“Time flies when you’re having fun!” When I was a kid, I thought I knew what that saying meant … birthday parties were over in the blink of an eye, summer vacations dissolved in an instant. But, as I get older I realize that time seems to be accelerating at an increasingly alarming speed. Here we are, at the beginning of 2015, for the Fifth Pet Blogger Challenge. I’m grateful to be here. And I’m grateful for the familiar faces and the new faces that are joining us for today’s event. We each have a fresh 365 days in front of us … let’s take this opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and set our intentions, so we charge off into the new year heading in the right direction.
If this is the first you’ve heard of the Pet Blogger Challenge and you’d like to participate, you can find all the details and the questions in this post.
This Year’s Questions:
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.
We started Take Paws 5 1/2 years ago as a way to promote our pet travel website, GoPetFriendly.com, and to inspire other people to travel with their pets. The blog compliments our database of pet friendly locations by providing our readers with information on pet friendly vacation destinations, tips for making their trips go smoothly, and the chance to learn from our mistakes.
2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.
I’m proud to be here writing content that is helping people travel with their pets. I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to receive a note from someone who’s decided to take their furry family member along on vacation because something I’ve written has given them the confidence to try.
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?
The biggest lesson I learned this year is to believe in myself. I’ve always had a vision of what I wanted GoPetFriendly.com to be, but it wasn’t until the past year that I actually saw progress toward those goals. Many times over the past six years I’ve wondered if I was enough, if my idea was worthwhile, if I was ever going to be successful. Those insecurities kept me from making the connections I needed to move to the next level. This year, something changed. I started asking, and people said yes. Now we’re on the threshold of some very exciting times.
4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
My answer to this question last year was to leverage social media, and that is still a major component of my strategy to increase blog traffic. Facebook is still my most successful social media platform, with Twitter coming in second, but I’ve seen a big jump in Pinterest, and I’ll be spending more time developing that area this year.
The other strategy I’ve used to increase blog traffic is to write evergreen content that answers an important question and stays relevant for a long time. Then, keep promoting that content on social media.
5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?
My most popular blog post in 2014 was, The Six Pet Friendly Hotel Chains Where Pets Stay Free. What surprised me is that this post was written in 2012 and received little traffic in 2013. In 2014, I re-promoted the post, tweeted it every month, and included it on one of my Pinterest boards … and the page views jumped by 928%!
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?
The blog post I enjoyed writing most this year was, Low Clearance. It’s about the craziest, mixed up, near-disaster-of-a-day that we’ve had since we started traveling. But, everything turned out alright, Rod and I kept our heads and, looking back, it was almost too ridiculous to be true!
7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?
I made a decision a couple years ago not to do product reviews and giveaways on the blog without being fairly compensated for my time, and I don’t expect that to ever change. Now when companies ask me to promote their products without compensation, I offer them the opportunity to be featured in the “Something for Nothing” section of my newsletter.
If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?
For product reviews, I find that only writing about products that I really enjoy works best for me. I think my audience appreciates learning about pet travel gadgets and gear that could make traveling easier for them, but if I’m not excited about it, why should they be?
Writing a negative review is something that I absolutely won’t do. Bashing a product or company publicly doesn’t fit with my brand image, so those opinions are something I’d only share privately.
8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?
Write from your heart about things you love. Passion is contagious, so people will be excited to read your posts. But more importantly, life’s too short to spend time writing about things you don’t care about. If you can’t think of anything you’re itching to write about, step away from the computer and come back when you have something you’re just bursting to share!
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?
My goal in 2015 is to help even more people have fun traveling with their pets! That means expanding my skills to better connect with our audience, finding new ways to promote the blog and website, and exploring different avenues to reach the pet travel community.
10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
When you do something every day, it becomes automatic and you don’t think about it anymore. Imagine having to explain to someone how you brush your teeth … when’s the last time you actually thought about it? You just put it on automatic pilot and … shazam … it’s done!
After traveling full-time for almost five years, it’s becoming second nature and we’re failing to see some of the things that we used to consider challenges. The thing I’d love help with is to be reminded of the questions people have and the challenges they see when they start planning a pet friendly vacation. Please, leave a comment below and let me know what information you’d find helpful in planning a trip with your pets.
And, that’s a wrap on the 2015 Pet Blogger Challenge! Many thanks to all of you for making 2014 a success for Take Paws and to all the bloggers participating today! I hope you’ll enjoy hopping through the rest of these posts as much as I will!