SEO is a process of attacking achievable goals within a projected time frame. The goals and time frames are not guesses or dreams, but actual goals that are viewed as being potentially achievable within a viable time frame based upon an understanding of the competitiveness of the terms as well as the work that would be necessary to move the website closer to the first page for those searches. This is going to be different in every case, as the competitive market is going to be completely different from area to area, or nationally. In addition to this, other factors need to be taken into consideration like how much work has been done previously that would apply to that target term, and can that work be built off in order to speed the process up. The crawl rate for a new website might only be every few weeks, so if the site is brand new you can only expect Google to actually visit it a few times a month, essentially meaning that work that is done today might only be noticed weeks from now. All this must be taken into consideration when creating a SEO plan that is logical and makes sense. Sticking to the format and the plan is critical for success, and the failure of many SEO campaigns comes from not seeing the progress that you projected, then changing the plans as a result. A good SEO will have the ability to provide you with an ongoing plan of attack that hits projections fairly well. Work that is being done for SEO on the competition’s websites can make this a difficult thing to predict, but generally you should see progress that is reasonable.
One of the main mistakes that is made by novice SEOs is attacking an unrealistic keyword list. If there are many different ways to describe the products or services a business offers, a SEO rooking might create a huge keyword list that would show the client how many potential customers they could have if they were to rank for all of them. This is a completely unrealistic way to approach the actual SEO, as each term is developed individually with content that is being created specifically for it. While there will be an improvement from that work that applies to long tail words as well that Google understands are in the same field, you cannot expect each and every variation of something to move up at the same levels. The actual target term will provide a roadmap as far as how the progress is going among all terms that are related, but dividing the keyword list into manageable amounts that can be attacked over time is necessary so as to avoid the casting too broad of a net and thus achieving nothing. If you are shooting for too many terms, you will probably do only small amounts of work for each one and therefor never outrank your competition for any. A seasoned SEO is going to look at the keyword list for a number of things including competition, existing work and budget. The SEO plan is going to allocate how many hours each month the SEO judges will be necessary for each phrase to eventually outrank the competition within either the local or national space. If too little work is being done each month for that particular term, either more hours must be allocated towards it or less keyterms attacked so as to provide more time. The idea of SEO is a dedication to developing rankings for specific words, and if you are trying to rank for them all you will probably rank for none. Distill your list down to however many terms can be viably developed over a six month period, and attack them individually.