The Pet Blogger Challenge allows us to learn “how and why” we blog about animals as well as how that’s working for us as a group. Any pet blogger can participate. Just answer the questions on your own blog and join the link list below. It’s open through 11:59 Mountain Time on 1/11.
Thanks to Edie Jarolim, author of Am I Boring My Dog, who was inspired to bring this challenge forth by Amy Burkert‘s post, Bullied by the Blog. Together, they organized this project (with a little badge design from me).
1. When did you begin your blog?
Oh boy. Which one? This blog’s first post, Apple Picking Dogs, went live in November of 2009.
Truth be told, I had been blogging since 1997 when Geocities was the online neighborhood. I’d add fresh journal entries atop a static website while traveling the world as an international flight attendant. It was cheaper than phoning home and I was thrilled when the local pizza guy, whom I had never met, wrote to say he loved my adventures. (As it turns out, his website was just down the Geocities block from my own. Anybody remember when we clicked on houses rather than link lists?)
When I returned to college in 2006 to add an English degree to Graphic Design, I met WordPress during a class project, fell in love and bore 4 blogs. This One Wild Life is my favorite brainchild, wrapping my heartstrings around its little finger, asking for constant attention and food for thought with that sweet, adorable face.
I still plan to compile my millions of notes, photos and video clips of my recent volunteer experience in Ghana on myCulture Trek blog, but the gobs of material is so overwhelming that it plays second fiddle for now.
2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?
This One Wild Life was a therapeutic endeavor at the start. We had just lost Bill, 100 pounds of rescue love wrapped in a Pitbull/Border Collie coat, and had invited two new rescues to live with us. While still grieving, I wanted a way to record and remember favorite moments with these magnificent beings, exploring and sharing the human emotion attached to my animal relationships.
3. Is your current purpose the same?
It is. And it’s not.
If not, what’s different?
This One Wild Life, I suppose, wasn’t necessarily meant to be a niche topic. I chose the name because it represented all living beings in their many forms, all the magnificence that life has to offer, and an opportunity to appreciate each moment as encapsulated by each post, photo or clip.
Writing about my rescue animals’ integration and the ensuing household antics at the time, I’ve branched out only as far as politically charged animal topics, rescue, welfare, health, nutrition and product reviews since. Even my first travel log, Kim Clune’s Alaska, highlights mostly wildlife encounters with whales, eagles, Stellar sea lions, sea stars, bears, and the general beauty of Alaska, Palin-free. In every aspect, this blog has naturally developed around animals, if you include those that take human form.
If so, how do you feel you’ve met your goals?
This One Wild Life still celebrates relationships with all things animal, vegetable or mineral. And those of us behind the blog, meaning my husband and I, do so every single day.
4. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?
I started blogging as the spirit moved me and I loved it. It wasn’t until I decided to monetize that frequency increased to 5 days a week. I (unjustly) blame Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett, co-authors of the book ProBlogger, for showing me the path to The Great Cha-ching. I love these unbelievably nice guys and, as my blogging heroes, I will continue to learn from them for my business. But the business model is what nearly killed my passion for this sweet child ‘o mine.
While attending BlogWord (The Movie) thanks to Lara Kulpa, my amazingly talented friend / consultant / fellow dog rescuer who also happens to be Darren Rowse’s right-hand woman, I absorbed a tremendous amount of terrific advice. Still, nothing was so powerful as the words spun into gold by Scott Stratten of Unmarketing fame. His message is simple: schedules squash passion and producing mediocrity hurts your blog.
In Strattens own words, “Blogging on a schedule makes me stabby.” (In mine, I say “Right on.”)
Relying on traffic for community building, it’s important to give that community only the best we have to offer. Reading schlock shaves valuable minutes from our all-too-short lives and I don’t want folks to hate me for it. As Stratten explains, “People don’t spread meh. People spread awesome.” People come to read awesome too.
I have since stopped pushing out content for the sake of it (although I never intentionally sent schlock into the blogosphere), allowing for time to recharge and be inspired by other people’s awesomeness. That, in itself, is awesome.
5. Are you generating income from your blog?
I may have generated enough cashola to cover hosting, and perhaps a box of crackers, but I couldn’t afford a free glass of water to wash ’em down. Instead, I have dog coats, dog beds, pet treats, cat toys and a BrewBot I received for review – and that’s pretty cool too. Yeah. Defining income as a sustainable proponent of my existence, I would never classify my blog’s direct proceeds in that way.
If so, how (e.g. sponsor ads, affiliate relationships, spokesperson opportunities)?
I started with Google AdSense and made my first two pennies in a day. I’m pretty sure a friend clicked through to help feed my fish,who has since passed on – although not from starvation. It took months to reach a single dollar and, in over a year, I’ve finally earned enough for Google to bother cutting me a check (you know, virtually). I’ve rotated some ads from Dogtime Media in the effective Google slot for months, but that’s done nothing for me and I’ll be dropping out shortly. In fact, syndication through them appears to be harming traffic, not helping, so I may drop that as well.
Affiliate links are far more productive for me and I participate in several programs (fully disclosed per FCC requirements, of course):
- FatCow web hosting – I use this reliable, green web hosting myself and could conceivably make $100 from each referred web client. Sadly, most clients already have hosting elsewhere, but some have participated. (If you’ve ever heard me gripe about broken websites, this is due to my own incessant experimentation and is no fault of FatCow.)
- Amazon.com – I offer sales links to products or books I review, but I haven’t made anything there… yet.
- Shareasale.com – This site has offered the best rate of return and success while hosting ads for BlogWorld and the Genesis WP Theme. Sign up, get approved, and host an ad from them. You will do far better than Google AdSense.
Most effective is the indirect use of my blog for income. ThisOneWildLife.com is a living, breathing example of what I can help others develop as an add-on to their business. Rather than hitting people over the head with cold calling or mass mailing, blogging and social media generate business by forming relationships around a brand or product, ensuring its online availability and providing a wealth of genuine feedback when interested people are in the market. Web design and writing is what I sell. To that end, this blog has been a learning tool, is now an example and will forever earn me clients. That is worth far more than a few pay-per-clicks. Now if I’d just finish my own company website already…
6. What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular (bragging is good!)?
I learn so much through blogging, whether researching a topic to write about, reading another’s informative take on things or adding a new technical skill to my box of tools. I love equally, or perhaps even more-so, the interaction, conversation and healthy debate brought about through posting and commenting. Some of the best people I have ever met have become friends through blogging and I’ve been able to learn, entertain, educate help and and relate with an entire community of animal lovers, rescuers, advocates, trainers, writers, product developers and, well, more animals.
I admit, I re-read my own posts for enjoyment, getting lost in the reverie of days and animals gone by. I still can’t believe how fast and how much our kittens have grown or all the trouble they have caused in their short, little lives. While it’s fun to revisit the joy that every one of our animals has brought, I also see many improvements with my writing, photography and video compilations. This space is, after all, my creative playground, making it fun rather than bothersome to improve the work I do. And if I screw it up, it doesn’t matter. This is where I can relax and be me.
7. What do you like least?
Since dropping self-imposed deadlines, what I like least is any task or errand (but not the living experience required to write) that takes me away from blogging. Really. That’s it.
Oh wait. There’s more (And yes, after accumulated hours of lost time, I’m obviously bitter):
- I hate Blogger.com’s captchas, forms and previews. It’s like trying to infiltrate a military fort just to leave a comment. Not friendly. Not nice. I no longer waste time crawling over the wall only to have my comment shot down by some system snafu, which always seem to happen.
- I want to engage freely. Don’t you? Apparently not, as my comment awaits moderation. Don’t you know that sharing your post with my comment attached is much more fun? (Oh come now, we’re all this ego-centric.) Might I suggest an anti-spam filter like Akismet to keep the bad guys out? I’m a good person. Really. Why must you treat me with such disdain? And, by the time you approve me, I’m already long gone.
- Disqus… Why does this beloved comment system delete my often lengthy response if I forget to sign in first? Or double-post my comment when I am signed in? I can make an idiot of myself just fine. I don’t need Disqus to generate more annoyance and idiocy, attaching my name to it. Oy.
It felt good to get that out there… again. (I know I’ve said this before – somewhere.)
8. How do you see your blog changing/growing in 2011?
There are more travel-logs to come covering Grand Cayman, Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Cozumel. And we’ll be cruising south again soon. The latest plan is to wear a helmet cam and zip-line through the rainforest. (Go ahead. Have a laugh as I scream my head off.) And, of course, you’ll see plenty more antics from the household characters you’ve come to know and love. In fact, Jed cat has a new Jedi Window-walker trick and we’ve got hours of footage still in the can just waiting to be edited.
Come by for a play date soon. We absolutely love having you here – you know, when we’re around.