Emmett changed my life.
If you’ve been around this community for any length of time, you already know that, but it bears repeating: A dog can change your life if you’re open to the possibility.
He started me on this journey, and without Emmett, this space wouldn’t exist. These words wouldn’t exist. That’s pretty amazing.
I think it’s vital to look backwards to move forwards, so each year I’ve participated in the annual pet blogger’s challenge, which this year morphed into this, Pet Bloggers Journey. If you’d like to participate, you’ll find all the info in this post from our friend Colby at puppyintraining.com who graciously hosted this year’s blog hop.
I’ll circle back around to Em in a bit, but without further preamble, here are my answers to this year’s questions with an emphasis on where this site is headed.
Pet Bloggers Journey 2020
When did you begin your blog? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.
I started 10 years ago. A little more than 10, actually. That’s really hard to believe, to be honest. Where does the time go? My tagline sums up my blog content: obsessed with dogs. Since its inception, though, I’ll note that I’ve lost the two original dogs who helped me launch this space–Emmett and Lucas–and added two cats and two kids to the crew, so the content does often feature cats… and the occasional kid appearance. We’re still obsessed with dogs, but I think there’s been a natural evolution over the last decade–which I look at as a good thing, because if you don’t change in 10 years, you’re doing something wrong!
Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2019, that made you most proud.
Tying into the evolution I mentioned above, becoming more involved in the Cat Writers’ Association and writing posts that I hope help multi-species households coexist peacefully. The icing on the cake was that I actually won the Fear Free award at the annual CWA meeting for a post that checked those peaceful, happy pets boxes!
(And though it’s not directly related to this space, I have to add: I am SO PROUD that Carol Bryant and I released our book in 2019, Pet Blogging for Love and Money!!)
Which of your 2019 blog posts was your favorite and why? (Please include a link.)
I wrote less in 2019 than ever before–between 1 and 4 posts per month–because of a million life interruptions, but I think the post I’m most proud of was the first one I wrote in 2019 about removing barriers to pet adoption. You can find it here. It’s a topic that’s so close to my heart and one I feel is extremely misunderstood. Oddly, it got a ton of support on the blog and on Instagram but a TON of anger on Facebook. ::insert shrug emoji here:: I’m also super pumped because this post is up for an award at the upcoming Dog Writers Association of America banquet, so fingers crossed!
What was the biggest blogging challenge you faced in 2019, and how did you tackle it?
This was a challenging year. I ended up with a bunch of injuries–a pinched nerve in my lower back in February, a sprained ankle (both SO HARD with a 2-year-old) in April immediately after recovering from the back thing, a perforated appendix in August/September that landed me in the hospital, etc.–and ended the year with the sudden and wonderful birth of baby Astrid (who I realize I never formally introduced here, so stay tuned) and a 9-day stint in the NICU in November. My biggest challenge in 2019 was just taking one step forward day after day. I didn’t skip any months altogether, but during the most difficult months–when I was in the hospital for my appendix and then when I was in the hospital with Astrid–I only managed one post. While there were moments throughout the year when I was frustrated (I am a truly TERRIBLE injured/sick person because I refuse to ever believe there’s anything wrong with me and John has to wrestle me to take basic care of myself… and I know this, but I can’t do anything about it… he could tell you some stories, that’s for sure), so while I occasionally felt frustrated, none of it was in my control. All that said, my biggest blogging challenge in 2019 was time, but I did the best I could, so I’m totally OK with that.
One goal that we all seem to share is we want to reach more people. What is your #1 tip for bringing more traffic to your blog?
Write well. I say this over and over and over again. I’d shout it from the rooftops if given the opportunity. Write well. That’s it. Be helpful, tell good stories, be clear, proofread. Every single SEO strategy or social media tactic or ideal posting time on Facebook or blah blah blah will only help you so much. Then, the landscape changes, and if you’re reliant upon those tips and tricks to get you traffic, well, you’re constantly having to change gears. Focus on the work. Focus on the writing (or photography if that’s your thing). Write well. Seriously. And, btw, if you want some technical info to back that up, here’s the thing: Google’s AI is becoming soooo smart. No longer do we need to think about exact keywords because “search intent” is here and it’s real. If you write well, the people who are looking for the information you’re sharing will find it because Google is starting to really understand, first, what people are really looking for and, second, what you’re really saying in your work. Write well.
Do you do sponsored posts/reviews? If so, what do you find works best and how do you determine what to charge for a blog post, social media shares, etc.? If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?
I do some but not many. It has to be a perfect match for me and my family in order for me to justify writing about it. I’m not going to promote something just for the sake of money. That said, I do utilize affiliate links for anything I mention because why not? As for pricing, I think the smartest move is to never, ever, ever just quote a price. Don’t post one of your site or media kit either. Instead, I rely on a conversation with the brand that goes something like this: “What are your goals and your budget for this project? I’d like to put together a proposal tailored to meet your needs.” That way, I know what they expect to spend and can offer something that I think is a fair exchange.
Looking forward to 2020, if you accomplish only one thing through your blog, what do you hope it is?
This year I’m writing another book. However, it’s not a business book like Pet Blogging. Instead, it’s narrative nonfiction, my sweet spot, bringing together the stories I’ve told here and those that I haven’t around a central theme: Dogs teach us what it means to be human. And the whole thing starts with Emmett. I’ve written about 15,000 words already (aiming for around 75k) that are super rough and not quite fully following that thread yet, but I’m on my way. This ties into the blog because I plan to work out/work on some of the material through posts woven throughout the year. I feel like comments and feedback will help me refine my work (or, you know, send me into a spiral of panic and self-doubt, but #writinglife).
What steps are you planning to take to ensure you reach your goal?
I set a goal of writing 300 words per day until I hit the 75k. I’ve missed a few days, but I’ve also written more on many of the days. I think it’ll balance out, but by stating it here, you all can keep me accountable! If I’m puttering on Instagram, feel free to call me out: “Did you write your words today?!?!” 🙂
The blogging landscape is constantly changing. What changes in blogging do you see coming in 2020 and beyond? What plans do you have to evolve?
I think readers expect more from blogs than ever before. Blogs need to be useful, to answer questions, to entertain. For bloggers who want to tell stories and keep things light, that’s awesome! I hope they feel empowered to do so! However, from the perspective of everyone’s two audiences–Google and people–blogs that want to operate like a business need to focus on providing valuable, high-quality content to stay relevant and profitable. For me, I’m striving to write detailed posts that answer questions I get a lot (examples: golden paste, teach your dog to come, veggies for dogs) with a mix of lighter posts that hopefully spark a conversation (examples: what I wish you knew about my reactive dog, the five love languages of dogs).
If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
I’m burnt out on social media. Just plain fried. I’m spending, according to the app, a max of six minutes per day on Facebook, and that still feels like too much to me! 🙂 In all seriousness, this year I decided to invest in CoSchedule (that’s an affiliate link) so that I could post more consistently on social without having to spend a big amount of time on the platforms. I don’t think it’s going to serve me super well with Pinterest, but I had a year-long subscription to Tailwind and never really felt like I got my money’s worth. All that said: How do YOU manage your social media? How much time to do you spend on each channel, and–most importantly–is there a return on that time investment??
Welp. Once again I just about hit 2000 words on this post, so if you made it this far, you deserve a medal. I’m so grateful to Colby for picking up this challenge, and I’m SO GLAD he called it a “journey” because that’s exactly what this is… a long and winding road.
I can’t wait to read everyone else’s responses. If you’re a blogger and want to participate, or if you want to compare notes, check out the Linky below. Thanks, friends, for sticking with me for all these years. I am deeply grateful for you, your pets, and your time that you share in this space.