Posted by sumedhinamdar on July 11, 2008
If a search engine did understand English completely, it would not need to run those complicated algorithms! But yes, especially with English, they do understand quite a lot about words and linguistics.
Does a search engine understand plurals?
I did a basic experiment. First I searched for “New Delhi Properties“.
Now here, you can see that the word ‘Property’ is also given in bold by Google, so presumably taken as a keyword from the search term.
Nothing wrong, right?
But, the real surprise came afterwards, when I searched for “New Delhi Property“.
Here, as you can see, the word ‘Properties’ is not bold! So, a simplistic conclusion would be that Google converts plurals to singulars, but doesn’t convert singulars to plurals!
Is this true? Should we always use singular nouns on our sites and META tags because of this reason?
Actually, this is not that simple. People searching for ‘Property’ and ‘Properties’ would expect similar results, but people searching for apple and apples would probably mean different (apple as a company and apple as a fruit). Also, even if Google does not show ‘Properties’ highlighted in the second example, it might not necessarily mean that the keyword wasn’t given any importance…
I found various conflicting guidances in this regard
1. Try to use both forms on the page and tags, as it is natural, and people do use both forms to search.
2. If you need to choose, always choose plural form, as generally it contains the singular word with an ’s’ in the end. (But as we saw above, the example for word ‘property’ goes against this logic.)
One important aspect here is of course traffic conversion. If singular and plural forms of a word actually means something pretty different (apple and apples), you must use whatever is appropriate for you, so that you get right kind of visitors.
Honestly, I didn’t find any great article that proves anything conclusively on this. If you find one, please let me know.
My conclusion would be this -
1. Yes. Search engines certainly do understand that property and properties are different forms of a single word. So if your site is about ‘Property’, you will get hits for ‘Properties’.
2. But still, the exact match is better than inter-form match. So, if all other factors are exactly the same, a site about ‘Properties’ will get better ranking for keyword ‘Properties’ and vice versa.
So, normally speaking, a safe strategy would be to use both the forms, as you see ‘natural’ in English language, and hope that Google will understand more and more English with every passing day!