For the fifth year in a row, GoPetFriendly’s Blog has hosted the Pet Blogger Challenge. I participated in 2014 and 2013, and it’s somewhat exciting to look back at what I wrote. And, you know, see if I accomplished any of that stuff and whether what I wrote last year impact what I plan to do in the future.
I think it does.
I have decided to adjust my websites. I have a couple of new ones which affords the flexibility to do so. I’m excited to say the following:
- DOGthusiast: for dog enthusiasts is dedicated to writing opinion pieces about dogs, answer the odd question, and the occasional illustrated story.
- Internet of Dog things: focuses on dog products (gadgets and “stuff” but not food), and fun viral dog things (videos and photos). Short, timely dog news and “things”.
- Professional Pet Blogging: If you’re a blogger, this site will help you learn more about the tech, tools, and techniques of blogging and social media.
- Stylish Canine‘s blog: No clue. But maybe I’ll do something with it next year. I will say I am actively rebuilding the site right now, so I have to get that finished first… whew. Knowing that I had to move the entire site (and no way to move that content properly) caused me to abandon the blog after just starting it. Sad, but had to be done or I’d be wasting cycles.
- FoundPixel: Current blog content (on my design/web consulting website) will be moved to the Pro Pet Blogging site, and the remaining blog will aggregate from there.
Enough web sites? Yeah, probably good for now :)
My answers for the 2015 Pet Blogger Challenge
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 have made websites since 2000, blogging since around 2002, and writing on DOGthusiast since 2010. I didn’t start blogging on this particular site regularly until this year.
DOGthusiast, until recently, has been about active dogs, adventures, training, and behavior. I am adjusting the site going forward to be more about opinions on current discussions, mostly around dog health and training/behavior. I also plan to write on “life with dogs” more (illustrated stories, opinion pieces on current discussions, and so on).
2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.
Complete redesign of DOGthusiast and Stylish Canine, and the creation of a few new sites. While running a few businesses.
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?
That blogging regularly doesn’t always mean a lot of growth even with everything done “by the books”. It’s a very different internet for a site owner than just five years ago. And completely different than 12 years ago. But the biggest lesson I learned was that the site redesign immediately meant an increase in inquiries for advertising and sponsored posts, giveaways, and guest posts.
4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
Writing about a topic that people search for, and have them actually find/click on it. So, research and SEO.
At that point, the content also has to sound interesting or useful.
Finally, there’s the question of what kind of traffic do you want? If you want to gain affiliate sales or sales for your sponsors (or your own stuff), it’s much easier to convert people who find your site using search. You want the person with the credit card in their hand, not in their purse. Social traffic is taking their dog for a walk, not driving to the pet store. From what I’ve experienced, it’s very hard to get conversions from your regular audience unless perhaps the product is incredibly unique.
5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?
Traffic wise, it was the article about the passing of Dr. Sophia Yin, but it was because people were searching for information regarding her passing.
I have to laugh a little, because my top searches come in about “low maintenance dogs” when I re-niched to have an “active dog” blog. Little bit of a sigh on that one! At least it’s training related, I guess!
Other than that, it is the What I Learned from Losing my Dog article (written in 2010) as it comes up in search results for very sad searches. The next most popular was an article I wrote this year about an alternative way to cut/file your dog’s nails, using a file board. I’m glad people are finding this article as it was a major relief to find a way we could address Mort’s nails without sedation or… a strait jacket or something. I can barely describe how terrified he is of anything to do with his nails, and long periods of desensitization did not address the problem. The next most popular was an article I wrote about peritonitis, which I talk about next!
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?
Mort’s near death from peritonitis. The reason is I think it is important information to share, as many people don’t realize that feeding recreational (or consumable) raw bones can cause a bowl perforation. In fact, many sites claim that raw bones do not perforate bowels… and they most certainly can, and simply “supervising” the feeding will definitely not keep your dog safe from this as is sometimes insinuated.
I watched Mort eat this bone, never realized he chewed off a fragment of a very commonly utilized type of recreation bone (as any dog could do), and he nearly died as a result. I don’t blame raw feeders for continuing to feed raw bones – go for it, they are great – but just need to be aware this is a small possibility.
So this, and a couple other posts, were the inspiration on adjusting the content on the blog to contain more posts like these. Think of DOGthusiast PSAs or… “here’s what Jen thinks about this thing.” I know, I know. If traffic tanks, so be it, I’ll have my little soapbox in the desert I guess :)
7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?
Yes! I am moving all reviews and giveaways to InternetOfDogThings.com. Many of the reviews and giveaways will be much shorter in length, depending on what is being reviewed and the sponsor, but I do plan to continue them on the other site. I want to focus more on video reviews as well. Mort’s favorite thing in the world is being a toy reviewer, and it’s aaaaaall about him you know! (Tongue planted firmly in cheek)
If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?
I like to break down the parts of the review into sections, and use bullet points when necessary. And of course include lots of photos. I try to think of what works for me, what I like to see in a review when I’m considering purchasing a product. I can’t say too well if it doesn’t work because I’ve never really experienced anything flying off the shelf after reviewing it (of the things I can track). Although I can say that a few reviews have ended up right near the top of a search, pretty happy with that. Not sure if they end up selling, but I do know people are finding the review at least.
8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?
If you want to turn your blog into a business, which is really not the only or even best option just one option, it’s really important to treat it like one. You will need to invest in it in at least one of the following two ways:
In other words, you have to learn about blogging and business and invest your time (sweat) into the education and implementation. Or you have to hire someone to do this, and/or teach you. It’s really important to realize that most successful businesses require some kind of investment before you start making money, so be prepared for that if you want to push it beyond a hobby.
Try different things, and don’t be afraid to quit or adjust what doesn’t work. Adjusting course is what good businesses do. It doesn’t always work the way people or sites say it does, so don’t be afraid to chalk it up to experience and move onto the next thing. That “10 things to grow your traffic” article won’t always be accurate, or accurate for your specific business. If it doesn’t work, move on, adjust course, but always remember to do what’s right for you.
And lastly, make sure to follow through with what’s promised when working with sponsors even if the trade is product or service. It’s still compensation (and what was agreed to, etc), to both the sponsor and the FTC. Honor the verbal or email agreement – it’s good karma, and what we expect of our sponsors as bloggers too! Make sure that you only promise what you can or are willing to do, and then you have the option of exceeding that goal. That will lead to more relationships, and better ones, I feel.
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?
Writing on all of the different websites mentioned previously, quite frankly. But I absolutely want to stick to my guns for at least six months and see what happens before adjusting course.
10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Topic choice, basically. What do you want to see the most of on this blog?
And for ProPetBlogging.com, what do you most want to learn about WordPress and blogging.