Are you a SEO freak, you definitely may have been introduced to the term stop words. Do you know that they are harmful? mostly when you are optimizing your website posts for google.
No problem if you are hearing this word for first time.Let me Introduce it to you:
In computing, stop words are words which are filtered out prior to, or after, processing of natural language data (text).There is not one definite list of stop words which all tools use and such a filter is not always used. Some tools specifically avoid removing them to support phrase search.
Any group of words can be chosen as the stop words for a given purpose. For some search machines, these are some of the most common, short function words, such as the, is, at, which, and on. In this case, stop words can cause problems when searching for phrases that include them, particularly in names such as 'The Who', 'The The', or 'Take That'. Other search engines remove some of the most common words including lexical words, such as "want" from a query in order to improve performance.
Search engines such as Google used to maintain a list of stop words that are ignored or filtered out.
List of Google Stop words:
These are the Google stop words as today. The list was long a couple of years ago.
I, a, about, an, are, as, at, be, by, com, for, from,
how, in, is, it, of, on, or, that, the, this, to, was,
what, when, where, who, will, with, the, www.
Why search engines including Google ignore stop words?
They often cause many problems to search engines like ambiguity, server load problems, etc. If these words have nothing to do the retrieval of the results, then it does make sense to filter out stop words from search queries and results.
If a blog post @ example.com/stop-words is ranking for the keyword, “what is meant by stop word” then it would also rank for “what is stop word” as you might expect. The stop word here is “is meant by”. Search engines, save a lot of time by ignoring these beautifying stop words.
When will search engines consider stop words as meaningful?
The answer is, when there is a difference in meaning then stop words are not filtered out. In many of the cases filtering out stop words, changes the meaning of the entire search query or the query loses its meaning. In those cases search engines do not ignore stop words.
The search engine interprets the meaning of the search query by looking at the words along the main keyword (LSI keywords). Sometimes the stop words, act as LSI keywords.
Consider the example search query,
Matrix: Math concept.
The Matrix: Movie.
In here, “the” is the stop word. Google does consider the stop word in this case. Because in this case, without the stop word, the meaning would be completely different.
A question may arise, how search engines distinguish between the meanings of the above two search terms. Search engines do maintain the list of phrases, in which stop words should not be filtered out.
If the search results of the two queries (with and without stop words) are different, search engines like Google include those two queries to their exceptional list. This happens simultaneously as the user searches.
Sometimes you may have noticed Google returning irrelevant results for some search queries. In that case, search engines ignore stop words when it is necessary.
What’s their role in SEO?
Many of the SEO experts and even Wordpress's Yoast plugin suggests you to remove stop words from a Blog post URL, Blog post title, and focus keyword. They say that including stop words, lowers the ranking of blog posts in SERPs. Stop words hurt SEO: It’s not completely true.
I myself have come across many blogs, who even not bother about stop words and rank higher in Google.
Google’s main aim is to enhance user experience. Filtering out stop words, many of the times spoils the user experience.
Stop words are necessary for beautifying the sentences. They fill meaning to the sentences. Google is becoming smarter day by day; it’s also realizing that discouraging usage of stop words spoils user experience.
But my Final Words for this topic:
I can say that: “Stop words does not hurt SEO, but if used excessively then it can do so.” Using stop words limitedly and not using them unnecessarily is the best practice, as far as Google is concerned.
Also, remember that it is advisable to keep the blog post URL, short, and self-explainable. Filtering out all stop words in the URLs seems unnatural. The same also applies to the post titles.
Google and other search engines are becoming smarter day by day. They recognize most of the stop words as useful words. However, it’s a best practice to filter out unnecessary stop words from the blog post title and URL.