Monday, January 12, 2015

Pet Blogger Challenge

Darlene & The Amazing Aimee
This marks the first year I've participated in The Pet Blogger Challenge, created 5 years ago by Amy Burkert of Go Pet Friendly (www.gopetfriendly.com) for people who travel with their pets. It's a nice way for readers to get to know blogs and bloggers and for bloggers to get to know each other. 
Amy comes up with a list of questions each year, the bloggers who participate in this blog hop answer them, and the list of all bloggers who are participating is at the bottom of each blog so you can jump (hop?) from one to another. Perhaps even subscribe to the ones you'd like to remember to read again, whenever there's new content posted.
Vinny by Mary Slaney

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.
I've been blogging for so many years that I really don't remember when I started! I used to maintain two blogs, the other was more eclectic but the blogging site was sold, the new one didn't suit me and I haven't found time to search for another site for the second blog. I'm a long-time, award-winning writer, journalist, author and a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant. A former member of Dog Writers Association of America, I am a founding member of Cat Writers Association. My passion for animals has led me to write several dog and cat books to help owners, thousands of articles for a wide range of publications, magazines and newspapers, and has spilled over into blogging. My goal is always to make life better for pets and their people. I write about dogs and cats with topics including health and welfare. I also do occasional book and product reviews and sometimes those include a give-away.
2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.
There were several really helpful posts but my last post of the year would be my choice. It was The BEST Holiday Gift for Your Cat. The "gift" is an annual veterinary visit. I'm truly horrified by the fact that after the first year owners don't take their cat back to the veterinarian. Some can't get the cat into the carrier so I included ways to teach your cat that the carrier is a wonderful, safe place, as well as how to situate the carrier in the waiting room to remove any stress that might come from seeing strange cats and dogs, and there's so much more, including statistics that are positively eye-opening.
Fuzzy by Gary Rohde

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?
I've had one of my beliefs emphasized: we have to be true to ourselves. I come from a journalism background. Having written for so many magazines (articles, columns, etc.) I knew that you were paid for an article but if an article promoted a sponsor, I knew that was called an advertorial. It might look like editorial content but it was really a paid opinion. I may be the only blogger who doesn't charge for reviews and doesn't have sponsors. If I'm going to review a product I don't want my readers to wonder if I'm saying I liked it because I was paid by the company for my review. Frankly, I won't write a bad review, I will just ignore the product. I won't give it any publicity of any sort. Consumer Reports is free of advertising for exactly the same reason. How do I make money? Magazine and newspaper articles, Speaking Engagements, Behavior Consultations (cats and dogs). Would I be a spokesperson for a product? Yes, but ONLY if I believed in the product and used it. My readers would know up front that I was a spokesperson for that company. So far, that hasn't been an issue. For me it's a matter of my integrity. I write what I believe. It's really that simple for me. If someone wants to book me to speak or discuss endorsement opportunities, they can contact me through my website: www.darlenearden.com
Elektra by Anthony James

4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
I utilize social networking. Each post goes out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIN and Google+  I also send each post to a mailing list with permission to forward.
5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?
It was the one of which I am most proud: The BEST Holiday Gift for Your Cat.
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?
I don't know if I'd call it my favorite because it wasn't fun, but it was the most important one. In October 2014 I revisited an important topic in Are Your Pets Covered? It was about the all-important issue of having someone to care for your pets if you are incapacitated or in the event of your death, what you need to have in your will and more to ensure that your cat or dog doesn't end up on the street or in a shelter, which is so often a death sentence. I want to help owners avoid that.
7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?
No, it's still the same as described above. I'm not paid other than a sample to test or a review copy to read. I also have people who serve as product testers and I have the item sent to them for an honest review. Dog toys, for example, can come in different sizes so I'll ask someone with a dog the appropriate size for the toy. Sometimes the company will offer the item to a reader so I can run a contest, which is fun for everyone. One problem I've encountered is that people will enter and not check back to see if they have won. I usually have no way of tracking them down so I have to do another drawing of the remaining names.
If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?
I read books cover to cover. Some things are tested by my cat, some by friends' cats and since this is the first time I'm living without a dog, I have an assortment of friends with dogs of various sizes and shapes and I will ask them if they are willing to test and review a product. They keep the product, I run the review. They must include photos, of course.
Karma by Veronique Schejtman
8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?
Don't reprint old "facts."  Things change so be prepared to do some real research. If you're going to quote an expert, try to quote two or three experts so you're not relying on one opinion. Give your readers the most current information by the people who know best, not just your opinion. You're certainly entitled to your opinion and entitled to use it but if you're writing something serious about health or nutrition where you have a personal opinion but are not a professional in that field, I believe you owe it to your readers to give them more than one view by more than one expert. That's my journalism background speaking. 
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?
I plan to bring the best information possible to my readers so they can make informed decisions and understand more about cats and dogs. Along the way I expect to do some fun things as well. I hope you'll join me for the journey!
10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Building more of an audience and gaining more attention for posts that I believe are helpful to dog and cat owners. How can I also point them towards my books which are chock full of useful information without it sounding like an ego trip?
Neezie, my "heart" dog

16 comments:

Gordon Brice said...

Thank you for sharing this blog with us, Darlene,. As always it is very informative and will be a boon to pet owners/lovers everywhere, in addition of course to other bloggers, especially those who are in the early stages of making their way in this competitive business.

Taryn said...

A really great post! It's obvious why you are an award winning writer!

Darlene said...

Thank you so much, Gordon. I'm lucky to have such an enthusiastic regular reader!

Darlene said...

Hi Taryn,
Thank you so much for your comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

Shannon Adams said...

Great post! I am now following your blog! Nice to meet you!

Rescuegal said...

Once again, Darlene Arden, you have given us a well written, informative blog post. While this is different from most of your blog posts, it does contain much useful information, especially to those who blog or want to blog. I love all the pictures you included. I have long been a fan of your blogs and your books, but I like having the list of other bloggers at the end. This gives us an easy way to expand our blog reading horizons.

Darlene said...

Hi Shannon Adams,
It's nice to "meet" you! Thank you so much for following my blog. :-)

Darlene said...

Hi Rescuegal!
Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, this was a departure from my usual posts but I thought it looked like something fun and interesting to do. I didn't know if anyone would be interested in it but I took a chance!

Pamela said...

I'm glad that your favorite and most popular post was about providing regular wellness care for cats. I've never had a cat but I do love them and it breaks my heart that they are even more likely to be neglected then dogs.

As for getting more attention for your helpful information, I think good SEO practices would help people doing searches find you.

That means using good keywords in your titles and repeating them in headers and your text. I don't know anything about blogger but wordpress has plugins that make it easy to help search engines find your posts.

Because your emphasis is on informative content, SEO is key.

Colby said...

Something you might try to gain more attention for your posts and books is to write related content and link back to those posts/books. You can try creating this content on your own blog or reach out to your fellow pet bloggers and see if they might allow a guest post.

Best of luck to you and your blogging in 2015!

Darlene said...

Hi Pamela,
Thank you so much for your helpful comments. It took me awhile to figure out what everyone was talking about when they said SEO. I finally realized it was Search Engine Optimization. I appreciate the suggestions about where to put keywords.
Thank you, too, for liking my favorite post. I'm horrified by the number of cats who do not see their veterinarian regularly and I simply cannot understand the mindset of owners who don't realize the importance of Wellness care.

Darlene said...

Hi Colby,

Thank you for commenting and for your good suggestions! I appreciate it.

Liama Jhons said...

this is really nice blog, just loving it Lost and found

Amy said...

Thanks for joining the Pet Blogger Challenge, Darlene - it wonderful to have your insights and I hope you've found participating beneficial as well.

Pamela and Colby have offered some solid advice on getting more traffic to your posts. I'd add that utilizing Google Keyword Planner can be helpful when trying to decide which combination of keywords will be most successful. It helps you figure out the most popular search terms for a given topic. Best of luck to you in 2015!

Darlene said...

Thank you so much for your comments, Amy. The Pet Blogger Challenge was very interesting. I loved the questions you posed and being able to answer so that my readers and anyone else who may be interested will have an opportunity to learn more about my process.

I wasn't aware of Google Keyword Planner! Thank you for mentioning it. I write out to educate and I write from my heart so keywords never crossed my mind! I'm sure if I were 7-years-old I'd be far more familiar with the technical aspects of blogging!

Thank you for visiting my blog, Amy.

Liama Jhons said...

this is superb one, love the way you are working on this blog. Lost and found