This guest post is by Kimberly Gauthier of Keep the Tail Wagging.
When I was planning the launch of Keep the Tail Wagging, I heard the question “Do you know how many pet blogs are out there?” As John pointed out yesterday, this is a big niche, with a lot of competition.
But when I was asked this question, I would simply smile politely, while thinking, “Who cares?!” I’m not one to run away from a challenge; I’d been blogging since 2009 and planned to put everything I’d learned into practice on my new site.
Keep the Tail Wagging launched January 1, 2012. In less than six months, I had a page rank of 2 (I’m convinced I deserve a 3 or 4), over 5,000 likes on Facebook and over 5,000 followers on Twitter.
Succeeding as a small fish in a big pond
To anyone looking to start a blog in a popular niche, don’t let the crowds discourage you. It is possible to carve out your own section of the pond. I get emails daily asking how I’ve managed to build Keep the Tail Wagging’s following and it was actually pretty easy. I’ve boiled my success down to five things that I do consistently.
1. Keyword research
Before Keep the Tail Wagging was launched, I downloaded a free version of Market Samurai to help me find an opening within the niche that could be monetized. I didn’t find the opening I was looking for.
But, using the free Google Keyword tool, I did find keywords with the right combination of competition and searches, and I apply these to each blog post I wrtie.
It’s a thrill to know, for example, that a dog owner researching her dog food options found my site through a Google search; this let me know that I was choosing the correct keywords for my audience.
2. Simple SEO
I remember the “Of course” moment that struck when I realized that I could put keywords in the captions and meta-tags of my images. I’m not an expert in search engine optimization, but I do comprehend the basics and use the plugin WordPress SEO, and I invested in an SEO-friendly, premium WordPress theme.
SEO doesn’t have to stop on our sites; I send those keywords to every site that uses my content—Flickr (as in the image below), Pinterest, and Stumble Upon to name a few. Any content or site that’s going to be indexed by the search engines is another opportunity for someone to find my site.
Not only is this great for Keep the Tail Wagging; properly tagging on social networks also benefits the pet companies that send me products to review.
3. Promote like hell
I spent the first two months after launch on a PR campaign to make my site stand out. To start, I told friends and family, handing out business cards, hung flyers, wrote press releases, and added links to my email and forum signatures.
I paid for a Facebook advertising campaign during the first month my site was live. It asked people to click Like if they’re tired of long commercials showing abused animals. My first few hundred likes came from that campaign—and those clicks led to more referrals.
Then I discovered Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which I used along with Reporter Connection as unexpected PR sources. People became curious about Keep the Tail Wagging after seeing my regular inquiries and began to check the blog out. During my second month, a PR professional was promoting my site to friends for free.
I landed several interviews and, most recently, a monthly feature on a local podcast about pets through these sources.
4. Interact with fans
I focus most of my time on the fans that liked my Facebook page, encouraging interaction, and getting feedback and article ideas. Word of mouth is big on social networking sites and each week, friends of fans stop by to like my page.
Creating that back-and-forth made people feel comfortable to email me with questions about their dogs, which inspired articles I wrote for Keep the Tail Wagging. We’re told to become authorities in our niche. Well, what better way to do that than to answer questions asked by our fans?
Over time, I got over my shyness and started asking people to tell their friends about my blog, share a post, and comment on an article or status update.
What makes a blog stand out is the blogger
I chose to be more personable with Keep the Tail Wagging followers by sharing my daily life with them (pictures, stories, frustrations). My followers came with me when we fostered our first dog, when we lost our puppy to Canine Parvovirus, and when Blue joined our family.
Sometimes it’s the person, their writing style, or their short and sweet posts that makes a blog sing. There’s a reason why we choose to read some social media or photography blogs instead of others.
I’m not the most popular pet blogger. I need to work on my bounce rate and I’m on the lookout for regular guest contributors. But as to my success in the first six months of blogging in this niche, I’d have to say “Not bad.”
That said, we’re all learning every day. Do you spend any time on pet blogs? Do you operate in a similar niche? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.
Kimberly Gauthier is the Editor in Chief of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers. She’s also featured on Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom and the podcast Your Pets, My Dogs.