As I wrote in the post announcing this challenge and my role as a co-host with Amy of GoPetfriendly, it’s a bit disconcerting to come to this event without a pet — and with less than 6 months of regular postings under my belt in this past year. But I thought it was a good opportunity for me to take a breath and take a look at where I’m going with Will My Dog Hate Me now that its muse, my sweet Frankie, has left the building.
And of course I want to know what all of you have been up to. I feel bad that I haven’t been as involved as I’d like to be with others in this oh-so-supportive community. I hope this is a step towards changing that.
And in case you’re thinking of reminding me of my tag line…the guilt-free zone only applies to dog care, not to being a bad member of the blogging community. And, hey, it’s my blog, my rules — including my exceptions to them.
1. How long have you been blogging?
Since April 2009. Except for the year I took off, August 1 2012-August 1 2013; I like symmetry.
I started this blog to publicize a book I’d written, a humorous reference/advice book that described what I learned when I adopted Frankie, my first dog: Am I Boring My Dog: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew. The blog was eclectic, to say the least, touching on a huge variety of topics. And it kind of went off the rails, including a variety of features such as a pet travel book club, rants against Cesar Millan, even pet fashion… but at its centerpiece was always Frankie, who embodied the mystery that is dog. It feels empty without him.
2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you the most proud.
Returning to blogging. Dealing with difficult subject matter. Having a fund-raising campaign. Wow, that’s three.
3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?
I see that a theme is emerging here. The fact that I’m blogging here again is what has changed the most.
4. What lessons have you learned this year — from other blogs, or through your own experience — that could help us all with our own sites?
As I mentioned, I have been a terrible blogger, by almost all criteria of good blogging practices — commenting on other people’s blogs, participating in challenges (except for this one), keeping up with blogging communities, inviting people to guest blog… I’ve been writing for myself, primarily, while hoping that what I had to say would be of interest to others.
But it seems I had amassed a lot of credit in the good karma bank from my past blogging practice; see Expect the Worst! And Be Utterly Surprised and Thrilled When You Get the Best.
So my advice would be to be generous and kind — but not in a phony, smarmy way, especially if you tend to be a smartass like me; people won’t believe or trust you. If you are genuine with your praise and helpful, you never know when your actions will come back and give you a warm group hug.
5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
I haven’t been concerned with traffic for the most part, though I sneak looks at Google Analytics occasionally. So I’m going to have to go with trying for great content and, to a lesser degree, trying to be involved with social media.
6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog — and do you think you should spend more or less time next year?
Well, it depends on how you look at Facebook, where I have been doing most of my blog publicizing in the past months, though I initially started out with Twitter. It’s a huge time sink… but it’s also a way to engage people. If they like what you post on related topics or just get a sense of who you are, they may be interested enough to come to your blog.
At least that’s the theory. Note to self: Try to stop posting about politics, at least politics relating to humans. Animal welfare politics is fine.
7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience? And how do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?
I judge by comments and Facebook likes and, to a lesser degree, by Twitter shares/retweets
I don’t really have features or themes these days, but if I wanted to work on driving traffic here again, I would probably reintroduce the Pet Adoption Videos That Don’t Make Me Want to Kill Myself series. I loved that, and I need to fight fire with fire. The ASPCA is ramping up their tugging-at-the-heartstrings/making-me-ill game with their newest campaign, which features Eric McCormack. It’s not fair. I love Eric McCormack, and I particularly love Eric McCormack with a cute animal in his arms. You’re making me turn the channel or leave the room, ASPCA. It’s war!
8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?
Great content — which doesn’t always mean great writing (though that helps). It means coming up with an important and/or interesting topic that engages the reader. Questions at the end of the post may help too, if I think that the blogger is genuinely interested in my opinion, rather than just sticking a question there because someone said “You should put questions at the end of a blog post if you want to get comments.”
9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?
Not these days. Aside from anything else, I’d be hard pressed to find a product that I could promote without feeling deeply depressed that I don’t have a pet to endorse it. And the products I could theoretically endorse — urns and other memorial products — would deeply depress me in another way.
Wow, who could predict that a question about product endorsement would inspire me to use the phrase “deeply depressing,” twice?
10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?
Because I blog infrequently and on my own schedule, I find that I don’t get writer’s block. My problem is finding myself writing long posts and editing them endlessly, which takes away time from writing projects that pay the bills. With those, I get writer’s block….
11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?
As I noted in my answer to question #1, I took off a year to work on another blog, FreudsButcher.com. I’m amazed that, although I took a break from blogging, my blog didn’t break (although my heart did when I had to say good-bye to Frankie).
Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?
I originally thought my break from pet blogging would be permanent. I even wrote a post called Auf Wiedersehen Will My Dog Hate Me. A year later I wrote a post called We’re Baaack! It pretty much says everything I felt at the time, although a part of me might have sensed on some subliminal level that it was time to let Frankie go. There was no way I could do that without publicly acknowledging his importance in my life and without letting people who had come to care about him say good-bye.
12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?
I’m not going to make any major decisions but I feel comfortable committing to writing at least one post each week.
For one thing, I want to keep everyone who contributed to Frankie’s Fund in the loop about where the money they donated to Grey Muzzle is going, and I just got the word that I can announce it: the Old Dog Haven‘s “Final Refuge Dogs” program. I’m so excited to be helping this great cause and I’ll be posting much more about it soon.
For another, I want to keep Frankie in the limelight — whether I talk about finally finding the perfect place for his ashes to rest or about the mourning process.
And I haven’t lost interest in animal welfare issues. In fact, since I brought up the topic, I’m thinking that I might have to post a Pet Adoption Video That Won’t Make You — or Me (I’ve never decided) — Want to Kill Yourself/Myself featuring a hot guy every time that the Eric McCormack ASPCA ad comes on.
Here’s my favorite, right now, because I need to erase those sad images.