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What are Stop Words?

Stop words those that are skipped or filtered out by search engines. They are words that occur in natural language but have little to no meaning by themselves. Examples of stop words include an, the, in, many, about, after, if, etc. Here, you can find a comprehensive list of stop words.

Many SEO professionals consider that using stop words can hinder a site’s ranking on search engine result pages. However, this is not entirely accurate.

It is true that most of the times, they are not useful for SEO purposes. Search engines skip these words to save space in their database, and to speed up the process of crawling and indexing, but also when retrieving search results.

That being said, when one of these words changes the meaning of a query, then search engines do consider it when retrieving results. For example, someone searching for “The Raven” (Edgar Allan Poe’s poem) vs. someone searching for “raven” (information about the bird). In this case, using the stop word “the” does change the meaning of what the searcher needs to find, and search engines will consider it when retrieving results.

How do I decide when to use and when not to use stop words?

An excellent way to determine whether a stop word will compromise your chances of ranking for a given keyword phrase is to search for it with and without the stop word or words. If there are drastic differences in the results shown, i.e., sans the stop words show a lot more results than with it, then you shouldn’t include it in your keyword phrases.

A rule of thumb is not to place them too close to your target keywords or between words in a keyword phrase. Including them in the following places can have a negative effect:

  –  Title tags

  –  Anchor texts

  –  Hyperlinks/URLs

  –  Meta descriptions

  –  Meta titles

  –  Image alt text

This doesn’t mean that it will get your site penalized for including them, but that another page might get a higher ranking if you use them and they don’t. Thus, your ranking’s on SERPs could be affected.

You should use stop words throughout the body of your text naturally. Otherwise, it would be hard or even impossible to read.

You need to keep in mind is that while it is called search engine optimization, you’re not only writing for search engines; you’re ultimately doing it for your readers.

Finding a balance when it comes to the use of stop words is vital. You’d want to use the less amount of these words as possible while creating content that makes sense to humans and that it is pleasant to read. One way to do this would be to use shorter sentences. In the end, most people don’t want to read long-ass paragraphs anyway.