Q and A: Do people actually search for exact phrases?

QuestionHi Kalena

As I’m rethinking about my page, I’ve become curious about something. Do people actually search for phrases such as “web design Gloucester” or do they for the most part just search for a page with those three words on it? (which if I understand things is what you get when you search without quotes).

Of course if I have the three words as a phrase either search hits it, but I’m having trouble making it as readable as I’d like using the concise phrases and I’m wondering if the sacrifice in readability is worth it?

Lastly, I wanted to be sure that if I have a key phrase such as “web design Gloucester” that the string “web design in Gloucester” matches. I seem to remember that “in” was a stop word ignored by Search Engines.


Hi Steve

I think you’ll find that most people will start a search using generic terms and then add qualifiers to help narrow down the results. So they might start with “web design companies” (no quotes) and then seeing billions of matches, they might try “web design companies Gloucester” or “web design Gloucester” (no quotes). I don’t really know too many searchers who use quotes unless they are advanced users or SEOs. So it really pays to try to get ranked for the non-quotes version of your target keyphrases.

You can achieve this by using the phrase in your text but including stop words so the copy is more readable. You should never have to sacrifice readability! Stop words are words like “the”, “and”, “in” etc that are mostly ignored by the search algorithm. So if your page has the sentence “we are one of the most popular web design companies in Gloucester” then search engines should rank your page high for the query “web design companies Gloucester” as they will ignore the word “in”.

The reverse also applies, where if a search query includes a stop word, engines will show pages that have either the shorter sentence included without the stop word/s or the longer one.

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