Welcome to GoPetFriendly.com's annual Pet Blogger Challenge!
On January 6th, 7th, and 8th, pet bloggers submit their answers to the ten questions below. We reflect on goals from 2017, share ideas, build community, and support one another as we set goals for 2018. The full list of participating blogs is at the bottom of this post in the Linky List.
1. For those who may be visiting your blog for the first time, how long have you been blogging and what is your main topic?
McSquare Doodles launched five months ago.
Mostly, I write about how my significant other and I are training our two Labradoodle pups to become certified therapy dogs.
I first drank the "Blogger Gin" in 2014 when I started Compulsively Quirky, a book blog with a smattering of posts on minimalism and productivity. While I continue to write book reviews, I publish more on Goodreads than on my book blog.
Given the amount of time I spend training with the pups, I thought writing about our process would be fun and potentially useful to other people exploring the idea of making their dog a therapy dog.
While I've been writing about our dogs for just five months, I have been blogging for about three and half years.
2. What was your proudest blogging moment of 2017?
I haven't had one of THOSE proud moments yet with this blog.
Generally speaking, I'm proud of myself for taking what I've learned from three years of blogging, and applying that knowledge more intentionally with this blog.
My design process last summer was much more stream-lined. I started with my therapy dog concept and created a logo with Matthew's help. I built a landing page so friends of mine could sign up for our monthly newsletter while I worked behind-the-scenes on various pages and posts. The systems I have in place for my pet blog are pretty solid, especially when I consider the hot mess of ideas I jumbled together starting my book blog!
3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)
My favorite post involved a pack outing where we all had fun: Exploring the Tucson Botanical Gardens During the Dog Days of Summer. As a professional photographer, Matthew loved the slightly overcast light. As a writer, posts about pack adventures easily compose themselves. As enthusiastic Doodles, Bernie and Lizzie loved the exotic sniffs.
4. In terms of your blog, how do you measure success?
At this point, I'm not measuring success for 2017 beyond hitting my main goals to launch this blog, create content, make connections within the pet blogger world, and see what happened. See if I liked writing about Bernie and Lizzie, and our journey to become a pet therapy family.
5. In what ways has your blog changed during 2017?
Since this blog is so new, the design has been the same since the launch. I have focused my content a bit more.
Originally, I thought I'd split my posts between writing about training our dogs to be therapy dogs, and writing about managing Bernie's atypical Addison's Disease.
What I've found is that I prefer writing about how we train and socialize our dogs. While I've written two posts about Bernie's atypical Addison's Disease, I don't enjoy that writing experience as much. I know that I'll continue to share some information about how we help Bernie, but I don't want his chronic condition to be something I fixate on.
I also want to make sure I give equal time to Bernie and Lizzie. When Lizzie and I graduated from Ruff House's 8-week Puppy Obedience Class, I realized that I had not written a single word about our class experiences or training sessions. What a missed opportunity!
6. What was the biggest blogging challenge you overcame in 2017, and what did you learn that could help other bloggers?
I could kick myself for this one!
I got it stuck in my head that I had to have a lead magnet, and I didn't know what to make. Matthew knew that I had done a lot of reading about dog foods, so he suggested compiling my research into a short bibliography-type resource. With no other ideas surfacing, I decided to go with it.
Originally, my goal was to launch the website at the beginning of July 2017. I work in education (former teacher turned middle school library specialist), so I had all of June to design my logo, plan an editorial calendar, take photos, design my pages, and compile my dog food research. My heart was just not into the dog food research compilation process, so I kept procrastinating. As a result, I didn't launch until July 26!
Looking back, I should have launched the website with the blog page as my home page. I could have just started writing content! I had the logo, photos, and ideas. I could have added a home page later with more of the upside-down landing page type of layout that I've seen and liked on various sites.
If you're thinking about starting a pet blog or a new project for an existing blog, just do it! Jump in. Give it a go. When I was teaching, I would constantly modify and adjust my lessons and annual plan. Change is inevitable. Sure, research and planning are important, but at some point, you just have to hit publish.
7. When things get hard, what keeps you blogging?
Bernie, Lizzie, and Matthew.
Blogging about our dogs is such a symbiotic relationship. I want to do things with my pack because I love them, and that creates a certain amount of content for this blog. If I'm not doing anything with my pack, then writing is definitely tougher.
Recently, we moved into a new home, so our schedules were wonky. I wasn't producing any content for the blog, and the dogs were tired with the same old trips to the same dog park everyday. It breaks my heart to see them looking bored, so I was relieved when the majority of the unpacking was done and I could re-focus on taking them to different places.
8. Looking forward to 2018, what are you hoping to accomplish on your blog this year?
Blogging has been a hobby for me. A hobby I love. However, I would like to push myself to monetize this blog in some way in 2018. I'd like to make enough money to cover the costs of running the blog.
With 24 posts archived, I've set some goals for 2018, which I will use to measure success:
- Participate in the January Pet Blogger Challenge.
- Participate in the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
- Write one blog post per week. Schedule in advance as much as possible.
- Create one photo-based blog post every week.
- Write at least three guest blog posts.
- Write at least two round-up posts.
- Increase the number of monthly sessions by 10% each month.
- Participate weekly in at least two BlogPaws social boosts.
- Attend the BlogPaws Conference in April. Revisit all blog-related goals.
9. In addition to what you’d like to accomplish, is there one specific skill you’d like to improve or master this year?
I've been reading more about SEO and Google Analytics. I would love to have a deeper understanding of the layers of data Google can provide.
10. Now it’s your turn! You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there a question you’d like answered, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? Share it here, and we’ll answer you in the comments!
About my looming monetization goal...
I can't do ads. Even if I had the traffic, I just can't stand looking at ads, especially when they interrupt the text of an article. I try not to begrudge any content creator who places ads on their site because I know people need to make a living or at least cover the cost of the site. However, my personal decision is to steer clear of advertising.
I've been looking into affiliate marketing and sponsored posts. As long as the product or service is truly valuable to me, I think I'd enjoy producing content to spread the word.
If you've been blogging and successfully monetizing your blog, what advice do you have for me about monetizing this blog? I'd love to hear your tips, strategies, and ideas for first steps.
If you're a blog reader or a hobby blogger, what are your feelings about advertisements on blogs, sponsored posts, and bloggers monetizing their content? Do you ever click on affiliate marketing links because you want to support that particular content creator? I'm curious how you view the monetization of content.