Is There a Difference in Rankings between Singular and Plural Keywords?

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On occasion, I have been asked about the difference between keywords that are singular and keywords that are plural. Does it matter which one you target? Do they rank differently on search engines? Combining my experiences with keyword research with a quick experiment, I wanted to share what I have concluded.

Let’s say we’re deciding between the keywords “Provo car dealership” and “Provo car dealerships.” We can use a couple of free keyword tools provided by Google to help determine which one would be the best to target while simultaneously discovering the difference of singular and plural versions.

First, let’s see what the Google AdWords Keyword Tool reveals as we compare:

Singular vs Plural Keywords - AdWords

As you can see from the image above, there is a difference in advertiser competition, local search volume, and global search volume in favor of the pluralized keyword “Provo car dealerships.” Even though this tool is focused for PPC campaigns, I feel that it is also useful for your SEO efforts in general.

Next, we’ll look at a comparison on Google Insights:

Singular vs. Plural Keywords Insights

Even though there wasn’t any data for Provo specifically (Salt Lake City was the only metro available), the data for Utah revealed that the pluralized version (car dealerships) did receive more organic search volume than the singular version (car dealership). Furthermore, in the ‘Interest over time’ section, it seems that the gap has widened between the two during the whole year of 2009. My guess would be that this trend continues into 2010 and beyond.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the first search engine results page on Google for “Provo car dealership”:

Google Singular Keyword Results

Now, let’s compare the image above to the one below for “Provo car dealerships”:

Google Plural Keyword Results

Starting at the very top of the image, all of the local maps results are either different listings or in a different order when comparing the singular and plural keyword results. Obviously, this is pretty significant to note if you’re targeting a keyword with a local (city) qualifier.

Next, you’ll notice that seven of the 10 search results are in a different order, with the two last results being different websites altogether. This finding further reveals that entering in a singular keyword will display different search results than plural keywords.

It’s also interesting to see that the search results for the singular keyword bolded both “dealership” and “dealerships,” as well as “dealers” and “dealer” (and vice versa with the plural keyword).

Other Findings: Singular vs. Plural Keywords

In my experience with determining keywords for clients or personal websites, I have observed the same trends as displayed above. I’ve noticed that it’s important to determine which keyword receives the most search volume (i.e., what users type in the most), as well as what’s most realistic to target and rank for.

For example, perhaps the singular version of your desired keyword receives less search volume than the pluralized version, but has half of the competition. It might be worth it in the long run to target the singular version, as it could be easier to rank for on search engines. (And as you saw in the images above, you still might be able to rank for the plural keyword as well.)

Conclusion

Long story short, yes, there is a difference between singular and plural keywords and it can make a pretty significant difference in your online marketing campaign, whether it is SEO, PPC, or Google Maps.

I’m sure there are numerous tests you can try with different keywords. I’d be interested to see what anyone else can find and share.

Comments


AJ Wilcox

Fantastic article, Luis! That is definitely a question that I get asked a LOT. I’d love to see another follow-up post about how to determine the competition level.

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Chris Dayley

Great article with some good information.

Your findings are true in most situations. However, in situations where the keyword is a specific product, the singular form is MUCH more searched than the plural (try 30gb ipod vs. 30gb ipods. The search volume difference is staggering.) The difference may be product vs. business searches, but it is important to note since product keywords may be more important to clients than broad business keyword searches.

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RM Daniel

Finally, an article that I can understand! Thanks for clearing this up for me; looking forward to more of your work.

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Luis Bonilla

@AJ Wilcox: Thanks! Yes, that is a good idea for another blog post.
@Chris Dayley: Yes, the search volume will differ from industry to industry, as well as other categories. That is another reason why it’s important to conduct good keyword research and identify trends for your specific business. Thanks for the read.
@RM Daniel: I’m glad this post helped!

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