Several of you said that you did indeed care about my little SEO triumph, and that was very nice of you, I must say. Someone also asked what SEO stands for. It is “Search Engine Optimization.” That means making your site very good, and then introducing it to the search engines (like Google) so that when people want to find it, they can. You know, when you type something into the little screen at Google, and it tells you that there are 8,546,912 results, that you are only going to look at the first 10 or maybe 20. In fact, you might just glance at the first 5 and then modify your search. The truly excellent site on whatever it is you were looking for that is back on page 5,000,012 is completely invisible to you.

So, for example, I know that our friend Lostarts sells her knitted wimple pattern online. If I type in “knitted wimple,” I do not see her site. I see free patterns, and other people’s patterns, and blogs talking about how they are knitting wimples, but not hers. If I type in “knitted wimple lostarts,” she’s all over the page. But if I am just a stranger looking for a knitted wimple pattern, I am not going to do that. I will not find her fine pattern, so of course I am not going to buy it. Same thing for our friend Formerprincess and her handmade aprons.

Now, neither of these artists may want strangers to come and buy her stuff, but if they do, then they would benefit from a bit of SEO. That’s what it’s for. When we first put our store online, we didn’t do any SEO. In the first year (and, understand, we are a successful store in the physical world, and have been for 15 years) we got a couple of orders a month, 86% from people we knew. Our website is part of a catalog company, and in theory they were steering people to our shop, but really it was just a convenience for our physical-world customers. If you ask Google how old our catalog is, they will tell you that it opened up in May of 2007, two months after I began figuring out how to make it visible to search engines. Now, of course, I could do that faster, but I am self-taught, so there was a bit of a lag there while I learned stuff. I am still learning stuff.

When we began our SEO, we got too many orders and had to scale back to try to make the website more about marketing, about steering people to our physical store. That meant that I did a lot of regional SEO — that is, introducing the site to the search engines, but letting them know that we really only wanted people to see us when they were looking for a physical store to shop at. Since October 24th, we have been opening our site to the shoppers of the world as well, so I have to let the search engines know that by doing the SEO in a different way.

A lot of the things you do to get your website and Google to shake hands are kind of funny and artificial-seeming, and there is a good bit of controversy in the SEO community about just how artificial you can get before you count as a “black hat” practitioner. But the truth is, unless Google knows what you’re doing at your website, humans won’t be able to find it. We don’t advertise our physical store; we get all our shoppers by word of mouth. That doesn’t work online, for the most part, because people looking for some particular website can’t find it unless the search engines know it is there, and the search engines — wonderful though they are — don’t look for things the same way humans do. Someone who happened to be looking for a blog just exactly like this one you are reading now would not, since I don’t do any SEO here, be able to find it. So SEO, apart from the black hat behavior of spamming, is just a matter of taking your site, which happens to be invisible, and making it visible to people who are looking for what you have to offer.

In my part-time business, we are not allowed to do any of the “introduce to search engines” part of SEO, but we can still do the “make your site very good” part, and Central Office helps us out with that quite a lot. In my full-time job, I have less control over the “make your site very good” part, though I am certainly working hard on the aspects of that over which I have control, so I spend more time on the “introduce to search engines” part. The SEO bloggers talk a lot about which of those things is more important, but I am limited in what I can do, so I just do both to the limit of my ability under my circumstances.

I can see how heady it would be to have complete control over your site so you could do all the clever SEO things and bask in your cleverness. However, Arkenboy has kindly but firmly assured me that I am not clever enough to do those things even if I did have full control, so I do not waste my time wishing for full control.11

The other question was “What is a trivet?” It is a thing you put hot stuff on so that it doesn’t damage your table. A very handy item, let me tell you.

I have a whole stack of them, because I often bring a number of hot dishes to the table.

They are related to the items known as “coasters” which are for putting wet things on so they don’t damage your table.

My kids do not believe in either trivets or coasters, so we spend a lot of time at my house arguing about it, thus: “Don’t put that glass on the wood! Get a coaster!” “Oh, mom, it won’t damage the table!”

I am right on this point.