What are Stop Words & When Should You Avoid Them?

One aspect of SEO and online content that rarely gets discussed is the issue of stop words. On the one hand, it’s easy to see why they often get forgotten about – they are words we use every day without even thinking about them. Google goes even further and completely disregards them. However, this is the very reason, you need to be aware of stop words and when to use them appropriately to maximise the effectiveness of your content.

Let’s start with some basics…

What are Stop Words?

For SEO purposes, stop words include a wide array of common, everyday words that are not immediately connected to the keywords of your content. They include many articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns that we use in our day-to-day writing and speech. If you don’t remember the parts of speech from your school days, here are some quick examples:

pronouns: words that replace proper nouns – he, she, they, your, their, our
conjunctions: words that connect two clauses in a sentence – but, if, then, for
prepositions: words that indicate direction or position – in, from, within, without
articles: words that define a noun – a, an, the

How Search Engines Process Stop Words

In short, they don’t. Search engines like Google access and index billions of web pages every single day and they need to optimise their search time as much as possible, to provide a positive experience for their users. This means skipping most of these stop words, which they consider to be nothing but filler. 

What does this Mean for SEO?

The main impact stop words have on SEO is that too many reduce the impact of your content. If you have a 500-word blog on your site and 25% of those words are stop words, Google considers it only a 375-word blog, which may impact your Google ranking as the search engine thinks it is too light on content to have authority.

Should I Eliminate all Stop Words?

No – stop words remain important for your content. As mentioned above, these are words that we use every day for regular communication. Removing them from your on-site content will result in a wall of text that, while it might be crammed with keywords and semantically-related phrases, will be pretty much unreadable for your visitors. There’s no point in scoring highly on Google if anyone reaching your website cannot understand your content. What’s more, Google also ranks websites on readability, of which stop words are a key component.

Making the Most of Stop Words

The solution – as ever – is compromise. A trap that many people fall into is trying to hit a specific word count by padding it with stop words. It’s not unlike a student who needs write a 2000 word essay, but only knows enough about the subject to pen 1500. Removing some of that filler and replacing it with more pertinent words helps you maintain a high enough level of quality to impress Google, while also hitting your word count, and delivering useful content to your visitors.

If you don’t have the language skills or experience to do this yourself, hiring a professional copywriter is a good solution.

Stop Words in Titles and URLs

Two places where you should pare back stop words to an absolute minimum are your page titles and URLs. These are the first pieces of information indexed by Google and other search engines, and it’s essential that you keep them as tight and relevant as possible.

If you want an SEO strategy that includes professional copywriting and the appropriate use of stop words, speak to the experts. Contact 123 Ranking today to discuss your requirements and to received a free, no obligation quote for our services.