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Thursday, February 29, 2024

How Plural Keywords Affect Ecommerce Search Intent [Data Study]

How do singular and plural keyword usage affect search intent and outcomes? Lidia have out an original data analysis on the selection of keywords for e-commerce queries.

Highlights

Which variation of the keyword to employ will depend on what purpose your page is trying to fulfill.
Given that category pages are designed to aid customers in finding products they will wish to purchase, it is obvious that they can benefit from the usage of plural keywords.
Singular keywords should be used on product pages.
We can’t fully automate this choice yet because grammatical changes to our target keywords can drastically alter their meaning.
Most of the time, you can anticipate having the same page rank for both the singular and plural forms of your target term.

When trying to optimize content, SEO experts must decide whether to use the singular or plural form of their primary keyword. Do I need a new page or can I rank for both variations of the keywords on the same one?

I’ve made this decision hundreds of times over the course of my more than ten years in the SEO industry, and I’ve developed an intuition for which choice is the most effective.

This decision can occasionally be made in bulk, but it can also be made individually, after carefully examining each keyword.

You must choose which version of your keyword appears on product detail pages (PDPs) and category pages if you are modeling the content of a major ecommerce site.

What We Know About Plural Keywords And Search Intent

Throughout my work, I’ve seen a trend: Plural terms typically create a buyer’s commercial research journey, but singular searches are frequently informational.

In the SaaS, B2B, and other traditional content marketing industries, this is quite clear.

As the Senior SEO Manager at Sanity, I am aware that although someone searching for “headless CMSes” is certainly seeking for purchasing choices, a user searching for “headless CMS” is probably looking for an explanation.

Men’s shirts are more likely to come up in searches for products when people are trying to determine what to buy online than men’s shirts. However, if you search for [zara slim white shirt], you probably have a transactional intent and are prepared to make a purchase.

Google may not always be aware of this. It will display a few prospective product category pages if it believes users are searching for a variety of possibilities or haven’t yet honed in on what they want.

Returning a product detail page necessitates a particularly specific search question, such as mentioning a brand and model, looking for a specialized item, or taking advantage of a popular trend.

Users that are looking to find a specific website or figure out how to get to a physical location typically utilize singular keywords for navigational searches. Additionally, brand names are often single; for example, you wouldn’t search for [Facebooks], but rather [Facebook].

From the standpoint of programmatic SEO, this suggests that while multiple keywords are more likely to be used in a user’s commercial research process, singular terms tend to suggest a more unclear meaning.

This intuition is shared by a ton of other SEO experts, and it has evolved into an ecommerce best practice.

Product detail pages frequently employ singular keywords, but category pages frequently use multiple ones.

I made the decision to examine the data in order to see whether or not our community’s accepted best practices were supported by the facts. Ultimately, I hoped to create a data-driven standard that would guide our decisions around which keyword variations to use as the main ones for various types of pages and whether or not we could rank for both.

It’s worth noting that some keywords are plural by nature. Things like “yellow laces for Dr. Martens boots” will never come as a singular, so those instances have been excluded from the study.

Analyzing The Top 1,000 Keywords On Amazon

Let me describe the analysis’s process.

I gathered the top 1,000 Amazon search terms, determined if they were singular or plural, then matched them with the opposite.

I deleted keywords from the database when they lacked a singular or plural equivalent, leaving me with a total of 607 keywords.

This demonstrates that marketers have had to decide whether to optimize for a singular or plural term for 60% of the top keywords that are used frequently on Amazon. Making the appropriate choice is therefore essential.

Then, for each phrase on the Google results pages for desktop US searches, I extracted the search intent, SERP features, and ranking URLs using Semrush data.

The data was analyzed on November 22 and again in June 2023 to give me my final results.

Analyzing Keyword Intent

These are singular keywords:

The likelihood of informational intent is 65% higher.
Greater likelihood of transactional intent by 46%.
Also, the likelihood of navigational aim is 27% higher.
Commercial was the only category where plural keywords triumphed, and even in that case, the difference was only 5%.

It’s possible that this means solitary keywords are more unclear.

The data appears to confirm this theory, since solitary keywords are 23% more likely to contain multiple intents than plural keywords.

As users research and learn about their needs and the products that satisfy them, they can refine their searches further, but in the initial stages, search intent can be very murky.

Analyzing SERP Similarity

Fifty percent of the time, the SERPs for singular and plural versions of the keyword will share seven to nine URLs – and 5% of the time, those SERP results are the exact same because the intent on plural and singular keywords is often overlapping.

SEO specialists agonize about whether to use singular or plural keywords for URLs, but most of the time, we shouldn’t overthink it – you can expect to rank for both keywords on the same page.

However, there are no shared URLs 5% of the time. This could be as a result of the radically different meanings of the singular and plural forms in those situations.

Consider the terms switches (how lights function) and switches (the Nintendo console) or basketball (the game) and basketballs (what you need to play the game). You’d be astonished to discover results for the other if you searched for the first.

Heteronyms or heteroglossia are words that alter their meaning when they go from singular to plural. Despite having the same spelling in both forms, these nouns’ singular and plural forms have different meanings. For instance:

“Leaves”: The singular form of the verb “leave” frequently denotes leaving a place. However, when used as a plural, “leaves,” it designates several leaves from a tree or plant.
“Winds”: A wind is the movement of air in its solitary form. The word “winds” has several diverse meanings when used in the plural, including various airflows and metaphors.
The low percentage is due to the fact that this kind of semantic change is not very common in English.

According to the research, it would be advisable to take into account that the intent of singular and plural terms overlaps. This indicates that your brand may appear for both in the same locations or may have modest variations in ranking for plural and singular keywords.

In November 2022, I looked at some data that was slightly different. Only 2% of these searches shared no URLs, while 50% of the singular and plural terms shared 8 to 9 URLs.

In June, 5% of SERPs for singular and plural terms had similar results. It’s too soon to say whether this indicates that Google will further differentiate between queries conducted in the plural and the single.

As Google develops its AI offering, including its Search Generative Experience (SGE), and moves further towards a model where users can shop straight from their search, understanding the different intentions when there are minor keyword variations will be key.

Understanding intent at scale will become key for ecommerce merchants, and intent will take center stage.

Analyzing SERP Features

I’ve looked at how frequently SERP features appear in plural and singular searches. The results seem consistent with what we’ve seen so far, pointing at a broader range of search intents for singular keywords and a more commercially focused intent for plural keywords.

The singular alternative is more frequently used in Knowledge Panels and People Also Ask panels. Given that those characteristics fit a query of the informative variety, this makes logical.

The SERP element with the biggest difference between plural and singular keywords is Related Searches; plural results were 12.85% more common.

Google is attempting to facilitate this trip since, in my experience, people prefer to hone their searches as they learn more about a product while conducting commercial research.

Further evidence that plural keyword searches are more frequently related with business purpose comes from the fact that plural SERPs are more common for Popular Products.

On the other hand, indented results are more typical in singular searches, which would indicate higher intent uncertainty.

What Does This Mean For Your Ecommerce SEO Strategy?

The information backs up this SEO best practice: Singular keywords can be employed for informational, directional, or transactional objectives, whereas plural keywords are a component of the commercial research stage.

Which variation of the keyword to employ will depend on what purpose your page is trying to fulfill.
Given that category pages are designed to aid customers in finding products they will wish to purchase, it is obvious that they can benefit from the usage of plural keywords.
Singular keywords should be used on product pages.
We can’t fully automate this choice yet because grammatical changes to our target keywords can drastically alter their meaning.
The majority of the time, you can anticipate ranking for your target term in both the singular and plural on the same page.

More resources:

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