20 January 2019

The Pet Blogger Challenge 2019

Every year I take part in the Pet Blogger Challenge, an opportunity to look back over the year that has passed and find out what worked and what didn't. Without further ado, here are my answers to this year's questions:

For those who may be visiting your blog for the first time, how long have you been blogging and what is your main topic?

For almost nine years now, I have been taking pictures around the farm and then writing about them. I try to share some of the joy I feel when I'm spending time with my animals. I'm very lucky to live where I do. I really love to share cute moments of friendship between my animals - dogs, sheep, ponies, they're all friends here.

What was your proudest blogging moment of 2018?

I think finishing a long post always makes me proud - sometimes I spend days, adding photos and then my comments. My favourite post, linked below, is one of my best, I think. And not just because the subjects of the post are so cute! Another thing I'm proud of is reaching 1,000 posts.

For my 1,001st post I did a little look back at how far I've come. It's quite far, and it's especially noticeable with my photography. Oh! And I got a custom domain that I really love and plan to keep forever!

What was the biggest blogging challenge you faced in 2018, and how did/will you tackle it?

The biggest thing I did with the blog in 2018 was the redesign. I can't use professional themes - I bought one but it wouldn't work on my blog because my photos are hosted externally. So I drew the background pattern and followed several HTML tutorials to get my theme looking more personal. I would like to have another redesign sometime this year, although I'm baulking at going through all that HTML again! Ugh. (Edit: I did it! Blog redesigned on 24th January.)

Which of your 2018 blog posts was your favourite and why? (Please include a link.)

I actually have a top three this year. In third place is this Blue Belle's Big Adventure. I have dreamed of taking Blue Belle for a walk off the farm for almost as long as I've had her and in May I achieved that. The locked gate that had stopped us was unlocked at last! I packed a lunch, collected Blue Belle and set off. We walked as far as we could alongside the lough, through a farm and then turned and came back. The weather couldn't have been better. A truly wonderful day.

In second place are the photos of my trip to Connemara in Ireland with my camera club, It's a Long Way to Connemara. I had an absolutely incredible time - the views were spectacular, the weather was (mostly) kind and there were Mayo Blackface sheep everywhere! I was dropped off at a farm for an afternoon and loved every minute, even if it rained most of the time.

But I think my overall favourite post of 2018 was It's You, Sue, the story of how little Sue came into our lives. Personally the last few years have been very difficult - I lost both of my grandmothers within ten months, along with other family losses, both four-legged and human. Sue was a fresh start, a huge positive to end the year on. She makes me laugh every day and I love her to pieces.

Which of your 2018 posts was most popular with your audience? Why do you think it does so well?

My most popular post was The Balmoral Show 2018 with a whopping 2,415 views. (My second most popular post of all time is 2018's Big Lambs and Little Ducklings with 1,181 views.) I don't know what brought so much traffic to this post in particular. I did share a link to the Show's Facebook page but I don't think it was seen by many. It's a mystery, really!

Did you implement a new series, feature, or practice on your blog in 2018 that you’re enjoying?

Last year, along with the redesign, I changed the layout of each new post. Where before text was centred and photos were 640 pixels wide on their longest side, now text is on the left and photos are 1024 pixels on their longest side. This blog is all about photos and I think the bigger image size allows you to see more detail. I really like how the bigger photos look.

As the social media landscape changes, how are you promoting your blog posts and connecting with new readers?

In 2018 I joined Instagram and it's going really well for me. I started in April and I've now got 428 followers which is really amazing! My Instagram has a few things that my blog doesn't, which I think makes it more worthwhile to do - I share little videos, photos I have taken on my phone, and I go through the blog's archives every month and post some of my favourite older photos. I try to post something once or twice a day. I've also just had my first post exceed the 100 likes milestone!

2018 also saw my blog make it onto Feedspot's Top 20 Farming Blogs list.

I have noticed an increase in traffic since both of these things happened - where before posts were getting around 50 views each, they now usually get over 100, and scrolling down, the numbers keep getting bigger. Quite a lot of posts this year have over 1,000 views which is really brilliant and pretty much unheard of for my little blog.

Looking forward to 2019, if you accomplish only one thing through your blog, what do you hope it is?

I don't really make many plans for this blog as it's based on what's happening on the farm and life can be unpredictable. If I manage to keep the readers I currently have then I will consider that a win. (A huge thank you to Hailey and Zaphod and their Lady, Sylvi C, thecrazysheeplady, Beth, The Daily Pip and a handful of loyal others who leave comments on my posts. It's very much appreciated. Please stay!)

What steps are you planning to take to ensure you reach your goal?

I try to keep the tone of my blog pretty light and humorous, not focusing for long on the negatives. I want this blog to be somewhere people can visit for a few minutes and enjoy the pretty pictures without any agenda.

Now it’s your turn! How can we help? Is there an area where you could use some advice, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? Share it here, and we’ll answer you in comments!

As I'm still learning how Instagram works, I would love some tips. Are there certain hashtags I should be using? And a little theme question - did you design your own blog theme? I would love some feedback on the theme as it as now so when I redesign I can retain the parts that work. I think for the new theme the post text could be a bit bigger and darker but I would love some advice. Thank you!

The Pet Blogger Challenge 2018 Blog Hop hosted by:
Take Paws at Go Pet Friendly

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  1. What a lovely blog! Such beauty and positivity is rare in this world. So glad to have discovered you through the Pet Blogger Challenge.

  2. I'm sorry I can't help much with design questions. I stink at it. And I'm very new to Instagram but think it should be fun to use once I figure out how to work my first smart phone.

    But I had to tell you how charming your photos are. Anything you do that will showcase them should bring you increasing traffic. Good luck in 2019!

  3. Hope you solve your design problem and I look forward to all the animal adventures in 2019.

  4. I have never been to Northern Ireland but I can see from your pics that your part of it at least is absolutely idyllic.
    It's lovely to see and hear about all your animals and how they are raised on your type of farm, as opposed to the intensive factory style farming that seems to be on the increase, sadly :(
    You have a talent for capturing the moment and sharing it with us and your photos are brilliant !
    Especially enjoying watching Sue and her adventures, and looking forward to many more.
    Thank you for sharing :) x

  5. OMG. I am so glad you joined this hop. I have never seen your blog before. This is the most beautiful thing I've seen day. I feel like I just walked through a James Harriot novel. Thank you! -- Kelley's Dog Blog

  6. I agree with Kelley - Your blog is just beautiful. Your photographs are stunning - you should do really well on Instagram.

  7. I am also visiting your blog for the first time thanks to the blog hop. I've just followed you on Instagram.

  8. So happy to meet you. I went and followed you on Instagram, too.

  9. Congratulations on the addition of little Sue! I've just followed you on Instagram and look forward to watching her grow.
    One time on Instagram that I can share is, if you use linktr.ee (it's free), you can easily share several links (including one to your blog) which could help send a little more traffic this way. Who wouldn't want to see more of your spectacular photos?!

    I'm afraid I can't be at all helpful on the design side of things, though I really like your blog and admire you for building it yourself! I hope that 2019 is a great year for you. Thanks so much for joining the Challenge!

  10. I'd missed Blue Belle's adventure--I'm so glad that I had a chance to go back and look at that post. Such beautiful pictures (and I loved seeing her making new friends along the way!). I'm with you, though, Sue is a pretty special addition to the blog!

  11. You know I love your photographs and visual storytelling! Your blog will always be one of my favorites. I'm so glad Little Sue has come into your life. I hope she helps heal the loss of losing Little Pip!

    In terms of Instagram, I am not an expert. It seems like non-cat and dog accounts are very popular so I would look for hashtags that have to do with your other animals - sheep, horses as well as farm related hashtags.

    I got my theme from https://www.pipdig.co/ They have themes for both blogger and WP and are very easy to install. Many of their templates have gallery pages where you can showcase your photos. You can see it on my blog at https://www.myrescuedlife.com/rubys-rescued-life. With your gorgeous photos, I think a gallery page would be perfect!

  12. Whoa! I'm glad to meet you and the farm critters. I'm envious that you created this theme in html. I'm scared to open my template html that I'm gonna lose everything. I belong to some blogger groups and one of the leaders of the group is designing templates that will be SEO-friendly and have sliders and lots of bells and whistles. They're expensive if you need help customizing them like I would but if I keep blogging, I may invest in one. Little Sue is so cute. Perhaps someday we'll try Instagram. Best of luck in 2019 and beyond.

  13. So nice to "meet" you through the blog hop! I always love seeing how others create a blog that features multiple species. I've somewhat branded my blog as a dog blog, but I've always incorporated my exotic pets as well. I've gone back and forth on whether it would be best to focus one species (my dogs) or write about all the critters I share my life with. I love your photos as well. This is my first time visiting your blog, but I'll be back for sure. Best wishes for an awesome 2019.

  14. I didn't even know you could host photographs externally until a friend's blog imploded and her pictures had to be replaced manually! Wow some job you did then!

    I tinker with studioPress HTML for fonts and colours but I dislike HTM: (even though I learned to use Dreamweaver) You did a great job.

    PS I am not a big IG fan, people seems shallow and self focused. I will give it a go one day for real!

    Marjorie and the Dash Kitten Crew

  15. I'm so happy to find you through the Pet Bloggers Challenge. your photos are gorgeous and I'm following you on Instagram now,

  16. Hi! I found you through the Pet Blog Challenge. Your photos are breathtaking! Blue Belle is darling and your field trip with her must have been so much fun! Nice to meet you! xo M.