Most people know how important it is to achieve a high ranking on Google if you want to attract 'zero cost' leads to your website. The first requirement for success is choosing the right keywords.
When I start a keyword research project with a client I always ask them to supply an initial keyword seed list which I then supplement with my own research. I recently did some research for a client and one of their proposed keywords (let's call it keyword A to protect client confidentiality) typically had 7,000 searches a month in their chosen market. However, according to Google they were competing against 10 million web pages. The chances of getting a new website to appear on Google Page 1 would be very low whatever the time frame and budget.
However, my research identified another very similar keyword (let's call it keyword B) that had significantly less competition (350,000 web pages) but also fewer searches (400 per month). Given the high sales value of the client's business, they were looking for dozens of clients per month (not thousands) so the lower search volume was not an issue to them.
Although Google identified 10 million and 350,000 competing web pages respectively, some of these pages would have a great Google ranking and others would be weak. The amount of competition is one thing but the quality of the competition is more important. When I assessed the quality of competition, Keyword B only had 18 high quality competing web pages out of the 350,000. The chances of getting a strong Google ranking would be much higher when competing with 18 pages compared with thousands or million pages.