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The keywords I have been using are very competitive and this is resulting in terrible rankings. Would it be an acceptable strategy to start with some less competitive keywords so that my website gets better ranking, more attention which will support more natural links to it?

Would it then be acceptable to adjust the keywords gradually in the direction of the ultimate keywords and would this be a doable task?

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Your suggested strategy is a very good one. It is called the "long tail strategy".

If the keywords that you are going after are very competitive and high traffic, there are likely hundreds of related medium traffic keywords and thousands of related tail keywords.

Most websites start out only being able to rank for less competitive keywords and move towards more and more competitive keywords as the site builds reputation.

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    And don't forget that by chasing the long tail keywords are are also optimizing for the more general keywords at the same time since most of the long tail keywords contain the more general keywords as well. – John Conde Sep 9 '13 at 20:36
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Sorry, but I do not 100% agree with that.

I think this mainly depends factors like the competition in your niche, your budget, available resources, quality of your content, backlink opportunities and much more.

For some less competitive niches the best strategy in my opinion is to immediately target the top keywords.

But sure, I agree that for highly competitive niches a good strategy can be to target the the long tail and less competitive keyords.

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