Good point,The thing with this client is they wanted to mitigate the risk of removing a large number of links so high quality link building was moved in early before keyword research. So it is on a case by case basis, but defiantly a good point for most new clients I work with who do not have pre-existing issues you want to do Keyword Research very early in the process. 
The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. The Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ, two major directories which closed in 2014 and 2017 respectively, both required manual submission and human editorial review.[39] Google offers Google Search Console, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links[40] in addition to their URL submission console.[41] Yahoo! formerly operated a paid submission service that guaranteed crawling for a cost per click;[42] however, this practice was discontinued in 2009.

It means that every piece of content that leads searchers to you is extending your brand equity. Not only that, you’re creating multiple touch points, so potential customers have every opportunity to discover your business. It takes on average of 6-8 touch points with a brand before someone becomes “sales-ready.” Too many? Well, for some industries, it’s way more. One woman’s car-buying journey took 900 digital touch points spanning three months.
As small businesses arise, they start to think of ways on how to compete with bigger brands. One way to do this is to go digital. As internet and high-tech gadgets are highly accessible, consumers are now just one click away. Given this, once you go into the web, there is a high chance that you will be able to capture the market you are trying to reach. To help you decide whether to seek help from a professional SEO consultant or go the easy way of pay-per-click (PPC) or maybe even have both, we have laid down some pros and cons of both SEO and PPC.
What this means is that if someone visits a website and is logged into their Google account, the site owner cannot see the search keywords they used to get there. This has resulted in a great deal of organic traffic being incorrectly marked as direct. The same thing happened to Apple iOS 6 users carrying out Google searches through the Safari browser, after the operating system’s privacy settings were changed, as Search Engine Land reports.

For our client: We took the top PPC terms based on conversion and worked these keywords into existing pages on the website. We also created new high-quality content-based pages from these conversion terms. This type of strategy can work very well in assisting overall conversions on the website and driving more revenue. We also conducted a large-scale keyword research project for the client which yielded in uncovering many areas of opportunity for content development and targeting. 

Thanks for the comment, I would not say it is impossible to create high quality backlinks from scratch without content, you just need to do a review on competitor backlinks and see if their are any easy targets. We have had some good luck in the education space acquiring links on the same pages as competitor from PR5+ edu sites. It all revolves around the outreach strategy in which you put in place.
Organic is what people are looking for; the rest of these simply put things in front of people who may or may not be seeking what you offer. We know that approximately X number of people are looking for Y every day. So if we can get on front of those people, we have a much greater opportunity to create long-term relationships and increase our overall ROI.
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