Blogging is good for you, and good for dogs. We’ve seen some fantastic dog blogs over the years, and many of our readers and clients blog regularly, enjoying the benefits of regular posting (like getting more clients and helping more dogs). But too many dog pros neglect their blogs, posting only rarely, or don’t have a blog at all. The usual reasons are lack of time, a dislike of writing or lack of writing skill, and not being able to think of enough to write about.
If any of this sounds familiar, we’ve got some tips to help get you blogging regularly and, we hope, painlessly.
The benefits of blogging
First, though, why blog? Here are four good reasons:
- Get clients. Blogging helps establish your credibility and expertise, backing up what your website says about you and making potential clients more likely to hire you.
- Help dogs. Your blog provides R+ education for site visitors who don’t hire you, allowing you to help more dogs. If someone isn’t ready to hire a trainer, at least they now know that their dog is resource guarding, and perhaps they’ll leave her alone while she eats instead of punishing her.
- Get clients. This isn’t a repeat typo, just another point on how a blog can bring you business: Your blog, if regularly kept up, can keep you in front of both these audiences via subscription, increasing the chances of repeat business, referrals, and folks who decided not to act eventually coming around.
- Get clients and help dogs. Blogging is a powerful SEO boost, which means more people finding your site in the first place, which means more of 1-3 above.
The reality is this: You have to market your business. You may as well do good in the process. And blogging is a lot less stressful than, say, walking cold into a vet’s office to ask for referrals.
If we’ve convinced you to consider a blog, or double down on the one you have, here are some ways to make doing so much easier:
Tip 1: Know who you’re writing for
This one seems sort of obvious, but try to push beyond the surface answer of dedicated dog lovers who need training help or a dog walker or a pet sitter. The trick is to get out of our dog pro heads and into our readers’ minds. What questions do they have? What is worrying them? What might they find interesting? Or useful? What could provide relief?
As a dog trainer, you may find yourself wanting to write about criteria setting. Your readers may not find that as engaging as a tip to improve their dog’s recall. That tip could be not asking for recalls that are beyond a dog’s current recall level (i.e., criteria setting!). Not only is writing with your readers in mind more likely to engage them, think how much simpler (and how much shorter!) the second piece would be to write than the first.
Tip 2: Make a master topic list
Staring at a blank computer screen trying to think up something to write about is a sure-fire path to abandoning your best blogging intentions. So don’t start your blog by blogging. Start (or reprise) your blog by brainstorming. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down every topic idea you have. Do this a few days in a row. As your ideas begin flowing, you may find topics popping into your head throughout the day—jot these down or get them into your phone as they occur.
Once you’ve got a list going, sit down with it again and start organizing. Identify ideas that are large category headings (like puppy training or walking tips), move any other topic ideas into this category that fit, and do some quick brainstorming on additional topics for each category.
Tip 3: Break your topics down
Now break your topic ideas down further to get to more focused subjects. This will give you many more topics to write about, and make those posts easier to write. For example, let’s take that big puppy training category and break it down. There’s a lot there—manners training tips, problem solving topics, socialization—and each of these can be broken down into specific topics, too.
Let’s practice with socialization. If you try to cover what it is, why it’s important, what the research says, how to do it, where to do it, what to socialize your puppy to, mistakes to avoid… you get where I’m going. Writing a blog post like that would be tantamount to writing a booklet on puppy socialization. You’ll probably never post again!
Instead, brainstorm all the short posts you could produce on puppy socialization. It might be helpful to consider the different types of blog posts to help this process. For example:
A What Or Why Post on the benefits of early socialization now and later
A How-To Post on tips for socializing your puppy, or how to read her body language (You could probably even break both of these ideas down into a series of posts…)
A List Post on what to socialize your puppy to, or great local places to take your puppy for socialization
A Curation Post listing 5 great articles on puppy socialization, or a collection of socialization action shots with short captions (Curation posts are great for bloggers who aren’t so comfortable writing.)
A Sharing Post summarizing a new study about puppy socialization (Or simply post a link with a quick description if time is short.)
Tip 5: Write your post
Even with a topic all picked out, this is the challenging part for most bloggers. Everyone’s approach to writing is different, but the old outline-before-you-write trick works for most. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to sketch a basic outline of your main points and the order you think is most logical for them. Then try setting a timer for 30-45 minutes and just go. Write with abandon, not worrying over specific words or how it’s all coming together. Just get a draft down. Step away from your computer—for at least half an hour, or even a day—before coming back to clean up. In addition to tightening up and fixing typos, pay particular attention to your intro (see next tip). Ask a trusted friend or colleague to do a final clean up check for you.
Tip 6: Nail your intro
With everyone being short on time these days, and our shrinking attention spans, you don’t have a lot of time to convince a reader to stick with you. This makes your intro the most important part of your post—nail this and you’re much more likely to get the chance to share the info you set out to.
How can you engage readers right away? Try any of these techniques: Telling a story is a surefire way to get readers past your first sentence. If you’ve got an appropriate joke, that’ll work, too. Expressing empathy is another powerful strategy. Dog pros can make good use of this one, as most site visitors are there because they have a problem to solve. You can also lead with an interesting fact or startling, surprising statistic. Finally, though don’t overuse this one, asking an engaging question can bring readers into your piece. Using our puppy socialization example, you might ask: Why did you get a dog? or Who is the dog you’d like your puppy to grow up to be?
Tip 7: Pick a compelling title
Without a good title, your awesome intro may not have a chance to do its part. Keep your title short, or at least not overly long. Include SEO keywords if you can. Active verbs help catch attention—words like “Learn,” “Get,” or “Stop,” for example. Numbers are also effective, as in “3 Tips to Stop Jumping.” And of course, including benefits is always powerful: “Enjoy Walking Your Dog Again” or “Get the Dog of Your Dreams” or “Impress Your Friends with a Rocket Recall.” Alliteration (like Rocket Recall) is great, too, though be careful not to go overboard. And if you have a clever sense of humor and it’s appropriate for your subject, have fun!
Tip 8: Add a Call-To-Action
A good blog will build your readers’ confidence in your service and provide them some useful information. But you’re probably hoping they also hire you! So where appropriate, add a call-to-action at the end of your blog post. It could be an invitation to join your puppy class, or reach out for a free dog walking meet & greet. Other times, there may be opportunities for continued engagement, like a link to another related post. The point is to offer some direction. They’ve finished your great piece, now what would you like them to do?
Tip 9: POST!
This seemingly obvious next step is for the perfectionists among us. It can be a anxiety inducing to put content out for public consumption. We feel the butterflies every month before we push the publish button on a Monthly Minute or Two Feet Forward edition. (Did we say what we meant to say? Did we say it well? Did we catch all the typos? Are all the links working?) For some of you, these butterflies may be a worry about getting things just right. For others it may be a fear of being judged, whether by potential clients or industry colleagues. At these moments, try to hold this thought to heart: If you don’t get your work out there, you don’t get the opportunity to help people and their dogs. So take a deep, steadying breath and hit that button.
How often should you post? At least once per month. If you’re more prolific, even better. But a consistent post per month will quickly build your library in addition to making Google happy for SEO.
Extra Tip: Schedule your blogging time
If staying on top of your blog has you worried, here’s how to make sure you have the time: Schedule it. The easiest thing is to pick a regular time for blogging, a block of time that’s consistent from month to month so you get in a regular habit. If your schedule is more fluid, pick a time each month. As soon as you post this month, schedule the time for next month, ensuring posting consistency and avoiding the look of an abandoned blog, which can discourage site visitors from using your service.
Another Extra Tip: Have fun
Don’t feel like all your blog posts have to be on serious topics. You can share a great dog cartoon or a graduation picture from your latest class or a particularly terrific shot of dogs having fun on your dog walk or in your dog daycare. (These kinds of quick posts are also great for those months where emergencies cut into your regular blogging time!)
In addition to the overt benefits of a good dog blog, over time you’ll hopefully come to enjoy the creative outlet and opportunity to share the thoughts, ideas, knowledge, and successes you’re most passionate about. And that’s not just good for business—it’s good for dogs.