harder.
No, stop words aren’t always ignored. Sometimes stop words change the meaning of the search query.
In these situations, Google is smart enough to consider the stop word(s) and interpret the meaning of the query by looking at the words around the main keyword.
Sounds confusing but it’s not. So, someone may search for matrix and someone else may search for the matrix. One will probably want information about the math concept whereas the other wants information about the film.
In the above example the stop word is obviously ‘the’ but Google would not ignore this, as without the word, it changes the intent behind the query.
If you own a WordPress site, chances are you have the Yoast SEO plugin. If you have, you have probably seen the tool recommend that you don’t use stop words in the URL, page title and focus keyword.
Many SEO experts will say that using stop words could have an undesired effect in your rankings and make the URL unnecessarily longer (shorter URLs tend to be best practice for SEO as they are more sharable).
This is not entirely true. Good search engines, especially Google, has one goal and that is to provide a good user experience and will do anything it can to enhance this. Filtering out stop words could end up spoiling the users experience.
Ask any copywriter and they’ll say stop words are necessary to be grammatically correct, add further meaning and ensure the sentence reads well.
Search engines are becoming smarter. Today its more about being natural and writing good, highly content for the engines such as Google, which is where stop words come in handy.
Therefore, stop words aren’t all evil.
Stop words hack: Do a bit of research yourself. Go to Google and search for the long tail keyword or query that you want to write about. Research using stops words and then again without. If the results change depending on whether you include stop words or not, chances are you need them to ensure the intent of your content is correct.
Why are they called stop words?
The term stop words was coined by Hans Peter Luhn, who was an early pioneer of information retrieval techniques.
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