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Has Google stopped using Stop words?

33 Comments · Keyword Research

Search engines are using different methods to make their task of indexing the internet easier. One method is to filter stopwords out of the text. This article describes the use of stop words and questions whether Google is still not using stop words.

A stop word is a common word such as “the,” “of,” “on,” and “a” and is used differently by different search engines.

This is how Google describes their use of stop words:

Google ignores common words and characters, such as “where” and “how,” as well as certain single digits and single letters. These terms rarely help narrow a search and can slow search results. We call them “stop words.”

Google ignores stop words when they’re placed in searches alongside less common words. For example, a search for [ The Sound and the Fury ] will only return results for the terms “Sound” and “Fury.” However, a search that only includes stop words — [ The Who ], for example — will be processed as is.

There are two ways to instruct Google to include stop words in your search. You can highlight each stop word by placing a plus sign (+) directly before it. For example: [ Star Wars Episode +I ]

A second method for including stop words is to put quotation marks around two or more words. For example: [ "Star Wars Episode I" ]

Here is a list of stop words that Google are ignoring today:

a, are, as, at, be, by, for, how, in, is, it, of, on, or, that, the, this, to, was, what, when, where, who, with, und, the.

As illustrated in the screen shot, the none stop words are presented in blue link color and stop words are black in the “web results” line in Google.

Screen shot Google stop word keyword search

As you can see in the screen shot and try for yourself, Google is clearly indicating that they are using a stop word list, but the results are changing when you use stop words in your search.

In Google’s official explanation of their use of stop words they use the search for “The Sound and the Fury” as an example. I get this results then search for” The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury Google search, Stop words, Keyword

And this result then I search for “Sound Fury“:

Illustration of results without stop word in Google

As you can see the version with the stop words delivers 300,000 results more.

The most interesting is the third result that is different for the two searchers. The title that comes third for the search that includes the stop words is: Faulkner’s The Sound and
the Fury: A Hypertext Edition, and for the search without the stop words: Sound and Fury – Home.

It is quiet obvious that Google is trying to see if the stop words are important for us and deliver results in the third positions that include the stop words in the title.

Google and the other search engines get more and more computer power. It might have been a problem to include stop words in the search results 5 years ago, but now it is probably not a big problem. Therefore, we expect to see the development continuing until it is irrelevant to talk about stop words.

We conclude that a stop word isn’t as important as the other keywords, but you can’t ignore them when you optimize your web copy, because Google uses the stop words when they decide which results they deliver first.

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