How to Start a Food Blog + Lessons Learned
When I started this blog I had just left the corporate world (after 16 years) and didn’t know one darn thing about blogging. Not one! I’d never even followed a blog – food, business or otherwise. Seriously. I mean, I was kind of an online dinosaur at the ripe old age of 38 (ha!).
So what do I do? Start a blog of course! Yep, that’s what happens when you suddenly have an abundance of free time on your hands…and people asking for your recipes and advice. You think to yourself, “what the heck, I can figure out this blog stuff, right?!”
Well, good news? I did figure it out! And in a short period of time I’m still flabbergasted by how successful this blog has become (meaning, oodles more people than my mom read it!). So today, I thought I’d share the five straight-forward steps I took to start this food blog (which, has since morphed into a food, travel, wellness and lifestyle blog), along with some key lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Let’s dive in:
1. Name your blog and buy the domain
It’s time to put your thinking cap on and get creative! How do you want people to refer to your blog…and ultimately, you? Once you’ve picked your name (which, is the hardest step on this list!) make sure the domain name is available (the associated .com website address). You can easily check this availability at Bluehost, who will also provide you the domain free of charge, should you choose to purchase a hosting package from them (which I recommend you do). Having the same company for your domain registration and blog/website hosting just keeps things simple.
LESSONS LEARNED: Pick a name that’s easy to say, spell and remember. In other words, don’t do I as did! Downshiftol…what?! Oh, lordy, it’s not exactly the easiest name on the food blog block is it? Another consideration is that as your blog grows, you may want to expand outside of the food blog niche. It happens – and quite frequently. Therefore, consider if your blog name will work with other topics, otherwise you may find yourself contemplating a rebrand down the line (which is always best to avoid, if possible).
2. Choose a web host
As a new food blogger it’s important to have a web host that’s reliable, makes the technical stuff easy to understand and provides great customer service. You’ll find dozens of providers online, but I recommend the web host I still use today, Bluehost. I switched to Bluehost from Hostgator in my first year after my website kept going down (not good!).
As my website grows, I may consider another hosting company in the future (to be on a dedicated, rather than shared server), but for now, Bluehost meets all my needs. And it’ll meet yours as well!
So where to begin? I recommend starting with the “Basic Plan” and selecting both “Domain Privacy Protection” and “Site Backup Pro.” With these items checked your personal address and phone number will remain private (very important!) and you’ll always have a current backup of your site, should something happen (and take it from personal experience, it does).
To get started with Bluehost, sign-up for one of the plans below. They’ll walk you through the rest!
LESSONS LEARNED: Go with a reputable web host and one that’s recommended by many, many bloggers, such as Bluehost. You don’t want your website going down, bogging down (i.e. – loading at a snails’ pace) or encountering other problems. Because if your website is down, your readers can’t find your recipes!
3. Install WordPress
WordPress is a content management system (CMS), which, is a complicated way to say it’s the software backbone of your website and blog. It’s how you’ll add recipes, upload photos, and edit all aspects of your website, like your “about me” page.
Bluehost makes it super easy to install WordPress on your site. They’ve got video tutorials and step-by-step instructions (with pictures!). As a non-techy, visual person, I find pictures to be extraordinarily helpful. Just view their instructions on How to Install WordPress.
LESSONS LEARNED: Stick with WordPress as the most robust system for your website. You may have heard of Squarespace, which is a beautiful and user-friendly website builder (and one I’ll be using for my photography portfolio website), but I don’t recommend it for a food blog. WordPress is an open source platform (unlike Squarespace) which provides many advantages, including an endless supply of layout themes, plug-ins and skilled developers who can customize or tweak your website as needed. WordPress is also preferred if you plan to monetize your blog in the future.
4. Install a theme (the layout and “look” of your blog)
There are so many gorgeous WordPress themes available that you may find yourself spending hours and hours comparing them all. A good problem to have! My advice: choose a design, layout and aesthetic that you love “out of the box” as much as possible. Once you become savvy with your theme you’ll be able to tweak things, like fonts, colors, etc. But remember that your time is best spent uploading recipes, rather than playing web designer.
Now, I don’t have an off-the-shelf theme (ahem, a lesson learned you can read about below), but if I had to do it all over again, I’d choose a StudioPress theme. These themes have the clean, flat aesthetic I prefer with lots of “white space.” In other words, they’re gorgeous! Two popular themes for food blogs are the Foodie Pro and Brunch Pro.
LESSONS LEARNED: I didn’t fully understand the “theme” concept when I started my blog and hired a website designer/developer to code my site from scratch – which was totally unnecessary and costly (to the tune of several thousands of dollars). Having come from the business world where most corporate websites are custom designed, I thought the same must surely apply to my personal blog/website. But that’s not the case. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my website. But I could have saved quite a bit of time, money and effort with a beautifully designed, off-the-shelf theme. Additionally, every time I want to make a change to my website now, I have to hire a developer due to my custom design.
5. Upload and share your recipes
Congrats! You’re now a food blogger. Start uploading your recipes by adding the EasyRecipePLUS plugin. Next, you’ll need to share your delicious recipes. The best way to share your recipes (and gain readers!) is through food submission sites. Some sites are more picky than others in terms of food photography, but the more you cook and photograph your food, the better you’ll become.
These are the sites that I typically submit my recipes to, but there’s lots more:
LESSONS LEARNED: Your blog (no matter how beautiful it may be) won’t automatically attract a following. And without a following, it becomes difficult to monetize (if that’s one of your goals down the line). So start sharing your delicious recipes from the get-go. After you upload a new recipe, plan for 30 minutes to submit the recipe to all the food submission sites, pin to different Pinterest boards and share across all your social media channels.
After I started my blog, one of the things I had the hardest time with (that I had no idea I’d struggle with) was finding my voice. I mean, how hard could it be to sound… “me?!” But again, having come from the corporate world and not being used to the vulnerability of a public forum, it took some getting used to. Do I share personal stories? Do I give advice? Do I just stick to the ingredients? How much do I write? So many questions!
My best advice in this area is to just DO. Put yourself out there and talk. Really, just type as you’d talk. Over time (it took me a year or so), you’ll find your voice.
To help in this process, I recommend following a lot of food bloggers. Eventually, you’ll gravitate to a handful of favorites…and you’ll figure out what specifically it is about them that captivates you. For example, I love authentic, uplifting, funny storytelling (which may or may not be recipe related) and gorgeous, professional photography.
Ironically, I can’t always make some of my favorite blogger’s recipes (as they’re not gluten-free), but I still look forward to their beautiful stories and stunning photography.
A few of my favorite food bloggers are:
- My Name is Yeh
- What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today
- Dolly and Oatmeal
- Two Red Bowls
- My New Roots
- Green Kitchen Stories
- Canelle et Vanille
- Sprouted Kitchen
- 101 Cookbooks
- Local Milk
- Call Me Cupcake
- Renee Kemps
If you have any questions on food blogging, ask away! No question is too basic. Remember, we all started at square one at some point in time. And if you’d like more information on how I’ve improved my food photography, secured media, monetized or developed partnerships, let me know! I may just write a follow-up post. Happy blogging!