tedster - 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.