When you optimize your website for SEO, you’re going to take several factors into account. In addition to your broad match terms, you’re probably also incorporating some exact match and longtail terms. Similarly, you may have considered including synonyms for your targeted keywords. What you may not have thought of, however, is whether or not your optimization should account for the plural and/or singular forms of your terms.
According to Google’s John Mueller, there could be some difference between your ranking levels for singular keywords and plural ones. Of course, how much your rankings vary will also depend on the general search volume and similar factors of your particular targeted keywords. But what’s most important to note is why your rankings vary based on singular or plural forms. In short, it can all be traced back to a primary signal: user intent.
To better understand this, let’s take a look at an example search term: apples.
It probably won’t surprise you that the first several results for the singular “apple” are related to the tech conglomerate of the same name. Conversely, the first results for the plural “apples” are informational in nature: medical benefits and Wikipedia pages.
The reason behind the difference in rankings comes down to user intent. Google’s algorithms obviously account for how relevant your page is to the search query, and that’s why you generally rank where you do. But even more important is what the user is actually looking for, and the algorithms have gotten smarter about determining that intent.
What’s most important to Google’s algorithm is what kind of content the user is intent on finding when they type in a search term.
Even if your page is super relevant to the search terms, Google will rank your page lower if they’ve found that users consistently choose another page over yours. With “apple,” for example, Google clearly found that users were searching with the intent to find the company, not the fruit, so information about the former ranks higher than the latter. However, “apples” in the plural obviously led to higher CTRs for pages related to the fruit, so those rank higher for that search query.
The main takeaway here is to be cognizant of your preferred search terms and what users in general might be trying to find when they type them into Google.
Research the terms you’re trying to rank for. Look at the pages that top the SERPs and identify the kind of content they’re offering. Because you know Google’s algorithms rank largely based on user intent, you know the content those pages offer have satisfied users searching those terms. To capture that traffic, your goal should be to build content on your own pages that satisfies the same user intent. Like with the “apple” example above, there may be some limit to how well you can rank for certain terms. If you’re determined to target search terms that might be dominated by another company or informational result that’s difficult to overcome naturally, you may be able to supplement your organic rankings with PPC campaigns. Finding the right balance takes time and some level of finesse, so consider partnering with an expert digital marketing agency that can customize successful, efficient search campaigns to get you to the top of the SERPs more quickly.