Far more people go without the apostrophe by roughly a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio in the areas I've researched but...
The real question is, in the specific niche you're targeting which is less competitive.
As we all know, the most searched for phrase is not always the most profitable.
Sadly, the English language is butchered all the time. You rarely (if ever) see a sign saying "Men's Room".
In my opinion, it is best to leave the apostrophe out. Although it may be incorrect, it is most definately the most commonly used.
I just recently had a problem with a page which theoretically should have been very popular, but was getting next to no action. It is the name of a place (lets say it is something like Dawson's Creek) and is searched for regularly. I finally discovered that people do not use the apostrophe! I made the change and withing 5 weeks I was getting hits all over the place!
If you ever have a client who allows you the luxury of mining keyword information from their emails, this is exactly the kind of insight you can turn up -- and it would be specific to that particular market niche, rather than general data.
If a keyword without the ' is too competitive then I go for the one with. I do not go for both as it makes your content look like it was written by a muppet!
A question coming up regularly when translating websites from English to German is if "children's" would count for the keyword "children" as well.
If so the German language has a disadvantage to the English - no posessive apostrophe!
[edited by: heini at 2:35 pm (utc) on Nov. 13, 2002]
That's a good question Heini, but I think the answer is no. If it were the case, then I should have been getting hits on that page before I changed it. People regularly make a mistake when searching for the specific place I mentioned and drop the "s" altogether when searching. I wasn't getting the hits, so I am guessing it doesn't work that way.
> I do not go for both as it makes your content look like it was written by a muppet!
Granted, but I do try to match what searchers actually search for. I have reluctantly included a few common misspellings, they get lots of hits.
Based on some experiments with Wordtracker, it seems that, in general, the majority of searches are done without the apostrophe but most content in web pages includes the apostrophe. However, I was able to find many examples that did not follow this general trend.
Also, it is worth mentioning that Google will often times throw in the old “did you mean” on searches that aren’t technically correct. For example, a search for “womens clothing” will get the old “did you mean women’s clothing”. I am not sure what percentages of people opt for Google’s correction but it could have an impact.
Marcia - I have some GoTo data from Nov 99 for "women's widgets." Looking at the data, I see that in 1999 GoTo wasn't changing spellings, and that they preserved some plurals but singularized others.
Searches for "women's widgets" (slightly rounded off) went:
1140 women's widgets
12400 womens widgets
170 woman widgets
I think that "woman widgets" was "womans widgets," but they definitely kept the "s" on the ends of some words, so I'm not sure. I may not have been smart enough then to look for "woman's widgets."
What this suggests for targeting I'm not sure... can't imagine many site owners being willing to let such a misspelling go, but the ratio is more than 10 to 1 in favor of doing so.