STOP Words and SEO. Should you Stop?

STOP Words and SEO. Should you Stop?

So many of the business owners  and particularly the passionate solopreneurs in the Build Business Results (BBR) Network leverage blogging as a way to build reach and social influence via search engine traffic. Whilst this strategy is slower than the strategies we work though in the Mastermind in the Generate Leads sections, consistent action can make an impact depending on the nature of the content. Here is and article for you the members that are leveraging this strategy that shed light on the question we've discussed on whether stop words need to be stopped for greater SEO optimization. Thanks Yoast for being content leaders in this space and for making it easier for us to easily get up to speed and optimize our SEO efforts.  Eager to hear any other approaches used that our members may leverage. 

See you on the action- field.
Raksha Sukhia, 
SMB Business Growth Strategist, Founder BBR Network.

In natural language processing, useless words (data), are referred to as stop words. Stop Words: A stop word is a commonly used word (such as “the”, “a”, “an”, “in”) that a search engine has been programmed to ignore, both when indexing entries for searching and when retrieving them as the result of a search query. In computing, stop words are words which are filtered out before or after processing of natural language data (text). For SEO purposes, these are extremely common words that most search engines skip over in order to save space in their databases, and to speed up the process of crawling/indexing.

Google’s Hummingbird update

In recent years, Google has become much better at dealing with stop words, so it simply doesn’t matter anymore whether or not there are stop words between the words you want to be found for. Google is very capable of handling longer search phrases – in fact, that was the purpose of Hummingbird. And it’s usually much easier to optimize your text for a keyphrase, which is likely to include stop words. A good keyphrase is often more like a short sentence and will make an article much more readable and natural than one optimized for a keyword that doesn’t have stop words. So, from a readability point-of-view, you definitely want to optimize your articles with focus keywords that include stop words.

Although Google is better at handling stop words in queries these days, you still need to give some serious thought to your focus keyword or focus keyphrase.

Before you decide on the exact formulation of your focus keyword or keyphrase, follow these steps:

Step 1: Google your focus keyword

The first step in deciding the exact wording of your focus keyphrase is to Google the two (or three) options you’re considering. If the results are similar then it won’t matter too much which keyphrase you choose. But in some cases, search results will be quite different. Here’s a good example: if you search for [notebook], you’ll get results for all kinds of portable computers, while a search for [the notebook], will get you… Ryan Gosling.

Step 2: Decide on your focus keyword using Google Trends

The second step in deciding whether or not to use a stop word in the focus keyword you’re optimizing for is to look at search volume in Google Trends. Check the two (or three) versions of your keyword you’re considering and see which one gets the most traffic. For instance, if you’re choosing between [shoes for kids] or [shoes kids], you’ll instantly see that the search volume of [shoes kids] is much higher, so that’s the focus keyword to optimize for. Or… you could choose both! Well, you can if you have Yoast SEO Premium.

Keyphrases vs keywords

Shorter search queries are often the more popular ones, but your competition knows that too! Search volume for keywords without stop words seems higher than the search volume for keywords containing stop words. So, in many cases, it could pay off to optimize your articles as you always have – without using stop words. But search volume for the keyphrases with stop words seems to be growing, so it might pay to optimize for both keywords!

In our research on how Google handles stop words, we found that a search term like [shoes kids] is handled in exactly the same manner as [kids shoes] – the order of the words is irrelevant to Google. However, for [shoes for kids], Google tries to find the exact match, which means the order of the words is important. So, search queries with stop words are handled a little differently by Google. This is also true for how Google shows traffic in Google Trends: [shoes kids] and [kids shoes] have exactly the same volume because Google treats them as the same thing. So don’t make the mistake of adding them up when comparing them to the version of your keyphrase that uses a stop word. Watch out for that!


Before deciding how to optimize your post, always look into the differences in results pages and search volumes. It’s really important to at least do some basic keyword research, and if you really can’t decide which focus keyword to use, just optimize for both using Yoast SEO Premium!

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