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John Mueller Explains Why Google Ranks Different Pages For Singular & Plural Versions Of A Keyword

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Have you ever wondered why you see different search results when you search the singular and plural form of the same keyword on Google? Recently on Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout, a user asked the same question to John Mueller. Read to find out what John Mueller’s take was on this.

The Question Asked By The User

For one of our clients, the keywords are “garden shed sydney” and “garden sheds sydney”.

 

Now, for the plural form of the keyword, i.e. “garden sheds sydney”, the garden shed category page is ranking in Google Search results.

 

But for the singular form, i.e. “garden shed sydney”, a blog post is ranking on Google.

 

Why does this happen? Both keywords are similar, just singular and plural.

Why Singular And Plural Versions Of A Keyword Are Ranked Differently?

To the user’s question, John Mueller replied stating that Google considers both singular and plural versions of a keyword as different which in turn makes Google think that it makes more sense to display either of the two pages.

He also added that the algorithm does recognize that both keywords are synonyms more or less. But it also acknowledges that maybe there’s something kind of unique to one keyword or the other.

Here is the example Mueller gave for explaining the above statement

If a person is searching for the plural version of a keyword, his intent is more towards finding a list or a comparison page or a category page with different kinds of the same item.

So this is something that Google’s systems try to take into account and can result in slightly different results being shown for one or the other query, he added.

What John Mueller is trying to point out here is that intent matters! A plural version of the keyword inherently has the intent of finding a listing or category which is satisfied by a category page search result.

What Should You Do If You Are Facing Such a Situation?

John Mueller said that it’s tricky if you are in such kind of a situation where you want a different page to be ranked for a singular or plural version of a keyword, but also you don’t want to remove the current page that is ranking.

You can’t really force that on Google other than making subtle changes on your page like ensuring right words and phrasing is used, internally linking them properly.

However, he added a disclaimer that it’s sometimes kind of tricky.

John also explained that for an SEO expert, the keywords might be similar. Still, one should even understand that do the users treat them as different queries and do they expect different results for both versions of a query.

Before deciding to try ranking the same page for both versions of a query, its advisable to check with other people as well whether it makes sense to go ahead with it. 

Also, you can add a CTA on the page that is being ranked for a particular version of the keyword to take the user to your desired landing page, Mueller added.

Conclusion

From the advice provided by John Mueller, it is evident that Google treats singular and plural versions of a keyword differently based on the intent. It’s advisable to analyze the user behaviour and intent for both versions of a query before tweaking your pages. Understanding whether it’s needed or not is important because if you try to fix a page that is not problematic, it may backfire and you might end up losing rankings for either version of a keyword. To put this conversation in a nutshell, it’s all about the INTENT.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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