I got a phone call yesterday from The Central Office telling me that I would be listed in the Top 50 corner for doing so well in my first month as a consultant. Although I know that The Central Office is one of those places that tells everyone how well they are doing all the time, I still was sort of chuffed.

You understand, at my fulltime job, folks were not even excited when I got us to #4 on Google (#3 in some countries). Central Office sent me a pan for doing much less than that. It is apparently part of the deal that they encourage us like preschool teachers. I am therefore allowing myself to be delighted about this.

Speaking of SEO, I am finding that exciting, too. (Go ahead, nod off, switch to another page, I won’t see you.) As long as we had the primary goal of getting people to come into the physical store, it was clear that the name of the store and regional variants on things like “teacher resource” and “teacher store” were what we wanted to rank with. I got us to #4 for our quite common store name, and with all the regional variants we own the page. I also have us seriously well ranked for all sorts of specifically relevant subject matter. I have been maintaining this for months without even telling you about it, I had gotten so complacent about it.

However, now that we want to encourage rather than discourage random Northerners and foreign strangers to shop with us, it is clear that we need a different strategy. My surveys here and in the physical world persuade me that people who want to buy a pocket chart online do not always look for a nice teacher store online, as they would if they wanted to physically buy their pocket chart in the physical world.

No, instead they cast out “pocket chart” into the ether, and hope that Google will serve something nice up to them. Our store gets served up, for most things, around page 4 or 5. Most people have given up by then.

And of course when we lure people into our physical store, they immediately see that it is a charming place filled with people who really care about their pocket charts and want to help them. A customer was in yesterday who mentioned “that new place” — the competitor who dared to open a shop here in the town where I live after ours closed. “That new place isn’t home,” she said. “Ftttt.”

I had never previously heard anyone say, “fttt,” but I knew what she meant.

“They’re not from here, you know,” The Empress confided.

“Oh, I know,” said the customer. “We could tell.”

This won’t get us anywhere in the flat world of the internet. We need something more. I spent some time yesterday spying on our competition to see how they were getting their spots (you can do this with the Dark Art of SEO).

You can see how thrilling this is. Which of our 15,000 SKUs should I try to rank us for? How shall I do it? Do we need more control over our content, or a highly creative link-seeking strategy? Should I go with “interactive pocket chart” or “classroom pocket chart”? How do I interpret the fact that we rank #1 for “soft foam skeleton dice”?

Yes,well. I’m having fun with it.

Following a thrilling day of this, I picked up Partygirl for the Tuesday class. After class (we discussed “Be thou therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect”), we went back to her place and picked up a box of books.

“I’m giving these to you,” she said, “on the condition that I never see them again.”

I accepted the terms. They are mostly romantic suspense, a genre with which I am largely unfamiliar. I’ll read some and pass the rest along to someone else. There was also in the box an old cookbook. I love old cookbooks, just as documents if not to cook from. This was The Meat Cook Book from 1965, an era when the photographs were printed in truly sickening colors. I am looking forward to reading it.

Partygirl also gave me a gorgeous Irish crystal pitcher, in recognition of my help with her daughter’s wedding, for which I didn’t do that much, and a Pampered Chef T-shirt. It is black with pink rhinestones. Even if you have never met me, you probably know that I do not already own several black T-shirts with pink rhinestones.

If I wear Partygirl’s T-shirt and read her books, I may become as perky as she is, or at least closer to the optimal perkiness level for a cooking show consultant. We’ll see tomorrow at my next show. Today I am spending with the Dark Art of SEO and the second grade book, neither of which requires any perkiness whatsoever.