Starting a pet blog
Pet blogging combines two of my great loves – Murphy and writing. Since Murphy came home, I have wanted to write about our experiences; both to document our story and to be a resource to other dog parents. But life and work got in the way.
About a year ago I took a two-hour course for bloggers in Charlotte. After that, I registered a domain with Squarespace. I worked on it a few weekends, but didn’t finish it; it was more complicated than I anticipated. And life and work got in the way.
Then I saw a tweet from one of the dogs we follow on Facebook. The dog was competing for a free trip to BlogPaws in Myrtle Beach. BlogPaws? Myrtle Beach? A mere four hours away. I had never heard of BlogPaws, but I looked it up and the more I read, the more intrigued I was.
Then the same group that had offered the blogging course offered one on setting up your Squarespace site. It felt like fate. I wanted to go to BlogPaws, but I didn’t want to go without a blog. And here was the help I needed. It was about two months before BlogPaws.
I made a deal with myself. Take the class; get the blog set up; register for BlogPaws. And I did it (unlike the deals I make with myself on weight lose and exercise).
The materials provided after I registered were great. I really felt well prepared, and that I knew what to expect. I participated in a couple of the Twitter Chats and really enjoyed those. I signed up for everything that I knew to sign up for, including extending my hotel room two times to take in additional events. I figured “go big or go home" or at least "go big and then go home."
We arrived at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach about 4 pm, plenty of time before the reception. Murphy made himself right at home on the cool marble floor in the lobby. There were dogs and cats all over the place already, there were treats on the counter at the check in and the staff seemed amazed and amused at all of the four legged buddies taking over the hotel.
Between demagnetizing my room key, locking myself out of the room when I went to get ice, and unloading a car that was packed for three weeks, not four days, Murphy and I had to hustle to get to the opening reception on time. And the fun began.
I won’t recap the entire experience; I have been doing that with family and friends and I think I’ve learned “what goes on at BlogPaws; stays at BlogPaws.”
Here are my top takeaways from BlogPaws 2017 anyway:
1) The 500ish attendees are diverse – purple hair to grey hair, 20s to 60s, big and small, male and female, experienced bloggers and newbies, from both coasts and everywhere in between – united by a love of animals.
2) The team that puts on BlogPaws is passionate about what they are doing. And they do it well. This is a complex event that went off without a hitch (or one that was visible to me).
3) The vendor experience was great. I met with a number of vendors who were passionate about their products and the animals who use those products. Special gratitude for those companies who were promoting a special cause – Hill’s Pet Nutrition and disaster response, Merrick Pet Care and K9s for Warriors, and Bayer Animal Care and the Pet and Women Safety Act, in particular.
4) The speakers and workshops were outstanding. I learned about trademark and fair use law. I learned how to better use my phone as a camera and how to use my phone for video (I have work to do on both of those.) I got great information about SEO and using email marketing and Canva.
5) The keynote speakers, Kathleen Gage and Jay Baer, were engaging and inspiring.
6) The evening events were great fun. We enjoyed Sip and Paint with the pet friendly Red Roof Inn even though my canvas did not look anything like the professionals. The Red Carpet event was amazing.
7) A huge part of the appeal of the conference to me was that everything was pet friendly. I was so glad to have Murphy with me. The special accommodations for our pets were exceptional. Murphy enjoyed spending time each day in the Small Dog Play Area hosted by Atlantic Pet Sitting. We were both exhausted, but happy at the end of the weekend.
8) The 10 minute 1:1 sessions with an expert were worth the conference price. I was afraid that after Jill Caren of 2 Dogs Design evaluated my blog and my SEO, I would be in tears. Instead, I walked away with over 10 ideas in 10 minutes. My session with Kim Butler of Good Dog Enterprises on email marketing left me with a great plan for starting my email list and growing it. And Kelsie McKenzie of It’s Dog or Nothing helped me identify ways to use Pinterest to promote my blog content.
9) The networking was powerful too. I’m not the most outgoing person in the world, but at every table I sat at, I met someone new and we exchanged cards. I’ve made some follow up contacts already, but many more to come.
10) Most importantly, I was blown away by the charitable reach of the conference. I didn’t do the math, but the “big check” contributions to charities that are doing good work on behalf of animals were impressive. I love that “Blog Paws Nose to Nose” award winners received a contribution to the 501c3 of their choice.
I have a lot to do to follow up on the things that I’ve learned. I was motivated to get my blog started because of BlogPaws. Now I am inspired to grow it and make it better because of my BlogPaws experience. And I’m setting my sights on the 2018 BlogPaws in Kansas City.
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