Many SEO companies know that sometimes their clients have in mind that they must rank for a specific keyword. No other options are acceptable for them. And even though you try to tell them that ranking for that keyword will take a great amount of time and effort because of their competition or that ranking for that keyword isn’t worth the effort they think it is, they do not budge.
It can be intensely frustrating (check out this story at Search Engine Journal for a good example) and even if you accept the request by the client, sometimes they are not happy with the results produced even if/when you satisfy their needs. What can be learned from this?
If you need SEO for your site, realize that keyword targeting is still important but is not the ONLY thing SEO does. SEO is about generation of quality traffic. If you focus only on ranking for keywords, you’re missing a lot. When you show up for keywords on the SERPs it’s good as a testament to the work that you’ve done, but are you getting quality traffic for those positions and those keywords?
In many cases the keywords you get better traffic from may not be the keywords you’re actively checking. The best way to find these are to check your Analytics tools to see what people are finding you with on the search engines.
Real SEO brings quality traffic to the site in many different ways, not purely from specific keywords you might be targeting. This has changed especially since the Panda and Penguin updates – overoptimization of specific keywords is penalized even more readily now. So if you’re focusing on just one keyword, that runs a big risk of making all of your rankings worse than they were before, even using what used to be fully functional SEO tactics.
If you do hire a professional SEO team, keep in mind that they should be doing work beyond just trying to rank for specific keywords, and if they don’t, be cautious. And don’t expect rankings to be the only positive results from this work – you should want to get some quality traffic from the work being done. Good rankings is just extra gravy on top that you can look at and be happy about.