If you have being keeping your ear to the ground as of late, you will have undoubtedly picked up on the hype surrounding ‘stop words’ over the past few weeks. Specifically, this refers to a post published by SEMrush that contained a list of supposed “SEO stop words” of high value.
If unfamiliar with the concept, stop words are the most common words actively avoided by most major search engines; these words are overlooked to save time and ensure resources are allocated as efficiently as possible.
It also means search engines are able to save space in their databases, by avoiding and ignoring words of no real value or relevance.
When a list of stop words was published by an authoritative source, it caused quite the stir, none other than John Mueller of Google has responded to state quite clearly that to waste any time thinking about stop words is inadvisable.
“I would not worry about stop words at all; write naturally,” he wrote on Twitter.
Search Engines Vs Stop Words
Traditionally, stop words have been automatically filtered out of the textual content crawled by search engines, either before or after the natural language data is processed. The way things work these days is not entirely clear – particularly with the bigger search engines like Google.
It could be that they continue to be filtered, or they may be used as a tool to analyse the context and meaning of the sentence. The natural language processing capabilities of the major search engines are improving all the time, which will undoubtedly have influenced the way stop words are picked up on and used.
Summarising; John Mueller explained how and why stop words alone are of no significance whatsoever, unless the wider sentence or statement is interpreted by way of its context and meaning:
“I would not worry about stop words at all; write naturally. Search engines look at much more than individual words. “To be or not to be” Is just a collection of stop words, but stop words alone do not do any justice.”
In which case, you could quite easily make the assumption that Google most certainly does not ignore stop words anymore. Muellers comments indirectly confirm that stop words in the traditional sense have the potential to be just as valuable and relevant as any other words.
Googles priority for some time has been improving its search engines ability to read and interpret natural language in the same way as a human being. Therefore, just as a human being would be unlikely to avoid a long list of words due to their generic nature, it is most likely the same with Google.