Singular or Plural for product categories? What to do if you have similar terms “fighting” for the same category?

Let’s say you have web site about PC components.

You sell, among others, some notebooks. There are at least the following options for naming the category:

  • Laptop / laptops.
  • Notebook / notebooks.
  • Notebook computer / notebook computers.

Some other products which you debate on are:

  • USB flash drive / USB flash drives.
  • USB stick / USB sticks.
  • Flash memory stick / Flash memory sticks.
  • USB drive / USB drives.

Of course, you would prefer to be the first result for all of these terms. What’s the best strategy in such a case?

Craig Key - Lifestyle Keywords vs Product & Brand Keywords, https://flic.kr/p/6Bcnai
Craig Key – Lifestyle Keywords vs Product & Brand Keywords, https://flic.kr/p/6Bcnai

Generally, when you work with keywords, it’s good to use Google AdWords Keyword Planner.

By adding all of the keywords in there, you get these statistics:

keyword-data

First of all, most categories should be on the plural. The logic is the following:

  • Yes, “notebook” has more searches than “notebooks”.
  • Google knows that “laptop” and “laptops” are very similar, so, while results will vary, the differences will be small.
  • From a SEO point of view, it’s more important to have visitors who are happy, which would probably make them recommend the site on social networks, subscribe to the newsletter, return to the web site, than to have categories which are not relevant to how the user thinks (“notebooks” is a much more appropriate name for a category, rather than “notebook”; help the user understand what your web site is about).
  • You should avoid keyword cannibalization. You probably have lots of products which should show when the visitor searches for “laptop”. But, generally, only the category (“laptops”) is relevant to the plural.
  • In the above graph, you see searches per months for all the searches which include “notebook” or “notebooks”. So, if a user searches for “toshiba notebook”, this counts as a search for “notebook”, although it’s a totally different mindset.

OK, now that we established that the list of keywords should be plural-focused, our list of dilemmas is the following:

For laptops / notebooks, we have these keywords:

  • Laptops.
  • Notebooks.
  • Notebook computers.

Some other products which you debate on are:

  • USB flash drives.
  • USB sticks.
  • Flash memory sticks.
  • USB drives.

How to choose?

My algorithm is the following:

  • Make a list with all the categories in the web site. Pick, out of those, the most relevant 2/3 categories. Optimize the homepage for those 2/3 keywords.
  • If a category has more than one term, you should first establish your place compared to the competition. Find out how difficult it would be, in the next 3 months, to reach first page for a set of keywords. So, referring to laptops / notebooks, “laptops” has 200,000 searches per month, while “notebook” only 10,000 (the figures are not, of course, very exact, they’re more of an indicator). By looking only at this data, you might be tempted to pic “laptops” as your category name. What I would suggest you to try instead is to find out what the competition is for these keywords. If you find that there is a fierce competition for “laptops”, but little to none for “notebooks”, and your current (and near future) investment in SEO is a low one, I think it would be wise to name your category “notebooks”. Pick the low hanging fruit. It’s better to be on the second page for “notebooks”, even if it has only 10,000 searches per month, than to be on the 13th Google page for “laptops” and get absolutely no results out of this. Sure, after your web site will gather momentum, and you will be well seen, you might have a better chance of fighting for “laptop”. If you’re at the beginning, fight for “notebooks” first.
  • How to find out how good your competition is? Generally, after you’ve been a while in the market, you will know, just by looking at the list of results, how tough the competition is for that keyword. Until then, a good idea is to use Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Look at Domain Authority (how relevant is the web site the page is located on) and at Page Authority (how relevant is the specific web page). To compete with a web page, your web site should generally be on a level similar to your competition (note that the increase is logarithmic, so it’s very easy to have 10 out of 100, more difficult to get to 20, and so on, so that 90 out of 100 is extremely difficult to reach).
  • An even better idea is to focus on “notebook computers”. Even less people look for it (around 8,000), but the competition might be even lower. You might even have a chance of rapidly getting to the first page. Actually, the competition is so fierce even for this keyword, that it’s unlikely. But the algorithm is valid – if there is little competition, fight for that keyword at the beginning. You will start seeing some results, getting some traffic, earning some links. After a while, you could focus on the next keyword – “notebook”, and after a while, be on the 3rd Google results page. Only then focus on “laptops”.
  • For Flash disks, I would make an analysis on which keyword has the lowest competition. I would probably start with “Flash memory sticks” or “USB sticks”, one of these two. Low search volumes, but it’s best to have 15% out of a low volume, than 0% out of a high volume of searches.
  • What to do if you don’t have any statistics on searches, or your keywords have about the same stats for searches? How to choose between “laptops” or “notebooks”. In this case, you should use psychology and your personal knowledge of your client base. If you know your clients are the kind of people who look for “laptops”, use this keyword. If you know your clients prefer the term “notebooks”, use this one. You should be the one who should know the clients well enough to be able to take this decision in a split-second.
  • Please note that for low volume of searches (500 searches per months vs. no searches for another word), data is highly inaccurate. Yes, generally when you compare 200,000 searches per month versus 200 searches per month, the statistics are convincing. But when you compare small data, the room for error might actually be higher than the data itself.

OK, the categories are now the following:

  • “Notebook computers”.
  • One of: “Flash memory sticks” or “USB sticks”.

What should you do with the other keywords?

  • To quickly see if you already have some relevant pages on your web site, do a search like this on Google – let’s say you want to find out you have the website mypersonalsite.com and you want to see if you have on it something relevant about “laptops”. Google like this: [site:mypersonalsite.com laptops]. Adapt the search to your actual needs. If you find you do have something relevant for “laptop”, make that page even more relevant. Optimize the title, URL, meta description, on page content, ALT text for images, h1 etc. Read about how to make your page more relevant. (in Romanian, also)
  • What if you don’t? My suggestion is to have a relevant page for each keyword in your keyword list. A simple strategy to do so is to have a blog, and create a blog post for each of those terms. Are you interested in laptops? OK, create a page just for “laptops”, a detailed blog post on the matter. Another blog post about “USB drives” and so on. Read about this procedure in English. (or in Romanian, if you prefer so)

Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues:IMRo. To join, email imro-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and reply to the confirmation email.

I am a Freelancer. My expertise is in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / UX (user experience) / WordPress. Co-founder of lumeaseoppc.ro (series of events on SEO & PPC) and cetd.ro (Book on branding for MDs). On a personal level, I like self-development - events, sports, healthy living, volunteering, reading. I live in London, and lots of things live in me.

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