From blog titles to URL slugs, you might not realize how frequently you use SEO stop words. But, to be fair, if Google doesn't pay much attention to them, why should you?
Research shows that 25% of blog posts are made up of stop words. However, these words have little to no relevance to the topic of the post. These are words that help you compose sentences and connect ideas together, and they don't have much impact on Google's search results.
But, excessive use of stop words can impact your brand in the long run. They make content harder for search engines to process which can end up negatively affecting how they index your pages.
In this post, we'll walk you through exactly what SEO stop words are, how they can hurt — or help — your online presence, and which words are considered stop words by Google and other search engines.
What Are Stop Words in SEO?
We use stop words all the time, whether we're online or in our everyday lives. These are the articles, prepositions, and phrases that connect keywords together and help us form complete, coherent sentences.
Common words like its, an, the, for, and that, are all considered stop words. While they're important for communicating verbally, stop words typically carry little importance to SEO and are often ignored by search engines.
Let's review some of the most common stop words in the section below.
Common SEO Stop Words
The most common SEO stop words are pronouns, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. This includes words like a, an, the, and, it, for, or, but, in, my, your, our, and their.
When people search for something online, search engines like Google omit these words in their results because they don't relate to the keywords in the search. So, rather than looking up content that's related to these words, Google removes them altogether and prioritizes the keywords.
So, the next time you're trying to hit a word count when writing a blog post, try filling that open space with keywords rather than filler copy that doesn't improve your SEO.
While it would be great to load up your content with only meaningful keywords, the reality is that stop words are needed for every type of copy. After all, even if you rank highly on Google, it won't mean much if your content is incomprehensible or doesn't resonate with your audience.
Are Stop Words Beneficial for SEO?
There's a time and place for SEO stop words. First and foremost, stop words help the reader understand the content. It can be confusing to read titles and subheaders without stop words.
You also might find instances where stop words help you differentiate between two topics. For example, you can search ‘flamingos' and you'll see information about beautiful, bright pink birds. Add ‘the' to the front, and you'll be directed to YouTube to listen to the band, The Flamingos. This tiny, three-letter stop word makes a world of a difference in this case.
In the next section, let's look at some other times when you should be paying attention to stop words to optimize your content's search ranking.
Removing Stop Words
Should you be removing stop words from all of your content?
Like anything else, it depends on how you're using them. If your titles, headings, URL slugs, and keywords make sense without them, then it can be beneficial to remove them.
SEO Stop Words in Titles
If your titles don't make sense when you take out those articles or prepositions, then it's best to leave them be. After all, you want your audience to actually click and read your content. If the most prominent parts — including the title — don't make sense, the website could come off as unprofessional or even spammy.
It usually makes the most sense to leave stop words in titles and headings, as these are wayfinding elements for users navigating your content. Just keep in mind that the optimal character count for titles is 50-60 characters, as search engines cut off longer titles, which could omit important information for the visitor. If you have lengthy stop words in your title, consider rewriting them to balance brevity and clarity.
Stop Words in URL Slugs
When it comes to URL slugs, stop words typically don't have much significance in SEO. They're relevant, however, if they make your URL slug particularly long. Google ranks URLs based on their length, and longer URLs typically rank lower than shorter ones — as outlined by the chart below.
Stop Words as Keywords
As we touched on in the last section, there are some times when stop words are crucial to keywording because they differentiate a proper noun from something else. For example, if you searched “Jets New York” you'd probably get a list of flights coming in and out of New York City. But, if you searched, “The New York Jets,” you would get content about the professional football team instead.
Now that we're familiar with what stop words are and when we should use them, let's look at a broader list of stopwords that you should be aware of when creating and optimizing content.
75 Stop Words in SEO
There are many, many more stop words out there, but here's a list of some of the most common stop words to be mindful of when creating content online.
Using SEO Stop Words
SEO stop words are important if you want to create a strong SEO strategy and rank highly on search engines like Google. Overusing them can hinder your ranking, but avoiding them altogether will make your content confusing and unclear. By understanding what stop words are and which words qualify as stop words, you can craft content that works to your brand's advantage.
For more ways to rank higher on search engines, read these SEO tips.