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5th Annual Pet Blogger Challenge-2015

MyDogLikes - Our Mission
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Written by Rachael

Hello! We are Rachael and Kevin, the humans behind MyDogLikes. If this is your first time here, welcome! If not, welcome back! This is our first time participating in the 5th Annual Pet Blogger Challenge hosted  by GoPetFriendly.com. Whether you are new to MyDogLikes, or an old friend, we hope that you get to know a little more about us, our boys, Harley & Charlie, and why we do what we do! We can’t wait to learn more about you and from you!

Our Golden Retriever Harley sporting a mohawk after a swim at Corbett's Glen1.) How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

I first started MyDogLikes in 2009, with the goal of becoming a comprehensive resource for dog owners. It was a standalone website where dog owners could read and share dog product reviews, post photos, and participate in forum discussions. The original site ran for about a year and a half, until we were hacked, corrupted files were implanted, and our host, took down our site. We were left with a pile of files from our site but didn’t have the knowledge to sift through and get it up and running again.

We never stopped thinking about getting the site back up, but with busy careers, a new house, and life in general, it wasn’t until November 2013 that we started the process again. Adopting Charlie in February 2014 was the impetus to really get us going; we knew this was our passion and we knew this was our time! In June 2014 we launched what you see now; the adventures of our product reviewing goldens, Harley & Charlie. Product reviews continue to be the main content that we post, however, we also regularly feature pet friendly events, parks, towns, and family news. It is our hope that sharing our product reviews can help you steer clear of bad or potentially harmful products and toward those that are worthy of your money and the dogs who will enjoy them. Additionally, we want to pass on dog-friendly events, parks, and cities to provide pet parents with the tools needed to create positive experiences for the whole family. Read our full mission here!

Charlie greeting at the fence "Howdy Neighbor!"2.) Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.

We did it! I am so happy to be finally blogging again! Since June we have completely overhauled the look of our blog with a new theme and grown in our writing, photography, and SEO skills. 

3.) What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own blogs?

I learned the importance of having high quality images. It wasn’t until we really immersed ourselves in the pet blogging community that I realized just how important it could be for social media engagement and the overall look of the blog. We saw so many beautiful sites with pictures that amazed us! We had to make a decision at one point-spend money upgrading our look/theme/graphic designs or buy a camera. Hands down, upgrading our camera turned out to be the right choice. We simplified the theme around it and let the photos speak for themselves. I still cringe a little when I see those old camera phone/smart phone images, but hey, it’s a reminder of progress!

Harley and I enjoying the view and peaceful quiet on the Small Meadow Trail at Gosnell Big Woods.

I have also learned a tremendous amount from reading other blogs and being an active part of the BlogPaws Community. Other than the actual “how to” items, one of the biggest things I have learned is to take it easy on myself. I tend to be perfectionistic, but I have learned that as badly I want this to work, the internet doesn’t explode and I don’t lose all my friends if I don’t post 4x/week!

Rach giving Harley a smooch!

 4.) What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

As a “new” blog, we still need a lot of help with this. We are often frustrated, feeling like we are writing good content but there are not enough people seeing it! Thus far, engagement on various Social Media platforms (IG, Pinterest, Twitter, G+) have brought us the most traffic. We are finding that as our relationships grow people are more invested in checking out and sharing our content. We definitely look forward to reading other people’s ideas and tips!

Charlie walking across the Land Bridge at Mendon Ponds Park

5.) What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?

Our most popular post was Love Letter. It talks about getting to know our sweet Charlie after adopting him from GRROWLS. We express our gratitude to all of the people who helped to make our adoption happen, especially the selfless individuals who surrendered him for a chance at a better life. I think our readers enjoyed it because it was heartfelt and sincere. It examined multiple sides of the adoption process including the motivation for people who choose to surrender.

Our puppy Charlie trying to read his love letter!6.) What was your favorite blog post to write this year?

I had a lot of fun writing our recent Ruha Personalized Leather Dog Collar Review post. It was the first time that we wrote a post from Harley’s perspective and it was really fun to take all of those crazy ideas of the things that Harley says and put them to “paper”. Not to mention…Have you seen this guy in a tuxedo?!

Harley sporting his fancy dog tux in preparation for a New Year's Eve Celebration!

7.) Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year? If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

Product reviews formed the foundation of our website and remain an important part of our overall mission.  We want dog owners to make informed decisions about their purchases and we help by providing them with comprehensive reviews.

As our readership has grown we are afforded the opportunity to work with more brands/companies. The high quality reviews, complete with photos and videos that our readers have come to expect, take a substantial amount of time and effort. What we have found works for us is to be selective and not overburden ourselves.  Additionally, we have predetermined standards that we abide by. If we wouldn’t feed it to our boys or if it doesn’t seem practical/wouldn’t fit into our lifestyle, we politely decline. Our purpose is not to pedal products on our readers rather, it is to provide  resource so that others can make healthy choices for their pets (and maybe laugh a little along the way)!

Harley peeking through the cracks of the fence

8.) What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?

One of my biggest pieces of advice for other bloggers is to have fun with it…stressing out too much takes away the fun. Also, read as much as you can, make relationships, and take risks! Most importantly, don’t forget the reason you started the blog! Sometimes when I am really stressed I catch myself being “too busy” to give a couple of minutes of extra loving to the dogs. I remind myself that they are my motivation and purpose behind all of this. They are SO important and deserve my attention and love.

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9.) What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?

One of our original goals was to create a resource for dog owners. Though they work tirelessly, our Senior and Junior Product Testers, couldn’t possibly try all the treats, eats, and toys of the world (though they sure would like to try). While it will always be important that our readers know what “MyDogLikes”, we want to have an engaged group of contributors who share what their dog likes and add to our expanding repertoire of reviews. Additionally, we would like to continue to bring more articles, updates about family life, and find ways to use our blog to give back to our community!

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

TRAFFIC! We want more people to see what we write!!

Our Golden Retrievers Harley and Charlie on the Woodchip Trail at Corbett's Glen in Rochester, NY

Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment below!

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46 Comments

  • You guys continue to amaze with the awesome design, yet simplicity of your site. It’s beautiful. You just convinced me that I really need to buy myself a camera ( I don’t even own one – I borrow my boyfriends). Your photos are amazing. I don’t think I’ve seen you on triberr – it really helped boost my traffic after I joined in and became part of some of the pet tribes there.

    • In the grand scheme of things its a relatively small investment. There are some really excellent cameras out there that don’t have to break the bank!

    • We feel the same Lauren! We think your girls are just about the cutest pups ever! We checked it out your post and can’t believe how great you are doing with traffic after such a short period of time! It has been awesome to grow together!

  • Isn’t the photo piece amazing! When we look back at our beginning, the photos, we had them posted in a small size, not real great pics either, what a difference it makes! Photography is something you work on and get immediate satisfaction from, we love it too. You all have a great blog!

    • Thank you so much! As one of our favorite blogs, it means a lot to get feedback from you. We just love the style of your blog, it makes us laugh EVERY day!

  • I really enjoyed learning more about you after seeing you mostly on Google+. I’m with Jen to agree with you about the camera. I’ve been debating spending the money but I do love good photographs.

    And I’m very interested to see that you bring a team approach to the blog. I’m hoping that when my husband and I move aboard a sailboat next year that we’ll be able to work together on Something Wagging.

    I’ll definitely send him over here to read your post so he can see how fun it can be. 🙂

    So glad you joined the challenge. It’s lots of fun, isn’t it?

    • Wow!! It sounds like you will be on quite the adventure next year! It took Kevin a long time to get me on board. I just kept thinking that no one would want to read what we had to say…..what made us different than the thousands of other people who share this dream? It’s crazy to me the changes over the past 6 months!

  • Well, I just found you and I will say I love your design. As a photographer, I can say 100% that photos are important to such a visual media. You photos are great, so keep that up/

    • Well, we are so happy that you found us! Thanks so much for your kind words about our photos, we think yours are breathtaking!

  • I’m so glad you tried again after your original site was attacked! I love your blog and your answers were great!

    Monty and Harlow

    • Thanks Monty and Harlow! Its crazy to think about where we might be and what direction we might have gone in if we had stuck with it after getting hacked! We are enjoying the ride and of course our pups!

  • Welcome to the Challenge, and thanks for joining! This is my first time to your blog, and your dogs are adorable! I also love the design and your categories at the top make it really easy to search to see what products you’ve reviews. You have all the components in place … keep writing about what matters to you and the traffic will come. Try to be patient. Building your audience is like building friendships – the ones that are really worthwhile take some time to develop.

    • Thank you for the advice and feedback! We keep telling ourselves the traffic will come but right now we are at the stage where we have to work very hard to reach our goal of increasing traffic. With time, patience, and hardwork, I am positive we can do this! We are so glad we found your blog too. You are truly living the dream!!!

  • So very nice to “meet” you! Your photos are beautiful, very eye-catching! I agree that it looks like investing in a camera was a great move for you! Keep up the good work, looking forward to reading more this year!

    • We are so happy to have found your blog too! It really is a beautiful site! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation to keep on going!! We look SO forward to following your adventures this year!

  • Hi Y’all,

    Yep, have to agree. I love your photos. My Human is talkin’ about getting a new camera. The one that she has, on the fastest setting, has enough delay that I’m often blurry. Sometimes the effect can be stunning, most of the time, not so much.

    Great site. Time to visit and comment seems to be a big part of drivin’ traffic. Problem is when the Humans use the computer for work and work from before dawn until after bedtime, it’s almost impossible to work in the time.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

    • We know it can be really challenging to form those relationships and comments etc. We are so interested and want to do it, but sometimes are limited by the obligations with our jobs, etc. We are so glad that you were able to stop by. We love following Hawk’s many adventures, he is such an outdoor dog! What adventure!

  • Totally love your photos, and couldn’t agree more about how important they are! Also memorable – I totally remember seeing that tux on G+ and knew I had to go over to the post to read more (and see the adorable face again!)

    • Yes! That face is really something isn’t it! We are so glad that you are enjoying our photos. It’s something that I like doing so much, now I just need to keep on practicing and learning more!

  • Nice to meet you!! You’ve got lots of great advice in the comments already. I’m impressed by people who can take great photos. Most of my photos are candid and I’ve yet to discover how to take a great candid shot.

    Keep up the good work, the readers will come.

    • Thank you Jodi! The only advice that I could give as far as photos is to always have enough light! You will get much fewer blurry images!

  • It’s great to meet you! Love your site, you’re offering a great service here for dog owners. Wish I could offer advice on the traffic, but that’s my question, too! LOL
    Keep up the great work – here’s to a successful year ahead!

    • It sure does! We were just finishing college and starting graduate school back then, so we just felt defeated. Doing it together this time around has made all the difference! Now if only there were more hours in the day!

  • Great post! I think the upgraded camera was a great idea. Images really do make a huge difference. I’m working on getting a better camera myself. It sounds like you are already doing a lot of the things that I do to get traffic. Ramping up your use of SEO could make a difference (if you don’t do this already). The Yoast plugin for SEO is very helpful. The Facebook Blogpaws Community Boost Group can be help a bit too.

    • We just got in the Facebook Boost group! Thanks so much for your feedback and advice! We love our camera …it is the Nikon D3300

  • Your photography is FANTASTIC! I’m so glad to have encountered your blog through the PBC, and I’ll be following you on all the channels! As for traffic, I don’t think there’s a magic formula other than being authentic and putting yourself out there! Networking in person and across social channels are great ways to attract new readers!

    • Thanks Maggie! We are looking forward to the opportunity to network face-to-face at BlogPaws! Thanks for following us! We are so glad to make a connection with you!

  • We loved reading your perspective on things and really enjoyed the goals you’ve set forth for 2015! Collaborating with other bloggers is a huge thing we’d like to focus on as well- our blog has been up for 6 years now- but was started while we were college students- with limited time/budget. Our old photos are one of the things that bother us the most as well- but as you say- it’s a sign of growth- always a good thing!

    • I think we have been on a similar journey. We started in 2009 as we were finishing college and starting graduate school. Our jobs have definitely helped with the budget….but not the time. I look forward to working together on a fun project this year!! Be sure to email us!

  • Love your site and your gorgeous pictures! Everything flows together really nice here! As far as your question the only advice I have to offer is keep doing what you’re doing. It will all come together in time. 🙂

    • Thank you for your feedback!! We overhauled with a new theme (the old one was simple too, it just didnt have everything we needed). We have been enjoying your blog so much…its so darn refreshing and honest! I love our boys tremendously, but its certainly not always rainbows and sunshine!

  • I love your pictures and watermarking is something I have to start doing in 2015. When it comes to traffic we’ve had luck writing blog posts that solved problems. In our niche it comes easy because we’re always talking about puppy training. Social media is something we plan on working on more in 2015. Good luck with your blogging!

    • Thank you so much!Definitely watermark so that you get credit for the photos you take! That is great advice. As much as our focus is on reviews, we like to sprinkle in stories about the boys and they are always popular.

    • Carol, we will absolutely be there! Already purchased our early bird tickets and just decided that we ARE going to bring the boys…eeek! Perfectionism always seems to find a way to balance itself because its not sustainable.

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