How people find a blog, part 5ish

Bloggers are obsessed with how people find their blog, and how to get more of them to find it. So let’s take a sensible, sober look at how people use search engines to find Notes from the U.K. Because what, I ask you, is more important in your lives than my blog?

Why nothing, thanks for asking.

First, a few notes of explanation: 1, I know how people find Notes because in the administrative background of all WordPress blogs is a page that (among other things) lists the questions that lead people to it. Most questions appear as “unknown search terms,” which annoys the hell out of me because of the fun I might be missing out on. So what follow are some of the terms that aren’t unknown. 2, For some reason, almost no questions use capital letters. I did once find a cap hidden in the middle of a word, but otherwise you can’t have ‘em. I’ve followed that style here, although I’ve had to fight Word to keep it from capitalizing all sorts of things. But when something’s really unimportant, I’m relentless. 3, None of the questions have question marks. I’ve kept that style too. Just thought I’d explain, because it makes strange reading. 4. I feel compelled to answer some of these questions, since it’s only polite. Even though, yes, I know the people who wrote them aren’t likely to still be around.

Irrelevant, and by now out of season, photo: foxgloves.

Irrelevant, and by now out of season, photo: foxgloves.

Let’s approach this by topic:

Great Britain

My most common search question is why Great Britain’s called Great Britain. This comes in various forms. Here are a few: why is england called great britain (it’s not, dear; it’s called England; Great Britain is called Great Britain); when were we called great britain (we still are; it’s a geographical term, not a compliment and not a historical judgment).

I just plonked that into a search engine myself (it’s the easy way to find my original post so I can link back to it) and, holy shit, I’m above Wikipedia, although below Quora.

This time I also found a question about great British runners—a topic on which I’m stunningly ignorant and on which I’ve never written. But the search engine found great. It found Britain. Maybe in the same post I said I wasn’t running for office. I doubt it, but it’s true that I’m not. Close enough. Match made, the search engine said. I’m outta here. Whoever asked that, my apologies. Hope you tried again and found someone sensible.


The next most common question, although I admit this is guesswork since I haven’t bothered to count, is about the wigs British lawyers and judges wear in court, and these questions always come with an adjective. For example, why do brits wear those stupid wigs in court (only the judges and lawyers wear them; you need to know this; if you’re the defendant and turn up in one, no one will think you’re cute; except me, so let me know and I’ll be there taking notes) and why do british lawyers wear those dumb wigs (it’s only the barristers, and they have to).

What’s begun to fascinate me about these questions is that they’re mini-essays, every last opinionated one of them. People who want to know about the wigs just can’t help sounding off. They’re horrified (no one ever says those wonderful wigs) and they want the world and its search engines to know it.

And in case you landed here through one of those essaylets, whatever adjective you used, I agree with you.

Food and Drink

Most of these are about brussels sprouts. Really. The latest ones are boxing day/why brussels sprouts and how do british eat sprouts (with their feet while lying under the table, of course; I thought everyone knew that).

Now I’ll admit that this isn’t a full survey of what people want to know about British food. The only questions that lead to Notes are the ones about topics I’ve written on (with a few exceptions that will come up later), so that limits things, but I’ve also written about insanely expensive Easter eggs, Pancake Day and sticky toffee pudding. Is anyone interested? Nope. Either the search engines or the searchers themselves stare right past those. My best guess is that they’re not what the rest of the world thinks of when they think of British food.

The rest of the world, however, does think of beer when it thinks of Britain, and I get a steady trickle of questions about British beer and—getting right down to what matters—its alcohol content.

I also get a small group of questions about tea. Nothing fits the British national stereotype better than tea. This latest survey’s tea question is not actually a question. It’s a statement: i always ask for an extra pot of hot water with my pot of tea. Which is, in its odd way, charming. It’s a tiny snapshot from someone’s life. What’s it doing in a search engine? I have no idea. What did the writer hope to find? A kindred spirit? In case they did, if you always ask for an extra pot of hot water, please type me too into Google and see if you can connect. I’m just sure the spirit of the great googlemaster will be happy to connect you.

And since all the advice I usually ignore tells bloggers that they should link back to their old posts because the world is just panting to read more, more, more of them (and incidentally because if people clink onto another post they register as more page views), I’ll say here and now that I’ve written more about tea than anyone who doesn’t live in a tea-drinking nation will think is physically possible. Here’s one. If you want more, you’ll have to search. Because even though I’m tucking in an obnoxious number of back links this time, I really don’t kid myself that you want to spend your whole day here.

Intercultural Mayhem

Americans in particular want to know what the British think of them, and as far as I can tell what a lot of them are really asking is why the British hate them. There’s an interesting cultural/political lurking study lurking at the bottom of that if you’re in the mood to do it. In this latest group of search questions, the one that expressed this best was things that british hate about american tourists (oh, I dunno; maybe the assumption that they’ll all hate you?).

The flip side of that is the question what do tourists think of america (various things; it’ll depend on who they are and where they go and what thoughts they brought with them, not to mention where they’re from; it’s kind of like what tourists think of Britain; they don’t all get together and put their thoughts to a vote, then throw out the ones that don’t win).

That leads to the question what do the english talk about (the weather; all other topics are banned; it gets really boring around here sometimes).

No, that question deserves a fuller answer, which can’t fit inside parentheses. What people say here a lot (as janebasil of Making it Write reminded me at some, ahem, length in the comments section of my Absurdistan post) is either “thank you” or “sorry.” The problem is that these aren’t a topic. You can’t actually discuss them, all you can do is say them. Repeatedly. Many times during the course of a day. Or an hour. Or five minutes. Sorry to have taken your time with that, but thank you for reading it.

Someone else asked, why do the uk like narrow roads, and this is so tempting that I have to break out of parentheses to answer it. 1. The entire nation’s agoraphobic and gets anxious on wide roads. 2. Austerity. They used to be as wide as American roads but the government’s been selling off the margins in an attempt to balance the budget. Yellow lines are on sale this week. If you want one, you’d better hurry. And you get a further discount if you buy a pair. 3. It traces way back into their childhoods and would take several years of mass analysis to tease out.

Enough. I’d google why do people ask silly questions but I’m afraid I’d end up on some other bloggers list of silly questions if I click through to whatever Google suggests.

Another search term was the single word emmits. (Ooh, I’m at the top of the list here, above the Urban Dictionary. That’ll change my entire life.) To do a search on emmits, you have to either be Cornish or have spent some time here, because it’s the Cornish word for ants—and by extension for tourists from anywhere that isn’t Cornwall (not just, or even primarily, Americans). Like most words meaning people who aren’t us, it’s not a compliment.

Why did someone do a search on it, given that they already knew the word? It’s another one of the internet’s mysteries.

That leads neatly to a sensible question, what’s it like being an incomer in cornwall. By way of an answer, let me tell you a story that someone who moved here several decades ago told me: She mentioned to someone Cornish that she’d been warned the Cornish wouldn’t talk to her but that in here experience they’d had been friendly.

“Well,” he said, “you talk to us.”

Which does make a difference.

Someone else wanted to know about british class system foreigners. I don’t know what the answer there is, mostly because I’m not sure what the question in, but my sense is that as a foreigner I stand outside it. I’m happy there, but if your goal is to be an insider, I doubt it’ll work. See last week’s post about black shoes if you’re wondering how easy it is to break in.


inconsistency of american english, someone wrote. Inconsistent with what? British English? Itself? Nuclear physics? English is an inconsistent language, in all its varieties. Don’t expect anything else and you won’t be unhappy. Except, of course, if you’re studying for a spelling test. Or trying to memorize the grammar. Or trying to look literate in print, because English is always hiding some damn thing you aren’t sure of.

And don’t expect American English to act like British English. Or Australian. Or Liberian. Because It’s not British. Or Australian. Or Liberian.

Someone else wanted to know about british musical terminology and would be better off going someplace sensible, although I did once get dragged kicking a screaming into the thicket of crotchets, breves, semibreves, and hemisemidemiquavers that the musically competent Brits I know mention with the serene conviction that they can communicate with me. I understand that they communicate with each other perfectly well, in spite of using those words, and I have tried to make sense of them. Honestly I have. But if I inhale I get the giggles and go away knowing nothing more than when I started.

I’m not sure whether this last query goes under language or intercultural mayhem, but somebody typed in, yes tickety boo. Twice, either because they didn’t find what they wanted the first time and thought they’d try again with exactly the same phrase (and follow the same link that didn’t get them what they wanted) or because they liked what they found and wanted to go back to it. But what did they want? A world where everything’s tickety-boo? Maybe, because it means, basically, fine. As ways to improve the world go, typing that into a search engine strikes me as one of the less effective possible approaches. But who am I to criticize? We all do what we can.


One of my favorite queries in this batch is compartive of the weter. I’m going to cut this one some slack on the theory that it’s a second-language question, and you’d have to be a victim of my French to know how deeply uncritical I should be of second-language oddities. Or while we’re at it, my Italian. Even my Spanish, which isn’t bad given that Americans are, if you’ll forgive a generalization, godawful at languages, but it’s still a bit strange.

The question here is, What made a search engine decide that I knew something about this? I do use the word of. And the. Frequently. Beyond that, though, I can’t claim much expertise.

Someone else wanted to know about lupine leaf curl treatment and should really have been directed to a sensible site. I grow lupines, or I did before I stopped slaughtering slugs for about a month this summer and the horrors chewed through the leaves like a horde of locusts. I think I’m going to have to replant. But before all that happened, I took and posted a photo. And the caption used the word lupine. That’s all it takes to become an expert.

Two questions came through on topics I do know about: how to decline an award nomination and spidery corners, although the person who typed that second one may have been looking for advice about spiders, not this blog, which is about the spidery corners of British culture–or so I claimed when I set it up. But I do have spiders in the corners of our house, and I’m damned if I know how to get them out. If anyone has advice, I’d be grateful.

And there we are for another week. Now go to Google and have some fun. You’ll baffle a blogger somewhere.

51 thoughts on “How people find a blog, part 5ish

    • It would, especially since Americans don’t use it and the first time someone asked Wild Thing and me “who’ll be mother?” we had no idea what the hell we were being asked, never mind what we were supposed to answer. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Ellen, Enjoy your blogs – today’s was a two coffee read…Maybe you come out top of the emmets in blogging because you spell it wrongly -tee hee- I was going to put that I was a petty perfectionist so I did the Ellen thing and Googled it and found -11 Signs That You Are a Perfectionist – Personal Excellence……what a scary site……please tell me I am not one.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re not a perfectionist. The rest of us are careless clods. Only people who fuss over things more than you are perfectionists. But I did google emm[ahem]et and found two spellings. In fact, Wikipedia had two different entries under the two different spellings. I have a hunch that I switch between them randomly, which is bad for even a retired editor. I think I’ll adopt yours, since Word will stop trying to change it to emit.


  2. For my blog, the top three search terms for the past year have been “pluto nasa”, “weird looking toilets”, and “xtreme energy”. Alrighty then.

    Of the top ten search terms, six relate to this one post I wrote, like, three years ago about a kiosk selling those “energy bracelets” that don’t actually do anything. But I’m wondering if people were looking for why it’s a scam, or looking for a place to buy the things? They’re not leaving comments, so I’ll never know.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Weird looking toilets? One of the top three? What, I ask you, does this tell us about our fellow human beings? You know–humans, those sublime and rational creatures I was told were the pinnacle of evolution, not just for their intellect but also for their ability to make art?

      Oy fuckin’ vey.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Also, have you noticed that there is a numbered question.
    1951. It’s feckin’ 1951 this and 1951 that. 1951. 1951. 1951.
    And the word ‘club’ pops up so much it really is club amazing.
    Oh … the spiders …. batter them over the head 1951 times with say … a club.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for taking the time to explain the nuances of SEO. I often wonder how people find blogs. As for Americans wanting to know why the British hate them, perhaps they should aks why their neighbors don’t care for them or why their bombastic Aunt Shirley didn’t get them a birthday present when they were 10. What a crazy search! As always, I enjoyed this post, Ellen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tended to be–well, upset’s too strong a word, but a bit disoriented by the presents some of my aunts did give me. But I doubt Google has much to say on the subject. It does, however–and here you’ll need to see Rhys Jones’ comment and my reply–have a lot to say about the Queen Mother’s wooden teeth. Or if not exactly about them, in response to the query.

      Oh–and about Americans’ worries. I have a hunch half the country worries about who hates them simply because they’re American. It’s a long story, that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another brilliant post Ellen. It’s not often someone holds my attention long enough for me to read every word right to the very end, but you did!
    A friend of mine wanted to demonstrate the power of Google by entering “Queen Mothers wooden teeth”. I just thought I would offer that quite irrelevant nugget.
    Also, I understand that larger than average spiders are appearing in great numbers all across England at the moment. Or should that be Great Britain? I’m Welsh!

    Liked by 2 people

    • And another inspiring comment. What did it inspire? Me to google “Queen Mother’s wooden teeth,” which must be a common search question because auto-whatever filled in the rest of the term for me when I got somewhere past the W. And it led me to a bunch of largely irrelevant crap, although I did learn that her teeth were her own, although her daughter’s apparently aren’t.

      I didn’t honestly want to know either alleged fact.

      I’m guessing those are Great Spiders in Great Britain, unless they stop at the Welsh border, as surely any well-behaved spider should.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I keep missing your posts because WP hates either you or me – I’m not sure which – and I don’t receive notifications of your posts.
    Ok, so I just checked – the notification button was switched off. Nobody’s perfect. Apology accepted.
    I don’t get notifications when other blogs link to mine either. I’d try to sort that out, and to make one or twenty inane remarks as is usual for me, but I’m sleep deprived.
    Sweet dreamzzzz.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Unlike other search engines where it will have you do all the work to find your results. GoPit will do the work for you through simplified refinement of searches. Type your keyword or phrase and watch GoPit do all the work for you. you should check this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello Ms Hawley! I call you that because I always learn things from you. I’ve been absent. (Why care? It’s my loss.) Of all the lines I love the most, my favorite is the argument for the existence of God. (Spell check insists on capitalizing “God.”) If that’s the watermark, then my cats definitely believe in God. Anyway, you are a joy. I can’t wait to read parts 1-4 and of your other adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, that means I have to explain that the reason this is part 5ish is because I didn’t take the time to see if there really are 4 others. There may be, but your guess is as good as mine. Or better.

      And please do call me Ellen. That way I’ll know who we’re talking about. (My spell check wants me to capitalize god as well. Which makes lower-casing it all the more fun.)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: I Apologize For Not Reciprocating | Insights From The Edge

  10. I’m so glad we’ve finally realized who has the best blog here. If you’re ever feeling up to checking out second place, here’s mine:


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