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Should You Avoid Stop Words for SEO?

Posted at Mar 1, 2019 7:34:00 AM by Katie Weedman | Share

SEO stop words have been hotly debated for years. Some SEO experts have insisted stop words be avoided. Others have argued stop words are necessary for grammar and clarity. As a member of the search engine marketing team at THAT Agency, I deal with SEO stop words daily. Here is my two-step program for navigating the nuances of SEO stop words.


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1. Understand why SEO Stop Words ExisT


Yes, Virginia, there are SEO stop words. They exist as certainly as keywords and header tags and Schema exist. SEO stop words are short, succinct words – often prepositions or conjunctions – such as the, of, for, an, etc. These words are called SEO stop words because they are frequently ignored by search engines to save database space and deliver search results faster.

For example, let’s say that a Google user types in “What is the best seafood restaurant in Palm Beach?” as a search query. After the user hits enter or clicks the “search” button, the search engine algorithm filters out any words that aren’t adding meaning, and then provides the user with search results for “best seafood restaurant Palm Beach.”

This all happens behind the scenes, and the average Google user is none the wiser. The user still receives the desired search results. However, he or she receives the results more quickly, as the eliminated words shave nanoseconds off the search engine results page load time. It’s really a win-win scenario!


2. Realize SEO Stop Words Are Necessary … Sometimes


Despite being painted by some as fluff or filler, SEO stop words can be necessary to add meaning.

For example, there is a big difference between “who” and “The Who.” The former could be construed as a pronoun or as an abbreviation for the World Health Organization, while the latter is a band featuring the famous guitarist Pete Townsend.

In this example, “the” is the stop word. However, should a Google user search for “The Who,” the search engine’s algorithm will pay attention to “the,” because “the” adds meaning. Yes, Google’s algorithm is really THAT smart!

And yet, not everything is cut and dried. If you’re a WordPress user with the Yoast SEO plugin, you have likely noticed the plugin’s propensity to flag URLs containing SEO stop words as having a potentially negative impact on search engine rankings. This is not necessarily true.

Today’s search engine algorithms favor user experience. Avoiding SEO stop words even in times where they add meaning or are required for grammar would be unnatural and counterintuitive to providing a positive user experience.

When I see the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin’s stop words notification, it’s usually because the longtail keyword I am targeting in the slug contains SEO stop words. In those instances, I simply count the total characters in the URL. If the total is fewer than 75 characters, I give myself a mental green light and let it ride.






SEO stop words exist and, in my opinion, it’s ok to use them when necessary to add meaning, be grammatically correct, and/or target a longtail keyword in which they appear.

As you can see, the smallest details matter in the world of SEO – and attention to detail takes time. If you’re a marketing manager or business owner, you’re probably short on time already. Let the search engine marketing team at THAT Agency navigate the nuances of SEO for you. Call 561-832-6262 or request a proposal online today.


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