Apparently keywords do not play as big a role as it once did, but nevertheless I believe it still plays a semi-important role

If I am targeting a keyword for example best places to visit 2016

In my post I write best places to visit in 2016

I know words like in, the, a is ignored by google, thus if I use best places to visit in 2016 will the in affect my exact match keyword? or will the in word simply be ignored and it will still be seen as an exact match keyword?

  • 1
    Do you mean keywords in your copy? Or in your meta tags?
    – John Conde
    Feb 16, 2016 at 2:31
  • 1
    in my body i.e. in my main content Feb 16, 2016 at 2:36

3 Answers 3


Okay. First off, there are no such thing as stop words and no such thing as a keyword match. Stop words disappeared much more than a decade ago. And for Google, direct keyword matches never happened. Any apparent keyword match is incidental to the semantic processing and weighting of your content. Under no circumstances does Google match keywords. Period. Instead, what appears to be a keyword match is only the highlighting the search query terms in the results. Nothing more. Sites and pages can and often are returned without one of more of the search query terms. One obvious example would be car, automobile, and vehicle. It would be extremely foolish for a search engine to ignore a page that does not contain the term car when it contains the term automobile.

From a semantic standpoint, terms with 2 or less characters have little value in regard to scoring. This is because these terms are not a subject, predicate, object, however, they can be modifiers. In that respect, the value of these terms is understanding the content and not content topic. For example, "Bob bought a car.", Bob is the subject, bought is the predicate, car is the object, however, a is a modifier that indicates a single car. You may say that the plural version of the word car, cars, would do the same. You would be right, but that is not always reliable. Some terms do not have a singular or plural versions. The immediate example would be macaroni. Bob could eat a macaroni or some macaroni. Of course, there are better examples. But you get the point. These terms are not stop words or ignored. They are a very important of the semantic analysis.

In the past, it was believed that so called stop words diluted the value of meta tags such as the title tag, description meta-tag, etc. and that these terms were ignored. Even as that advice was originally written, it was not at all true. There was some level of support for this. SEO are blackbox testers and not necessarily technical people. What appeared to be true was evidenced by the SERPs which is actually a multi-part process. The search query result is heavily modified through the filter processes and the search query terms then highlighted as the last step. So to say that the first SERP entry contained the "best keyword match" as an SEO would, is not necessarily true and often not true. The best query term match may be much lower in the SERPs. What ranks as the first SERP entry may be the most popular as evidenced through CTR (click-through rate), influenced by authority, link value, etc. The list of filters is fairly long and any of them can easily knock a best query result set match out of the top position.

So what is the answer?

Create your site for humans and not for machines! Old advice that we seem to have to echo almost each and every day. Write full sentences and let the full semantic analysis do it's work. Stop trying to feed machines thinking that you are smarter than the whole cadre of multiple PhD's at Google who have spent their entire career understanding search queries and content with a high degree of complexity.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed answer. I really appreciate it. Feb 16, 2016 at 4:02
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    @TimothyCoetzee My pleasure! I like to straighten out the SEO mess that all the SEO topic de' jure parrot sites put out that mislead people as to what is really going on. Unfortunately, while search is a highly technical endeavour, it drives me crazy how any SEOs are not technical people and do not actually read the technical documentation that Google puts out. Come back anytime. We are real experts here including one in particular - a Google search engineer. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 4:07
  • We are real experts here including one in particular - a Google search engineer. Who is the Google Engineer or is that a site secret...? ;-) Feb 16, 2016 at 4:30
  • I hesitate to say, in fact, I may have said too much already! If you list the users, you will see a very familiar name. He keeps us in check. As well, this site has real influence. Trust me. It is quite amazing. ;-)
    – closetnoc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 4:35
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    @TimothyCoetzee You are right. If you need help, we are here. Do not hesitate just to continue lurking. If you see a question you can answer, consider it! We are not just friendly, we are supportive. I have always said that webmasters are the greatest people in the world. I am a retired IT professional that stared out as a very serious coder of drivers, protocol stacks, OS'es, etc. I love it. However, for whatever reason, I like webmasters the best. That is why I hang out here. Not that other IT professionals are not great, just that webmasters are different somehow.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 4:45

That is a tricky one - I believe you should just write naturally

Example Some of the best places to visit 2016 is Capetown and... That just reads bad and is unnatural

However if you write

Some of the best places to visit IN 2016 is Cape Town and....

It will read better

Ultimatey you should write for your readers, whether it will be seen as an "exact match Keyword" as you put it I have no idea.....

  • I like your answer! I wanted to make sure I supported your effort. Keep coming back and providing as many answers as you can. This is a great site! The best people in the world. Truly. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 4:30

You must use keywords in such manner that the sentence looks natural. So I would recommend you not to use exact keywords if sentence do not make sense and just make the sentence more generic.

  • Search engines are not about keywords. Truly. Search engines are about semantics. Keyword matches have not been done since the 1997/98 when Google entered the scene. Google was designed to be a semantics based search engine and the others followed suit very soon after.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 16, 2016 at 16:21
  • Yeah, true... I said the same.. As Google has changed so much so we should focus much on providing relevant content rather than stuffing keywords. Feb 17, 2016 at 6:35
  • Content, content, and content. Write well. Capture interest. Keep 'um coming back. The days of keyword centric stuff should never have existed. I have been saying to write naturally for over 15 years. You actually get better search results overall instead of trying to guess what search terms people would use. Search queries are constantly changing. Chasing keywords means you are never done and can only win for a while.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 17, 2016 at 6:50

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