Is everywhere singular or plural

Understand user intentions in keywords - do singular and plural still have a meaning?

About 2 years ago, when the article was written, you could still see a distinction in the search results when a singular or plural search query was entered. However, this has changed with the pooling of similar keywords. The displayed search results differ only marginally. Above all, only if different search intentions can be derived from the use of singular or plural versions of a keyword.
When users enter keywords into Google search, they have a goal in mind that is often not immediately apparent. Not only does SEO need to understand user intention, but also the search engine.

According to Google's John Mueller, the decision as to which results are displayed for singular and plural variants of a term is made on the basis of algorithmic learning. In practice, this now works very well, which is why a few rules and examples should be shown on how to correctly interpret user intentions.

Google summarizes similar variants

Since June 2017, Google has been summarizing many keywords with the same meaning in the keyword planner. As a result, it is usually not possible to call up separate search volumes for the singular and plural variants of a keyword. As a result, the data from Google's keyword planner can only be consulted to a limited extent.

The good news is that Google often also shows ads and search results for the plural keyword, although the content is more optimized for the singular form. This is because Google recognizes very similar variants of a word or phrase and then displays them accordingly.
Nevertheless, it is important to put yourself in the user's shoes and analyze the reason for choosing the singular or plural of a search term. Of course, the device used and external influences such as stress also influence user behavior. Ideally, you should use both variants, but concentrate on the keyword that is more relevant from the user's point of view. The Google Trends Tool can be used to get an impression of which variant is used more often. There you can see which variant has a higher search interest.

Singular vs. plural

If you search for the two terms “buy pants” and “buy pants”, you immediately notice that the plural form “pants” can be read everywhere in the SERPs of the singular term “pants”. This scheme is also noticeable with other search terms. Although the singular word is searched for, search results appear that contain only the plural variant of the word in both Titles and Description. As mentioned above, this can be seen from the fact that Google groups the keywords and recognizes the affiliation of both variants.


There are exceptions, however. With some search queries, the displayed results differ depending on the selected number of the keyword.

This exception can be observed when comparing “car breakdowns” and “car breakdowns”.




Explanation attempt: When searching for the singular, the user refers to the query. That means that he himself has a breakdown and finds out what to do. Relevant information ("how do I behave in the event of a breakdown" or "who helps") is displayed here.
When searching for “car breakdowns”, the user does not currently have a breakdown, but instead fetches preventive information about the most common reasons for a breakdown or the correct behavior in the event of a breakdown. This could be done, for example, in the course of vacation planning.

The user is more likely to look for "car breakdown" if he is affected by this problem himself.
If you compare the Google Suggest suggestions for both keywords, it also becomes clear which keyword represents the specific problem:

Even if the conclusions at one point or another are a bit difficult to make and perhaps not unambiguous, differences between singular and plural can be recognized in any case and the lesson is that singular queries are often more user-centered. If you were to transfer this to statements made by the user, it would look like this:

  • Singular: "I have a specific problem and now I need a solution for it!"
  • Plural: “I am aware of the following problem and maybe I could get it in the future. In order to be prepared, I look for possible solutions! "

In the shopping area, the principle can be transferred as follows:

  • Singular: "I am looking for this product because I intend to buy it now."
  • Plural: "I would first like to find out more about the product and find out which is the right / best one for me"

What do you learn from it now?

As already mentioned at the beginning, the search engine must also recognize the different intentions of the user. It is responsible for what content is ultimately displayed. When checking it, it is noticeable that Google hardly allows any differences in the SERPs that can be traced back to the number, i.e. does not include the above theses in the algorithm.

Nevertheless, an attempt should of course be made to provide the seeker with what he wants. The better one understands the intention, the more purposefully the questions can be addressed. Both user intentions (specific problem, preparation for a problem) are not always relevant. But if you know that you are a breakdown service and that users are looking for both "autopanne" and "autopannen", you can provide pages for both user intentions:

  • Specific page on roadside assistance including emergency number
  • General page on what to do in the event of a breakdown

Other factors

For example, if you look at the device factor, the search behavior of Google users can be discussed in more detail. If a user searches for "car breakdown" on a smartphone, it becomes almost clear that he has a specific problem. In this case, the end device criterion is also much more meaningful than the number of the keyword.
Variables such as the user's location or the time of day or season can also be essential for interpreting the user's intention. The only important thing is that you interpret them correctly.

Conclusion

The better the user's intention is interpreted, the better content can be provided for him. This would do the job of the SEO or content manager. The problem that the search engine may not interpret the user's intention in exactly the same way still remains. There are hardly any possibilities here to give the search engine recommendations. In the best case, your own page content will establish itself through good user signals and will be played out in the future when the appropriate inquiries are made.

Since the SERPs have changed over time and Google hardly makes any distinctions between singular and plural, it is not absolutely necessary from an SEO point of view to optimize for both variants. Rather, it should be analyzed which variant best suits the user's intention in order to then optimize for the more relevant version of the keyword.