Language and Keywords in content

Language and Keywords in content

SEO Keywords - singular verses plural

When looking at which keywords to use for your website, you must think about the use of plurals. On some occasions the plural form of a word is most commonly searched for, in others just the singular. Having sound knowledge when it comes to which, or if in fact both should be used, can make all the difference to where your site finishes within the search results.

Key points to think about are as follows; does a plural change the meaning? Can a plural version change its use? Which, singular or plural, is searched more? How should you use plurals/singulars?

Plurals are, for the most part, used when searching for an item that is generally found in multiples, such as “pens”. Searched for in its single form would perhaps suggest a specific pen, however, searched for in its plural form, it’s obviously not specific, less likely to be brand name and more likely to be for images of more than one pen. It’s now possible to see how plurals can completely change meaning, providing a more specific, with often, greater commercial intent.

Google is incredibly smart and often looks where you are searching from in order to give you better results. So naturally, when searching for different “seo agencies” it may (although not every single time) be geographically anchored/linked. This is where Google really impresses, because when you search for “pens”, it realises that you wouldn’t necessarily buy from your current location, in fact it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to buy worldwide, and therefore doesn’t necessarily give results based on geographical location.

In summary using the most searched for form (singular or plural) is best, however, and it’s a big however, don’t ignore the other entirely. You wouldn’t get penalised for using the lesser, however you would get a closer match more often with the correct form, which will serve you better in terms of rankings.

Google and Spelling

Google is incredibly understanding when it comes to spelling, you probably noticed when you have, in the past, incorrectly spelled a search and Google has suggested the correct spelling, however, you may also have noticed that Google sometimes offers  a different spelling that you know to be incorrect English, often making the assumption that your results should include international ones, and ultimately choosing American spelling over English e.g. Colour and Color or Jewellery and Jewelery. 

Another interesting fact to note is that often incorrect spellings are also searched for e.g. UK English “jewellery”, US English “jewellery” and completely incorrect “jewelry”. Yet Google still recognises the latter as a connection, a rather embarrassing indication that Google recognises our own faults maybe?

The best method is to use the correct spelling for the audience/demographic you’re trying to reach. Do not use both or even worse try all different spellings, this just looks unprofessional and “spammy”.

Keyword Sets and Subsets

When it comes to keywords, most Google searches tend to centre around nouns and infinitive verbs. In terms of nouns, it’s been noted that extremely complex “noun phrases” tend to receive less searches than basic noun phrases, for instance “big black wheelbarrow” as opposed to “black wheelbarrow”. Although it doesn’t mean avoiding the complex noun phrases entirely, because fortunately for you, the shorter less complex ones, are subsets of the longer ones.

For example [big] [black] [wheelbarrow]

As you can see, the smaller phrases are part of the longer versions. So quite simply, using the longer phrases allows the smaller phrases as subsets, to be found by Google too. So although larger phrases are less commonly searched for, the subsets will be, giving you in the above example, effectively three phrases for Google to index.

Semantic Sets

Although it can sometimes get complicated, we’re going to do our best to simplify. When we talk about semantics, we are talking about the meaning of words. Words can be grouped together through meaning and form chains of sets and subsets. A good example of this would be the word [clothing]. Having numerous subsets such as [pyjamas] which is a subset of [sleepwear] which could be a subset of [women’s clothing] thus leading to [clothing]. This can become even more complex when deciding to use supersets or subsets. For example when searching for [swimwear], do people search for [trunks], [swimsuit], [bikinis] all of which are subsets, or do they search the superset [swimwear] itself? Well, yet again with good old statistics we have learnt from Google that the superset itself is searched for most.

In summary, general pages should really lean towards supersets and only on specific pages should subsets be brought into use. However it’s still a good idea to search statistics specific to your keywords and adjust accordingly.


Spans are small pieces of text of different length, depending on where you want them. There are two different types of span too. You can have Page Title Metas, usually the page title, presented in blue text in google search results is roughly 65 characters in length. Then you have Meta Descriptions; shown in black text, with an average size of 155 -160 characters. However, do not take those size guides as absolute as it does rely on size of lettering i.e. “w” is wider than “I”, so would take up more room, likewise with capital letters and any punctuation.

Meta descriptions can be hugely useful, especially when you have a lot of keywords. If you find you can’t fit all your keywords in your meta description or simply want to avoid making it look crammed and ultimately spammy, then you can actually have more meta descriptions, as many as you want directly on your page in fact. Better still if the keywords being searched don’t match your original Meta description, Google will continue looking deeper into your page content, and will use the relevant text as the Meta description in the search results. To use this method on your website means using several short sentences that are to the point, containing all your relevant keywords, and alternating them between each sentence.

Keyword Phrases

As discussed previously, when people search in Google it can be anywhere from one word, a couple up to an entire sentence. But research shows, it’s often two or three words linked as a noun phrase (black wheelbarrow) or a verb phrase (build a table). However for businesses that provide services, there could be numerous related searches i.e. a cleaning company may offer builders cleaning, domestic cleaning and spring cleaning. From this we can see that there are several searches that can overlap somewhat.