2015 Pet Blogger Challenge!

Featured Photo is a Sepia Saturday remix of a photo from the series in our last post.

For those of you who tuned in for our reveal of Gilligan’s New Year’s Resolutions, you know that one of our goals for 2015 is to step back from daily blog posts, and instead focus on high-quality posts about twice per week. In order to set up for this, we created an editorial calendar for the whole year, mapping out which days we’d like to post.

That said, today’s post was NOT one of the scheduled days on that calendar, but we absolutely had to participate in the 5th Annual 2015 Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by Go Pet Friendly, because we haven’t participated in it before, it seems like a great way to share more info about this blog and, well, it looks like fun!

The Challenge 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.

This blog has been operational since September of 2014, so for a little over four months.

2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.

In December of 2014, we posted at least one blog post per day, the only exception being on Christmas Day.

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?

There have really been so many lessons, but I’d start by saying that many of them come from other experienced bloggers who were gracious enough to take the time to share their wisdom, so the first (and probably biggest) lesson is to make meaningful connections. This means paying attention to the community of bloggers, reading others’ blogs and leaving comments, picking up on hot topics, and letting those hot topics inform your own content when you think you have something to contribute to a discussion.

Another great lesson: some blogs let you set up auto-posting to your social media accounts, i.e. when you publish your blog post, it automatically posts a link to the post on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. (whichever platforms you enable). At least for Facebook, your post actually reaches more people if you disable this auto-post and manually post a link to the blog post, with a quick written statement about it; Facebook’s algorithms see any post that is cross-posted by a 3rd party site as being “less genuine,” and as such those posts are less likely to show up in people’s feeds! This we learned from a random conversation with a journalist friend at a dinner party, which just goes to show you again how important networking can be.

4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

You’ll notice a long response to this question, mainly because we’ve gotten great results in a short period of time with a sort of “all of the above” approach. Below are a few of the major ways we’ve been able to grow our audience and bring traffic:

Announcing new blog posts across all your social media platforms is pretty much a must, and will always ensure a little more traffic. You need to be sure that the manner in which you do so is fitting for that particular platform, e.g. an Instagram post is centered around a very entertaining photo, etc.

Posting in the above manner to Facebook helps, as folks tend to be pretty active there. That brings the question about how to grow your Facebook user base, and we’ve found a number of tactics to be helpful for this including:

  • Finding other Pages with similar interests, Following them and asking them to “Share for Share,” meaning you each Share the other’s Page on a post on your own Page, encouraging fans to stop by the other Page and “paw them a Like.”
  • Browse your own Facebook news feed and be active in Liking, but more importantly Commenting on, other posts you enjoy. Leaving a choice photo in a Comment thread can get lots of folks interested who are already in on that conversation thread.

Participating in contests is a great way to build some excitement, but also usually some exposure as contest administrators are likely to share your content if it’s related to the contest, bringing new eyes to your site.

In some cases, we have directly e-mailed brands that we like, offering to do product reviews and share content of theirs with our fans, and this can lead to cross-posting opportunities that bring more traffic, too.

Last but not least, participating in Blog Hops has been tremendous, but really the best way to get the most out of this is not by simply posting your link, but by browsing all the other links and leaving meaningful comments to get the connection with that blog site started. Our heaviest traffic days have been those when we’ve participated in large blog hops (80+ participating blogs) and gone around and shown some love to every single other blog on the Hop.

5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?

“The Original Teddy Ween”20140513_002308 2 got the most traffic. It is somewhat surprising since the post is a little shorter and simpler, without too much content, but we would have to attribute its success to the following factors:

  • A great title: A nice original title can definitely be the reason someone clicks through to the content, and we’ve even had explicit comments on posts, indicating that the title was a huge part of the entertainment
  • Really, really cute photos: This particular post features arguably the very cutest of Gilligan’s poses, and this element is a big part of what engages folks/ what we’re about here
  • Participating in a large Blog Hop
  • Being active in commenting on many blogs for several days surrounding this post – sometimes folks come and check your site out a day or two after you’ve left a comment on theirs, so being consistently active in interactions can mean a spike in traffic on a day when you’ve been highly active throughout the prior week
  • Shorter posts are easier for readers to consume, and leave more space for them to comment after this quick consumption (unlike this very post, hahaha)
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?

Probably “Over the River and Through the Woods – Epic Walk!”

There is a statue in Boston of writer Samuel Eliot Morison with a quote that the author’s father would always read to him as a child:

Dream dreams, then write them. Aye, but live them first.

SONY DSCThis was one of the first posts which featured a sizable number of strong photos that told a story, and beyond being fun to “dream up” the course of the epic walk before going out, the story was both fun to live first and then write about as it had many unforeseen turns that made for good drama.

7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?

Somewhat. As we’ve just begun, we pretty much started with a policy that looked like, “We’d love to do some product reviews!” and has involved to include some specifications that we will always be honest about our opinion, and include disclaimers, as we’ve noticed others have, that disclose the nature of the review’s transaction with the brand.

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

We are just getting our feet wet with this, but good reviews seem to be about including great, original content, and sharing a unique and honest perspective. We’ve always found reviews that tell the story of the particular dog, and why that dog enjoys the product, to be more compelling than those that just play up the characteristics of the product in a way that the brand could have done themselves.

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

We’re absolutely looking forward to doing more and more reviews. The major hurdle seems to simply be time, as we feel confident that brands tend to be attracted to longer-established blogs for reviews. This simply means for us that we’ll gain more opportunities as we continue, and that we have to keep at it!

That said, we’ve already started to get some more formal product review assignments, and are not afraid of doing informal product reviews as a way of building a body of review work as we wait to connect with more brands formally.

8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?

Be active and social, and in doing so listen actively at least as much as you speak! There are thousands and thousands of people involved in the online pet community at large, and your success is going to stem out of making meaningful connections with the folks out there who are doing what you are doing, or want to do. There are likely many who have done what you’re trying to achieve, so asking questions and gaining their wisdom is a big piece of this.

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?

So glad you asked! We detailed these in last week’s post: “Gilly’s Goals: 2015 Resolutions”

10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

That would have to be: Quick ways to connect with advertisers and brands who are happy to provide opportunities for small monetary incentives, in exchange for something as simple as ad space on the site or a product review. As we mentioned, new-coming blogs tend to be passed over for those with an established following, which makes a lot of sense. We’re sure we’ll get there quite soon, but one of our first tangible financial goals is to have the site generate revenue that will pay for a self-hosting account that will allow for even greater control of the design (in general, to ensure that the site does not involve any financial costs that it cannot cover from its revenue). It is not a great cost, so even a few opportunities would help cover this. We’re patient to see this happen in time, but if there is a shortcut we would love to know about it!

Now you can Follow, Like and Share the joy of Gilligan with friends on InstagramTwitterFacebook, WordPress, and YouTube. Thanks so much for stopping by today! 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 12.06.13 PM

Once again, this is Blog Hop! Thanks so much to Go Pet Friendly for hosting the 5th Annual 2015 Pet Blogger Challenge!

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This post is also part of the Sepia Saturday Blog Hop, hosted by Ruckus the Eskie & Earl’s World.

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39 thoughts on “2015 Pet Blogger Challenge!

  1. Well, welcome to the blog world. You are thinking right with not forcing yourself to write everyday unless you really want to. Always remember, don’t let the blog control you. The product reviews will come, don’t be afraid to reach out to companies. All they can do is tell you no.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mary, for turning us on to the Challenge, and for your great advice and support! Not letting the blog have too much control is a gem; we are definitely goal-oriented enough where the ongoing struggle seems to always be in the category of Balance.

      Like

  2. You have made a lot of growth in a short period of time! So much to be proud of! We can’t wait to see how the blog grows in the coming months! It sounds like you are doing all the right things…now watch it takeoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been blogging for a very long time, but I don’t take my blog very seriously. I don’t sell anything and I’ve got my close buddies that I love. That’s about it for me.

    Have a fabulous woof woof day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right on. Clearly we have some more “serious” goals with this site, but making sure it always remains fun and creative is a goal, too. We are pretty industrious here, though, so the family has discussed selling handmade dog apparel and such, but we’re not quite there yet 😉

      Have a meow-tstanding day! Teehee!

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  4. Great information, I learned something about facebook and auto posting that I didn’t know, thank you! I want to learn more about getting brands to recognize me also. I need to take the time to just scope them out and send some emails. I don’t make money on my blog so finding out how to would be nice also. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers, guys! Glad you found some of the information helpful. We could all make more time for targeted outreach to make connections to help build awareness. That’s a piece we’ve done some of here, but certainly could do more as well!

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  5. So glad we found your blog 🙂 It is nice that you have a blogging plan too, but we would suggest posting a bit more if you want more traffic. There are so many blog hops where all you need is one photo and you have your post. 3-4 times a week keeps folks thinking your are serious, but this is just our opinion and what we found on our blog. BlogPaws is a great place to network and to hook up with brands if you are not already a member, you should check it out. Many brands are looking for numbers, the longer you are around and as you grow they start to seek you out. BlogPaws itself is wonderful to attend because you can meet up face to face with a lot of brands. That would be our advice, and just have fun…the is the most important piece of all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the tips! We just posted for B&W today, making this a 3-post week already; appreciate you sharing your opinion about the optimal volume as we had some concerns that 2x/wk may be too few, but just trying to balance. We’ve already begun finding opportunities through BlogPaws, too, which has been a wonderful community to be a part of, though attendance in person at the convention is not in the cards for us this year. Have a great Sunday! 🙂

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  6. You have really learned a lot in a very short time, that is impressive! I think it took me at least a year to figure out a lot of that stuff! Even that tip about Facebook posting I had heard, but I wasn’t really sure if it was true or not, and have done it both ways.
    I have to agree with Emma though on the number of posts/week. I have always heard that posting more often is the way to go. I increased my number of posts/week the latter part of this year and it has seemed to help my numbers. As she said, not all of them have to be long posts, and I have found that people like the short and simple, cute photos, mixed in with the more lengthy, informative or serious stuff.
    I really think you are doing great though, no matter how you decide to do it, I’m pretty sure you’ll figure it all out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, honestly I too saw that numbers really increased in the period when we were posting every single day. We’ll be monitoring traffic data to determine how well our volume of posts is serving us, and as with any goal, make adjustments as we go on if it seems necessary.

      For the Facebook posts, we ran a couple of tests right after getting that advice from our friend, where we let one of the blog posts get auto-posted to our Page, then posted a link to the same Blog manually on the Page just a minute later. Sure enough, the second, manual post was consistently reaching about twice as many people (7:15 people at around 40min; 15:35 before 2hrs, etc.). We check our FB Page Insights graphs daily so this helps us understand what is more popular and effective there.

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      1. Great to know! I’ll have to make more use of the insights page and start doing that myself. I know FB reach is hard to achieve these days so we have to do all we can to increase that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s wierd, some things are better than others for achieving reach. Asking compelling questions helps because future posts get served more often to people who have recently Liked or Commented on your content. 😉

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  7. Another daily blogger. Impressive. I blog a lot but since I tend to write long posts I think my regular readers would kill me if I cranked out a post every day. 🙂

    BTW, my blog name is Something Wagging This Way Comes and I’m getting ready to move aboard a sailboat with my dog. When I saw your blog name, Wags Ahoy, I hit myself in the head for not thinking of and grabbing that domain name. It would be a great complement to Something Wagging.

    Oh well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps we could join forces some day! We have friends who live on a houseboat, but so far we’re doing baby steps toward real seafaring for Gilligan. Next step will be river canoeing once the weather permits. Thanks for tuning in, we’ll check out your blog! 🙂

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  8. Great answers! I have also had much more traffic when participating in large blog hops. Even if it’s sharing a simple photo on Wordless Wednesday – because so many people join in, there’s a lot more traffic than usual. I love your blog and can’t believe you only started just a few months ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Gilligan. Good to see you here and glad you joined the pet blogger challenge this year. Do you think you will make it to BlogPaws? Gretel might be there (Chester would have to stay home because I can only bring one).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jessica! Great to hear from you! Attendance at the BlogPaws Conference is not in the cards for us this year. We would love to attend when we’re a little further along both with the blog and with my training; unfortunately I am not the best behaved during introductions to new humans and dogs at the moment and the environment may be challenging to manage. We’re working on it day by day, though. Thanks for stopping by! *wags*

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  10. I saw the challenge a day too late to join in, but the bloggers, including yourself, have brought up some great ideas. We’ll look forward to your posts, whenever they are, as they are just fun to read.

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    1. Thanks, LB! We take requests, too, so any suggestions you have for content are welcome at any point! Appreciate you stopping by, and glad you’re having a good time with us! *wags*

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    1. The algorithms have evolved over time, and it’s possible they will continue to do so. These observations are at least true of how things seem to be working at the moment. Glad to hear you might have found this info helpful! *wags*

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  11. I see a few have already mentioned BlogPaws as your quickest way to making connections with brands. Don’t worry they’ll most likely start contacting you soon enough. By the way, when I first started out I just started emailing the brands I was already using to try and start building relationships.

    Great list of tactics for driving traffic to your blog. I haven’t really touched on Instagram yet so it’s good to know what works on some of these platforms.

    Best of luck with your blogging in 2015!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks so much for participating in the Challenge! Your blog is fantastic, and I’m having a hard time believing that you’ve only been at it for four months. You’ve nailed the social media strategy, and really have a handle on what your audience likes. That’s a sure-fire combination for success!

    In response to your question on connecting with brands, my advice would be not to undersell yourself because you’ve haven’t been blogging long. Brands are looking for reliable bloggers who act like professionals, do what they say when they say they’ll do it, and follow up in a reasonable amount of time. Do that, and you’ll develop a good reputation, and the brands will start finding you! To get those first few opportunities under your belt, try connecting with the PR firms that represent multiple brands, consider doing the first review/contest for free so they can get to know you, and then go above and beyond to write a great post. Blogging conferences are a great place to make those connections, if you can swing it, and if not reach out to other bloggers who’ve done posts about the brands and see if they’ll put you in touch with their contact. Good luck to you – I hope you and Gilligan have a super 2015!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Amy, for the encouragement, and the wonderful tips! We have the ball rolling in a couple of the ways you mentioned. What are some of the most prominent multi-brand PR firms you might recommend looking into?

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