Google Speed-Search Lesson #4 – Stop Words

In this fourth part of my Google Speed-Search series, we’ll take a look at stop words – words that Google ignores.

What words does Google ignore? 

There doesn’t seem to be a public list of Google stop words available (although I did find this), but words like the, is, are, that, on, in and with are very likely to be ignored. Numbers and question words, too, seem to be considered as stop words.

Examples of searches with and without stop words

All these searches return (nearly) the same results:

Japanese Prime Minister

  • The Japanese Prime Minister
  • How is the Japanese Prime Minister?
  • Who is the Japanese Prime Minister?
  • Where is the Japanese Prime Minister?
  • Was the Japanese Prime Minister in on it?
  • Where is the Japanese Prime Minister from?
  • What was the Japanese Prime Minister on about?
  • Will this be from the Japanese Prime Minister?
  • Why and when to be the Japanese Prime Minister
  • Is this by the Japanese Prime Minister or is that?

If you’re the kind of person who types questions into Google, hopefully you can now see that using stop words is pointless (at least in these examples) and you’d be able to speed up your searches without them. For example, if you really want to know where the Japanese prime minister is from, you’d be better off searching with:

birthplace Japanese Prime Minister

How to include stop words in a Google search

What if you really need to include stop words in your search? Well, in the last lesson, I showed you how to exclude words from your search results using negation. We did that by adding a minus sign (-) to the front of the word we wanted to exclude. The opposite is called Explicit Inclusion, and we use a plus sign (+) to forcibly include words in our searches. For example:

+the cars

If you didn’t include the stop word, you’d get results about automobiles. Using Explicit Inclusion however, you get results for the American rock band from the 70’s, The Cars.

Is a phrase search better?

Usually, yes. In our example above, we are telling Google to return pages that contain the words the and cars, but not neccessarily together or in that order. To improve our results, we want to see those words back-to-back, so we’d be better off using a phrase search, i.e.:

"the cars"

A phrase search gives results contaiing the exact phrase searched for, including any stop words.

There are times when explicit inclusion is helpful though. A search for king will return pages for magazines, games and radio stations called King. A search for +the king will give you results for Elvis Presley, books, movies and burgers, instead.

Next: Google Speed-Search Lesson #5 - Case Sensitivity

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3 thoughts on “Google Speed-Search Lesson #4 – Stop Words

  1. This is interesting.

    Type in Goolge: Canadian Expat
    (my site comes up second)

    Type in: The Canadian Expat
    (my site comes up first and the page that came up first in the search above comes up third)

    My guess is that the algorithm takes into account any ‘stop’ words (in this case ‘the’) that are in the name of the url or somewhere in the meta tags. Thoughts?


    1. Hey Al, I tried your example using a phrase search (double quotes) and saw no difference:

      “Canadian Expat”

      the “Canadian Expat”

      It is odd that without the double quotes, you get different results. Maybe stop words are included when there are only one or two other search terms, or maybe you’re right about the url. Curious. 😕

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