So I turn to my trusted Google search engine to find out where I can get my lips on more of this tea. Typing in "Higgins and Burke" into the search engine delivers these results:
I have always been under the impression that "and" and "&" were "stop words" that had no influence on search results, since search engines would strip them out of the query. Yet I have always found a variance in results when I actually search with and without stop words and characters.
This is what I see when I type "Higgins & Burke tea":
The second result with the title tag "Site Map" slips to 5th position. PS: "Site Map" is possibly the worst title tag I've ever seen.
Example of Great Search Engine Optimization
Notice the first result is first for both search queries. It's been optimized for both versions - including them both in the title tag - and at the beginning of the title tag rather than the store name first. You'll also notice its meta description:
Higgins and Burke Tea: American Coffee Services has it! Higgins & Burke just $4.79 for a 20-count box. Google Shopping Links
Another observation I made is that Google's Shopping results appear at the bottom of the organic results today (this may be Google experimenting with it's results strategies, as Matt from eCommerce Optimization observed last week). However, when you type "buy Higgins & Burke tea" which signals an intent for an ecommerce transaction right now, rather than researching the product for comparison, Google Shopping links appear at the top where we've come to expect them.
What do you know? OfficeMax sells this tea.
Optimizing for Misspellings
Perhaps I don't represent the majority. Maybe "Higgins & Burke" or "Higgins Burke" gets more searches than my "Higgins and Burke"
Of course there are other spelling variants like "Higins" and "Birke" or "Burk."
These are great keyword opportunities for PPC that I don't see any of these etailers capitalizing on - not even BizRate! It could be that their campaigns are geotargeted and exclude my region - but ads appear for the correct spelling, so I suspect these retailers haven't thought of it.