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If widgets is in domain the mainpage likely has a better chance of ranking on the plural (however - lesser compettion is usually one of the other & also a consideration.
Why not target both?
Well in theory -- half of your site should push plural uses the other singular.
A page attempting to do both limits the whole site where nested pages in a directory plural structure can easily capture 4- word phrases (using plural widget), then 3- word phrases (using plural widget), and 2-words with the rank potential of the singular (plural) word ranking higher each update.
A page attempting to do both limits the whole site where nested pages in a directory plural structure can easily capture 4- word phrases ...
Could you explain please?
I don't see why one page, let's say the home page, can't address both widget and widgets, especially if the other pages are more specific.
When we do sites for ourselves, or in circumstances where there's ample room for growth by contract or agreement, we have no limitations; we can expand to as many pages as we want. In other cases, however, there are limitations due to project size or site limitations, and if targeting more than one is feasible for the individual case there's no reason not to do it.
That's why, as with any number of SEO issues, there can't be any authoritatively stated, hard_and_fast rules. There's not been any report of a problem for repeating a given word in a page title, and sometimes it can definitely work to good advantage, more so than if only one phrase is used for the page.
It's highly unlikely that a site will be penalized for targeting summer widgets and winter widgets on the same page, and using both can be a definite plus if the market allows it, making it possible for the page to rank for many more targeted, tightly focused phrase variations.
The general conventional wisdom is one main phrase per page, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of variation or expansion if it's necessary and workable in a specific case.
>>Don't see why the home page, can't address both widget and widgets, especially if the other pages are more specific<<
Sure it can. With internal pages linked to from the homepage and a site well done, that can lead to a listing with an indented result for both. They probably won't rank equally for both because of placement within the page title, but it most certainly can and has been done. As a matter of fact it's been done where one phrase is competing with over a million and a half pages returned with high competition among the top contenders. Fluctuating between #1 and #5 at Google and #1 with Inktomi for the primary and top ten for the secondary - plus several minor phrases that are very focused in scope. Not singular and plural, two distinct phrases with a repetition of one of the words - it doesn't lend to plural.
Again, it depends on how competitive. That has to be taken into consideration when devising the initial strategy for a site, making provision for expansion if it turns out to be necessary and possible.
On a single page only one word can be the first word in a title for example -- that first word is very important and the theme surrounding that word in better served by adding addition (more targeted) words to expand the theme than expanding letter (or adding "s" to the end).
Two apparent problems also arise from split page themes.
1. the need to focus "off page" and external elements (links) to two different themes. (I note themes here by the precise spelling of a word - with or without "s" are two themes). Some links will need to be with "s" some without, and twice as many links to produce the same results on single keywords.
2. If you have two themes there is a greater chance that neither theme will be used as an anchor from unsolicited links (oneway inbounds). If a single thought (word) is theme on the page and single idea is projected to the potential linker.
With two ideas - an anomalistic affect arising where an intuitive response from a linker is not decisive... they could place as a link anchor: "widgets", or "widget", or "widget & widgets", your precise title of the page (or group of word 5 or 6 words long), or the url.
Hedging many individual themes on a single page dilutes page potential to capture any single "highly competitive" theme.
The value of separate pages (for singular form and plurals) is very apparent in Google. If mainpage is "widgets" and second level page "widget" and the query is "widget" both pages will appear in results with the mainpage as indented results.
This also helps increase ranking potential in Yahoo since Yahoo strips indented results out thus your lower ranking pages appears higher in results.
Last all page within the areas of customer support, customer service, and troubleshooting can assist singular versions of keywords and quite logically since most people going to these pages... most often have a concern with a single product rather than "products".
In a two word phrase, it may be that the second word is the primary "theme" word and that the first is supportive in fuction - as in summer widget or winter widget, widget being the primary and summer or winter being the secondary or supportive phrase. In that case the primary will not be first, and while being the first word in a title may be most effective at any given time, when we're dealing with a moving target like we do in SEO, supposing the search engines know that SEOs are catching on, they can easily change weighting to make the second and third word more prominent for scoring than the first - as in mens summer widget, where widget is primary, summer and mens both individually and together are supportive and secondary.
Yikes, we can do
"mens summer widget - classiest widget for men" with possibly "from widget world" added on for good measure).
With multiple related phrases connected by commonalities and reinforced by relevant supportive factors important to the algo we can clean up with Google, and Inktomi might just adore us as well. And yet, the main keyword would not be in first place at all, yet still rank above other pages having it in the first title position that haven't reinforced its presence as well as we have.
I'm used to target both widget and widgets or summer widgets and winter widgets on the front page and make the inner pages more specific for each phrase.
I agree with Marcia that Google and other engines may change their algo any time they like. There is no guarantee that the first word will always be more important - I know it wasn't last year.