Due to the importance of the page title, we, like many, have performed quite a bit of research in this area - monitoring various sites and keyword usage.
I beleive it all comes down to relatively short singular use, plural use, and branding.
In our case, our sites are typically 2 to 1 plural. Determine what people are searching for (using Overture or AdWord tools) to see what should be prioritized. (If you are selling scissors or pants, this determination is easy).
1). Widgets by [Company Name]
- provides 1st position keyword strength (plural), as well as branding;
2). Widgets by [company name] - A Great Widget for [industry]
- provides 1st position keyword strength (plural), branding, AND singular keyword strength.
If there are different types of widgets, then target "Blue Widgets" on a separate page with that key phrase as the title.
As far as comparing what else is getting well ranked, it is Always a good idea to see what the potential competition is up to - but duplicating their titles isn't necessarily going to help.
In one case, we noticed a top #1 And #2 listing for a competitive keyword that used a rediculous title for both. After further investigation, they were (and still are) using hidden image maps cross-linked to hundreds of their other sites.
- Titles are important, but there are many other factors (good and bad) that can get a site to the top...