I just tried it in Google, a 3 word phrase with "The" at the beginnning. Although there is hardly any difference I noticed that without typing "The" in G's search bar there was a few more extra results. There was about an extra 60,000 out of 7 million results.
It didn't effect the top results though, they stayed intact.
Hagstrom, I was simply confirming what you already said and bringing out the fact that introducing a stop word such as "that" will certainly change the results.
I have personally experienced it and if you are not careful with precise wording (or better yet would be to design 2 or more pages and optimize them for specific matches - one WITH and one WITHOUT the stop word) you may lose traffic (and business).
Msg#: 23133 posted 10:50 am on Apr 7, 2004 (gmt 0)
I don't think that creating pages with and without stop words is the way to go. The algorithm won't be checking 'spaces between words' if a stop word is placed in the search query. More stemming (possibly latent semantic indexing) will come into play if the words are separate. With 'hotels in london' it makes the search for 'hotels' and 'london' with separate keyword density checks, weighting for each word, and (in my opinion) giving more weight to the second term 'london'. This is why the results seem to come in more like 'london hotels' when searching for 'hotels in london'. With 'hotels london' or indeed 'london hotels' the search takes into consideration exact matches for the phrase 'hotels london' plus their separate weighting.
You'll notice that the top results for each variation still contain alot of the same sites, it just seems to be the top 30 reshuffled.
This is just what I've seen, but the results have fluctuated so much recently its difficult to prove anything with Google these days. Inbound anchor text will give more than triple the effect of extra pages and won't be against Google Guidelines of creating pages for users, not search engines.