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Google Answers: Should Stop Words Be Used in URLs?

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20 Sep 2022

Is it important for Google if stop words are used in the URL?

Is it important for Google? (Source: Internet)

Google’s John Mueller responded to a question about the use of stop words in URLs.

Mueller responded to the question while also discussing the impact of words in URLs and making recommendations on how to approach what words are used in URLs.

The History of Stop Words in Search

Stop Words include common words such as “a,” “and,” and “the.”

Those types of words were not considered important for SEO in the early days of search because they were not considered important for search engines.

Stop words were not considered important in the early 2000s because search engines at the time did not understand what a page was about. They worked by determining which keywords a page was relevant for, with generally ignored.

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Stop Words in Search
In the early days of search, these types of words were not considered important for SEO (Source: Internet)

In an article published in 2008, Bill Slawski alluded to the importance of stop words (New Google Approach to Indexing and Stopwords).

“Not too long ago, if you entered in Google the phrase (without quotation marks) “a room with a view,” you might have received some warnings that your query contained “Stopwords.”

In that search for “a room with a view,” you might have received results like “a room for a view,” or “room to view,” or other phrases that replaced some stop words with others. That made it less likely to find exactly what you were looking for when you searched for a phrase with words in it.”

Later that year, Bill wrote about another patent that discussed meaningful stop words, which could be regarded as a watershed moment in how Google handled stop words in search queries and on webpage content.

His article talked about a patent that determined whether or not the stop word was meaningful.

As a result, stop words such as “a” and “the” were sometimes thought to be important to the meaning of keyword phrases, but this patent, like the previous patent Bill discussed, was limited to stop words in content and search queries.

The patents did not attempt to use stop words in the URL.

Stop Words in a URL

The following is a paraphrase of the question posed by John Mueller:

“In Short, when using words from a page title in the URL, should I include stopper words, too?

For example, should I call a page why-is-the-sky-blue.html or why-sky-blue.html?”

Mueller responded:

“Words in URLs only play a tiny role for Google Search.

I would recommend not overthinking it.

Use the URLs that can last over time, avoid changing them too often and try to make them useful for users.

Whether you include stop words in them or not, decide to use numeric IDs, that’s totally up to you.”

The significance of stop words in URLs is Minimal 

Mueller downplayed the importance of words in URLs to the point of saying it didn’t matter if one used numeric IDs in a URL.

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The significance of stop words in URLs is Minimal 
A URL with stop words that add meaningful context will likely look more natural (Source: Internet)

A numeric ID is a URL file name that contains no words, such as /article-id-12345.

That response is similar to one he gave in a Google Office hours hangout in 2016.

According to Mueller:

“I believe that’s a very small ranking factor, so it’s not something I’d really try to force.

And it’s not something where I’d say it’s even worth your effort to kind of restructure a site just so you can include keywords in the URL.”

Six years later, Mueller still didn’t say whether words in URLs were even a minor ranking factor, only that they played a “tiny role for Google Search.”

Returning to the use of stop words in URLs, Mueller advised making the URLs useful for users, which is sound advice.

Because Google does not display URLs in search results, it makes no difference (in terms of click-through rate) whether the URLs contain or not.

In a context where a potential site visitor can see the URL, a URL with stop words that add meaningful context will likely look more natural than a URL without those stop words, inspiring more confidence and a higher click-through rate.

As a best practice, Google’s URL documentation lists several rules to follow.

“When possible, use readable words rather than long ID numbers in your URLs.

Localized words in the URL, if applicable.

Use UTF-8 encoding as necessary.”

Google also claims that using hyphens aids the search engine in comprehending concepts. Something to consider.

“Consider using hyphens to separate words in your URLs, as it helps users and search engines identify concepts in the URL more easily. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.”

The guidelines also state what not to do:

  • Not recommended: Using non-ASCII characters in the URL
  • Not recommended: Unreadable, long ID numbers in the URL: https://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1
  • Not recommended: Keywords in the URL joined together: https://www.example.com/greendress

On that Google Search Central page, there are many other recommendations and warnings about URLs, but nothing about stop words.

That’s probably not an oversight; it could be an indication that it’s a minor consideration in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, “that’s entirely up to you,” as John Mueller stated.

With the information compiled by EverRanks, you should be able to set the appropriate URL, bringing the best possible effect to your website. Don’t forget to follow the website of our SEO company to learn more about our articles.

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