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Every January, there is a pet blogger challenge. It's a great way to connect with other bloggers, take a look at the past year, and gain some inspiration for the new year. I'm so inspired by this challenge that I tried to do one for the fresh food community and it fell flat with only two participants – thanks, Amanda.
What's a Pet Blogger Challenge?
In my experience, a Pet Blogger Challenge is an online event hosted by one or more bloggers who give participants a list of questions (we all answer the same questions) that we answer in a blog post on our personal websites. Like I said above, I find it inspiring and when I learned that the host of our annual tradition was taking a break this year, I was bummed. But no worries, Colby Morita of Puppy in Training took up the mantel and created a new challenge.
In the past, I shared links to prior challenges just in case anyone was curious, but this year I'm going to start fresh because 2019 was a year of change for me. I learned a lot from the community and those lessons prompted me to take a step back and really think about why I love blogging and where I want to go in the future. The past is always a fantastic lesson in what works and what doesn't work, but when I dwell on the past, I tend to forget to enjoy the moment and dream about the future.
1 – When did you begin your blog? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.
I started Keep the Tail Wagging in late 2011. I started my blog to write about raising littermates and to educate people about working with reputable breeders and rescue groups. Looking back, I'm stunned by how arrogant I was to think that I could educate people on topics I knew nothing about. In 2014, I changed the topic of my blog to raw feeding and raising dogs naturally. I had switched my dogs to a raw food diet in 2013 and found the process complicated, overwhelming, and wondered if others felt the same. So I decided to share my journey with others who were also having trouble with the transition to raw.
Today, my blog is more about wellness because raising a healthy dog is more than just diet, it's exercise, training, communication, regular health check ups, and more.
2 – Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2019, that made you most proud.
I published my second book, 100 Questions Pet Parents Ask About Raw Feeding, in 2019. There are several things that I accomplished last year that make me proud, but starting and finishing a second book was an achievement because it was hard to find the time and energy to make it happen. Plus, it's always hard to put yourself out there on a new platform because I worry about the haters. So many people love to tear others down just for the fun of it and I was always afraid to write a book for fear of loads of negative reviews. I've learned to let this fear go because it's out of my control. Instead, I focused on creating a book that I thought could help others and I had fun doing it.
3 – Which of your 2019 blog posts was your favorite and why? (Please include a link.)
I live with anxiety and depression and the biggest blogging challenge of 2019 was making the decision to continue blogging. The raw feeding community is growing with new influencers joining every day. There are bloggers, vloggers, social media influencers, and more. This is fantastic, because the more people talking about raw feeding, the more dogs and cats we could help. However, on the flip side, because this is a passionate community, with that growth came a lot more negativity. I began seeing people say horrible things about their clients and customers who weren't ready to feed raw or didn't want to feed raw. I saw people encouraging others to troll people who were anti-raw. And I didn't want to be a part of this type of community.
The number of anxiety attacks I had grew in 2019. While I think that it's important that we be able to have discussions sharing alternative points of views, the “Mean Girl/Guy” vibe in the community was triggering. And when I lost two friends, one to fake drama created to get attention and another to politics, I just didn't want to go on anymore.
My favorite blog post in 2019 was entitled The Death of Raw Feeding. I wrote this after I returned from SuperZoo, an annual trade show for pet businesses and professionals that's hosted in Las Vegas. I was so disillusioned that I began looking into selling my blog. Getting my thoughts and feelings down in a blog post helped me take a step back and think about my role in the raw feeding community, if I wanted to be a part of the community anymore, and what I wanted to do going forward – how I wanted to help dogs and pet parents.
As a result, I left most raw feeding groups, I unfriended hundreds of people, and I began writing what I wanted to write and stopped being afraid to say “I don't agree,” or “I don't know.”
4 – What was the biggest blogging challenge you faced in 2019, and how did you tackle it?
My traffic decreased by over 50% in 2019 and that scared the crap out of me. I was planning to resign from my day job on July 1, 2019, but that didn't happen. I was relieved that the traffic drop happened before I quit my job, but that relief was combined with discouragement because I don't know if I can count on my blog's traffic to support me full time even if it comes back.
Whenever something happens with my blog, I look to others for inspiration. I'm in groups with people who make over $10,000 a month and have over 500,000 monthly visits to their blog. If they can do it, then I can do it too. So, instead of pouting about the massive drop in revenue, I began thinking about how I could diversify my income, grow my traffic, and build a better blog.
In my research, I learned that my blog was a victim of a couple of Google updates. As a result, whenever I write about dog health, I include references to studies and quotes from veterinarians. I'm currently in the process of updating old posts with this information, deleting and redirecting posts to updated blog posts, and building an Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube following.
5 – One goal that we all seem to share is we want to reach more people. What is your #1 tip for bringing more traffic to your blog?
Creating content that answers a question has always worked well to increase traffic. I've learned to pay attention to the trends, make notes of questions I receive and that I see in groups, and I respond with a blog post or video that is from my experience raising five dogs. While learning from veterinarians and other professionals will always be preferred, getting information from fellow pet parents is valuable as well. This keeps me encouraged to continue sharing.
6 – Do you do sponsored posts/reviews? If so, what do you find works best and how do you determine what to charge for a blog post, social media shares, etc.? If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?
Yes, I do sponsored posts and reviews, but not as many as I used to do. I've found that doing too many sponsored posts takes away the authenticity of my blog, especially now that I have advertising. So, when I do reviews, it's usually on products I purchase. On the rare times that I do collaborate on a sponsored post, I have an hourly rate that is my goal and I use that to create a fee.
There will always be brands that either don't believe in paying bloggers or don't have the budget and I respect that. I do occasionally work in exchange for product, but I save these opportunities for brands that love and respect. The random emails I get asking for backlinks or free product promotion receive a polite canned message in response that says “no thank you.”
7 – Looking forward to 2020, if you accomplish only one thing through your blog, what do you hope it is?
My friend and I are planning the first annual Seattle Natural Pet Expo and I want to put on the best event the city has ever seen. We have a great line up of speakers and we're currently working on attracting sponsors.
One day, we were thinking about all of the events that occur around the country and wondered why we don't have something in the Pacific Northwest. There is such a huge pet lover and wellness community, this seems like the perfect location. So, we decided to host the event ourselves. It's been a learning curve, but I know that we're going to create a fun, memorable event and I love that I get to do this with my best friend.
The Seattle Natural Pet Expo will not be focused on raw feeding. Instead, we are planning an event that is for both dog and cat lovers and has sessions about nutrition, training, behavior, and more.
8 – What steps are you planning to take to ensure you reach your goal?
We're working with professionals in the marketing industry to help us get the word out about the event. And, I'm working my fingers to the bone to continue building Keep the Tail Wagging® and other blogs that will fall under the KTTW Umbrella, the first one being Dog Mom Style. I know that as I build my authority and following, it'll help us with our event and make it easier to make SNPE an annual day of learning for pet parents.
Because this is our first event, we're doing a lot of homework, speaking to a lot of people, and keeping an open mind. I think that if I would have approached this a couple of years ago, I would have wanted a raw feeding for dogs conference; today, I'm happy that we're making an event that is more inclusive because not everyone can feed raw.
9 – The blogging landscape is constantly changing. What changes in blogging do you see coming in 2020 and beyond? What plans do you have to evolve?
In order to build a successful blogging business, I've learned that I need to produce more than just blog posts. Having products that people want is key and I'll continue writing books. I'm also considering creating a course. I think the next step is to take what we're learning and put it into a course. Imagine if someone had a blog about Huskies, I would have been interested in a course when we added a Husky mix to our family.
10 – If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
The 2018 and 2019 Google updates have negatively impacted traffic for a lot of bloggers. I'd love to know how other bloggers are recovering. And, if you weren't negatively impacted, why do you think that is? What's your niche?
I found the impact of the Google updates fascinating and followed many discussions over the years to gain a better understanding of what was happening and what steps I could take to recover.
Mea culpa is a Latin phrase that means “through my fault” and is an acknowledgement of having done wrong.Wikipedia
One thing I've noticed in the raw feeding community is this attitude that raw is better. I've even seen people tell others that if they don't feed raw, they don't love their dogs as much. While I've never taken it that far, I know that my passion for raw feeding came across as judgmental of others and for that, I would like to apologize.
Over the years, I've witnessed a growing divide in the fresh food and pet lover communities. People are intolerant of alternative points of views that were derived from different experiences and backgrounds. I've been the victim of massive trolling from groups, name calling, and my “block” list on Facebook is a mile long. These experiences have forced me to take a look at how I've treated people in the past. We don't always have to openly attack someone to come across as a bully and that's been a tough pill to swallow.
So, whether you're a blogger or a follower – if you have felt that I judged you in the past, I apologize. It doesn't matter if it was my intention or not and while I do believe that we're responsible for our own feelings, I also know that the words we choose when speaking to others can make a huge difference in another person's day.