There are certain words that search engines may ignore, both in search queries and search results.
Words like the, in, or a.
These are known as SEO stop words and they are typically articles, prepositions, conjunctions, or pronouns. They don’t change the meaning of a query and are used when writing content to structure sentences properly.
You won’t have to look far to find page headings, title tags, or even body copy where stop words are missing.
Want to see an example? Take a look at these two search queries:
- Restaurants in Brooklyn
- Restaurants Brooklyn
In this case, in is the stop word. But remove it, and the contextual meaning of the query doesn’t change.
However, if you write “Restaurants Brooklyn” in your content, it reads poorly without them. You wouldn’t write content in full sentences missing key words that tie everything together.
SEOs shouldn’t spend their time worrying too much about stop words or trying to figure out whether they should remove them from anywhere on their website.
In this post, we’ll dive into stop words and cover:
- What Are SEO Stop Words?
- Does Google Ignore Stop Words?
- Using Stop Words in Your Content
- SEO Stop Words are Important for User Experience
- A Comprehensive A-Z List of 175+ SEO Stop Words
What Are SEO Stop Words?
As already discussed, SEO stop words are common words, such as articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns, that search engines may ignore. Words such as the, in, or a.
The concept of stop words was first coined by Hans Peter Luhn, one of the pioneers in information retrieval.
But how much do you need to worry about stop words as an SEO? And how should the fact that search engines ignore these change the way you approach content creation and optimization?
Does Google Ignore Stop Words?
The short answer is yes. Stop words used to be used by search engines to speed up crawling and indexing to save storage space. These got ignored both in search queries and in search results.
These words have nothing to do with the content at a contextual level, and removing them doesn’t change the overall meaning of a text.
However, that doesn’t mean you should start removing stop words from your content. Below, we’ll look at how you should and shouldn’t use stop words when optimizing a site.
Using Stop Words in Your Content
Now that we’ve discussed what SEO stop words are, let’s look at how to use them effectively within the different aspects of your URL, page titles, and content.
Should You Use Stop Words in Your Page URLs?
Stop words in URLs have been discussed for years in the SEO community, but you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
If your site runs on WordPress and you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you probably remember seeing recommendations to remove stop words from your page URL.
It’s not uncommon for a CMS or webmaster to use the page heading or page title to create a page’s slug. This can result in lengthy URLs.
You can check out our guide to creating SEO-friendly URLs. We discuss shortening or optimizing where possible to keep URLs easy to read and meaningful.
However, if you must shorten a lengthy URL, you can consider removing stop words if they don’t impact the context. Google’s view is that they recommend keeping a simple URL structure.
Should You Use Stop Words in Your Page Titles and Headings?
There are plenty of headings and title tags in the SERP that are missing SEO stop words. However, in our opinion, you should keep them in place.
Title tags aren’t just used by search engines. They show on the SERPs:
Imagine the above example had a title tag without stop words. It would read as “Best Shows Movies Streaming HBO Max – Variety.” Removing the stop words here makes it read awkwardly and it’s obvious that a part of the title is missing.
When an element is seen by users and used to decide whether to click on (or stay on) your page, you should always priortize user experience.
Should You Use Stop Words in Your Content?
This is a simple one:
You should never remove stop words from your body content; this would make it totally unreadable. You must put your users first and never sacrifice their experience to how you perceive a search engine may view your content.
SEO Stop Words are Important for User Experience
The reality is that SEO stop words aren’t something that most marketers need to worry about. By understanding what they are and how search engines process them, you’re better equipped to make the right decisions around using them.
Ignore the advice to remove them from titles and headings as this can harm user experience, but consider excluding them from your page URLs if you need to shorten them and it doesn’t change the context.
Always put your users first, and you’ll usually find that this is also the best thing for search engines, too.
A Comprehensive A-Z List of 175+ SEO Stop Words
There’s no single universal list of SEO stop words, but we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of more than 175.
Use it as a reference point when optimizing your site and understanding how search engines may handle these words.