2nd Annual Pet Blogger Challenge

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The beginning of the new year is a great time to reflect back on what you accomplished over the past year as well as look to the future.  I’ve been thinking about this (my goals) a lot over the past few days and although I don’t quite yet have a clear picture of what I’d like to do with my puppy training blog in the upcoming 12 months I do have some general ideas.

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10This morning after browsing through my RSS Feeds I found a number of dog blogs participating in the Pet Blogger Challenge.  After reading through a few Pet Blogger Challenge Posts I decided that this would be a great way to take a quick glimpse at things we’ve done on the blog in the past and what we plan to do in the future.

So we went ahead and visited this post: Pet Blogger Challenge, followed the rules, answered a few questions and voila…we have today’s blog post!

1. When did you begin your blog?

I published my first blog post on PuppyInTraining.com way back on August 1st 2007.  My first post was basically the story about how I adopted my puppy, Linus from the animal shelter.  I remember being very concerned with my blog design (I used a free WordPress template and made a few customizations) and using a bunch of pictures of my first guide dog puppy in the heading (actually 2 are of Stetson my guide pup and 2 are Linus my rescue pup).  In fact I still have my original wordpress theme.  Here’s what it looked like:

First Blog Theme
This is the first Puppy In Training Blog theme

Since then I’ve published over 450 blog posts and changed my theme I believe 4 times.  My current theme is using the Genesis Framework.

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

My original purpose for starting a blog was to document my journey raising a guide dog puppy in training.  I originally set it up to keep friends and family up to date on my first guide pup, Stetson’s progress on his way to becoming a working guide dog.

3. Is your current purpose the same?

Since I started the Puppy In Training Blog I’ve raised 3 guide dog pups and I’m currently raising a 4th.  The purpose of my blog has evolved a little bit since it’s beginnings and as technology has changed so has the purposed of my blog.

If not, what’s different?

As I mentioned the blog has evolved.  My main purpose and goal today is to offer “Puppy Training Tips From My Experiences As A Guide Dog Puppy Raiser”.  As I mentioned as technology has changed so has my blogging.  Today, I report a lot of my puppies activities using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube rather than my blog.  For instance I post a lot of my pictures from outings on the Puppy In Training Facebook page.  I post short little tweets about what we’re doing on our Twitter page.  On YouTube we started our Puppy In Training TV channel and also post dog product video reviews.

The blog really brings everything together and as I mentioned today we use it to share our experiences in order to help others with their puppy training problems.

If so, how do you feel you’ve met your goals?

My friends and family still interact with me on the blog and also now on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube so I guess I did meet my original goals by keeping them up to date on our journey as guide dog puppy raisers.  The coolest part are the thousands of other people who also follow along and learn the in’s and out’s of raising a puppy.

4. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?

Recently it’s been “as the spirit moves me”, but in the past I’ve tried several different scheduling techniques.

If the former, how often — and what techniques do you use to stick to it?

As I mentioned in the past I’ve tried different scheduling techniques including blogging Monday thru Friday.  I also tried posting every day of the month.  We’ve even worked on posting only 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).  However, in the long run we haven’t stuck to any specific schedule.  In my experience I’ve had the best success sticking to a schedule by following this list:

  1. Decide on a schedule (3 days a week, 5 days a week, every day in a month)
  2. Brainstorm for ideas on a weekly or monthly basis
  3. For each idea create an initial topic/title
  4. Schedule the topics/titles for specific days using your blog software
  5. Expand each topic/title into a blog post before the scheduled publish date.
  6. Keep a back log of blog posts for busy days, vacation days, sick days, etc.
  7. Repeat the following week/month
I’m in the process of putting together a new schedule for my blog for the year.

If the latter, do you worry about… well, whatever you might worry about (e.g. losing traffic, losing momentum)?

I’m not good when I’m not on a schedule which is how I’m currently operating.  However, I don’t worry too much about losing traffic (a lot of my traffic comes from Search Engines), but I do worry about losing loyal readers.  I took a look at some of my numbers for the past few years and here’s what I found:

Google Analytics 2008
Google Analytics Stats 2008 -196 blog posts
Google Analytics 2009
Google Analytics Stats 2009 – 106 blog posts
Google Analytics 2010
Google Analytics Stats 2010 – 58 blog posts
Google Analytics 2011
Google Analytics Stats 2011 – 81 blog posts

My first post was on August 1st 2007 and I received virtually no traffic during those first few months besides the occasional visit from my mom, dad, and a few friends.  I didn’t even have Google Analytics installed until February 2008.  However, I did have Google AdSense installed during those early months and according to AdSense I received 1,528 page views from 25 blog posts during the time period: August 1st, 2007 – December 31st, 2007.

As you can see over the years my traffic has steadily climbed, but none more than in 2008, my first full year as a blogger.  I really stuck to a good schedule in 2008 and produced 196 blog posts and that’s what I’d like to get back to in 2012.

I’m going to try and be an overachiever this year and focus on producing on average 4 blog posts a week.  That means I should end the year with 208 blog posts and hopefully my most productive year as a blogger.  This goal is definitely attainable especially given the fact that it’s a leap year and I have an extra day to complete the task!

5. Are you generating income from your blog?

Yes, we actually made almost enough money to buy a cup of coffee in our first year of blogging.  We feel very lucky that we receive a little bit of money from our Puppy Training blog which helps to cover our hosting costs which shot way up this year thanks to a few traffic spikes back in April 2011 that forced us to move off our shared hosting plan.  Bluehost refused to reactivate our account so we moved to a HostGator Virtual Private Server.   However, our income still exceeds our costs and this allows us to make more donations to some of our favorite non-profit organizations including Guide Dogs of America and Cuddly Canines Rescue.

If so, how (e.g. sponsor ads, affiliate relationships, spokesperson opportunities)?

The Puppy In Training Blog has actually been producing income starting in it’s first year, 2007 (although we didn’t receive an actual check until a few months in to 2008).  Way back in 2007 we made just over $1 with Google AdSense.  Since then we’ve made a little bit of money every month using mainly Google AdSense, Amazon Affiliates, Chitika, and a few other affiliate programs.  We’ve also dabbled in sponsored ads, posts, and text link advertising.

According to our Amazon Affiliates account we’ve sold over $25,000 worth of products since 2007.  However, it doesn’t amount to a ton of money since our commission is usually between 4% and 8% (usually closer to 4%).

Our Google AdSense Ads produced some of the highest single day earnings in 2011 and we nearly broke the $100 mark one day.   However, on average we receive much less than $100 a day.

None of our other forms of income individually produce more than $50 a month on average.   I made a few changes to this section of the post (1/21/2012) and it’s a little more vague then I’d like, but if you’re interested in chatting further on this topic then please feel free to contact me through our contact form.

If not currently, do you hope to in the future — and how?

We have a few plans to try and diversify our income in 2012 and hopefully should announce a few things in the coming weeks.

6. What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular (bragging is good!)?

Some of our favorite things about blogging are:

  1. Making relationships with other bloggers.
  2. Helping people with their puppy training issues.
  3. Being part of an online community.
  4. Helping some of the organizations we volunteer for with monetary donations produced from the blog.
  5. Keeping connected with friends and family through the blog.

7. What do you like least?

  1. Feeling obligated to write a blog post
  2. Managing the technical aspects of the blog.  This seems to get worse as the blog grows.
  3. Dealing with negative people who visit the blog.
  4. Not having enough time to read and comment on other people’s pet blogs.

8. How do you see your blog changing/growing in 2012?

I’m hoping that 2012 will be a big year for the Puppy In Training blog.  A few of my goals off the top of my head are to:

  • Create and maintain new relationships with other pet bloggers
  • Work on my email newsletter
  • Create an e-book
  • Create a puppy training membership area for new puppy raisers

Thanks to Edie of Will My Dog Hate Me and Amy from the Go Pet Friendly Blog for hosting the 2nd Annual Pet Blogger Challenge.  We really got a lot out of not only thinking about our own blog, but also reading through the many other blogs participating in this years challenge.

How about you?  Did you participate in this years Pet Blogger Challenge?  What is the most interesting thing you learned from someone else’s Pet Blogger Challenge post?

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Bones & Chews Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. Thanks for leaving a note on my blog. I checked you out during the challenge, but was a BAD lurker. 😉

    You’ve certainly got a professional looking and info-packed site here! I wish I had known about it a year and a half ago when I had two puppies at one time. What was I thinking?

    1. @Elizabeth thanks for visiting! Yes, I am often a bad lurker as well. Wow! You’re very daring taking on two puppies at one time. We almost did the same thing when we picked up Linus from the animal shelter. We were inches away from bringing home his sister. I’m sure your pups are doing great now.

  2. Hi Colby,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love meeting knew people especially when they can talk about their dog all day 🙂 Thanks for your concern about the allergies. Jada, my min pin, has allergies in her paws. They’ve gotten worse over the years and 2011 was by far the worst year for her where she actually went through treatment with medications, washes, drops … you name it, we’ve tried it! It seemed to calm down but I just noticed recently she started chewing on her paws again. The next step I would be allergy testing, whether it’s food-related or something outside. It usually happens in the summer time but because it’s winter I’m a little worried, but then again we haven’t had much snow so she is in contact with the grass. I’ve had previous blogs where I chronicled her treatment and took pics of what her paws first looked like until her last treatment round. Her paw pads are actually white and I don’t think they will ever turn back to black again! Hope your lab’s allergies are under control. If you have any other insight, please leave me know!

    Oh and great job on your blog! I’m a beginner blogger and have my year blogiversrary coming up so hopeful in a few years, I can be as successful as you are!

    1. @Melissa thanks for visiting! Stetson gets the allergies in his paws too and chews the fur. He also gets it around his belly. We’ve tried meds, sprays, washes, drops, changing his diet, and benadryl. The only thing that worked for him was called Atopica, but I didn’t like the side effects. It made him nauseous and he often vomited shortly after taking the meds which was daily for the first month then every other day after that. Anyhow, we took him off the Atopica and we’re dealing as best we can with the allergies. Let us know if you find a solution for Jada.

      Happy Blogiversary!

  3. It is nice to meet you, and I love your site! Guide Dog puppies in training are some of my very favorite patients! It is fun to read about the history of your site and see the cute pups – sounds like you have great things in store for 2012!

    1. Hi Doctor Vet! I’m glad you were able to stop by. I’m glad our guide dog puppies make good patients. Reading through all the Pet Blogger Challenge Posts was invigorating and makes me want to do more this year. Maybe I can create a few posts with cartoons in 2012 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for taking the Challenge, and for your commitment to raise service puppies. It’s an amazing contribution to people who rely on service dogs to live their lives. Your stats are terrific – I’m happy that you’re so successful. I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings you – the best of luck!

    1. @Amy, thank you for hosting the pet blogger challenge. I really enjoyed answering the questions and got a bit carried away with my answers (in a good way). It was nice to reflect back on what we’ve accomplished along with what we’d like to do in the future. Best of luck to you in 2012 and I can’t wait to answer the questions in next years challenge!

  5. hi colby! i love that your blog is all about puppies! i will definitely be checking it out more and sharing with friends.

    1. @lauren, Thanks! We love puppies! We’ve mostly been trying to concentrate on puppy training and what we do as guide dog puppy raisers, but this year we’d like to work on our photography skills and get more pics up on the site. Thanks for visiting!

  6. I was so glad to see Puppy In Training in the pet blogger’s challenge. And not just because you were entry #95 which means I finally got to the very last post. 🙂

    I knew you’d take this challenge really seriously and I enjoyed seeing your reflections. I share many of your concerns about time. I don’t know how you accomplish half the things you do.

    Look forward to seeing what Puppy in Training has in store for 2012.

    1. @Pamela, nice job on reading all 95 Pet Blogger Challenge posts. I’m only on #23. I’ve been trying to read about 10 blog posts every day. It looks like it will be a few days before I get to your blog. Slowly, but surely I’ll get there. I’ve really enjoyed participating in this years Pet Blogger Challenge not only the self reflection portion, but also meeting new bloggers and reading through everyone’s blog posts. It’s really got me excited for the new year!

  7. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog. I love your theme and area of expertise, I think that should make for very interesting posts, and I look forward to visiting and learning more. I love the pictures from your original blog, nothing better than a cute puppy! Way to go on the stats and monetizing! woo hoo!

    1. I’d have to agree that there’s nothing better than a cute puppy! We’ve been working hard with our blog over the years and we are very happy that we can earn a little bit of money to help cover costs and make small donations to some of our favorite non-profit organizations. I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit and subscribe to your site. I can’t wait to hear more about you, Kelly and your upcoming book.

  8. Hi Colby – I’m glad you decided to participate in the PBC. It was really helpful seeing your stats over the past four years and your approach to scheduling. And your pups are adorable!

    1. Thanks Vicki! I’m glad looking over the stats helped. It definitely helped me to take a look back and re-evaluate what we’re doing. We’re trying to read through all the other blogs that have participated in the challenge, but I can see it’s going to take me a while considering there were 95 entries! Best of luck to you in 2012!

  9. Your stats are really impressive!

    I like the way you approach scheduling your posts and planning topics. I may have to take a page from your book!

    1. Thanks Pup Fan! We love sharing our puppy raising experiences. One of our goals for the new year is to get back to scheduling our blog posts. It definitely makes a difference. Best of luck to you in 2012!

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