Today is the day of the 2014 Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by GoPetFriendly and Will My Dog Hate Me It’s the time pet bloggers answer some questions to see how far we’ve come and make some plans for where we’re going. It’s also a chance for our readers to learn a little more about our blog.
Without further adieu, here are my answers:
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 have always hiked with my now 11 year old Dachshund Chester but started blogging about our adventures when we added Gretel to our family. As soon as I realized she loved to hike just as much, I knew it wasn’t a fluke…small dogs could hike and loved it! We’ve been sharing our stories for the past 3 years to break the stereotypes of small dogs (they are capable of much more than most people give them credit for), promote fitness for you and your pooch, and share tips, reviews and the beautiful places we go.
2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.
Oh, geez. The years seem to blend together. I think it was this past year when I redesigned by blog. I am much happier with the layout and design now.
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 feel that things became clearer for me last year and I have hit my stride. I feel like I need to worry less about blog stats now. Worrying less about the details, and having a better idea about where my blog is going, allows me to concentrate more on creating quality content and getting my message out.
The frequency of posts has changed for me too. I started out 2013 posting 5 days a week but now I only blog 2 or 3 days a week on average. I started graduate school a few months ago (a move inspired by this blog) that that really cuts into my blogging time so I was forced to cut down.
4. (a) What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites? (b) If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Hmmmmm…….I think I continue to learn that in order to stand out you need a niche – something that you alone (or at least mostly alone) do well. However, I learned from my own experience that having too specific of a niche will appeal to a lot less people and can limit your blog’s potential. “Niche” is more about discussing common issues that people can relate to through your own unique lens or cause.
I have a hard time coming up with a challenge I could ask the blogging community for help with. It’s not because I don’t face challenges and have a lot of questions. It’s that I address them as they come up through the BlogPaws pet blogger community. It’s such a great resource and everyone is so supportive and helpful.
5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
Really, writing great content is THE key. Without that, people will not come to your blog, or become regular readers, no matter how much you promote it. However, AFTER great content, promoting my blog posts on social media has been one the best ways to bring traffic to my blog. Something I have gotten better at this year is SEO too. I still don’t go overboard with keywords but I look at what search terms people are using that lands them on my blog and try to weave more of those keywords in where I can (well, the ones that I WANT people to know my blog for anyway).
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?
Yikes. Too much. And not enough. I could certainly be more efficient and effective with my time. I loosely tracked the time spent on blog-related activities for about a month. Here was the result.
7. (a) How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience? (b) 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?
Well, I think to some extent, if you write about what you love and what interests you the right audience will show up. The key to keeping them interested is to give them new information and to occasionally add new topics while not making changes that are drastic or too far away from your niche. I keep an eye on blog traffic to make sure I am not turning a large number of people off.
I let go of a feature or theme when the joy is gone for me. When I am no longer interested and it feels like too much work, it is time to move on for me. I think a blog is ever evolving and you can’t make room for something new or great if you are holding onto things that no longer help you reach your goals or don’t inspire you.
8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?
I am more likely to comment when there is something I can relate to. Also, giving me food for thought, a tip or advice or sharing a fun story inspires me to comment. I would comment on more blogs if I had the time but if I feel like I am reaching for something to comment on I will most likely read and move on.
On a related note, if I have to spend too much time searching for a post (like when I visit a hop a few days after and click on a link that takes me to a blog’s home page instead of the hop-themed post) or completing a captcha, I give up and move on.
9. (a) Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways? (b) If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all? (c) If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?
Yes, I do product reviews. I do a lot less than I used to though. I was bombarded with requests from general products or services and realized that they take a lot of time. My readers are not really interested in things not related to being active with your dog and cookie cutter reviews so I have gotten more creative and in-depth with them…which takes even MORE time. Because of the time involved, I found I couldn’t continue to write them unless I was compensated for my time. I charge for reviews now and am more selective about what I share with my readers.
In truth, asking to be compensated for my reviews or product features has cut down on requests. However, the requests I do get are for products more relevant to my blog. The reviews I get passed over for allow me to spend more time creating my own content and spreading my message. It’s a win-win situation for me.
10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?
Hiking! Unfortunately, I can’t hike every day though so I need to come up with other things I can do at or close to home. Shopping actually helps me a lot. It doesn’t have to involve spending money but I like to go to the local upper-end, outdoor mall and wander around the shops for a couple of hours. I also like to unplug for a couple of hours and play with Chester and Gretel without worrying about creating blog material.
11. (a) Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go? (b) Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?
Yes, I have taken a break from my blog. I have taken a break for a couple of weeks here and there. The longest break was a month.
Honestly? Yes, I have thought about quitting my blog several times in the last year. For the first two years I was really dedicated and spent 30 to 40 hours a week blogging. Now I am in graduate school, ironically inspired by this blog, and I am rehabilitating my back to relieve chronic, debilitating pain so I have less time to spend on it. In truth, my priorities have changed. I enjoy the occasional adventure where I can just go and not have to worry about an “angle” for the blog or take tons of pictures. However, I really do love sharing our stories, inspiring people and keeping in touch with the friends I have made along the way (both fellow bloggers and fans). There may come a day when I move on but right now I have no plans to quit.
12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?
I love being a pet blogger but I am an outdoor adventure blogger at heart too. I want to be able to speak to both sides of myself so I plan to include some more human and outdoor focused posts in 2014. I am going share hiking tips for both dogs AND pet parents. I want to take the product reviews beyond those for dogs (although that will be the majority of them) to things like backpacks, shoes, clothes and gear for people (of course, it will always be through the view of a pet parent).
I am also going to talk a little more about the grand adventures of other hiking dogs (not just Dachshunds, and of all sizes) and start a new Twitter chat, #AdventureDogChat.