The grammar of keywords

keyword grammarWe first wrote about keyword grammar five years ago, but since then a lot has changed in the world of SEO. After a number of updates, the focus is now on semantic search and specific keywords are less important than they used to be. So does keyword grammar still matter, and how can copywriters optimise it now?

Understanding how to use keyword grammar

Although search engine optimisation has evolved, with more emphasis on user intent rather than exact search terms, grammar is still important when choosing keywords. Here’s how you could use keywords to optimise copy and rankings.

Different spellings

When a word has two legitimate spellings – as is the case with Hallowe’en, commonly spelt as Halloween – then you need to decide which is more appropriate to use on your website. You may choose the one that has higher search volume, or perhaps the one that your customers are more likely to use (US vs UK, for example). In some cases, you could potentially use both in your copy: for example, you might write (if relevant to your business!) an article called “Hallowe’en vs Halloween: which to use?”

Plural vs singular

For some words, the plural of a word may lead to very different search results to the singular. For example, a search for “apple” mainly brings up results related to the technology company, while the results for “apples” are about the fruit. Again, finding the right one will probably take a bit of research – doing a search for each is a good place to start.

Modifiers

Modifiers are just as important now as they were five years ago. Adding a targeted modifier to your keyword – making it long-tail, in other words – helps narrow the field of competition. For example, a useful modifier for local businesses is the location. Optimising for the term “Brighton Mexican restaurant” is likely to mean you have less competition and will get more targeted traffic than optimising for the more general term “Mexican restaurant”.

Utilising keyword research

In most cases, keyword research can help determine which variant of the keyword or phrase to go for. Be careful to stick to keywords that make sense within your content, keep usage consistent, and above all, choose the language that your target audience and customers are most likely to understand and use.

In some cases, if two terms are both relevant, you can optimise for both variations to increase visitors from search, but remember to include relevant modifiers to ensure targeted traffic.

Use the correct spelling and grammar

Although it might be tempting, targeting misspellings is not a good SEO strategy. The reason for this is that most commonly misspelled words are auto corrected by Google, with the results shown for the correct spelling.

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What’s more, Google have stated that sites with correct spelling and grammar are generally considered higher quality and rank better. This isn’t a ranking factor as such, but a by-product of the fact that better written and edited pages are likely to perform better with readers, who won’t press the back button as often and are more likely to link to the content.

Finally, remember that your primary aim, for all content, is to meet your users’ needs, and cater to their interests, so all keywords that you use should be relevant to your audience and copy should be shaped around keywords with that goal in mind.

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