This is DOGthusiast.com’s answers to questions post in the Pet Blogger Challenge 2014. We participated in this challenge in 2013, so feel free to go back and see what has changed for us (and what hasn’t!)
If you blog about dogs, check out this Google+ community for dog bloggers.
1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.
I started blogging about 13 years ago on technology. I was writing on a blog platform my husband coded! Blogs weren’t all that common back then. I started blogging on dogs in early 2010 after adopting Mikey. I really regret not starting a pet blog or website back in 2001! I was heavily involved in the usenet cat community back then (bonus points if anyone can find my cat stories from back then – usenet is archived!)
This blog is about living with dogs. I focus on dog training, dog behavior, living with dogs (such as pet loss, general guardianship topics), dog health, resources for dogs, and throw in some photos and videos.
2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.
I started the year off right, blogging frequently. Then I picked up a contracting gig, and simply did not have the time to blog between that work and starting my new business (StylishCanine.com). My big goal is returning to blogging near the end of the year, and having a bunch of ideas about where to take things. I’m happy to get the enthusiasm and motivation back, and then some!
3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?
I want to focus more on training and behavior on this blog, as opposed to animal advocacy. I “donated” the advocacy related posts to a new blog that I created for a group I am involved with. Because the advocacy is local and not relevant to many readers, it wasn’t a good fit for DOGthusiast. It’s an important, and necessary, refocusing and the content will be better served where it now lives.
4. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?
Use Google Webmaster tools to find all of your search keywords. You will only see a small percentage in your analytics tools, and the remainder of the (encrypted) terms from Google searches over on Webmaster Tools.
If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Please participate in my Tuesday Training Tips Blog Hop! I’m just starting out and hope to have many people join in. You do not need to be a trainer, or expert, or even particularly knowledgable about dog training. Questions are fine too. Things you research to write about, and have just learned, are perfectly fine for this “Hop”. I want to make it as open and inclusive about dog training as possible so any dog guardian can join in.
And cats can be trained too. I’d love to see cat bloggers join in the Blog Hop!
5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
Oh content is still key. But participating in the community, and social media, is incredibly important. Facebook seems to remain the most important social network in the pet guardian community.
6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?
I have automated what I can, but obviously you get a lot more engagement out of non-automated publicity. I spend a good 10-15 minutes per post making sure it is shared on my communities. And if I ever receive comments on my blog or anywhere on social media, I make sure to reply to every one I can. I will be spending a lot more time publicizing my content this year.
7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?
The comments and shares are an important gauge. By refocusing on dog training and behavior, I hope to go in the direction that is useful and relevant to my audience. I have received a little bit of feedback since announcing this direction, and it seems to be positive.
How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?
As mentioned above, my animal advocacy content was too local for my audience. It really belonged on its own, separate blog.
8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?
When I feel like I have something to add to the conversation, I will post a comment with those thoughts or opinions. Sometimes I have a tip I’ve learnt through having my dogs, or something I’ve discovered along the way. Also, when a post is particularly good I love to leave a comment. I know how motivating it can be to continue blogging and writing, as thoughtful posts are a lot of work to write. And usually the only payback is a thoughtful comment!
9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?
Yes, I do. I will continue to write reviews for products and services that we do or would/plan to use. I will not review a product I wouldn’t use or disagree with (such as a prong collar). Reviews and giveaways is a newer addition to my blog, and I’m happy to write them as I find this information useful on other dog blogs. I also plan to hold a lot of giveaways to support StylishCanine.com, and welcome other bloggers to hold their own giveaways or participate in a group giveaway.
If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?
Group giveaways seem to work very well for reader engagement, as there are often more prizes to be won and more attention drawn to the posts.
If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?
10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?
Go do something different! Go for a walk with your dog, pick up a book, browse other blogs. Honestly though, there are so many topics to write about and things to say, writers block hasn’t been much of a problem.
11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?
Yes, as previously mentioned work and starting a business got in the way between March and November/December of this year. The hiatus did not go well, as I wrote very few posts during that time and it was time lost in growing this blog!
Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?
Not really, however traffic is often very frustrating after having high-traffic tech blogs in the past and comparing the previous blogs to my current ones. You have to remind yourself that you’re comparing apples to oranges, the internet has changed, and it’s important to just keep plugging along writing good content that can benefit other dog guardians.
12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?
The Training Tips Tuesday Blog Hop is my biggest goal for the blog in 2014. I hope that I can inspire other folks to join in by writing useful content. I have a tentative plan to teach my dog a new trick each week, and post about how I trained him to do the behavior and a video of the result. I want to participate as much as I can in a Thursday Training blog hop, where I am planning to write longer posts on training and behavior. Just these two are pretty big goals for me, so if I achieve them I’ll be happy. A stretch goal is to write 4 posts per week, but if I handle those two posts per week everything else is gravy!