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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.
I have noticed more and more structured sentence type titles doing well. eg - Compare the Best Low Rate keywords @ example.com
You want longtail exact matches in the content, not the title anymore.Maybe not so categorically - just quickly looked through a couple of my site's GA stats via "Top Content" -> "Entrance Keywords" and the best keywords (phrases, really) could be found exactly as entered by the searcher in neither title nor content. I mean, all of the individual words comprising the phrase are there, some in title and some in content, some in both, some multiple times. Also, I should admit the meaning was still pretty much dead on but the exact phrase was definitely NOWHERE on the page and sure enough - if you enclose the phrase in quotes, my page does not come up.
There also seems to be some kind of freeze in rankings changes as if our sites have been graded and positive movement is much harder and slower.
Is the content relevant to your search? That is more important than it being a txt file or from 1994.
Generally speaking, many recent observations seem to support the conclusion that exact match in title matters much less than it used to. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it actually hurts but it doesn't seem to help much.
Exact matches of the first part of titles is the only way to compete for a phrase, but exact matches in later words in the title perform better if that exact match is actually in the body of the page, which normally is rare.
Just bare text served up as naked as the day it was createdYou give a great example with this .txt file. The pure distilled content of a .txt file should make it very desirable to bots because most modern HTML marked-up pages serve at best 40% of content and the rest has to be thrown away.
Now, with the much celebrated Caffeine muscle G* may now be able to parse pages better (apply CSS rules, execute JS and so on) and therefore importance of title tags is diminished because there is just more other content from the page to index?
[edited by: Whitey at 8:50 am (utc) on Aug 31, 2010]