Google Stop Words: Everything You Should Know

Google stop words

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.

What are 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.

Search engines do maintain a list of Google stop words - (Credits: Ranks.nl: Stopwords) that are ignored or filtered out.

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?

Fact when search engines consider stop words
When there is a difference in meaning when stop words are filtered out, then stop words are considered.

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.

How to determine whether to use stop words or not?

In some cases, stop words may hurt.

Oh man.

Then how to know when?

Here's the little hack. Search for the title of your blog post, with stop words and 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.

Final words
Therefore, I can say that: “Stop words does not hurt SEO, but excessive usage do so.” Using stop words limitedly and not using them unnecessarily is the best practice, as far as Google is concerned.

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.

DISCLOSURE
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36 thoughts on “Google Stop Words: Everything You Should Know

  1. Just an awesome post Akshay. You have explained the stop word concept in a very simple and easy way. People who does not have any idea about stop word will also understand your article and the concept about stop word. Keep up your excellent writing.

  2. Very nice article. We spend many hours writing blog posts, forum comments, website articles, and more. Knowing what can hinder performance rankings via stop words is important.

  3. Thanks for the explanation, Akshay. I noticed that Yoast was removing my stop words, then telling me my focus word was not in the URL. Frustrating!

    I found out how to get Yoast to stop doing this, but now I'll reconsider after reading your post. More investigation required.

    Best,
    Scott

  4. Thanks for your explanation! I just started a food blog this month and have been thrown into the confusing world of SEO, It bugs me when Yoast gives me anything but green, so I've been debating about using stop words that seem necessary to the title. It's reassuring to know that stop words won't be my complete downfall. Also, the tip about googling with and without stop words was really helpful!

  5. Like some other people have mentioned, why does Yoast SEO tool tell me to "consider removing stop words" and then when I do, it decreases my keyword density and says the keyword isnt in the copy. Will keyword phrases rank without stop words?

  6. This is good information Akshay, Stop words should be used only when required and how google will treat those cant be determined before publish. But did you find any scenario where stop words were bad for SEO?

  7. Great post!

    Big problem on the iPad, your social icons are blocking the first two words of half the page. Can't read the article.

  8. I am currently looking at ways to increase the google rankings of my site and in searching for information about whether to use or not to use stop words I came across the backlink to this very blog so therefore the system works.

    I am going to download your list and start to work on them as they are very comprehensive

    Thank you so much

  9. I kinda find it creepy when Yoast still has a problem with stop words in the title. Not "a problem" as such but just a little grey mark next to the point where stop words are used. Search engines should be trying to mimic human beings and I don't find human beings filtering out stop words in their daily conversation.

  10. Hi,

    Many of my posts have stop words in them….. and only just found out bout stop words.

    now that my post title has stop words in but my url dont (dont ask why) is this bad most of the good long tail keywords have stop words in them so what do you do?

  11. First of all nice post dude I have a question that If I am using a single stop word in my keyword that also yoast warn to not use that word. But I can't rank without that keyword than what should I do.. Please help me..

  12. I am completely satisfied with your answer.

    Who introduced stop words and why is it required?? OR By default engine/system is treating few words as stop words?

  13. Thanks Akshay Hallur, for providing a lot of information about the real concept of using stop words in the website content.Actually, i was confused before reading your content because i think maybe stop words are the one who are deadly concern to make a trouble in case of optimization but now i cleared that title and Permalink slug should be without stop words but we can use stop words with limitations in post content

  14. Great write-up Akshay, thanks. Google says bloggers should write for readers not for search engines and readers need stop words (even in URLs)! They can be excluded only when the exclusion doesn't hurt the readability and doesn't change the meaning of the sentence. True, Google is getting smarter and closer to using the natural language, with stop words included. We shouldn't be afraid of using stop words 🙂

  15. This is one of the easiest post to read about stop words. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad Google is getting smarter. I'm quoting you in my post about stop words. I just got a Yoast SEO plugin, and there were times that I did not know how I could remove any more words from my title. I spent way too much time trying to please the plugin. 🙂 You have given me freedom to think beyond the plugin.

  16. this is news to me, never heard about stop words, thanks for the information, I will pay more attention to stop words from now on. I will avoid them.

  17. i had never paid attention to stop words before. But now i will keep in mind to use less stop words in url. thank you

  18. Great article on Stop Words and SEO. We found that keeping things natural is the best way to go. Write for your users not for the search engines use proper grammar and spelling. Thank you for the great article.
    Cheers

  19. Nice article. I agree. I use stop words because most mobile searchers (voice) use stop words in their query.

  20. Great Article. Stop words become necessary sometimes when your focused keyword becomes senseless. Also, most of the queries of users in google include stop words. So, it is wiser to use stop words when needed.

  21. I am using Yoast SEO to optimize my blog. For example, if I have a post called: "How to choose a restaurant" Yoast will ask me to remove the stop words. So my keyword should be "how choose restaurant"

    But then, Yoast will tell me I haven't used the keyword in the post. Obviously, I am not going to title a post "How Choose Restaurant" but Yoast lights up RED if I don't.

    Any thoughts on this? Is this just a problem Yoast needs to solve?

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