Before you continue I want to state, that you should never be put in a situation where you have to do this to appease a client. It’s merely the example I’m using here. You should educate your clients about the investment of SEO and make sure they have a full understanding of what that entails.
To the point
Knowing the term you want the #1 spot for is easy. You can check different traffic sources then compare them to your conversion rates and you’re golden. However, those terms are usually very competitive and are long term goals. This is all fine, but clients that are new to SEO can have a hard time understanding this and expect to be #1 for that term tomorrow.
For new businesses their main terms can take several months to get on the map for: let alone get on the first page for. This can make them frustrated and unsure about your SEO efforts. They don’t understand why they’re paying you every month and why they still aren’t #1 for their generic term.
Showing improvement elsewhere
New and eager businesses will be ecstatic about ranking for any term that’s relevant to their business. Even though they have one specific keyword in mind, they love to see that they’re gaining momentum in a related area. By using keyword tools like the Google SK tool or Wordsream keyword tool you can find other related terms easily.
The problem with just picking one of these term and going for it, is they can be more competitive than you originally assumed. This leads to wasted hours targeting a term that was never a main goal in the first place.
Finding a target
I’ll put together a list of about 10-15 keywords that contain my clients main keyword. It’s important that it makes sense to link this keyword to the same page as the main keyword. That way you’re at least building towards the main target page while aiming fora different keyword. Also, be sure to track the current rankings of each of those keywords.
After I have my list I’ll simply submit all of them to a directory submission service. I know everyone says you should hand build all your directory listings and make them all uniquely written and perfect, but honestly that’s a huge waste of time (lipstick on a pig analogy comes to mind). You can have your room of interns and new hires do something MUCH more productive than simple directory submissions.
The reason most are against directory submission services, is because they’re usually automated and full of duplicate content. All you have to do is ask the owner of the service if you can send them a list of 20 or 30 descriptions along with all your keywords and have them mix it up. This way you’re greatly decreasing the keyword to description duplicity and most services are completely open to the idea.
You should get enough submissions to get at least 200 listings for each term. After that is completed, wait a couple weeks and check the rankings for those terms again (There’s been a few occasions where I got a first page result from this alone). You can then get a few higher quality links for the term that’s doing the best and knock it up to the first page.
There’s usually no reason to target such low hanging fruit like these unless you happen to find one that has high search volume, but low competition. If you’re considering taking on a client that is a new business or has limited knowledge of SEO, make sure they understand the investment and time it can take to rank for a competitive term.