Today is the 5th annual Pet Blogger Challenge, hosted by GoPetFriendly.com. I’ve participated in the past and always appreciate the opportunity to stop and think through what’s going on around here! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, especially with a million other things going on outside the blog, that I really love this chance to reflect. I re-read last year’s as a starting point, which was interesting to see what has changed… and what hasn’t. So, without further rambling, here we go!
1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.
I started in May 2009 – my, how time flies! I blog about dog-related topics – like training, health, animal welfare, pit bull advocacy, dog food, DIYs, etc. – all from the perspective of things that my dogs and I are experiencing together. Everything comes from the context of Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper.
2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.
Chronicling Emmett’s road trip and bucket list! I’m proud that I was able to do all that for him – and plan on doing even more in 2015 – and it was a blast to take everyone on that journey.
3. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own blogs?
It’s nearly impossible to “do it all.” I started reading a handful of non-pet blogs this past year, and I realized that many of them pick a couple social media platforms to focus on and only dabble, if at all, in the rest. It’s tough, I think, for pet bloggers because we want to be everywhere and do everything. Our community is huge and so supportive, so you want to connect everywhere. It’s just not possible. Writing great content needs to be the cornerstone, but then figure out what platforms serve you best and focus on those!
4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
Without a doubt, participating in social media. It’s tough to find the time to keep up with all the platforms (see answer #3), but it’s worthwhile for sure.
5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?
Of everything I wrote in 2014, the most trafficked posts were the ones I wrote during “Bark Week.” Apparently lots of people struggle with barking issues! I actually plan to revisit those topics sometime this year because we’ve had to tweak our training methods since Cooper’s belly isn’t tolerating most treats right now. Also, the update posts about Emmett and his oncology appointments have been really popular, too, which touches my heart in a way that you guys could not imagine. I’m incredibly, immeasurably grateful for that.
Interestingly, though, my two most visited posts of the year were ones from 2012 and 2013: Idiopathic Head Tremors and the IHT guest post. I get emails about those two posts weekly. It finally dawned on me (yeah, I’m a little slow) that I should start addressing all the questions I keep getting in some new posts. Look for a few updated IHT posts in 2015!
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?
My letter to Molly on the day she went to her forever home. Dang, it was hard to write. I had to pause every few sentences to wipe tears from my eyes – heck, rereading it now made me tear up again! – but it was also so joyful. We fostered her for eight months, so she felt like part of our family. Heading to her forever home was the best possible outcome for her, of course, but man. It was hard. I think this was my favorite because it felt like a good way to close the Molly Chapter.
7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?
It didn’t change in 2014, but I am making some sweeping changes in 2015. In fact, I’m in the process of drafting those revisions to update my PR page this month. I really enjoy doing reviews paired with giveaways because the pet product market is so VAST that it’s hard to know what’s worth your hard-earned dollars! However, I faced a number of really frustrating challenges this past year that I need to address going forward.
If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?
I’m still trying to figure all this out. What doesn’t work, at least not for me, is a straight product review without a paired giveaway. The engagement is just too low to make it worthwhile. I’m trying to find a way to make the giveaways more fun – maybe photo contests or something – than just simply filling out a widget. I’ve also had a lot of luck doing “private” reviews and giveaways through my newsletter; only subscribers get in on those opportunities, and it’s worked well for brands because it’s a more “exclusive” list. But, as I mentioned in part one of this question, I had a ton of big challenges with reviews/giveaways in 2014, especially with the holiday gift guide, so I’m striving to fix those going forward.
8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?
Be you!! Seriously strive to be authentic with every post, tweet, and status update. Readers can tell when you’re faking it or being insincere. Being authentic attracts and, more importantly, retains readers! I’m really excited that I get to talk about this topic at BlogPaws this year because I believe in it so wholeheartedly. Craft your posts so that your readers feel like they’re talking to YOU! This is such a personal platform. Expressing your authentic self is vital for success!
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?
- A new design: This was a goal for last year, but with all of Emmett’s cancer stuff, it just wasn’t in the budget. I’ve set aside some money for it this year and will be working with a WordPress designer to create a site that reflects my vision!
- A regular posting schedule: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. All year. That’s the goal!
- Send tons of “value-added” content in my monthly newsletter; make it a joy for readers to open!
- This is more of a personal goal, but it’s related: Develop a thicker skin.
- Improve the photography: I don’t have a camera, so I either need to learn how to use my cell phone better or, gulp, invest in a camera.
10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
This is hard to articulate – which is EXACTLY why I need help – ha! So, I get so many emails every week asking all sorts of questions about training specific behaviors I’ve written about, or millions of questions about Cooper’s diet (especially now that we’re homecooking for him), questions about how to introduce a new dog to existing dogs, questions about head tremors and allergies and how to start a blog and so on. Recently I realized (again, a little slow here) that I’m spending more than an hour each week answering question emails that come from the blog. Which I’ll continue to do, of course, but I’m really seriously debating creating some online/e-course offerings about some of the most requested topics. I guess my question is… would anyone even enroll in those? Would it be better to just do a series of FAQ-style posts and direct emailers there? Or could a series of courses provide enough value? I’d LOVE any input!!!
Whew! Thanks to our friends at GoPetFriendly.com for hosting this event again this year! I plan on spending chunks of time over the weekend reading through all the other responses – I always learn SO MUCH from reading everyone else’s insights. Can’t wait!