Keyword- Finding words and phrases internet users currently type into search engines to find what they want.
Keyword research- taking the keywords just found and determining the probability of coming up on page 1 for that word or phrase.
This is the point at which 99% of all SEO fails because it is the ground floor, the base for which all other SEO actions are focused upon. So if your SEO professional cant even figure out what a keyword actually is then you have no hope. This scene is played out daily around the world, because people believe just because they have a single ability or piece of knowledge they are a professional, for instance anyone with an internet connection can go to googles keyword tool and type in a word or phrase or even a website and find keywords. But that keyword tool is a very robust piece of software and it takes quite a bit of understanding to realize how to use it to its full potential. Which most SEO professionals" do not do. and therefore they get bloated and misunderstood results hence the mass failings of seo.
I tell all potential clients if you want to know what it is like dealing with marketing on page then contact our clients inside the portfolio, ask them about their results, this should go for any business you plan on working with, just because someone sounds like they know something does not mean they have proven results.
Sometimes even the website owners do not have an idea of whether its successful or not because as most shady seo professionals say "you are coming up in the search engines for the terms you wanted".
The measure of a proper keyword campaign is the amount of traffic comes to your site, how long they stay, if they give you the ROI you were looking for. Not whether you come up in a search engine for any given term.
This all starts when a website is being planned this is also where a website architect understands that the base of all web sites starts with the file name, then the page name, then the menu name, then the meta tags, and finally content, if you have all your ducks in a row you have the best opportunity for success.
This is sometimes not always possible, for instance if you are updating your website you will need to keep all the page name information as it was or you will loose whatever search engine juice you have obtained. This happens all to often with redesigns they fail to have an overall understanding of how it all works together. This is what sets marketing on page apart not only do we understand how it all works together we understand every little part.