At this point, there’s no question that Google’s emphasis on user experience (UX) is the reason for every update it makes, no matter how minor. From mobile-first indexing and the Page Experience Update to the wealth of new features diligently tested on search engine results pages (SERPs), UX is the driving force behind it all – and the face of SEO, naturally, has needed to change to keep up.
But with all the focus web owners have been placing on factors like page load speed and intrusive interstitials, UX is often overlooked when it comes to the actual content. After all, trying to strike a balance between serving search engines and delighting users can be a tricky tightrope to walk – which brings us to the topic of stop words.
SEMrush recently published a blog about stop words – the words search engines used to ignore in search queries and results (think a, and, the, etc.). Typically articles, conjunctions, prepositions or pronouns, these stop words form a large proportion of language and sentence structure.
However, many SEO professionals choose to remove them to create 100 percent matches for keywords or, simply, because they think search engines don’t look at them. According to SEMrush, this is a big mistake: Search engines today do use stop words for a deeper understanding of the context of a search. Keep them in your headlines, and definitely don’t remove them from your body copy. In fact, the only place SEMrush says it’s safe to do away with stop words is particularly lengthy URLs.
During the debates that followed the publishing of the blog, even Google’s John Mueller addressed the issue on Twitter, encouraging content producers to write naturally and not worry about stop words. Top SEOs have backed this up, with Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable saying:
“But Google and other search engines are way smarter these days around stop words. In fact, I doubt they even filter them out, they probably use them to better understand the sentence meaning.”
No matter how you slice it, the bottom line is that content with stop words deliberately removed for SEO is extremely awkward to read, and users aren’t likely to stick around and stumble through badly written content when Google is nothing if not a treasure trove of alternatives. If users don’t want your content, you can’t expect search engines to rank it.
Stop words are essential for user experience, and removing them not only goes against UX principles but assumes Google’s natural language models are far less sophisticated than they are. In the words of Barry Schwartz, “I mean, it is 2021” – and with the conversion of UX and SEO, the last thing you want to do is be caught on the wrong side of SEO’s future.
More SEO News You Can Use
Google My Business Is Introducing Messaging for Desktop Users: Google is currently in the process of rolling out Business Messaging for the GMB desktop interface. Until now, messaging functionality has only been available on the mobile app, but its introduction to desktop reinforces the importance of brand responsiveness to customer experience. Many local businesses have a desktop computer within easy reach, and the messaging interface makes it easy to track messages, respond to customer requests and even export chats. Google has stated its intention to make more buttons available in the future, such as “Request a Booking” or “Get a Quote.” If you’re a business owner who wants access to these new features sooner than your competitors, you can join Google’s waiting list and be first in line to test drive the beta version.
A Thorough Comparison Between Subdomains and Subfolders Makes a Strong Case for Both: It’s no secret that the SEO world loves a good debate, and a Search Engine Journal (SEJ) article by Roger Montti has renewed interest in an old favorite: subdomains vs. subfolders (or subdirectories). Montti lists the reasons a web owner might opt for both of these, making it difficult to choose a definitive winner. But the answer to which one you should consider using is deceptively simple: Subdomains are considered as their own standalone site, so if a section is particularly different from the rest of your site, a subdomain is the obvious choice. On the other hand, if a section fits in perfectly with the site as a whole, a subfolder may be your best bet.
Using Multiple Tags for Blog Posts Does Not Have an Impact on Rankings: Since the dawn of blogging, tags have been used as another way to organize content for users. In a recent Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, a web owner asked Google’s John Mueller if article category and post tags improve a page’s SEO. The answer? Not necessarily. However, Mueller did address a few other benefits of tags, explaining that these could enable Google to discover additional web pages about similar topics. While post tags aren’t half as popular as they used to be, they still have some value. Creating tags just for the sake of it might do more harm than good, but integrating them into a well-rounded SEO strategy could prove beneficial.
Use This Quick Reference Guide to Advanced Google Search Operators to Boost Your Content Strategy and Technical SEO Audits: Google’s advanced search commands far extend the capabilities of regular searches, and knowing how to use them can give you insight into SEO opportunities you likely haven’t even considered. But where to start? SEJ’s Brian Harnish has all the answers in his viral blog post, “Every Advanced Google Search Operator You Need to Know.” The list introduces search operators that can do everything from identifying blogs that match the content you’re producing to finding the most recent cache of a web page, proving just how much power lies in Google Search (if you can speak its language.) The blog is incredibly insightful, reminding us of the sheer volume of information we can get – and it’s definitely worth checking out before your next content audit.
Facebook and Instagram Shops Are Integrating With Shopify to Offer Shop Pay as a Payment Option: Three of the biggest digital brands have joined forces to offer Shopify’s Shop Pay as a checkout option for customers purchasing from Shopify merchants on Facebook and Instagram. Checking out with Shop Pay is a whopping 70 percent faster than a typical checkout, and conversion rates are estimated to increase by 1.72x. This is the first time Shop Pay will be made available outside of the Shopify platform, and the relationship with Facebook won’t end here. Carl Rivera, general manager of Shop at Shopify, said the brand would continue working with Facebook to introduce a range of services and products and improve social selling. It looks like eCommerce is in for a few surprises.
Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on SEOblog.com, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make SEOblog.com a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.