freejung - 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."