It could be said that search is the great contextual equalizer. Over 80% of people who begin researching a new purchase begin with a search engine. I'm betting that most of you have also entered the names of people into search engines to learn more about them. Or even that you monitor the results for a search on your own name. [If you don't, start.]
Search creates the context for how we view a lot brands, products and ideas just by how the search results show up. If your company comes back in the top rankings for a search term, an association will form in the person's mind between the two.
The other results on the page will also influence the way the person thinks about your company or products. For example, if your company shows up and a few negative reviews display right beneath it (or heaven forbid above) that says a lot about your company. Likewise, if your company is surrounded by good reviews, related media coverage, complementary blog posts, etc. a better overall judgment is formed.
This means it's critically important to understand how prospects think about and search for solutions to their priority issues. You need to thoroughly understand your prospect's perspective to select the appropriate keywords so you're content is found at the opportune time by your prospects.
When you consider how your prospects will search for solutions or education about the problems or challenges they're dealing with, it doesn't matter one wit what you think they'll look for. It matters which word associations and phrases make sense to them.
At the beginning stages they'll be concerned about becoming educated about the issues and discovering their options.
In the mid-stage they've probably decided what types of solutions/products they'd like to evaluate.
In the later stages they'll be interested in proof points and company reputation and service levels.
As they transition to each of these stages in their buying process, the terms they use to search will also shift along with their thinking perspective.
In order to build credibility it helps if your content shows up well ranked at each stage of the buying process. Designing content is not just about the value it delivers anymore. It's about having it display at a prospect's fingertips upon a related search. As well as working to influence the context of the search results that appear along with your content.
Keyword assessment tools like Google's Keyword Tool can help you learn about the volume of searches in relation to keywords. However, what they can't tell you is who is searching on those terms.
What you can learn is if the terms and phrases you're using have overwhelming or minimal volume. As in anything else, extremes aren't necessarily good unless you own that space. You can aspire to own it, but for shorter-term results focus on going after the medium volume terms your prospects use.
Picking high volume words and phrases is fine - if you'll be found. But showing up on page 32 is not likely to be of help. Who ever makes it that far?
Just remember when you think about search, it's not just about showing up first, it's also about the context your content will be surrounded with on that search results page. That context can influence your credibility level with your prospects.