The real Pet Blogger Challenge is to write an entertaining piece that says what you want to say without seeming like a jerk for not answering the questions just the way they’re asked. Now that’s a challenge.
Am I up for it? You tell me.
Pet Blogger Origin Story
Call me Pamela. Nah, too
It was the best of blogs. It was the worst of blogs. Nope. Too Dickensian.
I was born a poor black child. What am I? A jerk?
Okay, just trust the material, Pamela.
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.
I started blogging on March 23, 2010, the day before I brought my puppy Honey home to live with us. In my shortest blog post ever, I called a puppy “anticipation in a fur coat.” Somehow I worried I might forget puppy shark teeth, cleaning up accidents, and chewed furniture without a blog to remember everything by.
Something Wagging This Way Comes has evolved into my musings on the human canine bond. I let my imagination stray as I consider the serious, silly, and profane things we learn from living with dogs. My teachers are Honey and the dogs we foster for our local shelter.
Pet Blogger Lessons in the Learning
How has my blogging changed? Monty Python said it best:
2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.
John Cleese said it. I got better.
I came back from BlogPaws last year wondering what else I could do with my blog. I’ve rejected most ways of making money with it. I have few tech skills. I’m not artistic.
But then it struck me. I can get better. I can always get better.
I’ve worked on simplifying my writing. I’ve learned how to make my posts easier for search engines to find. I’ve started editing my pictures so that even if they’re not beautiful to begin with, they’re a little less hideous.
Oh, and after nearly four years of threatening, I finally gave my blog a new theme. It’s not finished or perfect. But I’m glad to be rid of that tiny font and bland colors.
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?
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?
It’s something I’ve always known but needed time to let it sink in: always trust your readers.
Sometimes I write something I’m afraid will feed a troll. And it never happens. I’ve even had other readers reply to comments when they thought someone else misunderstood a post.
And nothing is as important as taking care of my readers (I’ve started calling them S’Waggers because they are so swag). If you take care of them, they’ll bring new readers to you.
If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Being less neurotic. Any pet bloggers out there doing free therapy?
I have tons of great ideas and only need courage and motivation to bring them forth.
Finding Your Tribe
Something Wagging This Way Comes is never going to be the next Dogster. Heck, in comparison, it’s barely a hamster.
But I have a tribe. And there’s space for more members.
5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
Facebook is my biggest referrer. But it’s not my Facebook posts that get new people to stop by. It’s when someone shares my stuff on their much more popular Facebook page.
I also get steady, although not monumental, traffic from comments I’ve left on other blogs.
5 1/2. Don’t you think it’s been way too long since you’ve made a joke?
Why yes. Yes it has been way too long.
Did you hear the one about the agnostic, insomniac who had dyslexia? He laid awake at night wondering if there’s a dog.
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?
I try not to keep track of how long things take or I’d start to wonder if I should be doing something else.
7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?
When S’Waggers leave lots of comments and even respond to other comments, I know I’ve hit a nerve. Or a funny bone. I always seem to miss the ovaries, however.
Oh, and when lots of people share something on Facebook.
But I can’t predict what people will like one little bit. I’m so weird that what I think is great often falls flat. And stuff I just toss off gets lots of attention.
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?
The day I can’t think of anything else to say. That’s why I stopped writing the Puppiness Project after two years.
You want to end while people still like your work. Don’t wait until after you’ve jumped the shark to end something.
8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?
First I have to think of something scintillating to say. And if the person regularly comments on my blog or is a friend or someone I really admire, I’ll spend a few more minutes trying to think of something amazing or just coherent to say.
But if nothing comes to me, I won’t force it.
And I’m more likely to comment on a newish blog or one that doesn’t get many comments. It encouraged me so much when I got my earliest comments. I want other pet bloggers to know they’re not alone. And that someone appreciates their courage and commitment to write.
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?
I’ve been writing reviews of books that inspire pet travel for A Traveler’s Library for the past two years. And while I love to read and talk about books, I find writing reviews very hard.
It’s the same for products. I only review a product if it’s particularly interesting to me and something I would use in real life.
But people do find them helpful. People regularly visit my video review of The Honest Kitchen dog food, for instance.
Or maybe they’re just tuning in to see if I really do taste test all of Honey’s food.
People do like videos. But my editor has only so many hours in the day to help me. And besides, shooting a quickie review video on crappy equipment with someone who went to film school is a sure recipe for marital disaster.
It’s All Over But The Shouting
10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?
Writer’s block? What’s that? I’m more likely to suffer from logorrhea.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I’m feeling low, I’m more likely to write a silly list post:
- 10 Things Your Dog Is Most Thankful For
- 12 Weird Things Dog Lovers Do That Freak Normal People Out
- The Dog Lover’s Guide to Great Sex
I can only write a reflective, serious post when I’m feeling good. I have to be good and depressed to be funny. Lucky for you folks who love the silly lists, I don’t take Prozac.
11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?
Does going to Panama for a month count? But I did have a few things posted in advance so I don’t think of it as a total break. I lost a lot of traffic but it was back within a couple of months.
I took a longer break from my blog for first home buyers, Hands on Home Buyer. The bad side effect is that my writing is less funny now than it was before the break. I don’t know how to fix it.
Writing about mortgages and home inspections with humor and intelligence is not easy. But I give it my best. And hopefully people get something from my reasons to avoid real estate porn besides a giggle over hardwood floorgasms.
Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?
I have thought of quitting Hands on Home Buyer. Especially after a glitch that occurred during my redesign caused traffic to plummet.
But I can’t imagine not writing Something Wagging This Way Comes. I’d miss my doggy bloggy friends too much if I went away.
12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?
To care for the S’Waggers. To be on the blog who I am in real life. To never let writing about dogs get in the way of loving dogs. To remember what’s really important and not get swept up in worthless trivia, like stats.
And Now The Shouting
I’m giving a standing ovation (oops, I just woke up the dogs) to the divas who invented the Pet Blogger Challenge and have kept it going the past four years. Thank you, Amy Burkert and Edie Jarolim for growing a community and helping us feel that we’re not alone when our blogs bully us.
There’s still time to join the fun by grabbing the questions here.
This is the fourth year of the Pet Blogger Challenge. I’m pleased to have collected the whole set:
- Pet Blogger Challenge #1
- What I Learned From the First Pet Blogger’s Challenge (comments on the first event)
- Pet Blogger Challenge 2012
- Are Blog Stats Like the Skinny Model on Your Fridge? Pet Blogger Challenge III
I can hardly wait to settle in for a week of reading everyone’s posts.
Your Turn: Okay, enough about me. What do you think about me? Just kidding. What’s the best part of a get-to-know-you challenge like this? What’s the best thing you get out of the Pet Blogger Challenge, whether you’re a blogger or not?