Table of Contents
In 2019, Google introduced a major algorithm update known as BERT. Its goal? “Help Search better understand one in 10 searches in the U.S. in English,” with the intention of expanding to more languages and regions over time. Today BERT has greatly improved the search engine’s ability to analyze complex search queries.
Still, it’s important to remember that the user remains the central focus of search engine optimization (SEO) practices. Marketers, therefore, rely on what are known as ‘SEO stop words’ to make their content easier for users to understand. If used correctly, these words improve user experience without disrupting search crawlers.
Turn rankings into revenue
Intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%. How much revenue are you missing out on?
What are stop words in SEO?
SEO Stop words are common words that connect ideas together to form complete sentences. They include prepositions like “on” and articles like “the.” These everyday terms usually go unrecognized by users, but they are essential for bloggers to write coherent posts.
Common SEO stop words include:
While these words are insignificant to search crawlers, they do have significance for users. Without these types of words, your content may come across as incomplete or low-quality, potentially damaging your overall brand perception. When it comes to using Google stop words, you want to strike a balance between helping users and crawlers alike.
Are stop words bad for SEO?
Whether or not stop words hurt SEO performance depends on the situation. There’s a time and place for using them. In many cases, writers use them simply to make their content sound natural.
The bad news? This can slow the crawling process down. Since crawlers often consider stop words as “fluff,” analyzing them leads to a lot of unnecessary natural language data ending up in Google’s index.
If, for example, you’re trying to hit a word count for your blogging content, you’re better off using value-added information like data, concepts, etc. Using a bunch of stop words to hit an arbitrary length goal will result in a less effective web page that will likely have lower keyword rankings.
Fortunately, search engines ignore stop words for the most part. These terms can, however, be the defining factor separating two very different search engine results pages (SERPs). Consider the following example:
You want to find information about Queen Elizabeth II. You Google “queen” and see results for the British band “Queen:”
Now, you add “the” to your search and see news articles, a movie title, and a Google knowledge graph giving information about Queen Elizabeth II:
This is just one example of how SEO stop words can have a major impact on search engine information retrieval. You want to make sure that you use stop words appropriately so they don’t change the meaning of your overall content.
Should you stop using SEO stop words?
Taking SEO stop words out of your content may make sense, but it’s not always necessary. Again, this depends on a variety of factors. But the general rule of thumb is: if your writing makes sense without them, leave stop words out of your content.
For page titles, URLs, and keywords, you should carefully consider how adding stop words creates value. If it doesn’t, you’re probably better off without them.
In your titles
Title tags are an essential component of your on-page SEO strategy and they should not be overlooked. According to Databox, the majority of SEO experts believe that the title tag is the most important element of a blog.
This means that whatever you put in your title can greatly impact your potential rankings. Analyze your title without stop words. Does it sound like something someone would say in a presentation or conversation? If not, you should keep the stop words in to make the title tag more appealing to the user.
Backlinko research found that on Google’s first page of search results, most of the listings have 65% to 85% of the keyword phrase in the title:
In other words, adding stop words to your title tag won’t necessarily prevent it from earning one of the top spots on SERPs. The optimal length for a title is roughly 50 to 60 characters. If SEO stop words enhance your title and keep it within this range, you should include them. This can lead to a better user experience and keep your content on track to rank for your focus keywords.
In your URLs
URLs are slightly different from titles because users don’t necessarily read them for comprehension. Putting stop words in a URL slug probably won’t impact a page’s SEO rankings one way or the other – unless it’s done in excess.
In the case of URL slugs, simpler is better. WordPress tools like the Yoast SEO plugin will actually suggest that you remove stop words from your URL. This makes it more visually appealing to users and gets rid of the fluff that crawlers will look past anyways.
Eliminating stop words can make it easier for you to find your pages faster. Using just your keywords is often the most effective way to write SEO-friendly URLs. This boils down the page’s topic to only the words that you want Google to consider when it indexes your content.
Plus, if you share the URL on social media, it will appear more professional but still be able to tell users what content is on the linked page. This may strengthen both your link-building strategy and brand perception at the same time.
In your keywords
The use of stop words in your keywords is especially dependent on how they affect the content’s overall meaning. To reiterate, stop words are often vital to distinguish between proper nouns and everyday terms:
Using stop words in your keywords can also affect who Google shows your content to:
EX 1. “treat back pain”
EX 2. “where to treat back pain”
In the first example, users may see home remedies for back pain. In the second example, users may see places where they can get their back pain treated by a professional.
A major SEO tip is to always consider the user search intent behind your keywords. Your content must cater to the user’s needs.
If you change the keyword meaning with added stop words, you can affect how your page ranks for the intended topic. During your keyword research, make sure you also investigate user intent to determine the type of content users want to find when they search the term.
When it comes to the actual text on your web pages, you should always use stop words. Putting them into written content helps the user understand your meaning.
In fact, if you don’t include basic stop words in your body text, your bounce rate will most likely suffer. That’s because people won’t be able to understand your content, which will send them scrambling back to the SERP. To ensure the best user experience possible, always write for comprehension.
SEO stop words to watch for
Now that you understand what stop words are, you can pay more attention to how you’re using them in your content. Here is a comprehensive list of words that you can watch for in your URLs, titles, and keywords.
Remember that there is no exact template for how these should be used. When incorporating any of the terms off the following list of stop words, consider:
- Does it change the meaning of the content?
- Does it improve readability and overall comprehension?
- Does it get in crawlers’ way or is it inconsequential?
This list of SEO stop words is broken down by parts of speech. Reference it when you’re contemplating which stop words to use in your next piece of content.
- Even though
- In order to
Overall, SEO stop words are essential to the composition of digital marketing materials. When it comes to the finer details of your overall SEO, however, they don’t always add value. Knowing when to use and when to eliminate these words will make you a better content creator and can influence your site’s future rankings.
Get a complimentary SEO audit
Google’s search algorithm grows more sophisticated with each update, but you still need to prioritize user experience throughout your content. Use stop words to connect target keywords and improve readability. By doing so, your content will flow better without impacting the indexing process.
Want to see how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.