A week or two ago I fell into something that I had not done for years. I felt somwhat foolish for never having done this.
I simply sorted keyword phrases on an alphabetical basis rather than a numerical basis. Seeing the phrases in that context revealed some patterns that I had never noticed before.
That was actually the biggest discovery.
Having done that, one of the small observations that became quite clear was that regardless of the amazing volume of the long tail and the thousands of single queries that are shown via an analytics program, many of them are essentially the same query with different spellings, punctuations, order of words etc.
The business is simple, selling a few services. I simply looked at queries for the main service and segmented them into visitors who searched for the main service based on the geographical area they put in the query.
Suppose the main service was flea removal
. I just broke it down for flea removal in the Washington DC region, flea removal in Virginia and flea removal in Alexandria, a large town where we are located.
I did that because from a geographical perspective,and based on our dealings with customers we know that when they mention the smaller specific suburb in which we are located they probably know specifically about our business versus other local competitors in the region, located in other towns. If they reference Washington DC in some way we know that they are close enough that we have a good competitive chance at getting their business. I looked at Virginia, because it is partially relevant. While a very large percentage of the state's population is within our service area, a significant percentage is not. People who live in Southern Virginia or Virginia Beach (shows up a lot) will not use us. We are too far away.
Then I also looked at some words that we have found to be conversion synonyms for removal; say eradication, eradicate, exterminate, etc.
We have found some words to be virtual synonyms for conversions. They may not be the main keyword phrase but they convert at the same percentage basis.
In that vein I disregarded phrases that might just say flea service Virginia, or flea business in the DC area.
We have found that other phrases don't convert as well. Similarly when they say something like flea service...maybe they want a flea circus or to train fleas; services we don't provide.
So when I looked at the phrases that way....I discovered that over 400 distinct search terms and over 800 phrases really only reflected 3 perspectives...in so far as we evaluate them.
Now if one search phrase said flea removal Northern Virginia, and another search phrase said Virginia Flea eradication service....I grouped them into the same category of flea removal/Virginia. I didn't distinguish between putting the geo term first or last.
In terms of your last question.....one of the best things I have read and what I have practised for years is something Jake Baillie called "keyword expansion". Jake is a well-known highly respected SEO and ran a local Search Engine, TrueLocal for a couple of years. On that basis he could review thousands of search terms/day.
Jake Baillie (bakedjake) from TrueLocal is up next.
Local Search Ads - Helpful and not so helpful tips
Weird panel for him to do because 2 years ago Justin called him about doing local search, and Jake said he didn't believe in local search, and here he is running a local search engine. Wake up and get in the local game. Decided to teach people how to spam the search engines rather than giving a pretty speech.
These tactics apply just as well in organic, but they work in ad side and there's more money to be made in the ad side.
The best way to exploit local is keyword expansion. Obvious geo expansion - cities, zip codes, and states. These are the obvious local keywords to use (example Detroit real estate). Non-obvious expansion phrases include neighborhoods, area codes, counties, airport codes and metro areas. People in chicago dont look for a chicago restaurant. No, they type in a chicago neighborhood. In some markets, area codes imply a specific type of person. Seasoned traffic will look for airport codes, such as LAX and advertisers may serve visitors in the airport area.
Word expansion - product names, brand names, skus, slang/industry terms, government terms.
I simply practice keyword expansion for the business terms and the local terms.
Now with regard to the constraints of a relatively small site and a relatively large number of variations on terms for the same concept, there are a variety of ways to accomplish that. I don't think any of the ways are "elegant" but they get the job done.
You could add pages....that are sort of repetitive in concept. In doing that you could get new titles for pages; one would be for flea eradication, one would be flea removal, one would be flea extermination, etc.
If they are all focused on the same idea you simply have to add other elements into the content and add pictures, graphs, etc.
Another way is to have a page on the basic service and within the content reference the different synonyms, hopefully with Titles.
On the geo side, without being crazy spammy, rather than rely on a map I generated directions to the store from all points North, South, East, and West. In that regard I was able to add a lot of town names. Another way to do that is to write content about success stories in towns and regions that reflect local popular geographical terms. There are quite a number of ways to incorporate geographical terms without it being outrageously spammy.
Finally I worked hard to get backlinks with anchor text reflecting the variations on terms.
Hope that was helpful.