When Will Aubuchon types a gardening term into Google, money’s riding on the results. Aubuchon is the website manager for Aubuchon Hardware, his family’s chain of stores located in New England and New York. Last year, the 25-year-old rebuilt Aubuchon’s Web store with the help of IProspect, one player in the growing field of search engine optimization services. The goal is to get Web searches to place Aubuchon’s gear high on their search-results lists.
Getting there takes some doing. Last year’s relaunch involved four major steps, says Brian Kaminski, client services manager at IProspect: Organizing 40,000 products into 13 categories relating to popular key words, creating subsections of the site like Lawn-and-garden.aubuchonhardware.com, writing descriptions for each product, and feeding all that information to Google. All that doesn’t come cheap—a typical IProspect engagement costs between $12,500 to $40,000 per month for a one-year contract.
So far, Aubuchon’s results are mixed. Google searches for items like wheelbarrows and lawn fertilizer fail to find Aubuchon, but enter “garden weasel” and bingo—Aubuchon is in the top three listings. “The more general terms aren’t my priority now,” Aubuchon says. “The people that are really making sales for us know what they want already.” The privately held company won’t reveal numbers, but this year the Web store will take in more revenue than the 95-year-old chain’s largest outlet. (Aubuchon uses DoItBest to fulfill its online orders.)
Catering to search engines’ tendencies has been going on “almost since we’ve had them,” says Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com. During the past two years, he says search engines have offered more chances to buy paid listings, which get about 2 percent or 3 percent of surfers to click on them. Aubuchon used to rely on Overture’s pay-per-click service to bid on keywords that show up in the “paid advertising” column on Google after a search.
The free links on search results are 5 percent to 10 percent more likely to get clickthroughs. “It’s really the words on your page that will help your site get listed,” says consultant Jill Whalen of HighRankings.com.
So Aubuchon continues checking Google for how his key words rank. “We are number one for ’window fan,’” he says in late May. “I’m waiting for the hot weather to come.”