credit cardsI’m going to be a bit unfair in answering the question, can you outrank the top 3 for “credit cards” (or any other popular keyword for that matter). I’m going to be a bit unfair by mentioning a different question, one which has already been answered but which at the time seemed all but impossible.
Imagine yourself in America around half a century ago. It’s the early 1960s and President Kennedy has just announced “we choose to go to the moon.” This, at the time, seemed like a pie in the sky idea – how could man possibly be expected to walk on the moon? The science hadn’t even been developed yet and we didn’t know what dangers humans would face when they were shot out of the earth’s atmosphere. And yet, humanity did reach for the stars and we know that Neil Armstrong made his historic moon walk less than a decade after the president made his pronouncement.

All It Takes Is Money and Time

Now I did say I was being a bit unfair here. The fact is that unlike the idea posed by the president in the early 1960s, when nobody really knew for sure how to get to the moon, we do in fact know how to get a website ranked in first place, even for the most difficult of keywords. However, just like that first historic moon landing, the key to this is time and money.

It Takes a Lot to Rank for Popular Keywords

SEO is not magic. It’s a basic science with a bit of art thrown in for good measure. This means that it is indeed possible to rank for a keyword like credit cards. And it won’t even cost anywhere close to the amount that America spent sending a man to the moon. On the other hand, like the moon landing, it will be hugely expensive and may in fact be a waste of effort.

We Haven’t Been to the Moon Since the 1970s

The fact is that for all that we have more advanced technology today than existed back in the late 1960s, we haven’t been to the moon for decades and it will be at least a decade longer before man ever walks on the moon again. The reason is simple: while it was an awesome sight to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the lunar surface, the fact is that the cost was astronomical and the benefits didn’t seem to be all that great.

Getting to the Top Three for Super Popular Keywords Is Also Impressive, But…

This also points up the reason that we rarely recommend to clients that they pursue an SEO campaign for a super popular keyword – it’s hugely expensive and often doesn’t offer the kind of results you may hope for. The fact is that a keyword like “credit cards” or “car insurance” or “make money online” is going to be targeted by tens of thousands of websites and will thus cost a lot of time, money and effort to get you into the top three.

The But…

Here’s the but part of the above statement: but it may not make you money. People searching for such a broad term as “credit cards” often aren’t looking to sign up for your specific credit card offer. They’re playing the field and looking for basic information about the industry. They may not even want to sign up for a credit card. This means effectively, that like the moon landing, it’s expensive and doesn’t ultimately give you much to show for your trouble except for pride of making it to the top.

Long Tail Keywords – A Better Choice

Long tail keywords, which work by including additional things in the keyword (i.e. credit cards for damaged credit) tend to work better because you are targeting a specific group and are more likely to actually make a sale.
So yes, like President Kennedy’s proposal, it’s theoretically possible to rank in the top three for a popular term like “credit cards.” However, before you spend the time and money to do so, you should make sure that you have a reason for doing it. Otherwise, it will be a lot of money spent for something showy which you will ultimately be likely to abandon for more practical ideas, just like the Apollo missions were abandoned for the shuttle program.