I have just been involved in a rather comical discussion on one of the SEO forums. Some poor guy was employed by an seo company, who it appears were taking on any client they could find and promising the earth, well, first page placements to be specific, and not only were they making these promises, but on very competitive keywords.
So this guy had his manager asking him what they could do to improve their clients serp’s (search engine result positions), and he in turn had come to the forum looking for advice, my overwhelming urge was to suggest he find a job working for a professional firm, although I think he was abroad, so wasn’t going to find a good uk seo company to work for anyway.
So people were suggesting all the usual things such as building good links, blog comments and adapting on page elements, to which he replied to every single one that he had been doing it for months already. Eventually someone asked which keywords he was struggling to optimise the website for “the main one is real estate” he said, then listed a load of other highly competitive terms too.
It turns out that the boss had taken the client on without doing any keyword research and promised them top page placements, so the lesson from this story is that if you don’t do thorough research first, both on your competitors and in general around the given keywords, you may never get the results you need to make them pay. This is why smaller companies always go after the long tails, Humph, even I knew that!