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Exact Long Tail Phrases in the Title are Not Ranking Well
tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 9:16 pm on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

There's an interesting side discussion in this thread Updating Question - no ranking movement despite on-page changes [webmasterworld.com]. I've extracted some quotes:

dvduval:
On page changes have zero effect even after waiting 2-3 months. This includes changing the title tag to the exact phrase we most represent


tedster:
I've notice recently that exact phrase match in the title does not seem to work well. It does work if you put quotes around the query phrase, but clearly only geeks do that.


MrFewkes:
Exact phrases in the title tag are (imho) a no no on longer phrases - say 4 or 5 words - if the competition is high. Now thats kind of a guess just browsing the serps. If you search a long string with quotes (a popular one) then get a feel for how many titles show in the serp - and compare that to a search without quotes for the same string you will generally not see very many of those full strings in there for high volume searches where normal distribution dictates a proportionally high volume of pages aswell (generally).

If however theres a high volume of searches but a low number of pages - quite rare - you may see the longer exact match strings in the serp without quotes.

I dont know the science behind this.


Indeed - I don't know the science behind this either. It does seem that Google's "fuzzy logic" has taken its toll here, and certainly exact text matching is long gone as an information retrieval approach.

In fact, even keyword proximity seems to be a minimal factor today, if it hasn't already gone extinct with its cousin, keyword density.

This seems to be directly in the area where seasoned search users have the most frustration with Google recently. The casual Google user, on the other hand, seems quite content for the most part - and there are a LOT more casual searches than seasoned searchers. That's who Google most wants to please.

So what factors do you think Google IS using (instead of keyword proximity) to generate those SERPs for non-quoted phrases?

 

MrFewkes



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 7:40 pm on Sep 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well - hmmm - im still not sure what to implement over and above what I have - IE the Meta Title.

Can you give a couple of syntax examples so I can nail it and put my keywords and things in there.

In the "no movements" thread - do you think the addition of this thingie will actually be worth a try? I would see it - if I can get the syntax - as another string to the bow and worth a shot.

Cheers

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 8:10 pm on Sep 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

The meta title is not likely to do anything for your situation. It sounds like you need to attract more natural backlinks rather than make on-page changes.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 11:29 pm on Sep 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well - hmmm - im still not sure what to implement over and above what I have - IE the Meta Title.


<title>This is title element</title>
<meta name="title" content="This is title meta tag">
<a href="/some-url" title="This is title attribute">Some anchor text</a>

Title element is the most important of the three and is the one that (usually) shows in SERPs.
Title attribute sometimes may help a bit with the page the link points to.
Title meta tag is of no use really.

aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 11:53 pm on Sep 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

<title>This is title element</title>
<meta name="title" content="This is title meta tag">
<a href="/some-url" title="This is title attribute">Some anchor text</a>



In my opinion you should only use the first entry in your list:
<title> ... </title>

That's all I ever use in my pages. I recommend that you delete the title meta tag and the title attribute since they aren'y needed for anything.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 12:48 am on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

I still use title attribute on links. Whilst it is debatable if (and how much) they help SEO, I found them useful from the usability point of view as they show toolbar text when hovering over the link.

MrFewkes



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 7:37 pm on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks - im going to have to crawl a few sites and see who's using what. Noone around me in the serps im working on at the moment uses anything but the meta title.

So what tag does goof get its SERP title from if one discards the meta title?

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 7:42 pm on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

It get is from <title> element tag, not from <meta name="title"...>

Or perhaps you are still mixing up the terminology?

MrFewkes



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 8:04 pm on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

aakk9999 - Im not mixing up - my sites currently only have the meta title - and thats where google gets its title from in the serp.

So if I dump my meta title - I am asking where will goof get the text from to use in its serp.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 9:34 pm on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Use <title> element instead.

So if you currently have:
<meta name="title" content="My important page title">

remove the above and replace with:
<title>My important page title</title>

MrFewkes: Noone around me in the serps im working on at the moment uses anything but the meta title.

And another observation - I am not saying the above is not true, but I find it very odd. This is why I thought you are mixing the terminology, my apology.

[edited by: tedster at 10:57 pm (utc) on Sep 5, 2010]
[edit reason] edited for clarity - by member's request [/edit]

MrFewkes



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 9:56 pm on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am confused - but not in the way I thought I wasnt! LOL

OK - aakk9999 - ignore me - I have the <title></title> already - so does everyone around me in the serps. Of course we do.

My mistake - I was thinking that people were meaning a <title></title> should go/can be used in the <body> of the document.

We are of course talking about the <head> section for that, and the <body> for the others.

Thanks for clarifying though - i would probably have put <title></title> in the body - of course noone around me in the serps has that!

Thanks again for clarifying.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 10:31 pm on Sep 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

Glad that's sorted! Everyone, please join the "Campaign for Technical Accuracy" and stop calling the <title> element a meta tag - it will be good for the world.

Whitey

WebmasterWorld Senior Member whitey us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 2:03 am on Sep 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

Tedster - i can see your technical patience with some of us is being frayed. Thanks for your eternal tolerance.

Maybe there are enough folks out there that get confused with the semantic / terminology differences between a "tag" and "element".

When folks read this the word "tag" crops up : [w3.org...]

Start tag: required, End tag: required

Attributes defined elsewhere

lang (language information), dir (text direction)
Every HTML document must have a TITLE element in the HEAD section.


I wonder how much of this W3.org section compares with Google's intent on how the element is supposed to be used. The word " context " jumps out at me.

Context means to me that the word doesn't have to be in the title for Google to recognise it. But i think the common belief is that it is better to have the target words there in a low character density situation . ie not too many characters. How important is this overall ? Very , not very , not at all ?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 2:44 am on Sep 6, 2010 (gmt 0)

I agree with steveb's earlier post - the title element is still very important but dialed down a notch.

My thing about technical precision in written posts is this. Without precise language our discussions here are too limited in scope - and the advice people give each other bangs smack into a wall, often too early on for the discussion to be very helpful.

RP_Joe



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 5:12 am on Sep 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

People are trying to figure out this new change. I have watched these threads for a while. I keep saying to myself, "not Me". My sites are not broken. After Mayday there was small dip in some sites but overall in the months that followed, things got better. Much better LT traffic and lower bounce rate. But now they have done something different. As so many have said, it does not make any sense. People are trying to use logic and reason to understand this new change.
Many (including me) are frustrated. Here is my opinion. Just my gut opinion, so take it for what its worth.

Its my opinion that Google index is broke. Its not some new ranking, but a series of programing or design mistakes that have screwed up the results. When ever you have a large software project this is a danger. Maybe they tried to to much to soon or did not test it enough (how do you test a worldwide, mass population software AP?)
Of course I do not expect they would tell us if it is broken. But we can come to our own conclusions.

So if its broke and the Mayday version is the way its supposed to work, then any changes we make now will not help and more probably will hurt. What we should do is just wait until they fix it. Maybe our landlords,spouses,credit card, customers and utility companies will understand.

RP_Joe



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 5:25 am on Sep 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I made a travel website 8 weeks ago. In a city with no travel websites. Domain.org is the city. The search "travel agent city[exact domain match on city]" is number 1 on Bing and Yahoo [Duh] and 51 on Google. There is zero competition. Its in the Google index, no errors in WMT. I did all the right things. URL is domain.org/travel-agent/travel-agent (Wordpress).Many pages in the folder travel agent about travel agent stuff.

Now its not a big deal because its a small town and will not get much traffic, but it just shows how broke Google is.

Sally Stitts

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 8:14 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

< moved from another location >

I typed in a 5-word search term for my page (the page title).

#1 result on Bing.
#1 result on Yahoo.

#1 result on All the Web.
#1 Result on Alta Vista.
#2 result on infospace.
#1 result on ixquick.
#1 result on Kanoodle.
#1 result on Lycos.
#1 result on lyGO (Hotbot)


Nowhere to be found on Google. Google ranks all my other pages very well.

If I add ONE MORE WORD to the query, Google gives me #1! HUH?

Ideas?
Sandbox? The page is over a year old, and is not the type of page that would get sandboxed, IMHO.

Have "Page Titles" been deprecated. Do we now have to "screw up" our titles, to get Google ranking?
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 9:32 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 9:54 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sally - I have been seeing something similar, but it most definitely does not happen on all pages. For now, let me ask... are you searching your title quoted, or just a default all the words search?

And is your title including a list of keywords, say, rather than phrases in some sort of grammatical structure?

Also, if you add the extra word, is it a word that's included on your page? (I'm assuming so).

Sally Stitts

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 11:05 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sally - I have been seeing something similar, but it most definitely does not happen on all pages. For now, let me ask... are you searching your title quoted, or just a default all the words search?

The title is 8 words - I searched for the first 5 words in vain - no quotation marks.

And is your title including a list of keywords, say, rather than phrases in some sort of grammatical structure?

I don't understand. I would say that 4 of the words must be used together, forming a "key phrase".

Also, if you add the extra word, is it a word that's included on your page? (I'm assuming so).

Yes. It is the 6th word in the title. (I hope this doesn't "muddy up" the theory, but this is what happens.)

The first word in the title is somewhat superfluous.
Words 2 thru 5 are absolutely necessary to the thought.
The 6th word I added to the search (6th word in the title), that made the result #1, could be considered entirely superfluous.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 12:39 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sally, thanks. Your answer helped me sort through various options. Some additional questions...

I would say that 4 of the words must be used together, forming a "key phrase".

These, I assume, are words 2 thru 5 in the title.

- Could this phrase be described as a long tail phrase that you're hoping someone would search for? (I now think it may not matter, but every little bit of info helps).

- Did you rank for the phrase previously?

- If you put this phrase in quotes, with no additional words, is your page returned?

- Is this exact phrase included somewhere on your page?

- If you put this phrase in quotes, with the 6th word in the title either included in the quotes and/or tacked on after, is your page returned?

- If you put the entire title in quotes, is the page returned?

- If you put a unique sentence from your page in quotes and search for it, is the page returned?

Sally Stitts

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 6:16 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

These, I assume, are words 2 thru 5 in the title.

Yes.
- Could this phrase be described as a long tail phrase that you're hoping someone would search for? (I now think it may not matter, but every little bit of info helps).

I used to think I knew all about "long tails", but after that fiasco with that "long tailed" results website a few years back, I thought it was a waste of time. Now, people are talking about "long-tail" terms in their titles, which blows right by me. Any terms in the title would be, BY DEFINITION, NOT long-tail. To me, it means somewhat removed from the literal, intended key words, oftentimes far removed. So, I don't understand the term used in that way.

- Did you rank for the phrase previously?

Don't know, can't say. For that specific search. But it was "around" on Google.

- If you put this phrase in quotes, with no additional words, is your page returned?

I'm #2, outranked by my copied content. Google says 4,520 results, but going to the next page reveals that there are really only 11.

- Is this exact phrase included somewhere on your page?

Yes. I always make my page title element (sorry) the same as my on-page title.
Actually, I screwed up, and didn't do it EXACTLY this time - this screws things up.

- If you put this phrase in quotes, with the 6th word in the title either included in the quotes and/or tacked on after, is your page returned?

THAT makes me #1. Followed by 9 others with my copied content.

- If you put the entire title in quotes, is the page returned?

THAT also makes me #1, with 9 others.

- If you put a unique sentence from your page in quotes and search for it, is the page returned?

NO! I used the first sentence of my meta description, and there were 3 results returned - I was not one of them; they had all copied me.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 6:39 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Today again I was amazed at this phenomenon. Clearly Google's current algorithm has moved far, far away from text matching.

To me, it means somewhat removed from the literal, intended key words, oftentimes far removed. So, I don't understand the term used in that way.

The term "long tail" can be used to mean any phrase that is beyond the kind of 3-4 word phrase that shows good numbers in a keyword tool - but that still generates some search volume (often well targeted). So I can see why you wouldn't want to use the term for a phrase that IS in the title.

I agree that most long tail traffic is not coming from title matches alone. Instead it is a mix-and-match of a core phrase plus other words that happen to be on the page. These days, Google is getting better at not showing accidental text matches that do not really relate to the page's topic. We still see them, but not nearly so often.

Because of all this, I'm assuming some kind of linguistic topic extraction must be in place at Google, at the document level most definitely and perhaps at a wider level too. But whatever it is, there is frustration when an exact match cannot return the page that uses those words directly IN the title element.

tangor

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 7:00 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

In my part of the lily pond, on a rather small pad, I am seeing BOTH B and G dealing a tad more harshly with <title></title>

Almost as if they are done and weary with stupid user inquiries... of which there are many... and the extraordinary amount of 1,2,3 word searches possible that still won't get you where you want to go.

WAKE UP, PEOPLE! There are only so many ways to search/find your pile of farmer's... er... your STUFF and only so many CPU clicks which can be wasted, or the number of results per page.

Long tail worked for quite some time... I don't think it will for much longer... at least until the users figure out 1,2,3,4,5 or more is better than 1,2,3...

The web can be parsed only so many ways and with (I love Carl Sagin in this regard) billions and billions of pages! What, aren't we approaching a trill and a half at the moment?

Just pick a language (English in my case) with 400,000 possible words, including slang, too and divide that into the billions of billions sites and see how many actually hit 1 word, or 2 or 5...

Absolute fact long tail is not going to work much longer because the average computer idi... er... user can't put more than three together at a time unless B or G suggests something else. AND DO YOU REALLY WANT TO LET B OR G DO THAT? (See below for answer)

Put another way, you visit your city library from time to time, right? How many books can you find in the cardex (remember those?) Forget that, how many of those books have you read? Most city libraries are 20,000 books or less. Merely a point of perspective. Not looking for agreement or dissent, merely reporting that I gave up on long-tail three years back and have been a happy camper ever since BECAUSE every landing page leads to those long-tails and I don't have to depend on B or G to get'em there. I just need one page and I'll do the rest.

Final edit: What I mean is I go for the ordinary search and each page delivers the deep content. Simplification is what is required, not complexity... Google has gone complex and screwed everything up, Bing hasn't... yet... but might. Why take chances?

londrum

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 10:18 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

yup, i tried starting a post on this the other day but it didnt get much joy. the algo needs to dial up the bit which actually checks which words appear on the page, because it seems to be getting ignored these days.

the sites that get returned now deal in generalities. the example i gave was bus routes. which bus goes from [city] to [city]. if you do that you are more likely to be given a big catch-all bus site, rather than a piddly little standalone page which actually contains the answer.

i just want the answer. i dont want to have to go to the biggest and best bus site and then have to search through it for the answer.

this whole "trust" thing has got out of hand. google would much rather send you to a trusted site if it's related to the subject rather than an "untrusted" site that actually contains the words you searched for.

it's like this: if you want to buy an apple, google would much rather send you to the big out-of-town supermarket two miles away, rather than the little greengrocers on your doorstep.

who wants to go all the way to a big "trusted" supermarket and wander around for 10 minutes looking for one apple, when you could be in and out of a greengrocers in 5 seconds?

indyank

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 2:51 pm on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

this whole "trust" thing has got out of hand. google would much rather send you to a trusted site if it's related to the subject rather than an "untrusted" site that actually contains the words you searched for.


doesn't that make it light on google's resources? Well, this is how they might be thinking.

Let me send you to a supermarket (parent site or page related to the topic) where you can get your things by following the address board there (site navigation or site search) rather than wasting my energy (resources) in determining the most accurate one.This also helps me in delivering more ads through them, keeping both of us happy... :)

freejung

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 1:26 am on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I said earlier in this thread that I was going to do some experiments with title tag relevance -- not spicifically for long tail, just about the importance of exact match in title in general.

What I did was to remove some exact matches for synonyms for my main keyword from the titles of pages that were ranking moderately well (low first page or high second page) with the exact match in title. So far, the rankings for those exact match synonyms have not dropped -- indeed, in a couple of cases they have gone up, in one case from page 2 to page 1.

This is way too small a sample size to be significant data, but so far my results definitely support the notion that exact match in title is much less important than it used to be. A couple of years ago I would have expected to drop out of the top 100 entierly after making a change like that. Now it appears to be sufficient to have a similar phrase in the title and an exact match in the body.

This is consistent with the notion that Google is getting better at understanding natural language and semantics.

I'm seriously thinking about changing all of my titles, which tend to be like "keyphrase | synonym1 | synonym2" to just plain "keyphrase."

RP_Joe



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 3:32 am on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

this whole "trust" thing has got out of hand. google would much rather send you to a trusted site if it's related to the subject rather than an "untrusted" site that actually contains the words you searched for.


I think this is correct. It explains allot.

wingslevel

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 1:43 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

a question i have is whether the poor ranking on exact title queries is a result of G trying to "divine user intent", resulting in a serp of high trust pages that may or may not be relevant, or some new OOP variant that penalizes pages that are classically seo'd in the way that we have all taught each other.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 2:35 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't think it's a penalty, I think it's more of a left turn. Too many pages that Google considered lower quality for the query were ranking too well, so they've evolved the algorithm even further away from text match factors.

The new algo seems more to be about topic extraction - for the page and the site - as well as more overall site quality factors. Some form of semantic evaluation and topic extraction is stronger than it ever was. And there's possibly a heavier dose of human evaluation, although a different analysis of backlink profiles might be carrying a lot of that burden.

The left turn is not perfected, and for some SERPs the quality droop is visible. IMO, it won't stay that way.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 3:49 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

more to be about topic extraction

Effectively, this ends up classifying some pages and sites differently from the ways previously expected. Some rankings are so different that it can appear as if Google is reinterpreting the intent of some queries... which effectively it is. It's no longer about keyword matching.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 4:32 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

quality droop

LOL - that was a typo, but I kind of like it :)

steveb

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4193570 posted 5:50 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

Quality droop, that does say it all.

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