Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

A whole year has gone by since the last Pet Blogger Challenge (kindly hosted by GoPetFriendly.com and Will My Dog Hate Me). I enjoy having a formalised way to summarise our experiences over the last year, and hopefully you find it enjoyable to read, too.

Amazingly, this is actually our third Pet Blogger Challenge.  We participated last year, in 2013, and the year before, when we were very new to blogging, in 2012.

Most of all, I love connecting with a new lot of bloggers each year – finding new blogs to follow and getting all enthused about blogging.

Without further ado: The questions!

 

1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

It seems crazy to say that this blog has been going for 4 years now. It certainly doesn’t feel like that long – I still enjoy the blogging experience, and I feel proud of this blog’s content.

I started blogging simply because I think a lot about dogs, and wanted to structure and share these thoughts with the wider community. I also have a big interest in dog science, and wanted to share some evidence based conclusions on this blog, too. I find the dog world is a bit bogged down with myths and anecdotal evidence, and that just doesn’t wash with me.

As for a quick description of Some Thoughts About Dogs: We love dog science, but we feel compelled to write about dog politics more often than not, and sometimes we can’t help but share more personal stories and thoughts.

 

2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

One of my blogging goals last year was to recommit to the dog-research focus we originally strived for. However, looking back over the year, I only posted about four dog-research posts (and one of them was a guest post), which is a bit sad. One of the downsides of research blogging is that I often read research articles, and they end up not being very interesting, so do not make it to the blog.

That being said, many of the political posts I make, including submissions to government, are very research based, and involve a lot of references – so arguably, the evidence-based approach still runs true.

However, for 2013, what I would be most proud of is my post ‘How to save a swimmer puppy‘ and its success in Google rankings and its hits. When I had a swimmer puppy back in 2010, many websites online suggested euthanasia of swimmer puppies, which I knew wasn’t the only option. So, I am proud of my swimmer puppy post because I’m hoping that its view rate means that a number of puppies have been saved from alternative fates.

 

3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

My employment status has changed in the last 12 months, and is likely to change my blogging.  I am now working more, and working in a non-dog job, which is likely to change the availability I have to blog, and the content that comes to me.  That being said, I have recently launched my own dog training business (Dog Consultancy) and so I am likely to be blogging on dog training matters a little bit more.

 

4. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites? If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

This is a difficult question, but for other bloggers, I’d mostly encourage other blogs to follow many blogs in order to see plenty of content, which will hopefully inspire you for your own blog. I know that after having a read a few blog posts I am normally a little jazzed up to get going on my own blog.

I would like more traffic on my blog, but I also know I’ve been a bit lazy in blogging and in promotion this year – so while lack of traffic might be a ‘challenge’, it’s a self-inflicted challenge that I can’t complain too much about before I make a better effort!

 

5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

Commenting on other blogs! The pet blogging community has a very good reciprocal commenting thing going on, where (generally) if you comment on a blog, they’ll comment back.

Also, according to Google Analytics, some of my puppy posts seem to be a little bit popular, and it seems they get shared on forums a lot… So make posts like that?

 

6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?

Like, no time of late! So I can only spend more time from here.

 

7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience? How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

With difficulty. My blog gets about 100-200 hits a day, but then I get very few comments or interactions on my blog, and everyone knows that’s the stuff that bloggers live off.

I almost don’t really care at the moment. I just want to produce content I’m proud of and that hopefully holds relevance over time. I’m not very interested in my audience right now. Maybe I’ve just become disheartened as I’ve tried to create an audience, and failed.

I stop blogging on a feature or theme when I’ve finished! Otherwise I feel like it’s an incomplete book.

 

8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

I often comment when I disagree with something, or if it’s content that makes me think, or if it describes something in a way that is more powerful than I’ve read before.

 

9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?

If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?

Yes, I’ve reviewed a few products and a few books. I find products really hard to review, as I’m a rather simple kind of dog owner, and so many products are just things that wouldn’t interest me. That being said, I have dogs that are hard on toys, so I enjoy showing how pathetic some toys are out there (and encourage others to save their money!).

I haven’t done any give aways, but I am open to it. Indeed, I’m open to doing a lot more reviews, I just need to be approached. Come at me!

 

10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I don’t really get writer’s block – so far I’ve had plenty to say! But I do get lazy. Unfortunately, I just do what I want, and whenever I cease to feel lazy is when I blog. That being said, if I read something online that is dumb, I normally have to write a counter-post.

So, if you are asking, “How to you blog when you are unmotivated?” The answer is, “Get annoyed about something online and write a rebuttal. Or else just remain unmotivated.”

 

11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

I’ve never taken a formal break from blogging. Sometimes I just haven’t posted for a while. This has never been a decision I’ve made, it ‘just happened’.

I don’t think about quitting this blog at all. I’d probably be pretty unhappy if I didn’t have somewhere to share my opinion when the moment strikes. I stay because I like my blog, and I like sharing my opinion, and I feel it somewhat motivates me to keep engaged with research material. All good things.

The only ‘bad thing’ about blogging is sometimes I feel slightly guilty about not blogging. But it’s very temporary.

 

12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

Again I’ll say that I’d like to go back to the original focus of research blogging.

I’d like to commit to three posts a week: One The Week in Tweets, one research, and one ‘something else’.

But instead I’m just going to keep doing whatever I feel like at the time. I feel guilty about enough in my life – the blog’s not going to be one of them!

 

Until next time – thanks for stopping by.

38 thoughts on “Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

  1. I’m new to your blog through the hop, and I just want to say that anyone who has 100-200 hits/day is doing well, comments or not! If you are maintaining those numbers, that shows people are engaged just as much as 100 comments. After all, I don’t write a letter to the editor for every article I like. :)

    As an academic, I love the research-based approach. People should back up their opinions with supporting evidence. Good luck with this goal!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, and the little reality check – you’re right, 100 people hitting the site a day isn’t as bad as it could be! And you’re right on the letter to the editor perspective, as well. Thank-you! A little pick me up.

  2. Thanks for taking part in the challenge! I think producing content you’re proud of is an admirable goal — the audience may or may not follow, though as Lori said, 100-200 people a day is nothing to sneeze at. But you’ll have something to look back at and feel good about.

    • Thank-you, Edie. :) You’re right, I feel ‘good about’ the majority of my posts, and we can just hope the audience does follow.

  3. I wouldn’t worry too much about the comments either. Especially with a science based blog like yours, or highly-opiniated on a subject, many people wouldn’t necessarily leave a comment, which is much easier when it is a photo of a cute puppy.

    And congrats with the swimmer puppy’s post success through Google. Nice to know that what you write is picked up by people that need the information, and that it can make a change for them.

    • Thanks for commenting, and I think you’re right – it’s easy to say “oh, that’s cute” but it’s harder to read an article, digest it, and then post a thoughtful comment.

      My blog seemingly ranks pretty well in Google – most of my hits are from Google.

  4. Nice to “meet” you and learn more about your history and motives! I always appreciate an evidence-based approach, whether explicit in the post, or not.
    I had no idea what a swimmer puppy was until today (missed that post the first time around), so thank you for your post! I’m happy to read there is someone out there advocating for treatment and who can educate others who might be looking for options!
    I like your approach to writer’s block – things that annoy me or that I disagree with frequently provide blog fodder! As a bit of a cynic, that likely means I’ll never run out of material!

    • Thanks for stopping by and your compliments, Jen. I try to keep a bit of an archive of ‘blog posts that have annoyed me’, and write rebuttals for them… Blog fodder, indeed!

  5. Keep up your well-researched posts. I love them. And congrats on your training business!

    Some of my favorite posts you did in 2013 were the ones about spaying and neutering and how it is not always the best option for the dogs. It’s nice to hear that side.

    • Thanks Lindsay. It has been nice getting to know you over the past year :)

      I am doing A LOT of research on desexing – I’ve read about 50 articles or so on gonadectomies and their effects, and I plan to write a pretty substantial literature review on it all… But I still have heaps to read. And then I have to compile it. It’s going to be pretty heavy. So thanks for giving me encouragement on this project.

  6. Would you like to do a review on a hoof? I’ll tell you up front that dogs LOVE a good hoof to chew, but they stink like crazy when they’re being chewed! Let me know if you will. Seriously. It’s my favorite treat for dogs and Jones has a good product.

    • Hi Flea. I’ve spoken with you through email since you’ve posted this, but I’m hoping you can get a hoof through Australian quarantine for me! Got many border terrier mouths that will be happy to review edible products!

  7. Congratulations on the Swimmer Puppy piece. That kind of impact is powerful.

    And I get your point about dogs who are tough on toys. Nobody but Jolly Ball has ever made a toy to withstand my Newfy and hound. Nobody. It would be hilarious to do a video of how many toys won’t last a minute in this house, but I’d fear my dogs getting hurt by the pieces or ingesting something they shouldn’t.

    Good luck with increasing your science based posts in the new year and congratulations on your new job!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kim, and for your thoughtful comments. I am going to have to look up the Jolly Ball now and see what it is and if it might be appropriate for our terrier household.

  8. Great post! I hope that you hit all of your goals this year. Research based blogging takes a lot of time, but it is incredibly informative! I do a lot of that with my blog (except I research cats). I’m glad that you were able to put information out there that could save the lives of some puppies. We all deserve a fair shot at life :)

    • Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the Facebook add! Research blogging certainly takes time. Once you’ve read the article and got through the jargon, you have to establish if that was very interesting, and even if it was interesting to you, it might not be interesting to a wider audience. And then if it passes the interesting test, you then have to write it at the right level for your audience, and make it relevant to them. Hard! But fulfilling. But time consuming. You see my point.

    • Haha, I haven’t got into canine nutrition yet, but I can imagine. I’m more interested in behaviour and stats (though I will read pretty much anything about dogs), but yeah, it can be a bit dry – the fun bit comes in making that dry stuff into something readable by the general-population.

  9. Interesting…I’ve never heard of swimmer puppies. I clicked over to the original post to learn more but, unfortunately, the photo only half loaded for me (and not the half that showed the legs). I could picture it from the description though. I’ve never seen anyone blog about them so kudos to you for writing about something original :)

    • Thanks Jessica. It was just really disheartening to read so much suggesting that swimmers should be put down – I’m sure ‘Bolly’ (as his owners called him) is happy that I didn’t take their advice!

  10. I’ll offer some perspective in audience building, as it is interesting to look back on how that has gone for me over the 6 years of my blog.

    The first thing I will tell you is that while dogs are amazingly popular, thoughtful dog blogs have a piss poor market. When I last looked at analytics for the blogs I followed using Google Reader before it shut down, none of the Dog blogs had more than a few hundred followers.

    General fluff dog blogs, however had thousands. But do you want to be a fluff blog?

    I’ve also seen that conformist blogs are much more popular than criticism blogs. Pro-rescue and pro-pit bull evangelism blogs draw larger followings despite having really poor content, much of it reposting stuff from other clone blogs in a sort of self congratulatory drum circle.

    I think you’re better off doing what you’ve said, writing what is interesting to you. What you thinks needs to be written.

    • Thank-you, Chris. What you write is quite true, and you’re right – I don’t want to be a ‘fluff blog’. I want to have substantial posts, and it so happens that I can only muster a couple of them a week, and that’s okay. And I do find it interesting, so it’s very much worth it to me.

  11. Audience building is interesting to me because although there is some overlap of readers between my blog and other similar blogs, I very much notice that those of us who have stuck it out have or own unique following and how they interact with us is different.

    I can’t pinpoint why this is other than to observe that different bloggers facilitate their community differently. One once prominent writer doesn’t really want to interact at all, and you’ll notice that they no longer get very many comments. Other bloggers have fostered communities that actively share news and opinions on their blog and on associated platforms like Facebook.

    Comments are nice and there was a time when I was down about not getting any, too. Comments were more important than hits, and they still are to me, although both are less important now.

    I’ve found that people don’t really feel comfortable leaving comments on blogs if they are not speaking with their community. You’ll notice that people on forums will link to your blog and then 20 people will comment on the thread but no one leaves a comment on your blog! Infuriating.

    Same is true of viral posts. I’ve noticed that a post can get 4,000 hits in a day and that will generate maybe one or two comments from new readers (who may never even come back). Versus a new post that goes out to subscribed readers that might generate dozens of comments but only between 5 or 6 people and maybe 100 hits.

    So traffic and engagement are often not highly linked.

    • The forum thing is very true! A couple of my puppy posts have been shared on forums (yay), but they have a dialogue about it in their forum, and don’t let me know. I don’t think the average reader realises how much bloggers adore getting a comment or two!

  12. It’s also frustrating when posts I consider throw away trivia are amazingly more popular than posts I spend weeks writing and tinkering with to perfect. My first viral post was about Viggo Mortensen’s Border Collie. It was popular because Viggo is popular and it got linked via his fandom.

    Not exactly a post I’d consider as brilliant work or deeply insightful. But popular! Nor would I think I’d value new readers from that post because they would soon be disappointed in the rest of the content and what sort of comments would they leave anyway… “Viggo is dreamy!” ?

    Going back to an earlier point, the sort of people you attract to your blog and how they interact…. I’ve noticed that there are a group of people who only interact via Facebook, and there are others who only leave regular comments. Some of us have groups that talk a lot about non-dog stuff but were drawn together originally by dog stuff and others who have no interest in community or other platforms and stick to sending emails in private or just commenting occasionally.

    This isn’t so much advice as just experience sharing, as I have no secret of success. Getting noticed is hard and going against the grain is even harder. There is a big but shallow market for happy fuzzy fanboy type blogs and communities but anything that looks at science or defends the uncommon and your audience is going to be small and hard won. But it will be worth it if you believe in your content.

    • Thank-you, Chris, for providing three insightful and lengthy comments. You’ve made very good points, and you’ve inspired me to keep going with what I believe in (evidence based content) and chipping away, though my audience may be small.

  13. I’m so happy to have found your blog through the blog hop! I’m a professional dog trainer who is very interested in canine research and am so happy that this decade seems to be the Decade of the Dog! There’s so much new and exciting research out there on canine cognition that it’s almost impossible to keep up with it all. I have so many books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read (the most recent being “Decoding Your Dog” by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. I can’t wait to read more from you! I’m adding your blog to my Bloglovin’ feed so I’m sure to not miss a post!

    • Thanks for your enthusiasm for my blog and content! I have a big interest in dog behaviour too, and I’m particularly interested in free-roaming/stray dog behaviour – so what dogs do when there is no humans involved. I kinda feel that if we don’t know what dogs do naturally, without us, we’re setting ourselves back in dog training. I am considering going back to university specifically to research this area (i.e. do my own study of free ranging dog populations), but it’s a little way off, yet. :)

  14. I love reading all of your posts but somehow I always get to them far too late when a comment seems far too irrelevant. It is something I need to work on, clearly.

    I always enjoy coming here because you have so much more knowledge than I do in many areas and I learn so much from your experiences. You also write in a way that challenges me to think past the commonly accepted views. As a naturally skeptical person, I enjoy anyone who doesn’t shy from calling it like they see it.

    You definitely have the right attitude. Blogging, especially pet blogging, should never be about feeling guilty. You have something important to contribute and as long as you enjoy doing it, there will be people who want to read it. Unless you are trying to build a business, that is really all that should count.

    • Oh, I don’t mind getting belated comments, I promise!

      I’m glad my posts challenge your preconceived ideas, but thank-you for being willing to be challenged. I now use the phrase often, “Are you willing to be wrong about that?” because if you’re not, there’s no point having a conversation. So a willingness to change is an attitude worth having.

    • Thank-you. :) Hope my Twitter advice helps… Don’t know if I’m using it right, but I seem to have a lot of followers, and that means something, right?

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