What Are Stop Words in SEO?
Stop words (like “the,” “in,” and “a”) are common words that search engines may ignore in search queries and search results. Because they don’t affect the meaning of the query or content.
They’re typically articles, prepositions, conjunctions, or pronouns used for grammatical purposes—not because they communicate a lot of meaning.
For example, consider these two SEO keywords:
- Restaurants in Brooklyn
- Restaurants Brooklyn
In this case, "in" is the stop word. Remove it, and the contextual meaning of the keyword doesn't change.
The concept of stop words (also known as stopwords, SEO stop words, or stopping words) was first coined by Hans Peter Luhn, one of the pioneers in information retrieval.
Does Google Ignore Stop Words?
It’s probably rare that Google ignores stop words. Because stop words can have a significant impact on search intent (the meaning behind a user’s query).
For example, someone who searches “menu” could be looking for information about a restaurant menu or a popular movie.
Whereas someone who searches “The Menu” is almost definitely interested in the movie.
Notice that Google interprets these differences and serves different results accordingly.
But search engines are more sophisticated now.
Google uses artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to understand the nuanced meanings behind user queries and deliver the best results. To achieve this, they often need to take stop words into account.
Using SEO Stop Words in Your Content
Now that we've discussed what SEO stop words are, let's look at how to use them effectively in your content.
Stop Words in Page URLs
Generally, you should use short and descriptive URLs. Because they’re easier for search engines and users to understand.
This means avoiding unnecessary words, which might include stop words.
For example, your content management system (CMS) might suggest a URL slug like this:
If we remove all of the stop words, the slug is hard to understand:
But we can improve the slug by making it more concise:
Google recommends keeping a simple URL structure.
Stop Words in Title Tags
Imagine the above example had a title tag without stop words. It would read as "Best Shows Movies Streaming HBO Max - Variety." Removing the stop words here makes it read awkwardly and it's obvious that a part of the title is missing.
When an element is seen by users and used to decide whether to click on (or stay on) your page, you should always prioritize user experience.
Stop Words in Body Content
You should not remove stop words from your body content. This will not improve your Google rankings—it will only make your content read poorly.
You must put your users first and never sacrifice their experience for SEO purposes. Always focus on creating quality content.
For more advice and context, check out our SEO guide.
Stop Words Are Important for User Experience
The reality is that stop words aren't something most marketers need to worry about. But by understanding what they are and how search engines process them, you're better equipped to make the right decisions around using them.
Ignore the advice to remove stop words from titles and headings as this can harm user experience, but consider excluding them from your page URLs if you need to shorten them and it doesn't change the context.
Always put your users first, and you'll usually find that this is the best thing for SEO results, too.
How to Find the Best Keywords for Your Content
There are many ways to perform keyword research—i.e., find keywords relevant to your site.
One of the quickest ways is with Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool.
Simply enter a basic term related to your niche (there’s no need for stop words here).
Then, choose your country and click “Search”:
The tool will provide a list of “Broad Match” keywords by default. These contain your starting keyword(s) or a close variation.
At this point, you can perform keyword analysis. To identify the best target keywords for your website or page.
If you find grammatically incorrect keywords, you should only use their grammatical form in your content. This might mean adding stop words (e.g., “best restaurants brooklyn” becomes “the best restaurants in Brooklyn”).
Don’t worry—you’ll still be able to rank for the ungrammatical versions.
For more advice, take a look at our guide on keyword optimization.
List of Stop Words
In this stop words list, we’ve rounded up more than 175 common stop words: