It can be far too easy to get wrapped up in SEO when starting a business. You might select your domain or develop your site trying to please Google instead of appealing to your customers or clients. While SEO is important to consider, using search data to guide your decisions isn’t always best. Singular vs. plural in domains is one of those cases.
There are many instances where a singular term has higher search than the plural, which can sometimes lure the SEO-focused into getting the matching domain and targeting the term. Even if they do wind up ranking highly for the term, the sales and revenue may not live up to expectations.
One of the changes in Google over the years has been the growing sophistication of its search algorithm. Back in the 90′s, sites could possibly simply stuff keywords in the meta tags or somewhere on the homepage and reach a high ranking for a term. These days however, Google looks for the intent of the searcher. Even for a single-word search, Google tries to read more into it and serve up more appropriate results.
As a business, you too need to keep in mind the intent of the searcher, and in the case of singular vs. plural, despite a single letter difference, the intent can be worlds apart.
For instance, for the word car, you may think the searcher is absolutely looking for automobiles, but the #1 result on Google, CAR.org, is the California Association of Realtors – not at all auto-related.
While that kind of difference in intent might only apply to short single-word terms, a more common example is informational vs. transactional. When someone searches a singular term, they are more likely looking up information whereas a plural tends to imply looking for a store that offers it or possibly reviews of it, both which more often lead to a purchase. Even if the singular term had higher searches per month, a #1 ranking on the plural would likely yield more sales.
Keep in mind that while this is looking at the SEO side, it’s also focusing on your potential customers and their wants and needs which is almost always far more important. That said, the divide between SEO and optimizing your site for humans that used to be huge has diminished quite a lot.
Google now includes click-through rate on search results, bounce rate (the percentage of visitors that immediately leave the site) and site loading time to help determine their rankings, all pointing towards maximizing visitor satisfaction when they both see and click on the top search results.
A Plural Domain Also Contains the Singular Term
Your goal may be to rank for one exact term, but what about it’s singular or plural variation? If you have a plural domain, your domain will have a better chance of ranking for the singular than the other way around because the full singular term is generally contained in it as well.
Google takes into account partial match in the domain’s keywords and while it’s not nearly as strong as exact match, your rankings will still benefit. Even though Google does often highlight a singular term if the plural was searched for, it doesn’t translate to a partial match domain benefit.
Note that this isn’t always the case as some plural terms don’t contain the singular. Parties doesn’t contain party for instance, so from a technical perspective, Google may not see “party” in the domain.
What Sounds Natural?
Like with anything else, use common sense. There will be cases where plural will be clearly better (denim pants vs. denim pant) but there will also be cases where the plural clearly sounds less natural (buy gasolines vs. buy gasoline).
In cases like this, both Google search data and the number of search results for the phrase in quotes can help point this out. If something sounds a little weird, check those numbers and you’ll often find a huge difference in numbers that would indicate that it’s not a natural variation and shouldn’t be focused on.
Additionally, if you’re a single-person professional service and your domain will have your profession in it, having the plural domain may not make sense. You’d generally want to highlight yourself as much as your company brand (especially now with social media being such an important marketing channel), and doing both would be awkward if your domain instead implies a group of professionals.
Lastly, consider the content of your site. Which variation will fit more naturally throughout the written content? Since Google will be looking at the content too, that can make a difference. Where a lot of people falter is they go with the variation with higher searches per month and then include that variation throughout the content to please Google whether it sounds natural or not. Doing that will cheapen your site and drive away the visitors you do get.
As long as the plural term passes the common sense test and sounds natural, it’s hard to go wrong getting the plural domain instead of the singular. You’ll get ranking benefits for both terms and the traffic on the plural will prove more valuable to your business anyways.
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