Singular vs. Plural: What Search Queries Can Tell You About Your Customers
“Remember: Y’all is singular. All y’all is plural. All y’all’s is plural possessive.”
– Kinky Friedman
In display or social advertising, the marketer can reach customers with different offers based on demographics or behavioral signals. This is not so in search where one only has the query searched as the fundamental mode of segmentation. This is rather limited as many different types of customers often search with a similar query.
For instance: someone searching with the term “shoes” might be a bargain hunter or a high value customer.
Hence, for the most part we can only create different offers, landing page experiences based on obvious search pattern differences, or a comparison-centric landing page for someone typing “discount shoes” vs. a brand-centric page for someone typing “Ugg boots”.
However, there are some subtle variances in search patterns that a savvy search marketer can leverage. I am going to share one of these with you today – singular vs. plural searches.
Customers searching with singular term are more often closer to a conversion than a customer searching with a plural term.* I hypothesize that this is because someone searching for a product in plural is both earlier in the sales funnel as well as likely to bargain hunt. There are a couple of analyses I use to back up my hypothesis.
First, when I looked at keyword performance data of over 40k keywords across several product lines, I found that the revenue per click of the plural search terms was significantly lower than their singular analogs.
In the above chart, we find that about 47% of spend goes to the singular terms, but they contribute to over 60% of revenue. The key reason for this is that the RPC (return per click) on these keywords is about 80% higher than the plural terms.
So should we write plural terms off? Not so fast! As mentioned before, searchers on plural terms are earlier in the sales funnel, and plural word searches are often. To back this claim, let’s do an attribution analysis of sales funnels. We use the following methodology.
Consider the following hypothetical sales funnel:
In the first calculation, only keywords that are involved in the final step (last click) of the sales funnel are given conversion credit. Hence, the keyword mortgages does not get any credit.
In the second calculation, all keywords involved in the sales funnel share the conversion credit i.e. its an equal click attribution. Considering the total of all sales funnels the keyword is involved in, when a keyword has more multi-conversion credits (the latter calculation) than final stage credits (the former calculation) it is a contributor.
If the situation is reversed, it is a beneficiary. Next we quantify this assist effect as:
Thus if a keyword is assisting then last is less than equal or ∆ Rev <0 and vice versa. When applying this methodology to an advertiser in the mortgage vertical we see the following pattern:
|Plural Contributor||∆ Rev||Singular Benefactor||∆ Rev|
|home equity loan rates||
|home equity loan rate||
|home improvement loans||
|home improvement loan||
|poor credit home loans||
|poor credit home loan||
In all these cases, the singular keywords are benefactors i.e. on average they occur at the end of the funnel compared to their plural analogs.
Takeaways For The Marketer
- Consumers earlier in the sales funnel often search for products in the plural. The ad copy and landing page experience must reflect this mindset.
- Plural keywords will often seem less profitable than their singular analogs. However, when viewed from a multi-click perspective, they are more often than not driving demand to other keywords in the assisted funnel. Hence, use attribution technology to understand the full picture.
- Finally, while it may seem tempting to only have singular keywords for a small campaign, one should have both singular and plural versions of the keywords. As the first graph showed, in any search campaign of scale plural keywords drive substantial percentage overall demand.
Thus, it is not a question of having plural keywords but of having the right bidding strategy and technology that aims to maximize a campaigns profitability while keeping volume needs in consideration.
That’s all y’all !
*Editors Note: Typo / Statement clarified per user comments since originally published erroneously.
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