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Here is what I did and found.
I did a search on term "giraffe" (I wanted something unusual and I happen to have an Oragami giraffe on my desk.)
Just by looking at the results:
7 out of 10 had giraffe in the title
6 out of 10 had giraffe in the url
7 out of 10 had giraffe in the description
Upon looking at the source, (no Sim Spider used because I couldn't figure out how to use the @#$% thing)
4 out of 10 used a M$ product to make their page. (Maybe that doesn't matter, but I thought it interesting.)
Surprisingly, the sites were not text intensive as I thought they would be. The number one ranked page was mostly graphics with few instances of the word "giraffe" anywhere. However, everything that was in text was <bold> or <strong>. Also, each page linked to every other page.
All sites had simple url links, few cgi? stuff in the links.
Meta tags didn't influence anything.
Number two site was linked to number one site.
#5 link I can't figure out for the life of me. "Giraffe" is in the text once and there is one picture at the top with an alt tag that has nothing to do with giraffes. And this is an angelfire site, so I don't think they are cloaking. (???) I don't get that one.
My conclusion: title, bold text and keyword in url are most important, and a lot of text in the body with the keyword may or may not be as important, unless keyword is very early in the page.
Maybe...Somehow, I didn't see the 'themes' theory as being prevalently used.
Can anyone explain?
The explanation for your conclusions probably have a lot to do with Brett's findings some time ago about Excite being a theme based engine. These engines go through all the pages in a site and rank the entire "collection" and then present a representative page, usually the home page. Try looking at some of the other pages in the site for the pages that have a low density for giraffe. Excite also has been using link popularity as a factor and possibly click throughs for ranking. These off page criteria make it much more difficult to understand ranking.
Best of luck