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Stop Words: The SEO Exterminators

Susanna Townsend | October 1, 2016

stop words - the SEO exterminators

Imagine putting in months of hard work in your garden just to see a wide variety of colourful flowers in full bloom. Now if you don’t weed out the unwanted plants, what would be the result? Most probably, your dream of a blossoming garden won’t come to fruition and if it miraculously did, the weeds would serve as an eyesore proving the whole exercise to be futile.

In the world of SEO, stop words are to SEO ranking what weeds are to flowerbeds. Stop words actually reverse the momentum built by SEO practices and keep a website from climbing the search engine ranking ladder.

What are Stop Words?

Search engines have quite complex algorithms in place that process the data gathered from crawling the entire web. Gathering this data is a task beyond our imagination because there are over one billion websites right now and four new websites are springing up every few seconds! To make this process possible, search engines pick up only the most important keywords from a website. Words that are very common and unspecific are skipped by the web crawlers to save time and space. These words are called ‘stop words’ and examples include a, an, to, the, and other similar words. (Google has compiled a list of stop words in 29 languages, which can be found here)

Over the past decade, we have seen search engines become more specific and the results we get now are much more accurate than we used to see a few years back. This is the result of rigorous development in the engines’ algorithms. These algorithms now have learned to ignore stop words and pick up only the words that will return only the information that the users actually intend to find.

An example

Let’s see this phenomena in action with the help of an example: Suppose you are using Google to look for gift ideas for this Christmas for your mother and you enter the phrase “What shall I buy this Christmas for my mum”. In this case, if stop words were not being filtered out, Google would have returned entries that contained all the words ‘what’, ‘shall’, ‘I’, ‘buy’, ‘this’, ‘for’ and ‘my’. The pages showing up now wouldn’t have been relevant at all and the whole idea of helping you with gift ideas would have been a flop. Thanks to stop words and search engines’ hard work, here’s what Google gives you now when you search this phrase:


stop words


How stop words affect Page Titles

Title tags offer a fertile opportunity for you to introduce your page both to your audience and the search engine’s bot that knocks on your door to pick up SEO data. Most of us miss this chance quite conveniently and pay the price in terms of our page rankings. The most common mistake with regards to page titles is inclusion of stop words that plague the potential impact of the title. Here is how stop words weigh down your SEO:

  • The character limit of page titles is quite limited and stop words occupy this precious space, more like a squatter that is ruining the estate. The best advice is to minimise use of stop words in page titles but also take care not to make the titles an incomprehensible string of keywords.
  • A page title laden with stop words is counterproductive to SEO in another respect as well. Search engines place most value to the first word and the weightage decreases further down the title. Stop words take up this precious space and imagine the response of the search engines if your title starts with “How to have a …” !
  • Long URLs with stop words get truncated, making it difficult for the readers to understand what this page is all about. Lesser stop words mean shorter URLs and the result is a fully visible and an intelligible URL – and more clicks, of course.

Avoiding stop words is an activity that requires minimal effort but comparatively it is very rewarding. So, while you are watering and pruning your ‘webgarden’, take out the time to weed out the stop words and see your rankings in full bloom, all year round.

digiDen Creative Media


Combining artistic flair with technical know-how, we create stunning designs that stand out from the crowd giving a lasting impression of your business.


digiDen Creative Media


Combining artistic flair with technical know-how, we create stunning designs that stand out from the crowd giving a lasting impression of your business.



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susanna townsend


A gifted digital designer as well as the founder of digiDen Creative Media. Susanna is a creative who enjoys taking her clients’ brands to the next level with her strong aesthetics and tech-savviness. Since 2005, an ever-growing list of diverse businesses has come to rely on her digital visual solutions to achieve their business results. Susanna has a strong passion for visual design, imagery, technology, her animals, and the beach!

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