Each year I like to reflect on what happened the previous year with the blog, and in our lives, and think about where we hope to go. You can read the end-of-year post I wrote last year HERE.
Our friends over at Go Pet Friendly remind me ever year to take this time to think about my achievements and goals. They put forth a number of thought-provoking questions to the blogging community. Many bloggers write blog posts and then we put them all in one location to make reading answers from each blogger easy to find. Click HERE if you want to see what’s been up with some of your other favorite bloggers (or discover a new one).
Looking Back on 2016
In 2016, this little blog turned 6 years old. My how time flies. I remember hiking the day after we adopted Gretel and seeing how much she liked it. I remember exclaiming to my husband that I was “going to start that blog about hiking with Chester and Gretel and call it “You Did What With Your Wiener?” like it was yesterday.
What started out as a simple way to share our hiking and camping adventures with friend and family has now turned into a full-time job that, along with some other things, has allowed me to be self employed. The blog has grown to become a place where I share tips and advice about hiking, and enjoying the outdoors, with small dogs. I still love sharing our personal stories too though.
A lot happened in 2016, both personally and for the blog.
As you may know, Gretel suffered a back injury earlier this year and was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD – a disease common in Dachshunds). I wondered if she would ever hike again and spent a lot of time sharing my advice about her condition and treatment for IVDD. Chester recently had surgery for an obstruction in his stomach and we discovered he’s been losing weight because he’s not absorbing nutrients, so his health is currently not the best it could be. Gretel is back to her old adventuring self and Chester is on the mend.
There have been happy times this year too. Gretel attended the summer Outdoor Retailer Show with me to check out the latest and greatest outdoor gear. She got better through rehab and is back to her old hiking shape. I brought on a second writer for the blog that loves Dachshunds and the outdoors as much as I do.
There were some highlights as far as blog posts go. The most popular blog post for me this year, ironically, wasn’t even related to hiking with dogs… or even Dachshunds. Old man Chester has been having more accidents in the house. I was getting super frustrated but them changed my perspective and figured out what to do when your old dog starts peeing in the house. My most popular post related to Dachshunds was 21 Things About Dachshunds Every Owner Should Know. The most popular posts related to hiking with dogs were 6 “Unknown” Dog Friendly Trails Near Seattle and A Cautionary Note About Harnesses and Active Dogs. The most popular one that falls smack dab in the middle of those two topics is my one about dog jackets that fit Dachshunds best. Probably my favorite one to write though was about my dog friendly glamping adventure with Gretel on the Washington coast.
One of the questions I’m supposed to answer is: What is one thing your readers don’t know about you or your pets that would surprise them?
I feel like I share so much on this blog about Chester and Gretel that there is not much that’s “surprising” about them. Maybe their size? I know it’s silly but it’s hard to tell their exact size from photos. I get several questions a year about how big they are when readers want to buy the jacket or harness we use. Chester is 13 lbs and 14.5 inches long from shoulder blades to the base of his tail. Gretel is 11 lbs and about 13.5 inches long.
So what might you find surprising about me? That I actually want to share? Ha, ha. I’m not sure. Here are a few, quick facts though:
- I grew up in Western Washington and have lived here my whole life
- My parents weren’t into the outdoors, and I didn’t hang out with the kids in high school who went to the woods to drink, so I had NO CLUE that I lived within 30 minutes of Olympic National Park until I was out of high school.
- My hiking career started 20 years ago when I took a “Hiking 101” class in college (I’m dating myself a bit here but I didn’t go to college right out of high school).
- My undergraduate degree is in Environmental Geology. My masters degree is completely opposite of that – Communication in Digital Media.
I have a lot of plans for the blog in the new year. Now that I have help getting my thoughts onto “paper” (published on the blog), I’m making a goal to publish a blog post twice a week. That was actually a goal last year and it didn’t happen so we’ll see. There’s no shame in re-comitting and trying again 🙂 I think it will be easier this summer though because Gretel and I will be hiking and camping a lot… because I’m writing a book! I’ll be writing a guide book for dog friendly hikes in Washington and we’ll have to hike a lot for research. I plan to publish parts of the book – my trip notes in a sense – on my blog as we go. In the end, I’ll pull all of those articles together, edit them, and add more information to “beef it up” for the final draft of the book.
For those that are interested, I will now share a slice of what it’s like to be a blogger – the work we put in and the things we think about.
As a bloggers, our primary goal is to share our experiences and knowledge with people. One way you gauge whether you are “successful” at that or not is by the number of people who visit your blog a day to read your articles. Therefore, since our goal is to reach more people so we can help more, the numbers matter. Personally, I check how many pageviews I’ve received at the end of every day.
I’m always trying to figure out how to get more people to my blog. That took a back seat this year to dealing with Gretel and Chester’s medical conditions. Still, over 90,000 more people visited my blog this year (25% more than last year) and people read almost 140,000 (25%) more articles than in 2015. Honestly, I think a lot of that has to do with how long my blog has been around. The longer your articles are around and being indexed by Google, the more likely they are to rank higher in the search results. A higher search results ranking means people are more likely to read one of your articles.
It’s not like I haven’t made ANY efforts though this year so I guess I should give myself some credit. I wrote more articles this year. I think what made the biggest difference though was focusing on creating blog post images optimized for Pinterest and going back to old post to update the Pinterest images and SEO. Pinterest has become my primary social media referrer.
Another question I’m supposed to answer is: What is something you’ve learned this year that could help other bloggers?
The answer is, “I’m not sure?” I guess. I’m constantly learning and those things just become a part of me… of what I do… so I almost forget that I learned them… or at least when I learned them. I guess you could say learning is my hobby. I’m a voracious consumer of information. I guess that leads me to the most important thing I learned this year about myself.
I realized that I spend too much time learning and researching instead of doing. I would read, take classes, and attend conferences always hoping to find that “golden key” that would unlock my door to success. While I did learn some great nuggets of information here and there, I was mostly spending a lot of money and time confirming what I already knew.
Now, of course I need to learn about a thing so I can do it. There had to be a point on that journey where I knew enough to start doing though. I learned is that I need to spend more time taking action – that I shouldn’t let the fear of “not knowing enough” or “looking stupid” hold me back from moving forward.
The truth is, after a certain point, the things one needs to learn will only be discovered through trial and error – from actual experience, not a book or “how to” article. I don’t think I am alone in this so that is what I learned this year that I think could help other bloggers – learn about something until you feel you have a decent handle on it and then go out and make stuff happen. People don’t become famous, or ones to look up to, by following in the footsteps of many others.
I look forward to reading what my blogging friends write about their 2016. I’m curious what trends they see emerging, given how social media and blogging is evolving.