PBCIt never ceases to amaze me that as I get older, time seems to move faster. How is it possible that it’s been a whole year since the last Pet Blogger Challenge?!? Whether I can comprehend it or not, it’s time to look what’s worked and what hasn’t on the blog over the past year, to share our experiences and goals, and to benefit from the insights of the rest of the pet blogging community. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get right to it!

If this is the first you’ve heard of the Pet Blogger Challenge and you’d like to participate, you can find the questions in this post.

Questions for Repeat Offenders

1. How long have you been blogging and provide a link to your post from last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge so we can refresh our memories.

Take Paws launched three years and 7 months ago and here’s a link to our post from last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge.

2. What do you consider the most important goals you set out in last year’s post?

My most important goal from last year was the same as the year before – to enjoy our travels and write posts that made people feel like they were right there with us. I want getting out and doing things to be the priority, not churning out another post to meet some artificial blogging schedule that I’ve imposed on myself.

3. Have you made progress toward those goals, or have your goals changed over the past year?

Yes, over the past year I’ve gotten less and less attached to when I post and more attached to writing about things that really strike a chord with me. Writing about things that I’m really passionate about has become my new passion, and that will likely mean any semblance of a blogging schedule will be going out the window in 2013.

4. How often do you post?

I  wrote 174 posts in 2012, which surprises me – I didn’t realize I’d written that much! It does explain why I felt completely drained at the end of the year … like I’d written about everything there was to write about and had nothing left. I think there’s a lesson in there about pacing myself if I want to continue writing the blog for the long term.

5. Has your opinion of blogging on a schedule or as the spirit moves you changed?

I’m definitely in the “as the spirit moves you” camp and moving even more in that direction, though I find myself in a rhythm that probably looks a bit more like posting on a schedule from the outside.

If you don’t publish on a schedule, why? How do you think your decision affects your audience? How do you know when a topic is “post-worthy?”

Writing doesn’t come easily for me. I often sit in front of the computer for hours struggling to put my thoughts into words – and it’s worse when the topic doesn’t resonate with me. When I posted on a schedule, I spend more time writing about things that may have been informative, but didn’t make my heart sing. It felt forced. It made the blog feel like a job, and that wasn’t fun for me.

Blog Analytics 2012

During the past year I freed myself from the blogging schedule. Sometimes I posted four times a week, sometimes two – and in December I barely posted at all as I recovered from a back injury. Much to my delight, my audience has grown by more than 100% over last year.

Figuring out what topics are “blog-worthy” is one of the hardest things. It really depends on why you’re writing your blog: for yourself, to get more traffic, to connect with your audience, or some other reason. I write first to connect to my audience – to encourage them to travel with their pets – and secondly for myself, to remember the places we’ve been and how they made me feel. When I think about potential topics in that context, it makes it easier to decide which posts to write.

Still, it’s not always easy to determine what topics will do best on your blog. I’ve written some posts that I didn’t think were that good, but that my readers really liked. Other times, a post that I thought would be a hit, flops. I guess the lesson is to be generous with what you write about, because what you think no one will find interesting might really appeal to your readers. Every once in a while, when I’m writing about a place we’ve been or an issue that I feel strongly about, the words just flow – those posts are always the best!

6. How much time do you spend writing your blog per week? How much time visiting other blogs? Share your tips for staying on top of it all.

I spend between 10 and 15 hours a week writing the blog, and several more hours promoting it though my social networks. I probably spend  about half as much time reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them per week. Staying on top of it all is something I haven’t been able to figure out – it seems my to-do list just gets longer and longer, so I’m looking for some tips in that area!

7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)? Do you look strictly at the numbers, or do you have a way of assessing the quality of those interactions?

When I gauge the success of an individual post, I look at the number and the quality of the comments it’s gotten. It’s pretty easy to tell if you’ve been able to excite people when you look at the comments they leave. However, when I measure how well the blog is doing over all (and I do that once a month), I rely on my traffic numbers from Google analytics.

8. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one issue you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Do you have any advice on getting yourself to “show up” in your posts? Sometimes it feels like I’m writing from a script – like I’m detached and there’s nothing of me in my writing. In 2013, I want to spend more time tapped into my passion and not just “phoning it in.”

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I only have two goals for 2013:

For myself – My goal is to do more of the things that bring me joy: doing yoga, reading a book just for fun, taking a walk with Rod and the dogs, spending time with friends, eating good food, experiencing new places, etc.

For the business – My goal is to increase traffic to the GoPetFriendly.com website by 100%.

In 2013, I want Take Paws to be a showcase of the fun people can have traveling with their pets. I want my writing to reflect the passion I feel for the new places we visit with Ty and Buster – even if that means posts will be less frequent. More perspectives are better, so I hope you will write guest posts and share your experiences traveling with your pets. And, since sharing photos is really what makes a pet travel blog fun, we’ll be announcing a big change to our Friday Photo Challenge in tomorrow’s post. Finally, keep an eye out as we launch new community features that will allow everyone to contribute at GoPetFriendly.com at the end of this month.

One thing I won’t be doing in 2013 is posting just to get something up there. I want my readers to know when I publish, they should buckle their seat belt and get ready to be transported. That’s the kind of writing that I love – that’s what I want to do as we continue filling in our pet travel map.

GPF Map 2012

That’s a wrap-up on the third edition of the Pet Blogger Challenge. Many thanks to all of you for making 2012 a success for Take Paws, and thanks to all the bloggers participating today!

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
Pet Friendly Hotels | Pet Friendly Destinations | Pet Friendly Activities

 Bloggers participating in the Third Annual Pet Blogger Challenge, please add your link and then include the link code in your post. Thanks!

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