Content and search engine optimization (SEO) are closely connected. Even if your website has tons of backlinks, it still needs unique and high-quality content to succeed in the search results. When creating and optimizing your website’s content, though, you should be cautious of stop words. While they won’t necessarily prevent your website from achieving high rankings, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them.
Overview of Stop Words
Stop words are generic words that provide little or no context for the sentence or phrase in which they are used. They can consist of adjectives, prepositions, pronouns, verbs and conjunctions. When used in a sentence or phrase, stop words simply connect other, more important words. You can typically remove stop words from a sentence or phrase while retaining its original meaning.
According to CSEO, stop words account for one-quarter of all the words in a typical blog post. A 1,000-word blog post, for instance, will contain about 250 stop words, and a 2,000-word blog post will contain 500 stop words. Along with blog posts, stop words are frequently used in articles, how-to guides, product descriptions, social media posts and other forms of text content.
Examples of common stop words include:
Impact on SEO
Stop words can impact your website’s SEO because of the way in which they are handled by search engines. When they encounter a stop word, search engines will ignore it. They’ll still crawl the stop word, but they won’t process it for ranking purposes.
Search engines analyze words to determine where websites should organically rank. Using a complex and ever-evolving algorithm, they’ll read your website’s text content. Search engines will then rank your website for search queries associated with the included words. Stop words are unique, however, because they are ignored by search engines. Search engines filter stop words from their algorithms so that they don’t directly affect search rankings.
Stop words aren’t exclusive to search engine algorithms. They are used in many programming languages as well, specifically those involving natural language processing. Programmers can filter useless words from a natural language database by specifying them as stop words. Any word specified as a stop word will be removed, allowing for a cleaner database.
When to Use Stop Words
Even though search engines filter them, you should still use stop words in your website’s content. Stop words are oftentimes necessary for complete sentences. Removing them from a sentence may not change its meaning, but stop words can disrupt the sentence’s readability while simultaneously making it incomplete.
Conciseness is a defining characteristic of high-quality content for websites. Without filler or fluff, concise content is easy to read. Nonetheless, many sentences require stop words to maintain readability. If you remove them, visitors may have trouble reading the sentence. The sentence may sound awkward, or it may have an unnatural linguistical flow. Stop words allow for smoother and more natural sentences that are easier for visitors to read.
Remember, you should create content for your website’s visitors and not for search engines. Both visitors and the crawling bots of search engines will read your website’s content. But the entire purpose of building a website is to attract visitors and encourage them to interact with your business or brand. If you remove all the stop words from your website’s content, visitors may leave and not come back. Instead, they’ll seek content that’s easier to read from a competitor’s website.
When to Avoid Stop Words
There are certain places where you should avoid using stop words. You should omit them from your website’s URLs, for example. Short URLs typically outperform long URLs. They contain fewer characters, making them easier for visitors to remember. When visitors remember your website’s page URLs, they’ll be more likely to return to your site and link to your site.
You should also either avoid or limit the use of stop words in title tags. Title tags typically don’t need stop words. They are used to specify the title of a web page, so title tags don’t have to be complete sentences, nor do they require stop words. Stop words will only consume space in your website’s title tags that could be better used for other, more important words.
Search engines won’t display a web page’s title tag if it’s too long. They may show the first part of the title tag but not the last part. Moz recommends a maximum of 60 characters, with spaces included, for any given title tag. Considering that most words in the English language contain four to five characters on average, that’s not a lot of space. Fortunately, you can make your website’s title tags shorter by stripping them of stop words.
Like with title tags, you may want to limit the use of stop words in subheadings. A subheading is essentially a title for a specific section of content. Pages featuring long-form content may contain a half-dozen or more subheadings. Each subheading is placed over a section of content so that visitors can scan the page to locate information without reading each individual word. Since they are mini titles, many subheadings don’t need stop words.
When building backlinks, you can usually omit stop words from the anchor text. A backlink’s anchor text is the string of visible characters that you can click. All backlinks require it. Otherwise, they won’t be presented as a clickable Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) element. Anchor text is what makes backlinks interactive.
You can use SEO keywords in anchor text, but you typically don’t need to use stop words. Your backlinks will look shorter and cleaner without stop words. These better-looking backlinks may attract more clicks from real users, thus increasing your website’s traffic.
In SEO, stop words are generic words that link together the important words in a sentence or phrase. Search engines don’t process them for ranking purposes. Rather, they ignore stop words by filtering them from their algorithms.