Pet Blogger Challenge 2017

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What's up puppy butt?
Yes, it’s time for the Pet Blogger Challenge. And yes li’l puppies you will be a part of our goals for 2017!

The New Year means one thing…time for the Pet Blogger Challenge 2017!

Whether you’re a new pet blogger or you’ve been around the pet blogging block the Pet Blogger Challenge is a great way to learn from your fellow bloggers, share your knowledge, and build great new relationships.

Thank you Amy Burkert from for hosting the 7th annual Pet Blogger Challenge!

Without further adieu, my answers to #PBC2017:

1. When did you start your blog and, for anyone who is just seeing it for first time, please provide a description of your site. Would you say your blog focuses more on sharing stories with your readers, or providing a resource for your audience?

I launched August 1st, 2007 to follow the journey of my first guide dog puppy in training, Stetson (funny thing is my first post was about adopting my first puppy, Linus).

Nearly 10 years later my story remains the same: I share my experiences raising and training service dog puppies in training.

Over the years this blog has become more of a resource and I’m answering hundreds of questions every week (I wish that translated into more blog posts).

This year I plan to get back to more storytelling similar to what we did with Dublin back in 2012 with Puppy In Training TV.

2. What was your proudest blogging moment of 2016?

Getting the chance to bring Stetson to BlogPaws 2016.

Stetson was the reason why I started this blog, but since he was career changed from guide dog to pet he’s largely been in the background of the blog.

However, for one weekend he was the focal point of all words, videos, and photographs on the Blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)

One of the things I love about blogging is helping people with their puppy problems while weaving in a few stories of my own.

For some reason (I’m not real smart) I answer the same questions over and over again via email.

One of those questions was how can I adopt a retired service dog.

My answer was a two part blog post:

The good news is all I have to do is send this link to people when they ask me this question.

The better news is these two blog posts average about 300 visitors a day which means I’m providing an answer for thousands of visitors every month.

4. Year after year, one goal that we all seem to share is that we want to reach more people. What one tool did you use or action did you take this year that had the most impact on increasing traffic to your blog?

PinterestPinterest, and Pinterest.

If you don’t know about Pinterest, you’re not on Pinterest, you’re not working on your Pinterest strategy then you’re missing out on boatloads of traffic.

I’m 99.9% sure my answer to this question next year will be Pinterest.

There’s a 0.1% chance Russian hackers will take down the blog again and I’ll throw in the towel.

5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? (Please include a link.) Have you noticed any themes across your most popular posts?

There is a theme across my most popular posts and it has to do with puppy pee and poop.

However, a non pee-pee-poo-poo post has risen to the top and that post is:

6. What blog do you find most inspirational and how has it influenced your blog? (Please include a link.)

One of the blogs I started following this past year that I really enjoy is K9sOverCoffee.

I’m not able to read or comment on every post, but when I do I feel like I always have a nice little discussion with Barbara.

I enjoy how she engages with her audience and it’s something I plan to be better at with my blog in 2017.

7. What is one thing your readers don’t know about you or your pets that would surprise them?

Stetson sleeps in bed with us and has a strong reflex kick.

Amongst other places he’s kicked me in the face and Ali in the chest….HARD!  It’s kinda funny unless it happens to you.

8. What is something you’ve learned this year that could help other bloggers?

Optimal image sizes in social media:

  • Pinterest: 1000 x 1500
  • Facebook: 1200 x 627
  • Instagram 1080 x 1080

By the way, I’m not sure if those are truly optimal sizes (please correct me if I’m wrong), but I came across those numbers somewhere on the inter webs and they’ve worked well for me in 2016.

9. What would you like to accomplish on your blog in 2017?

The word for 2017 is “Engagement”.

I’d like to have a more engaged community around my blog and social channels.

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?

What are your top tips for email list building/marketing?

That’s a wrap!  Thanks everyone!  If you have any blogging questions, puppy questions, or questions in general please let me know.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it’s hard to imagine it’s been so long. I mentioned writing a blog post about some of the changes from 2007 to 2017. I think I might do that just to reminisce. Happy New Year!

  1. I was glad to see you at BlogPaws this past year. Having the “answer questions” thing click was huge for me. I, too, spent a lot of time answering the same question over and over again. If I get a question several times, I write a blog post about it now. That way I can answer them quickly, thoroughly, and get traffic back to my blog. It’s a win-win 🙂 Good luck in 2017!

    1. It was great seeing you at BlogPaws last year! I probably won’t be traveling to Myrtle Beach this year, but hopefully I can catch up with you if I’m out in the Pacific Northwest later this year.

  2. Wow! It sounds like Pinterest has really been amazing for you. I need to work harder on using Pinterest. Congrats on getting over 18k per month on just that one pin! That is truly amazing. It sounds like your dog is a fun one to live with too. My cats sleep in bed with me, but their kicks are no where near as brutal as that. The do bite toes, though! LOL As far as the mailing list, the biggest things for me to have added joining the list as an entry option in giveaways and use the annoying pop up message in the corner of the screen. As much as I am not a fan of pop ups, I get a lot more mailing list sign ups as a result. I have also heard that offering some kind of freebie, such as a How-to guide in .pdf format, helps draw people into the newsletter too.

    1. Those are some great tips! Thank you! Archer likes to lick toes too. As a service dog in training he’s not allowed on the bed, but he’ll lift the covers and poke us with his nose and nibble on our toes. Happy New year!

  3. LOL!! I’m dying over Stetson being a kicker, and it being funny until it happens to you. I’m quite sure that’s true!

    The work you do, and the information you share is so wonderful, Colby, I’m delighted to hear that your posts are doing so well! My tip for building your email list is to incorporate it onto your Facebook page (MailChimp has an integration that’s easy to use – I’m sure other email services do, too). And use giveaways if you can. My weekly Pet Travel Photo Challenge has grown my list nicely over the years.

    As with everything else, though, it’s not all about the size of your list – the open rate is more important. Every few months I clean up my list by deleting people who haven’t opened a newsletter in the past 6 months. It keeps my costs down, since MailChimp charges based on the number of people on the list, and sponsors appreciate the high open rate.

    Thanks so much for taking the Challenge again this year, and all the best to you in 2017!

    1. Thanks for the great tips on building an email list. I’ll have to revisit giveaways. I don’t think I’ve had a giveaway in over 5 years. Yes, I try to keep the costs down by cleaning up my email list. If you don’t mind me asking what would be considered a good open rate? Right now mine is 29% plus or minus depending on the content of the weeks newsletter. I haven’t cleaned my list in a while…I tend clean up when I start closing in on the next pricing tier.

    1. Yep, it’s been many moons since we first sat down and clicked the publish button. So much has changed over the years and we’re glad to still be around even if we aren’t able to get as many blog posts out as we used to 9 years ago. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I would love to know if a retired or failed service dog would do well in a multi-dog household. Is it too late for me to consider this option since I already have four dogs?

    When it comes to list building, what worked great for me is AppSumo (which you’re using) and always creating email optins. They can be short ebooks, graphics, or lists. It felt like I’d never have the time to create them but then I just sat down and started one day and I’m slowly creating a small library of resource for my subscribers.

    1. Hi Kimberly! A lot of our friends who raise guide and service dogs have 4 or more dogs. Some are retired service dogs and others are career changed. Check with the schools near you to find out about their adoption programs and what their requirements are for adoption. Here’s the list I put together last year that might help you get started:

      Creating an optin resource for subscribers is a great tip and it’s on my to do list. I’m actually working on one that I’m hoping to complete in the next few days/weeks. A quick question for you: Today is the day Google is supposed to be penalizing sites with “intrusive interstitials”. I basically heard it’s supposed to effect websites that have popups and scroll mats displayed on mobile devices. Have you noticed any effects based on your search engine traffic?

  5. This will be your 10 year blogging anniversary, amazing! That’s quite an accomplishment to be very proud of.

    I know a lot of people use pop-ups and contests or other incentives to build email lists, but some readers get annoyed if the pop-ups are too intrusive. I need to be better at enticing readers to join too.

    Wishing you an amazing 2017 here at Puppy in Training. Keep up the wonderful posts!

    1. Thanks! Thinking back I can’t believe how much has changed over the years. It would probably make a blog post comparing blogging in 2007 to blogging in 2017.

      I’ve fought over whether or not I should have popups on the blog to collect email addresses. A few months back I added a scroll mat and I went from collecting around 5 emails a day to around 40 a day. The only problem is Google is going to penalize websites beginning tomorrow so I’m turning off the scroll mat tonight and probably adding something less intrusive like a ribbon along the top of the site.

  6. How fun that Stetson was able to join you at BlogPaws and have his moment in the sun! For some reason, Pinterest is not a great option for me – maybe I should keep trying as it seems to working for so many others.

    1. Yeah, I’m not doing Pinterest quite right yet either, but I concentrated some of my efforts to building my account and it’s paid off more than anything else besides creating new content. At the moment all I’m really doing is creating a pinnable 1000 x 1500 image for my new and old posts. I broke that rule on this post, but that’s mainly because my PBC post is about blogging and doesn’t really fit any category on my site.

  7. I have just found your blog, and absolutely love it. I am definitely going to be reading more of your blog in the future. I unfortunately have no good answers to your question, as I need more help in that regard too. I think I need to get on the Pinterest bandwagon this year hehe

    1. Definitely join the Pinterest bandwagon. It’s definitely worth it if you want more visitors to your blog. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

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