What Is Keyword Stemming?

In case you didn’t know, Google is super smart. It can read and analyze text to the point that it knows if the text is high quality, if the writer has employed trickery to rank higher, and if the content is thorough enough to satisfy a reader.

In essence, Google understands both text and context. Keyword stemming is a big part of that.

What Is Keyword Stemming?

Keyword stemming is the term for Google’s ability to recognize different forms of a word when it’s searched for. The search engine results page (SERP) will show results for the word or terms you searched for, along with variations of it.

Variations can include abbreviations, misspellings, plurals and tenses. Here are some examples:

  • DOB if you want to look up a birthdate
  • Disney Land instead of Disneyland
  • Journal and journals
  • Dancing and dance

It’s called “stemming” because the word stem (the base or root of the search term) is what’s analyzed in the search query and used to show relevant results.

Here’s a great example — I searched Google for “best hiking gear,” and one of the top results has “hikers” in the text. You can tell it’s a keyword stem that Google identified because it’s in bold.

An example of keyword stemming in Google results.

You may also find related long-tail keywords to add to your strategy. For example, when I searched for “beginner hiker tips,” one of the first results had the phrase “hiking for beginners” in it. This could be added to a short list of secondary keywords to use in an article.

An example of what is keyword stemming in Google results.

Why does Google do this? Because search engines want to give users the best results possible, and that means branching out from exact-match keywords.

Pro Tip: As an online searcher, you can put your query in quotation marks if you want Google to return exact-match results.

What Is Keyword Stemming vs. Lemmatization

If you’ve heard of lemmatization, you may be wondering, “What is keyword stemming, and how is it different?”

Both keyword stemming and lemmatization are methods used by search engines to analyze a search query and provide relevant results.

The main difference is that lemmatization considers the context instead of the stem word. That can make it more reliable at times.

For example, stemming may assume that the base word of “caring” is “car,” but lemmatization knows that the real base word is “care.”

Search engines use both processes to meet the same goal: give the searcher what they’re after.

Is Keyword Stemming Important?

Yes! By using variations of a keyword, your content becomes more natural to read as well as easier for search engines to crawl and index, which can increase organic traffic to your website.

Keyword stemming is great for content creators. It’s easier to write naturally when you can use versions of a keyword instead of only the exact-match keyword.

Stemming also helps avoid keyword stuffing, which is when a keyword is used so much in copy that it sounds unnatural.

Keyword Stemming and SEO

Keyword stemming is useful for SEO because search engines get a more accurate and well-rounded way to figure out what users are looking for, the search intent of the query, and the results that match it.

Also, thanks to keyword stemming, your content doesn’t have to contain the exact-match keyword at all, and it can still rank for the topic.

Plus, if you use an SEO plugin like Yoast, it may be able to recognize keyword stemming. That way, you won’t have to add more and more exact-match target keywords to get your score into the green zone.

Is Keyword Stemming a Google Ranking Factor?

Keyword stemming isn’t an official Google ranking factor. The search engine isn’t specifically looking for keyword variations — it just knows what to do with them when it finds them.

You don’t have to go overboard trying to get a bunch of keyword variations into your copy; quantity won’t necessarily help your ranking.

In fact, manual keyword stemming can ultimately lower your ranking in SERPs. Which brings us to the next topic…

Keyword Stemming Challenges

Overusing keyword stems could hurt your ranking, just like overusing exact-match keywords can.

Purposely using a lot of keyword variations is another form of keyword stuffing, even though exact-match keywords aren’t being used. Since Google is wise enough to recognize a keyword stem and its variations, it’s also smart enough to realize when those variations are being used for a black hat SEO method.

Even if you find that you write naturally and happen to use a certain variation a lot, it pays to go back and revise the copy so you use it less. Google doesn’t necessarily know if you purposely or accidentally added a keyword or variation numerous times, so to err on the safe side, get rid of instances that feel unnecessary or overkill.

Also, a form of keyword stemming is using common misspellings of a keyword to show up in results for the users who don’t spell the word correctly. Since Google wants high-quality content, this isn’t a reasonable way to score a better ranking.

What Is Keyword Stemming? Final Thoughts

Even if you’re asking, “What is keyword stemming?” now, the method isn’t new. Articles from as far back as the mid-2000s talk about it. And as Google’s algorithm has advanced over time, so has its analyzation features, making exact-match keywords more outdated and keyword stemming the preferred way of writing content.

It’s important to remember that while keyword stemming can be an effective way to improve your ranking and traffic, too much of it — especially when it’s purposeful — can be more harmful than helpful.

Instead, write freely and naturally, focusing on the topic and the reader. That’s the best way to naturally incorporate both exact-match keywords and variations.

Wondering if your topic calls for short-form or long-form content? We have an article to help you figure it out.

Build A Powerful Internal Link Strategy Today

Enter your email & we'll send you 8 tips to build an internal link strategy.

And 3 things you should avoid doing with internal links.

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    11 On-Page SEO Benefits and Why It’s So Valuable

    Contents1 11 Benefits of On-Page SEO You Should Know About1.1 1. Helps You Find Keywords and Content Ideas1.2 2. It’s Cheap (or Free)1.3 3. Increases Traffic and CTR1.4 4. More Leads and Sales1.5 5. You Have Full Control1.6 6. Improves…

    Read More

    How To Find & Fix 404 Errors

    Contents1 What Are 404 Errors?2 How to Find All 404 Pages On Your Website2.1 Find 404s With Link Whisper2.2 Check for 404s in Google Search Console2.3 Crawl Your Website With an SEO Spider2.4 Scan Your Website With an SEO Tool3…

    Read More

    Get Started with LinkWhisper

    Speed Up the Process of Internal Linking and Help You Rank Better in Google

    Get LinkWhisper Now