This is a complete guide to SEO stop words, also called Google stop words.
In this new guide you’ll learn everything there is to know about stop words and when to remove them.
In fact, this is the exact same logic I’ve been using with my SEO clients for almost a decade now.
This is a practical guide to SEO stop words.
So whether you are an absolute beginner or a technical SEO expert, you’ll love the simple steps on this guide.
Let’s get started!
1. What are SEO stop words?
Google stop words are those words that tend to be partially or entirely ignored by search engines.
Some examples are:
Tip: full list at the end of the post!
Statistics show that stop words make up for more or less 25% of a blog post, although they don’t necessarily have anything to do with the content.
Search engines often ignore SEO stop words, in both search queries and results.
In fact, if you use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin, then you will surely have seen the term “stop words”. Stop words are all those words that are filtered out and do not have a meaning by themselves. Google stop words are usually articles, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, etc.
For a search engine, stop words are basically fluff that does not influence the search results being displayed.
2. Are stop words bad for SEO?
From Google’s perspective, stop words add more time and space in processing extensive data when crawling and indexing all of the webpages that Google knows about.
Hence, by avoiding these “empty” words, Google can save time and save more space in their databases.
For example, let’s say a person runs a search for: “carpenter in New Jersey”
Well, the word “in” does not change the meaning of the rest of the terms typed, so Google would leave them out and provide “carpenter New Jersey” results instead.
Some users type even longer phrases like: “a dog adoption shelter in madrid”
After the algorithms filter the unnecessary words, Google shows “dog adoption shelter madrid” search results instead.
Google still provides the expected results with minimal or no differences, but without putting in as much work to generate them for the user.
3. Do SEO stop words affect search engine rankings?
Yes, experts agree that SEO stop words do influence rankings, but it isn’t considered a significant ranking factor by itself.
Google is always trying to improve their algorithms to better match the search intent, and stop words play an essential role in this game.
Here’s a good tip:
Don’t give up readability for theoretical SEO
When writing for SEO, content is king. ALWAYS.
As an example, here’s the title of another popular post in this blog: “SEO Writing in 2020: How to Write SEO-friendly Blog Posts“
Do you think it will read better if we remove the stop words?: “SEO Writing 2020: How Write SEO-friendly Blog Posts“
It still makes sense, but it doesn’t sound right to me… it almost sounds like spun content!
Your page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor of your page, as a ranking factor as well as a potential first impression for readers.
Here’s another good tip:
Google’s algorithm is smart enough to understand semantics and synonyms
Yes, although Google does not yet understand semantically everything, it is getting better each day it passes.
So, instead of removing every single stop word like a Terminator, It’s best to maintain a healthy balance between readability and technical SEO.
Think about it this way:
Would you click a search result featuring incoherent English fragments someone strung together in order to remove stop words? Probably not!
4. When to remove SEO stop words?
Think about it:
Most of the time, SEO stop words add no value to search engines. Instead, they eat up valuable characters in key places like your URL or your page title.
What should you do?
In the page title (meta-title)
Page titles should be short and concise because search engines read no more than 55 to 60 characters, including spaces.
Should stop words be included in titles?
This is an old debate, but in my personal opinion, they should not be removed. It is true that they do not provide meaning for search engines, but they do for users. And, after all, we write for people, not robots.
In the URL
SEO-friendly URLs are big deal.
According to Neil Patel, URLs are an important ranking factor.
- URL length is listed as #46 in Google’s top 200 ranking factors
- URL path is listed as #47
- Keyword in the URL is #51
- URL string is #52
However, no one pays much attention to the URL. Therefore, it is good practice to remove SEO stop words to shorten the URL. Remember that the maximum size of characters of a URL that is displayed is 70 characters. Of course, it is not good to edit the URL in such a way that it is hard to read or understand.
For example, the primary keyword in this post is: “SEO stop words“
And the title is: “SEO Stop Words: The Definitive Guide“
Instead of making the URL like this: https://cseo.com/blog/seo-stop-words-the-definitive-guide
I prefer it like this: https://cseo.com/blog/seo-stop-words
This way, the second URL is easier to remember, features my exact primary keyword, and contains no stop words.
In conclusion, eliminate stop words only when their absence does not impair the user experience. Google and other search engines are getting smarter every day and they recognize the majority of empty words as useful words. However, it is a good practice to filter out unnecessary empty words in the URL.
5. When SEO stop words DO count?
Sometimes stop words are making phrases or sentences different.
In such cases, Google’s algorithm is smart enough to consider them, interpreting the meaning of the search query by looking at the words along with the main keyword.
As complicated as it may sound is as simple as this:
Take a look at these two elements that may be searched by a user: “The Matrix” and “Matrix”.
One is a math concept, and the other is an epic movie.
In this example, the word “the” is the stop word. In the search results, the algorithm would consider the stop word because without it the meaning would be completely different. Easy, right?
6. Stop words according to the experts
When you write for SEO, most experts suggest that it is better to remove SEO stop words from the URL.
Even the widely popular Yoast plugin follows this affirmation. They often suggest that including Google stop words might have an undesired effect in rankings, as well as making the URL much longer, and hence more difficult to remember.
Would Google stop words hurt SEO?
That is not entirely true. Any good search engine has the purpose of enhancing the users’ experience, and filtering out stop words could, in a huge percentage, spoil the users’ experience.
Stop words are necessary to be grammatically correct and add further meaning to sentences.
Search engines today are becoming smarter discouraging the idea that Google stop words are completely bad when actually avoiding them completely would be unnatural and bad for the pages and users.
Stop words do not hurt SEO, their excessive usage does.
Make a good use of general words and keywords for any site, using stop words limitedly and only when necessary, that may count as the best practice in SEO, as far as Google is concerned.
Bonus: SEO stop words list (October 2021)
Here’s the full list of stop words for SEO:
a about above after again against all am an and any are as at be because been before being below between both but by could did do does doing down during each few for from further had has have having he he'd he'll he's her here here's hers herself him himself his how how's i i'd i'll i'm i've if in into is it it's its itself let's me more most my myself nor of on once only or other ought our ours ourselves out over own same she she'd she'll she's should so some such than that that's the their theirs them themselves then there there's these they they'd they'll they're they've this those through to too under until up very was we we'd we'll we're we've were what what's when when's where where's which while who who's whom why why's with would you you'd you'll you're you've your yours yourself yourselves