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Case Study for a Chicagoland Marine Dealer

Purpose of Case Study: 

  • To demonstrate that it is possible to obtain high rankings in competitive keywords such as "boats Chicago", "boats Chicagoland", and other.

  • To illustrate that getting top ranked keywords in Google without the benefit of significant back links is very, very difficult.

  • To illustrate that the broad spectrum of search positions will yield results that are a mix of top 10 rankings (on first page of results), top 20 rankings (on second page), and top 30 rankings (on third page).

  • To demonstrate that search results can be achieved in about 90 days, and that those results can stay pretty stable over the course of 12-18 months.  Clearly, stability is a matter of the competitiveness of the industry you are in.

  • This case is not a treatment on keyword research or finding the right keywords.

Date Organic Search Project Began:  March, 2006; Updated March 2007; Comments and some content added May 2007
A Word About "Competitiveness":   In performing natural search engine optimization, judgments need to be made about whether one can obtain a desired top ranking.  These judgments are made based on insight derived from Keyword Research, the number of back links a site has, and a measure of on-page search engine optimization (SEO) elements.  Not every site that has obtained high rankings realized those results by necessarily doing "things correctly".  Some results are influenced greatly by the number and types of back links, some results have been achieved by the type and relevancy of back links, some are due to on page elements, and so on.  Only Google, Yahoo, MSN and other engines know the elements that led to that site's rankings.

However, we do know that some SEO on-page elements must be present in order to make it possible to get a high ranking.  The three main ones are titles, meta descriptions, and relevant content.  We can use that knowledge to eliminate some web sites as our real competition.  Here is an example:

When you go to Google and type in "boats Chicago", you will see there are  3,590,000 web sites using that term.  See the first image directly below.  Checking one of our on-page SEO elements that we know is needed to get top rankings, we see that actually only 2690 of those 3,590,000 sites are actual competition for the keywords "boats Chicago".  See the second image below.  This process helps us tell which keywords to optimize for.

Image of Results in Google for "boats Chicagoland"

Image of Results in Google for "boats Chicagoland" w Page Elements

Keywords Research Analysis: 
Wordtracker Research view here
Overture Research view here
It was decided NOT to begin a Pay-Per-Click campaign.  Nonetheless, the research from Overture proved valuable in the natural search campaign.
First Ranking Results June 2006:   First results from rankings were checked in June.  Eleven (11) top ten positions, eighteen (18) top 20 positions, and  twenty five (25) top 30 positions were achieved per table below.

Search Results Ostrowmarine Keywords June 2006

Second Ranking Results March 2007:   Rank results were again checked in March 2007.  The site had undergone a number of changes with new boat dealers added and existing boat dealer lines eliminated.  Fourteen (14) top ten position, thirty (30) top 20 positions; and forty three (43) top 30 positions were achieved.
Search Results Ostrowmarine Keywords March 2007 Part 1   Search Results Ostrowmarine Keywords March 2007 Part 2

A number of positions not related to dealer page changes had held their positions.  That indicates positions can hold over time if the on page elements are fundamentally correct.

Top Ten Analysis Example Results for "boats Chicagoland":   We see that this keyword phrase has resulted in the #2 position from Yahoo!, and the #78 position from Google.  Performing a Top 10 Analysis yields the following table.  Click on the image to enlarge the table.

Search Results in Yahoo for "boats Chicagoland"; Ostrowmarine is #2

Search Results in Google for "boats Chicagoland"; Ostrowmarine is not in Top 30

Yahoo Search Results "boats Chicagoland" Google Search Results "boats Chicagoland"

Search Results for "boats Chicagoland" Using Top 10 Analysis

From this analysis we see that Google top ranked pages have many more back links than does Ostrowmarine.  We also see that some back links are of the *.edu domain, which are generally believed to be given more "weight" in back link relevancy. 

Unless we add significantly more back links to Ostrowmarine, we conclude it will be very, very difficult to get a top Google rank for the keyword "boats Chicagoland".  At the same time, we see that although the number of back links for Yahoo's rankings is much lower than other top ten sites, the #2 position was achieved.  We attribute this to "good" other on-page SEO elements and relevant content.

Web Site Quality Indicator Analysis for the keyword "boats Chicagoland":   Another powerful tool at our disposal is the Web Site Quality Indicator.  This proprietary analysis allows us to compare 2 sites side by side.  In the analysis below, we compare Ostrowmarine to  Partypop has the #1 ranked Google listing for "boats Chicagoland".  We also compare Ostrowmarine to in the 2nd analysis.  WendellaBoats is the #2 ranked site in Google for "boats Chicagoland".
Web Quality Comparison Ostrowmarine vs. PartyPop   Web Quality Comparison Ostrowmarine vs. WendellaBoats
Ostrowmarine vs. PartyPop   Ostrowmarine vs. WendellaBoats

From this analysis we see Partypop has over 1100 Alexa incoming links and close to 30, 000 total links.  That clearly is "massive".  WendellaBoats has a much lower number, about 40 Alexa links and nearly 500 total incoming links.  Therefore, we have to conclude that there are on-page SEO elements that contribute to WendallaBoat's #2 rankings.  They may or may not be superior to Partypops.  Only Google knows. 


Rankings are a complex process based on each search engine's algorithm.  Final results are unpredictable.  The only thing predictable is that if one selects a reasonably non-competitive keyword phrase, adhering to good SEO fundamentals will yield good results.  Back linking is a final determining factor, especially in Google.


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