Singular VS Plural Keywords – Which is Right For Your SEO Campaign?

singular vs plural keywords
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“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain may not have been familiar with the intricacies of Search Engine Optimisation, but he definitely understood how important choosing the right word could be.

In terms of online marketing, this has never been more true than it is today.

Choosing the right keywords for your SEO campaign could mean the difference between success and failure, so it’s worth taking the time to investigate which keywords will deliver the greatest results.

How should you choose the right keywords for your SEO campaign?

Essentially, the decision needs to be based on an expert interpretation of the most relevant and up-to-date data…oh, and an understanding of the difference between plural and singular keywords.

Plural Vs. Singular Keywords – What’s the Big Deal?

Car vs. cars. Accountant vs. accountants. Computer vs. computers. Why is this an important thing to know about SEO and online marketing, and how is it relevant to Google?

While the words are almost identical, experienced SEO agencies will be aware of a significant difference that will be crucial to the outcome of your SEO marketing strategy. Let’s go back to “accountant vs. accountants”. Imagine you’re the marketing manager of an accounting firm in Perth and you want to improve the search engine rankings for your website. Logically, you’d be looking to target keywords that are most relevant to your business, so you decide to use the keyword “Perth accountant”.

But because you don’t want to be guilty of “keyword stuffing” (overusing that keyword to the point where it no longer makes sense) you also decide to use some synonyms of that keyword.

You finally settle on “Perth accountant” and “Perth accountants” in an attempt to achieve higher rankings for several new landing pages. But once the campaign is launched you start to notice something very strange. Google isn’t treating these keywords in the same way. While one is ranking on the first page, the other seems to be doing almost nothing and you are ranked on the fifth page.

The big question is: why?

Why Does Google Rank Plural Keywords Differently to Singular Keywords?

Using synonyms and related keywords has long been considered best practice when it comes to implementing an SEO strategy, so why would Google be treating these words so differently?

After all, they mean almost the exact same thing. This burning question was finally answered by John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google after it was raised during a Google Hangouts Session.

While Google has a lot of complex algorithms at play during any given search, Mueller clarified that the difference between a singular keyword and a plural keyword relates to the perceived intent of the searcher.

Google registers the slight difference in the search term and, as a result, “might think that one or the other of these pages makes more sense to show”.

While Mueller acknowledged that singular and plural keywords are “synonyms, more or less” he also emphasised that Google will recognise that the objective of the search is often different based on whether the searcher uses a plural or a singular search term.

“If you’re looking for a plural, maybe you’re looking more for like a list or a comparison page or maybe a category page of different kinds of these items,” he explains. Google identifies this as a distinguishing difference and this “can result in slightly different results being shown for one or the other.”

What’s the Intent Behind A Singular Search Term Vs. A Plural?

While it’s difficult to definitively say what the intent is behind each and every unique Google search, the search engine has adopted some strategies that help it to respond more accurately to different queries.

  • Plural Keywords: If a searcher is using the plural form of a word then Google will assume that they’re looking to make comparisons. For example, the person conducting the search has used the term “accountants”. Google thinks that perhaps they want to see different local accounting businesses and they’re getting ready to choose an accountant. Based on these assumptions, Google will direct them towards the accounting business websites that it deems most relevant to this purpose.
  • Singular Keywords: When the singular search term is used then Google will think that the searcher is after more information on a broader level. So, changing the search term from “accountants” to just “accountant” will result in fewer accounting businesses being listed and more information about the topic in general (what is an accountant, how to become an accountant etc.).

If you’re an accounting business and you’re trying to drive traffic towards your website, then in this instance the singular keyword is going to be of less value and you are less likely to rank high for it.

So, Which Keyword Should You Be Using? Singular or Plural?

Based on the above, you may think that plural keywords are always the way to go, but don’t forget that someone searching for more general information now may still be planning to eventually make a purchase.

The key is to choose relevant keywords (plural or singular) for specifically targeted pages and tailor the content based on the perceived intent of the user.

For example, the plural keyword may be used to direct more web traffic towards the catalogue pages of your website, while the singular search term can be used to draw attention to the more general content contained in your online blog.

In this way, regardless of whether the searcher uses a singular keyword or a plural, they’re still going to end up on your website.

If you’re going to accurately determine which keywords will result in the highest ROI, then you need an experienced team who have consistently delivered measurable SEO results for other businesses. Operating for over 10 years in the Perth SEO industry, Net Search not only knows exactly what works but, more importantly, we know exactly how to implement it for you.

About James

Hey, I’m James Campbell. I’m the owner of Net Search and a Software Engineer with 10+ years experience in SEO and web development. Hopefully you find my content useful! 

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