If you have your own website, or blog, and you’ve done some SEO, chances are you’ve run into the term stop words.
Stop words are one of those things that I think a lot of people tend to overlook, or look into too much.
So what exactly is a stop word? What kind of effect do they have on SEO? Can stop words really hurt your rankings? Sit back and I’ll answer all of these questions for you by the end of this post!
Stop Word? Huh?
Stop word is a generally summary of words that are usually ignored by search engines when performing a search, or writing content. Words like, if, how, to, a, it, and any other “non-descriptive” words of that nature.
There are numerous stop word lists found online, but the best one I’ve personally come across is courtesy of ranks.nl. They not only give you all English stop words, but in basically every other language as well – definitely a useful resource to use.
The reason stop words are ignored is primarily due to the fact that they pose no relevancy to the topic. They also take up the vast majority of all the words that actually exist online, so for a search engine to consider all of these words in their results would slow things down tremendously. Another reason for them being ignored is a continuation of the first reason, and it’s all to do with server load and current capabilities.
Sometimes They’re Necessary
Like I mentioned earlier, stop words can be extremely taxing on a search engine’s resources, which is why they were initially omitted from both queries and results. But as the search engines get smarter, their acceptance and understanding of stop words also expands.
This is to say that, search engines can actually dictate if a stop word is necessary for a phrase to make sense, or not; or if it changes the meaning entirely by excluding or including it. And with Google determined to provide a high-quality internet experience, they might start including more and more beautifying stop words.
Simply put, stop words are necessary if you want to say something in a nice, flowing manner while being descriptive – which is pretty much what Google wants.
With all of that in mind, not even search engines are perfect, and sometimes they make mistakes by excluding or including stop words incorrectly. In time they will perfect the system, but for now it’s good enough!
SEO and Stop Words
Depending on who you ask, they will say that using stop words will seriously hinder everything and to avoid them at all costs. Which is somewhat true, but from what I’ve personally seen in my own blog posts’ rankings, partially incorrect as well.
It’s always been my opinion that writing for the reader instead of the search engines is going to generate better results, and this has been proven true, to an extent. In fact, even Google agree’s that writing for the reader is the best option.
You still have to properly optimize each page and post, and to do this you have to have some knowledge of stop words because they play a big role in performing proper keyword research.
Beyond that point though, writing for the reader is always going to be your best bet – Be natural in your wordings and don’t force anything.
Stop words should always be considered, but they shouldn’t be worked around; if that makes any sense whatsoever.
You shouldn’t spend much time worrying about them, instead, you should be worrying about how your content will sound when read by another human. That’s not to say litter your content with every beautifying word possible, but instead, write naturally.
Writing for the reader instead of the search engines will usually prove to be your best best; search engines don’t want you to write for them, Google especially. This means you should include stop words where they sound good… which is a lot of places when you see how many words are actually considered stop words.
Although you always want your content to be SEO-friendly, you never want to sound like you’re writing SEO content.