SEO Stop Words: The Definitive Guide (September 2020)

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!

SEO Stop Words: The Definitive Guide

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:

  • the
  • an
  • a
  • of
  • or
  • many

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?

It depends.

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.

More specifically:

  • 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.

Conclusion

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 (September 2020)

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

7 Comments. Leave new

  • Thanks for this helpful and detailed post.
    Now I have a lot of work to do on my website =)
    Cheers – Orion

    Reply
  • Jenny Elmore
    April 7, 2018 1:25 AM

    Lovely post. Thanks for the SEO stop words list 🙂

    Reply
  • Thank you for sharing a nice post about SEO Stop Words List.

    Reply
  • Hello to all!

    In this enigmatical time (COVID), appreciate your family and friends.

    Great post as always Eduardo!

    Reply
  • Very useful article, and thanks for providing SEO stop words now I will be more careful on this topic.

    Reply
  • Well written and done!

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    It is going down on the list of factors I need to replicate being a new blogger. Audience engagement and material value are kings.

    Many excellent suggestions; you have unquestionably made it on my list of writers to follow!

    Continue the fantastic work!

    All the best,
    Bourke

    Reply

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