Where does the time go? Somehow it’s time for the SIXTH annual pet blogger challenge, hosted by the wonderful people (plus Ty and Buster!) at GoPetFriendly.com.
Hard to believe, but I participated in 2011 (baby Cooper appeared in that one!), 2013, 2014, and 2015. (I missed 2012 because it was the same day as one of my surgeries, but I would’ve participated otherwise!)
I’m excited and also nervous to think through all these responses. Frankly, 2015 was a shit storm. Beginning to end. You all know Lukey’s journey–diagnosis to amputation to loss of my big yellow dog in eight months–and there’s been so much else going on that I haven’t shared here. So, who knows what’s going to come out as I dive into all this introspection:
1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone who is visiting for the first time, please give a quick description of the subject of your blog.
I started this blog in May 2009. I posted twice that month then got really up and running the first week of June, but due to an error on my part (I’m still not sure what I did, btw) those May posts are lost in the internet ether. Anyway, my blog is obsessed with dogs, anything dog-related, which I tell in the context of my pups. There’s also a good bit of cat that creeps in, featuring miss Newt, and I hope to grow cat content in the coming year.
2. What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud?
At the tail end of the year, within the last week of December, I signed on to manage the BlogPaws blog. It’s a contract gig in the community I love that I never would’ve gotten without this space. I can’t exactly say I’m making my living with my blog, but I’m at a place now where I’m making a living–BlogPaws, Pet Age Magazine, etc.–because of my blog. That’s pretty darn cool.
3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)
Pass. I can’t look through my 2015 archives without falling apart (yet).
4. A common theme from last year’s challenge was that many of us wanted to increase the size of our audiences. Whether or not we intend to monetize our blogs, it seems we’d all like to reach more people. It feels good to know that we’re connecting with others, sharing a laugh or supporting a cause, and it’s motivating to see those numbers grow! What is one thing you’ve done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog?
So, I don’t think anyone starts a blog with the hope that no one reads it, right? You blog because you have something to say, and you want people to hear you say it. Thing is, there are lots of people talking. One thing I strove for in 2015 was to strip away any writing that was for someone else. I think because it was such an emotional, stressful, chaotic year, it was easier to do that naturally. I didn’t have time to think about an “audience” and what they’d want. I know I still held back in some places, so I’ll work on that, where appropriate. But, despite posting half as many times in 2015 as I did in 2014, my traffic didn’t wane. It held steady. I believe it was because of how I was writing, not what I was writing. Because it was fewer posts but the same traffic, I’m calling that growth!
5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular? (Please include a link.)
Miles above the rest: Boredom Busters: 5 Ways to Exercise Your Dog Indoors. Being totally honest… this isn’t that great of a post. It’s on my lists of posts that NEED to be updated. Just look at that photography. Shudder. But, a Facebook page with more than half a million likes shared it. It’s been shared on Facebook 2,000 times. Gulp. Lesson here? Don’t post something that isn’t polished because you just never know. (Of course, I have NOT learned that lesson and continue to post unpolished pieces… but YOU can learn from my mistakes!)
6. What is one blog that you read religiously – other than your own – and what makes you such a devoted reader? (Please include a link.)
One?! Holy moly. Truth: I have a Feedly feed set up with 60+ pet-related blogs, and my Bloglovin’ feed has a couple dozen non-pet-related blogs. I lurve blogs. I’m not great at commenting (sorry) because I have so many to read!
Picking just one is painful, but I gotta say that I will never, ever, EVER miss a single post from oh melvin (and yo jake). For one thing, our stories have had many parallels. For another, she writes how I feel but can never articulate. That’s invaluable. Plus, I’m completely obsessed with how beautiful her house is in the background of all her wonderful pics. If you haven’t read her blog, go read it right now. It’s way better than this post, so please click away and go binge read! 🙂
7. What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog?
Other blogs, fo’ sho’. Also, I desperately need to take a photography course (and/or get a camera) because, no joke, my photography is awful. My phone tries its best, but its best isn’t good enough. I’m a fan of in-person learning, so I love conferences like BlogPaws. I’m also a huge reader but haven’t spent much time searching out blogging book resources. If you have any recommendations, I’d love for you to share!
8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?
Do not try to be anything but you. In Facebook groups and webinars and casual conversation, I hear people lament again and again: There are too many pet bloggers. I’ll never build an audience because they’re spread too thin. Everyone’s doing the same thing. I’ll never stand out. Not with that attitude you won’t! There’s room for all of us IF everyone is writing in their own unique voice. There’s the rub. If you’re trying to be all things to all people or write how you think your prospective audience would want you to write, you’ll never be genuine, never authentic, and never successful. End of story. There’s room for every single unique voice, so don’t try to sound like anyone or everyone else. Aside: You’re not for everyone, and that’s okay. When you harness your voice and your style and you learn how to express who you are, some people will leave. And that’s perfectly fine.
9. What is your vision for your blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals?
I’m a goal-oriented person. I like to work towards something. This year, though, I’m sort of making my goal a non-goal. I want to re-focus on the writing.
Sure, making money matters, but forgive my tangent for a second: Brands work with bloggers because they know that bloggers have developed a trusting relationship with their readers. That’s valuable to a brand trying to sell something. Bloggers who treat sponsored posts as if they’re doing the brands a favor? That’s going to fall by the wayside (in that those bloggers won’t get the paid work), says my crystal ball of blogging future. Brands won’t hire those folks because they’re not earning the engagement that brands need. It’s natural growth and evolution because, don’t forget, this is still a relatively new industry. That said, if sponsored posts or campaign opportunities come my way–and I hope they do because otherwise this is an expensive hobby–I’m only taking opportunities with brands who are okay with storytelling rather than straight product reviews. Those are boring, and they’re not doing any of us (me or the brand or my dear readers) a favor because people just don’t read them.
I guess, overall, storytelling is my vision for the blog. It’s where my strengths lie, I think, and what I’d like to develop further.
10. You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there one blogging challenge you’d like help with, or one aspect of your blog that you’d like input on?
What is the sweet spot for posting? Sometimes I’ll go a week without opening Feedly, and some blogs will have like 14 posts that there’s no way I can get through. Other blogs go weeks without posting, and I start to miss them! In a weird way, I’m trying to figure out my minimum number of posts per week to stay relevant… I want to cut back because I want to chip away at a book(!!)… but I don’t want to lose momentum either.
Holy cow. If you made it all the way to the end, thank you. Big time. In the past, I’ve spent a week or so combing through the other posts shared in the challenge, and I plan to do the same this year. I’ve learned so much by reading through others’ responses! Really looking forward to reading yours!
Thanks to GoPetFriendly.com for hosting this again!
Hugs to you all for getting to this point! And for just being awesome! 🙂