Long tail keywords, SEO and stop words

15 replies
  • SEO
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I noticed some of the long tail keywords I'm targeting have stop words. I use Wordpress for content creation. Couple of quick questions for the pros:

If my long tail keyword phrase is: "how to change the oil on your car" I know there's stop words there. Should my website URL include the entire KWP or should I take out the stop words?

Reason I ask is because just about every KW tool will look at on-page SEO to see if the KW is in title, in heading, in description, etc.

Thanks in advance
#keywords #long #seo #stop #tail #words
  • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
    I assume you are talking about the file name and not the domain name. If so, I'd get rid of the stop words. Honestly, it isn't going to matter for SEO; shorter URLs are a little neater, though. And remember, tools are just that; they have no direct knowledge of what search engines are really doing. Don't worry if your tool doesn't realize that the word "to", "for", "on", etc are implied in a URL, title tag, heading, etc. You are smarter than any tool.
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    • Profile picture of the author Techie Turtle
      Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

      I assume you are talking about the file name and not the domain name. If so, I'd get rid of the stop words. Honestly, it isn't going to matter for SEO; shorter URLs are a little neater, though. And remember, tools are just that; they have no direct knowledge of what search engines are really doing. Don't worry if your tool doesn't realize that the word "to", "for", "on", etc are implied in a URL, title tag, heading, etc. You are smarter than any tool.
      Hi Dave,
      Thank you for your reply.

      Yes, in file name. I'm thinking long tail would be: mysite.com/howtochangetheoilonyourcar

      Seems like stop words aren't necessary so: mysite.com/changeoilcar

      But, looking at most K/W research tools, one metric they look at is "keyword in URL". That's where my confusion lies.

      The long tail keyword will get say, 1,000 searches per month. The shorter version will get 125,000 searches per month (both figures made up). You get the idea though.

      Thanks again.
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      • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
        Originally Posted by Techie Turtle View Post

        Hi Dave,
        Thank you for your reply.

        Yes, in file name. I'm thinking long tail would be: mysite.com/howtochangetheoilonyourcar

        Seems like stop words aren't necessary so: mysite.com/changeoilcar

        But, looking at most K/W research tools, one metric they look at is "keyword in URL". That's where my confusion lies.

        The long tail keyword will get say, 1,000 searches per month. The shorter version will get 125,000 searches per month (both figures made up). You get the idea though.

        Thanks again.
        Like I said, don't worry about what the tool says. It is just a stupid tool. You should also put hyphens between each word and I'd prbably make it: mysite.com/how-to-change-car-oil
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  • Profile picture of the author Albert Tan
    Hi @Technie Turtle,

    In your case, common sense must prevail.

    You create content for your visitors (i.e. humans) and most important is should not look too spammy like this:

    mysite.com/howtochangetheoilonyourcar or

    mysite.com/how-to-change-the-oil-on-your-car

    The title tag is just one of the factors for ranking and it really does not make a huge lot of difference (in my opinion).

    It is better to concentrate in creating good and really good content for the readers. Then sprinkle your targeted keyword and related keywords in your content. And take care of other on-page SEO.

    There is no need to be too hung up in over-optimizing the long tail keywords.

    Albert
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  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
    Originally Posted by Techie Turtle View Post

    I noticed some of the long tail keywords I'm targeting have stop words. I use Wordpress for content creation. Couple of quick questions for the pros:

    If my long tail keyword phrase is: "how to change the oil on your car" I know there's stop words there. Should my website URL include the entire KWP or should I take out the stop words?

    Reason I ask is because just about every KW tool will look at on-page SEO to see if the KW is in title, in heading, in description, etc.

    Thanks in advance
    There are no such things as "Stop Words" in our now present "Semantic" search environment.. all words are needed to determine the intent of the search. Say hello to RANK BRAIN... but actually Stop Words were dead long before that.. like 2008!

    Try this article on for size: New Google Approach to Indexing and Stopwords - SEO by the Sea
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    • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
      Originally Posted by savidge4 View Post

      There are no such things as "Stop Words" in our now present "Semantic" search environment.. all words are needed to determine the intent of the search. Say hello to RANK BRAIN... but actually Stop Words were dead long before that.. like 2008!

      Try this article on for size: New Google Approach to Indexing and Stopwords - SEO by the Sea
      The main problem I have with this is you are citing an article that is almost a decade old and is based on conjecture of what Google might be doing because of patents it had filed for (and as everybody knows, Google files tons of patent applications that are never implemented). Google has changed their algorithm a great deal since 2008.

      Google is striving for a more semantic search engine and in many cases, stop words do not change the meaning of what someone is searching for (i.e. bowling balls for sale, bowling balls on sale, bowling balls sale). For sure, there will be slight variances in the search results for things but in most cases, nothing major (unless the name of a company exactly matches).

      It all comes down to user intent and whether the stop words change that intent. If they don't, the search results shouldn't change.
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      • Profile picture of the author savidge4
        Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

        The main problem I have with this is you are citing an article that is almost a decade old and is based on conjecture of what Google might be doing because of patents it had filed for (and as everybody knows, Google files tons of patent applications that are never implemented). Google has changed their algorithm a great deal since 2008.
        Yes they have changed a great deal since 2008, AND they have introduced RANK BRAIN into the mix pretty recently.. That little #3 ranking variable, that does exactly what we are talking about here. Semantic / multi layered search is not something that Google never implemented... its there, we all know it.

        Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

        Google is striving for a more semantic search engine and in many cases, stop words do not change the meaning of what someone is searching for (i.e. bowling balls for sale, bowling balls on sale, bowling balls sale). For sure, there will be slight variances in the search results for things but in most cases, nothing major (unless the name of a company exactly matches).
        Do me a favor.. lets try a set of search terms with a bit more competition shall we? Instead of "bowling balls" lets try "Xbox" as in xbox for sale, xbox on sale, and xbox sale. Go look at the serps... These Serps are way different... I'm like beside myself to see that for the first term Xbox / Microsoft, isn't even in the top 5!

        Here is another example I use all the time "A day in the park" vs "day park" Because we are discussing stop words "Intent" should have nothing to do with it. Stop words are supposed to be exactly THAT, words that Google removes from the search. It just does not work like that any more.

        Back in the day.. Super Geek SEO types, used to actually use the stop word removed term in the text to get an "Exact Match". I want to say it was the Caffeine update in the summer 2009 were that was no longer a valid strategy ( LOL )

        The lower the competition the less you will see the effect. Google only has so many pages worth displaying. But, as you ramp up the competition, you will see that there is more and more separation, and as there is more competition, there is equally more possible pages for Google to display.

        So the question becomes.. do you work with a strategy that works, in some cases ( Low Comp )? or do you work on being more consistent with your SEO targeting with a more universal approach ( low to high comp )?

        I honestly don't think there is a real right or wrong answer here, but understanding there is a difference is key.
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  • Profile picture of the author Techie Turtle
    Thank you, everyone, for your replies.

    Basically, use common sense and write for a human. Google will pick up on the article's intentions and rank appropriately. Right?

    Thanks again.
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    • Profile picture of the author Sclark
      Originally Posted by Techie Turtle View Post

      Basically, use common sense and write for a human. Google will pick up on the article's intentions and rank appropriately. Right?
      Yep.

      You can simply try the following: search for some of your long-tails in Google and try them with and without the stop words - this will reflect if Google sees any difference. In most cases it detects the phrases with same search intent regardless of stop words; so you shouldn`t worry about breaking up the long-tails.

      In case with the URLs - 'how-to-change-the-oil-on-your-car' indeed looks the most readable and user-friendly. Best URLs are always those which are descriptive and easy to grasp.
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    • Profile picture of the author G.O.A.T
      Originally Posted by Techie Turtle View Post

      Thank you, everyone, for your replies.

      Basically, use common sense and write for a human. Google will pick up on the article's intentions and rank appropriately. Right?

      Thanks again.
      Yup, Google just wants you to have a website that provides value for the visitor. The more you try to optimize the harder it is to rank. You'll go crazy trying to optimize for minor things like this.
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      • Profile picture of the author yukon
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        Originally Posted by G.O.A.T View Post

        Yup, Google just wants you to have a website that provides value for the visitor. The more you try to optimize the harder it is to rank. You'll go crazy trying to optimize for minor things like this.
        That's not true.

        You should be optimizing If you care about ranking pages.

        The key is optimizing for things that matter.
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    First, these are two totally different keywords:
    • how to change car oil
    • how to change the oil on your car

    ...you should be optimizing for both keyword phrases because there's traffic searching both phrases, not just one keyword phrase.

    Keep in mind there's multiple ways to optimize for keyword variations. Something as simple as image caption text could be used for one variation of the page title text (example).


    Second, like already said use hyphens between the words on the URL.

    Google is good at dissecting jumbled up words with no blank spaces but don't make them do unnecessary work trying to figure out your keywords.

    Third, some stop words have progressed over the years. Example nowadays how to [insert subject] is a high traffic keyword all on it's own. The keyword how to will usually trigger a featured SERP snippet because featured snippets are looking for HTML list. Most webpages with a set of step-by-step instructions (how to) will be in a specific ordered list which translates to using HTML ordered bullet list (<ol>), not unordered list (<ul>), those are two completely different things as far as Google is concerned.
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    There is a difference on the SERPs for most keywords when you remove the stop words. Even If that difference is one additional SERP competition, it matters.

    Hummingbird was the game changer.
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  • Profile picture of the author Techie Turtle
    Thanks everyone for the replies. Take a look at this screen capture and give me your thoughts about stop words. Also, why are some words bold?

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  • Profile picture of the author Techie Turtle
    A bit different search query here:

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