Welcome to the sixth annual Pet Blogger Challenge! Before charging ahead, I want you to know how grateful I am that you’re here. Hosting this fun and enlightening event each year is an honor – I learn so much, meet so many fantastic people, and appreciate the opportunity to get to know you on a deeper level.
This is a beautiful community – always willing to help each other, offer encouragement and advice, and share what we’ve learned. Once each each year we take a step back from our normal blog topics to celebrate our accomplishments, reveal the dreams we have for our blogs, layout our plans, and ask for help. It sounds a little daunting, but the comments you’ll receive from your fellow bloggers come from the heart – from people who truly want to see you meet your goals and achieve your dreams. It’s why I love this event, and this community.
So, without further ado … let’s get on with the Pet Blogger Challenge!
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.
1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone who is visiting for the first time, please give a quick description of the subject of your blog.
We started Take Paws 6 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 travel mistakes.
2. What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud?
I was delighted to be invited to speak at PetSittingOlogy’s national conference in Las Vegas on the topic of branding. Being recognized for the effort I’ve made in building the GoPetFriendly.com brand felt fantastic, and the participants seemed to appreciate the advice and insights in my presentation. It was another chance to connect with some wonderful people and was one of the highlights of my year.
3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)
My favorite post of the year was A Letter of Gratitude to My Dog on His Birthday. Most of the posts I write are informational – after all, my blog is a resource for advice, information about pet friendly destinations, and tips people can use when traveling with their pets. But for Buster’s birthday, I wanted to write a post from my heart. If he hadn’t wandered into our cul-du-sac there would be no GoPetFriendly.com, and I’d still be an accountant, sitting at my desk in Philadelphia. Remembering our early days with him, the challenges we’ve overcome, and expressing the joy he’s brought us was the perfect way for me to celebrate his birthday.
4. A common theme from last year’s challenge was that many of us wanted to increase the size of our audiences. Whether or not we intend to monetize our blogs, it seems we’d all like to reach more people. It feels good to know that we’re connecting with others, sharing a laugh or supporting a cause, and it’s motivating to see those numbers grow! What is one thing you’ve done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog?
Getting involved on Pinterest has had a huge impact on the traffic to my blog this year. To attract attention, I create a Pinterest-optimized image for each post – and while I’m at it, I create a second image that is a good size to share on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to those descriptive images, the combination of new readers visiting from Pinterest and the additional traffic visiting from Facebook and Twitter has been fantastic!
5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular? (Please include a link.)
The post that got the most traffic this year was The 6 Pet Friendly Hotels Where Pets Stay Free. I wrote this post in 2012, and updated it in 2015 to ensure all the information was current, since it still gets a lot of traffic. The reason I think this post is so popular is that it answers a question that a lot of people are searching on the Internet.
6. What is one blog that you read religiously – other than your own – and what makes you such a devoted reader? (Please include a link.)
So, the truth is, I don’t read anything religiously. It’s just not the kind of person I am. I’m a grazer, taking in a bit here and a bit there, and predicting what will grab my attention on any given day is anyone’s guess. I think that’s why my blog fits me so well – most of my readers are also grazers. They’re stopping by for specific information, or because they saw a title that happened to peak their curiosity. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
7. What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog?
I’m hopeless when it comes the the technological aspects of my blog (and it’s not something I enjoy) so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to improve those skills. It’s not in my wheelhouse, and I’m willing to accept that.
Writing, photography, and social media are all much more interesting to me. To improve my writing, I spend a lot of time reading a variety of authors – from Willa Cather, to Kristin Hannah, to Matt Licata. The way they use language, imagery, and tone seeps into my brain and makes me better.
My photography skills got a jump-start with some courses I took through a camera store in Austin. From there, I’ve made it a habit to follow some great photographers on social media and study their photos. I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram, and from there it’s just getting out with the camera to practice.
The things I learn from social media also come from watching what’s working for people who are implementing successful strategies. Things change so quickly on social media that what you read today may be out of date tomorrow. The only way I’ve found to stay on top of it is through trial and error, and keeping an eye on what’s working for other people.
8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?
Don’t let blogging turn into a chore. We’re trading time that we could be spending with our families, our pets, our friends – and life is too short to spend our free time doing things that we’re not enjoying. If you’re churning out another post because you feel like you “have” to, it’s time to take a look at things. Don’t be afraid to shake things up – shift the focus of your blog, change up your posting schedule, or try adding a series about something you love, even if it’s off topic. Take risks and don’t be afraid – the audience that you resonate with will find you.
9. What is your vision for your blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals?
I’m actually hoping to blog less in 2016. The business side of GoPetFriendly.com is requiring more of my attention, so I’m hoping that this year I’ll be able to begin moving into more of an editorial role on the blog. My goal is that by the end of 2016, I’m writing half the posts myself and have contributing bloggers who travel with their pets authoring the other half of the posts.
10. You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there one blogging challenge you’d like help with, or one aspect of your blog that you’d like input on?
I want to write a book. If any of you have advice for someone who’s never written a book before, please dish! I have no idea where to start, and I’m all ears.
And, that’s a wrap on the 2016 Pet Blogger Challenge! Many thanks to all of you for making 2015 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!