Q: If I’m using a keyword such as “planet orbiter” or “planet orbiters”, do I need to focus on both words for meta searches, PPC, etc. or can I focus just on “planet orbiters” and trust that a good enough campaign will yield results for the singular “planet orbiter” search as well?
A: Since search engines recognize a difference between singular and plural words, we think it is best to represent your keyword in both singular and plural forms on your website.
Despite Google taking great pride in the fact that it returns meaningfully different results for “apple” and “apples” (people searching for the single word “apple” are more likely to be seeking the company and not the fruit), for the vast majority of searches, most people would agree that there isn’t a whole lot of meaning in the difference between singular and plural searches. If you think that your searchers could be querying both words, you should optimize for both too.
This is even more important when it comes to symbols such as apostrophes and dashes in words. Search engines provide different results for mockingbirds and mockingbird’s – as well they should. Be sure to do your research to determine which is the most popular form of your favorite keyword.
For pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, it’s usually a good idea to target all variations of a multiple-word keyword phrase (“mockingbird songs” “mockingbird song”, “mocking bird song”). In the rare instances when we sponsor single keywords, we usually only sponsor the singular version and make sure broad matching is enabled so that the plurals and other variations are represented. But if this is a critically important keyword for you, it’s probably worth your while to go ahead and sponsor individual variations. Again, though, it’s not always a great plan to sponsor single keywords, so make sure that you track carefully to make sure the traffic you pay for is converting at a reasonable rate.
You may also be interested in our previous “Ask the Experts” answer about targeting variations of multiple-word keyphrases.