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Exact Long Tail Phrases in the Title are Not Ranking Well

9:16 pm on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

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

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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:

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

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.

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?
5:50 am on Oct 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Quality droop, that does say it all.
4:54 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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@wingslevel, it's about money.

Google doesn't want consumers to find what they want exactly because that circumvents the needs of Adwords. So they stepped back, de-indexed millions of actual product pages which they call "long tail" and dumped us to category pages. On the consumer end you're left looking at category pages that may have been updated weeks ago so you probably won't find what you want. After the first ten items you search for you may instead click on the paid ad, thereby generating revenue for Google.

On the store end, you just had a ton of your end user product pages de-indexed via the long tail chop. So you're faced with a 50% drop in converting traffic so you now must buy ads. But you cannot buy ads to replace the exact long tail phrases because they don't generate enough searches. Google will tell you there are not enough searches on those terms and they are deactivated. Not enough searches by who's count? If 3 people search and 3 buy from me, that's enough...but the problem is those clicks came too cheap for Google...they want us to move up the chain to the expensive, competitve, generic, useless clicks. Even though in the last month you converted 90% of the ten clicks you got on a series of exact terms, Google doesn't want that. That's a freebie to them. So they eliminate the indexing of those pages. You can't get the organic link to them, you can't buy the uncompetitive term at 30 or 40 cents per click, they instead want you to pay 2, 3, 10 dollars per click for the more generic term.

It's a win win for Google, lose lose for the merchant, probably an eventual draw for the average clicker.

If Google was ever forced to open the bidding system like Ebay so we could actually see what others bid, this would all end.
7:09 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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blue widgets for sale
blue widgets for sale
blue widgets for sale
blue widgets for sale

Which would you pick if you saw 10 titles all the same? I think Google wants to avoid this and are giving the exact keyword match to only one of them per page so if you rank #2 for "blue widgets for sale" you will be pushed to page 2. "Blue widgets for sale from example.com" seems to bypass that general rule.

thus: exact match titles now compete against each other for the title and since SEO's have long used exact match titles for their desired keywords it's title royale out there. Make the title more specific or step up your fight for #1, 2nd place is rarely page one now.
8:24 am on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Google appears to be fudging on some pages it does return for exact title searches, but overall I'm seeing that it's insisting that the page returned by the title search in quotes should essentially satisfy the intent of the query... but not always exactly match the title literally.

Eg, I did some searches for the existing bio page of the CEO of a company, where the page title might be "CompanyName - CEOName", and where the page itself contains all the information but does not contain the exact title text string....

...In such cases, Google did return that page with the note in the cache: These terms only appear in links pointing to this page, which, as we've seen, is not always the real reason why Google is ranking the page. I think this is shorthand for the title match is exact and everything else is statistically closer than we can find anywhere else.

On the other hand, the pages with titles I'm seeing Google reject for exact searches are pages that have keyword stuffed phrases or keyword lists in the title (sometimes just a few words, sometimes more) that are not adequately reflected in onpage content.

Some pages I've been watching are being rejected entirely... nothing that includes the words in the list will bring them up. I'm concluding that the words or concepts basically aren't on the page. But these are also pages that show a lot of dupe content.

I'm not sure what's different exactly about Sally's page from these. Before I can further consider Sally's example, and discuss other title search behavior I'm seeing, I need to clarify one point... so here's a further question to Sally about this point we discussed....

- 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.

The meta description isn't literally "from your page"... it's a meta element. Can you try the same thing, but use a unique sentence that's visible body text on the page.
7:56 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Specific examples since 9/1/10

We've lost 11 long tail keyword sets that provided great organic clicks and conversions. All vanished around or after 9/1 but this is a rolling plague, we've been losing keyword terms for months since Mayday.

We always ran ads on those same rough terms so we could track impressions and also cover our bases for the shoppers that want to click paid ads. The ads were cheap, converted very well, and were profitable. Within the last month all of those keywords have been turned off in Adwords. That pattern has followed suit for a few months. In order to get sales on those terms we have to buy paid ads up the chain that are generic, very expensive and not profitable.

This seems to follow through everywhere on the web now. It doesn't matter what I search for or when. Quite often if I search for a term like arthritis in a specific joint instead of getting pages releated to that joint I'll get the american xyz foundation for that disease, a general webmd page or something of the sort. I then have to click through all sorts of mumbo jumbo to find what I was looking for. Same goes for product shopping, doesn't matter the site or subject in many cases category pages are being weighted instead of product pages. A day ago I searched for tech support on a specific item and instead of getting the specific support page in Google I got the manufacturers general support page where it took another 2-3 minutes to drill down. I did the same search in 2/10 when I bought the item in Google and it took me right to the support page for the product. Bing and Yahoo do that still now. I'm not sure what type of tweak this was, but it's having unintended consquences.

Searches for products of any type that contain a geographic location in the name are a disaster quite often, even cars. That's a byproduct of Mayday which looked to correct for awhile and has gone the other way now.

I'm in the camp that thinks maybe more happened with our friends overseas then we are being told. A lot of strange and unprecedented behavior in Google took place around the time of the hacking.
9:28 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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RIP longtails and user control over the query

Hello "dumbed down" search
11:52 pm on Oct 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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@wingslevel but it's much more than that I think. We had roughly 200-225 Google visitors per hour on the main site I work on out of NYC, it spiked this am and then fell to zero for 2-3 hours. They either rolled something out that they rolled back, there was an outage up the pipe or they're about to roll out a new update which a lot of us will end up calling "the end of the line."

I called a competitor we're friendly with and spoke to the webmaster about an hour ago. They're in a different State and are a much smaller business. They had a great morning and then traffic went to zero during the same period so I'm guessing it wasn't our site that was having problems.

I guess this is why all of our competitors run 3-5 sites. You pretty much have to or else you take the chance of having the lights turned out by Google.
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