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When I told the client this, he said he would rather gain clientele from the three counties south and west of the county where his company is based. (But the thing is, most people have never heard of these counties, but most people have heard of Asheville.) However, people living in or moving to those counties may use the name of their county +landscape +designers in their searches, but I'm not too sure about that. They or may not use the names of the cities in these counties, but the cities are tiny for the most part.
Also, my client wants to focus on high-end residential in those counties, and on high-end residential coming from as far away as Atlanta.
Question: Based on this new information, what search phrase should I focus on now?
Why not target all of them? They probably aren't very competitive so you may be able to get them all. You can make different pages on the site targeting the different demographics. I would use your main phrase for the home page and then make subpages that target the different counties. Link the pages together using keywords in the text links and you will do well.
joined:Sept 1, 2000
I would take into consideration the Open Directory listing. It's good to be connected with an actual city so you can get a regional listing. The same is true for Yahoo. Check out what your options are and work from there.
I would as JamesR said target all. Target GA SC TN VA and NC that way you would have all the states around your main target area covered for your client. What is the worst thing that could happen... Client gets a call and he can't get a crew to the place so but he can pass the lead on to someone that can take care of them.
I also agree with JamesR on the method of designing the site with the regional theme in mind. Target all of those areas, one each on a page with keyword text links linking them together. You may even consider building a few 'stand-alone' sites that target his three highest priority locations and link all of those together. This will help getting your regional sites into separate regional categories within ODP.
Or if pointing's not a good idea, how about putting the second (keyword) domain name at a different IP and changing the main page so that it's not excactly the same as the main page on the main site?