Singular and plural keyword targeting

We’re constantly asked the same question when clients and SEO companies write their own articles – “Does singular and plural keyword targeting exist and if so, how do I optimize my pages for it?”.

Well the answer is fairly simple but the method for targeting both is a little more complex. That said, once you get your head around it then you can make giant leaps in visitor numbers.

Many SEO companies choose one term, plural or singular, for their customer then leave it at that. Their reports show something like 150 uniques per month for the term “red widget”. Brilliant, but why not get another 150 for “red widgets”?

Can Google tell the difference between singular and plural?

Search engines such as Google and Bing are certainly clever enough to identify the relationship between plural and singular words. Moreover, they definitely are aware that people who search for the plural of a word may still get some appropriate value out of sites that target the singular term too. The reverse applies here too of course.

Let’s imagine the case where 2 identical sites exist, the imaginitively named Site A and Site B. For the more pedantic out there, let’s ignore any duplicate content penalty for now. Site A targets a plural keyword, Site B targets a singular keyword. When a search engine user types in the plural keyword, then Site A will definitely outrank Site B. However, you can bias this result by adding some good quality external links to Site B with plural keyword anchor text. This will then mean that Site B is likely to outrank Site A. The relevance of backlinks from a website that already ranks for the plural keyword is not to be underestimated here either, this is a solid choice of strategy.

Targeting competitive niches and keywords

In a competitive niche we would further vary these links to give related plural LSI keywords if we felt it necessary. On a recent case study, we had a client that we took to position 4 of Google’s search results for a hugely competitive two word plural term. The singular term (exactly as the plural but without the ‘s’) took significantly more backlinking effort in this case. The content was equally biased for both terms and backlink anchor text was equal too. We worked a bit harder and gave the client some link juice from sites that ranked for the singular term and, hey presto, both rankings are now equal.

For most search terms, search engine users apparently prefer to search on a singular noun unless normally grouped (eg using a pair of shoes as an example, the search term is “cheap shoes” not “cheap shoe”!).

The best singular and plural combination titles

For your titles, we would suggest you consider using something mixed if you are not creating separate content for each variation of a keyword.  Note that this is only to be used where it reads well because overuse is bordering on the realms of keyword stuffing. For example:

“Ipod charger review, the top 5 ipod chargers tested”

You can also mix your h2 and h3 headings up to get a good on-page blend of singular and plural.

To summarise, be aware of the singular and plural keyword when article writing and providing backlinks as it definitely does help rankings.