Do singular or plural keywords rank differently in ASO?
It is widely considered that there is no need to target both plural and singular forms of a keyword because the app should be indexed for both and can rank similarly. But how similarly do they actually rank and how do you decide which form to use?
An interesting point to remember is that Apple’s best practices do not state that singular or plural keywords will be ranked similarly. Just that you do not need to use both. Likely because the algorithm is smart enough in most cases to decide what keywords you are targeting and should index for, as well as what is most relevant for your app, to rank accordingly.
How do rankings compare for plural vs singular keywords?
With a quick search, we can see that in English, apps are ranking very similar on the singular and plural versions of the same keyword. For example, With the exception of HotelTonight all apps in the top 10 rank in the same order for ‘hotel’ or ‘hotels’.
Live Search results for the keywords ‘hotel’ and ‘hotels’ in the Apple App Store in the US. The rankings for the top 10 apps are very similar with the exception of HotelTonight which ranks higher for ‘hotel’ than ‘hotels’
When we dig a little deeper, we found that Hotels.com updated its metadata in July and removed the keyword ‘hotel’ from its title. Even though the singular version of the keyword was removed, the app continued to rank #1 on ‘hotel’, until mid December when a new game took over. This supports the assumption that you don’t have to target both the plural and singular version of your keyword in the metadata of your app on the app store.
But, we have found examples where apps rank differently for the plural or singular version of a keyword. When we compare, “drink” and “drinks” we can see the ranking results are actually quite different as changing to the plural version in some ways changes the intent of the word.
Live Search results for the keywords ‘drink’ and ‘drinks’ in the Apple App Store in the US. In this example we can see that none of the top ten apps under “drink” use the plural version in their App Name of Subtitle, but the top ten apps for “drinks” includes app names and subtitles using either form.
Also, in some cases, changing the keyword to plural changes more than just adding an “s”, for example “teeth” and “tooth”. In these cases it is not surprising to see that apps rank differently on the singular or plural keyword depending on the keyword they are targeting in their metadata.
Live Search results for the keywords ‘tooth’ and ‘teeth’ in the Apple App Store in the US.
How about Localizations?
It’s important to remember that a localization is not necessarily the same as a translation. With both stores, we have found that the algorithms are not quite as smart in indexing singular and plural forms of a keyword due to the plural form often being more than just one letter changed. Also, the intent of the user may change from singular to plural.
For example, in French the singular and plural version for ‘animal’ is quite different: animal (animal) vs animaux (animals). The search results show that apps rank differently for each of these terms. Some games even unrank for the plural version ‘animaux’ while they rank top 10 for ‘animal.’
DogHotel ranks #6 for ‘animal’ but unranks for ‘animaux’ in the Apple App store in France.
When we look at the difference between the Portuguese words “musica” which can mean both music and song, and “musicas” which means songs. It’s likely that by using the plural form, the intent of the user has changed. The apps that are targeting ‘musicas’ in their metadata seems to rank higher on the keyword ‘musicas’ than the apps who just target the singular version ‘musica’.
Live Search results for the keywords ‘musica’ and ‘musicas’ in the Apple App Store in Portugal.
How do you decide which version to target?
Now that we see that plural and singular versions can rank differently, how do you decide which form to use? It is best to consider and research both forms of the keyword as if they are completely different, keeping in mind the perspective of the localization and the intent of the user. Then, using AppTweak you can easily analyze the live search view and volume metrics to see which version is the least competitive and for which you have the highest chance to rank.
Depending on the keyword or language, you may find that you do still want to target both the singular and plural forms, especially when rankings are less similar. As with any keyword update, it is important to test monitor the results and make changes appropriately.