February 5, 2004, 12:00 AM

Challenge 1: Get the content up; challenge 2: Help people find it

AdvanceAutoParts.com hosts 3,000 pages of how-to, auto tips and other features. It plans to implement search technology next month to help customers find what they want.

When Advance Stores Co. Inc.’s AdvanceAutoParts.com added how-to features, auto repair tips and other editorial content a year ago, its goal was to become a reference source for its users. Today, it provides 3,000 pages of content and plans to add 2,000 pages this year. And so now Advance faces a new problem: Helping site visitors find what they’re looking for. "If they’re looking for, say, the firing sequence of spark plugs for their Chevy, they can come to the site and navigate through the content," says Phil Akin, Advance’s director of marketing. But, he acknowledges, 3,000 is a lot of pages to navigate through.

By mid March, Advance plans to implement search that will make all articles searchable by keywords. The company will start with the Microsoft Index Server search function and gauge its effectiveness, says Mark Palmer, Internet marketing manager. "We may move to something else down the road depending on the merchandising capabilities we need," he says.

Making content more accessible to customers is important to the success of the web site, because Advance believes content drives sales. In the year since it started providing professionally written articles, web site sales have increased 119%, Akin says. "We spend very little on advertising, so we believe a lot was caused by people who came to the site to read the articles," he says. The company does not know the effect of web content on stores sales yet, but is planning a cross-channel customer identification initiative this year, Akin says.

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