Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Pet Blogger Challenge: What I learned as a pet blogger this year

Popoki sitting on a free sample of dog food
When people talk to me about pet blogging, they often focus on the free sample side of things. They'd like to know how I get my mitts on cool things for free, and how much time it takes to build those vendor relationships (so they can do it, too).

While it's true that samples are a big perk of pet blog writing (and as Popoki demonstrates, free samples make great beds), running a successful blog means more than writing notes about cool products. There's quite a bit of work and networking involved. It's not something for the faint of heart.

So I was thrilled to find out about the 2016 Pet Blogger Challenge, hosted by GoPetFriendly.com. Every year, pet bloggers from all around the world are invited to share their stories, their successes and their hopes for the new year. We're given a set of questions, and we're all encouraged to answer honestly. For anyone hoping to pet blog, or for those hoping to make an existing blog better, this could be a cool resource. And it might help me to make my own blog a little better.

So here are my answers to the challenge questions.

1. What's your blog about, and how long have you been blogging?

For those of you new to the site, this pet blog has been up and running for 5 years. I do a mix of dog and cat, as the mood strikes. And my focus is pretty wide-ranging, in terms of pet topics I discuss.

2. What is one thing you accomplished in 2015, blog-wise, that you're proud of?

Boosted readership! I made some big gains this year, and I'm thrilled to see those numbers go up every month.

Meet the blogger
Meet your blogger! (And her pug.)

3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year, and why?

It's hard to pick a favorite, but I think the Picky Cat Challenge Results post was a winner. This cat, Troy, was new to me and he was a terrifically picky eater. I couldn't get him to eat hardly anything. I paired up with Weruva, and the company sent me a big case of different food to try. It was so fun to put all of these different foods down for him, and the chart of results I put together seemed pretty clever, if I do say so myself.

4. What's one thing you've done in the past year to boost traffic? 

I gave in and started boosting key posts on Facebook. Like many other people, I dislike the idea of paying the site to show content that should appear organically. But I can't argue with the results. Boosted posts do drive a lot more traffic.

5. Which of your posts got the most traffic, and why? 

Late in the year, my local animal shelter (of which I'm a member of the board) came under a reputation attack. I was furious, and I dashed off a blog post in response. That was, by far, the most popular post of the year. I think many people wanted to respond to that attack but just couldn't figure out what to say. I saw many people simply sharing it with no added comments. I'd like to think I helped them express what they couldn't or wouldn't say.

6. What's one blog you read religiously and why? 

I read tons of pet blogs every single day. But the one blog I read every day, first thing, is written by Moz. This Seattle-based SEO company describes web writing, social promotions, analytics and more in simple, down-to-Earth terms that anyone can understand. And I almost always walk away with something I could apply to my work, right now.

7. What resources do you rely upon to boost your skills?

See above. I may sound like a broken record, but Moz helps me in so many ways. In addition to reading the blog, I've been to the annual conference in Seattle twice, and I learned tons there.

8. What's the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?

Go to conferences. It's a great way to put your face in front of brands that want to meet you, and you'll also be given the priceless opportunity to meet other bloggers that can help you to learn, grow and improve. Plus, the samples are awesome! Here's Sinead at last year's BlogPaws with her swag bag. It was epic. 

Sinead at BlogPaws

9. What is your vision for your blog in 2016?

Right now, I'm in the midst of cleaning up old blog posts. When I got started with this blog, I really didn't have a set editorial voice, and some of my posts are just a touch on the thin side. I'm cleaning them up and spreading them out. I'm hoping to be done by the end of 2016. And, I'd also like to start a weekly opt-in e-mail newsletter. That should be unveiled very soon.

10. Is there a blogging challenge you'd like help with? 

To be honest, there isn't. But to all the pet bloggers out there, know that I am reading your pages and gleaning important lessons from the things you write. Watch for my questions in your comments!

Love this challenge? I thought you might. Join us!



29 comments:

  1. Loved your answers, thanks for sharing!
    We will be taking the challenge this weekend.

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    1. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

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  2. It seems I found you at the EXACT right time! I am already LOVING your writing and your tone, as well as your knowledge! Thank you for introducing me to Moz, just subscribed to them. I also want to thank you for your incredibly supportive and kind comment on my blog today....it meant A LOT! We are blogging almost the same amount of time, can't believe our paths haven't crossed til now, but I am thrilled that they did! catchatwithcarenandcody

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    1. It's so great to be connected! Here's hoping you like the Moz blog.

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  3. Great tips and advice and wonderful to get to know you a little better, Jean! I remember reading something on the Moz website a long time ago and somehow I forgot to bookmark it. I'm so glad you mentioned it and reminded me to check it out again.

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  4. Love reading your story and your tips. I haven't tried boosting key posts on Facebook yet, but I'm thinking of it. I also read Moz from time to time as well as Problogger, Blogelina and ByRegina.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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    1. I'll have to check out those resources. Thanks for the mention!

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  5. It's great that you're going back and touching up old posts. I need to do the same thing. But with 1300 posts so far, it's a pretty daunting job.

    Glad to meet you through the hop.

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    1. I have something like 700, and I still feel pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing. I can't imagine handling 1,300! Gah!

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  6. 5 years? And this is why the Pet Blogger Challenge is so great. It provides a great opportunity to discover new blogs that you never read before!

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    1. I know, right? But to be fair, prior to 2015, I really wasn't promoting this blog at all. It was more like a personal passion project. So if you haven't heard of me before, it's because I was flying under the Google radar!

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  7. Thanks for your tip on Moz. I'm absolutely going to check out the site.

    I have also started doing some boosts on Facebook. I don't like paying either, but you are right, it does make a difference.

    By the way, I am always looking for special needs adoptions to feature in The Specials. You mentioned in your comment that you have a few - please drop me a line at thedailypip(at)gmail(dot)com. if you would like to possibly have me feature one of their stories.

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  8. I'm with you on blogging conferences. And I'll add to that and say, go to ones outside of your niche too. If it's affordable, this is a great way to network without pressure, meet new people, and learn new things. I started doing this a couple of years ago and not only did I make a lot of new connections, but I built my authority in my own blog topic. :)

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  9. Thanks for sharing your year. It sounds as if you are on the right track to making 2016 a stellar year!

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    1. I really hope so! I blog for the fun of it, always, but it is also really rewarding to work on something that's successful.

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  10. I can't wait to see what 2016 brings for your blog! Good luck with cleaning up the old posts!

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    1. Thanks for that. It's a huge project, but I'm hoping to tackle it in small steps.

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  11. Thank you for sharing! We really enjoy your blog, and are looking forward to following along in 2016.

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    1. Thanks for the visit! I love making new friends.

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  12. I follow Moz too and love their whiteboard fridays. That's great that you are going back and touching up old posts. I'm planning on doing the same this year. All the best to you and your blog in 2016.

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    1. The whiteboard Fridays are always a real hoot. I learn a lot, but I also think the format is really entertaining.

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  13. Thanks so much for participating in the Pet Blogger Challenge, Jean! I was wondering how it's possible that I hadn't read your blog before now, but I saw in your comments that you were keeping it on the down-low until this year. I'm so glad you took the lid off, because your writing is great and I'm sure many people will be glad to find you.

    Cleaning up old posts is something I do as well, and then I re-share them on social media. If you're not re-sharing those older posts, I highly recommend that you do! It's a great way to convince Google that you have evergreen content that your audience finds useful, which will help boost your SEO.

    It's so nice to meet you - I hope that you have a fantastic 2016!

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    1. I do re-share some of the posts I'm touching up. I try to share them on Fridays, actually. But some are best unshared, honestly. I leave them there to show my progress as a blogger, but I'm not sure they deliver a ton of value. I was learning at the time.

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  14. Congrats on your boosted readership! That is always awesome! I hear you about the old posts. I'm right there with you. Good luck with your goals this year. Yours is a fun blog to read!

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    1. Thanks for the visit and the nice comment. Great to "meet" you!

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  15. Just discovering you through the challenge, and I'm so happy I did! Great advice. I'll be attending my first BlogPaws Conference this year, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Definitely going to check out Moz...first I've heard! And interesting take on the boosted post thing! I might just look into that!

    Great to "meet" you!

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  16. I used to work part-time at a pet store and Weruva cat food was really popular. I know how picky cats can be. Congrats on being around 5 years. That's a lot of work to put into something for so long )I know because I have been blogging for 5 yrs too) and I am glad to see it's paying off in your traffic.

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