How To Start A Food Blog

Hello, hello! I’m so glad you’re here, because that means you’re considering starting a food blog. If you’re looking for advice, I’ve got plenty! I started my blog back in 2009, and what began as a hobby turned into a career, two published cookbooks and the greatest source of creative fulfillment in my life. If you’re looking to build something meaningful and fun, then let’s get started!

STEP 1 - Choose a name for your blog and purchase the domain.
This is a fun part of getting started, but not something to take lightly. Take some time to brainstorm names upon which you’d be proud to build your brand. Ideally, a blog name should be short and memorable. Large URLs are hard to remember and lots of words strung together will sometimes create other unfortunate words, so be careful!  When you think you’ve found the right blog name, use the handy-dandy box below to see if it is available. If your first choice isn’t available, keep brainstorming and checking the search box.

Extra credit! This is optional, but a good idea to think about while you’re also thinking of a name for your website. Consider adding a tagline or descriptor to your blog’s name. You can use it on your blog header to give people a better idea of what your website is about. For example, my blog Sprinkle Bakes has “a baking and desserts blog” descriptor under the title.

Step 2 –Set up Website Hosting
The host is where your blog will essentially live and be made available to the World Wide Web.  You need a trusted Web Host with emphasis on quality support.  Today I recommend BlueHost.  They have several affordable plans available, but I recommend their Starter Plan, which is the least expensive and offers everything a beginner needs to get started quickly. Here’s what you get with the $3.99 per month Starter Plan:
·         Free Domain Name
·         Free Site Building Tools
·         Free Wordpress Blogging Platform
·         24/7 Support

When you go to BlueHost, you'll see this sign up box. Just type in your blog name into the 'new domain' box and click 'next'.

Next, select your plan. As I mentioned earlier, the basic plan for $3.99 is the best bang for your buck.

After you select your plan, you'll be taken to 'Package Information'. Choose the 'Basic 36 Month' package. Now. Here's where you have the option to add on a few options, but the only one I suggest getting now is the 'Domain Privacy Protection'. It's only $0.99 per month, and it protects your address from solicitors.

Step 3 - Install WordPress and Choose a Theme
BlueHost and Wordpress are the power couple preferred by many food bloggers today.  Wordpress is an outstanding blogging platform that gives its users a great amount of control and plug-ins (plug-ins are bits of software that can easily be added to increase the functionality of your site).  It’s the natural choice when you sign up with BlueHost. With just the click of your mouse the blogging platform Wordpress will install and then you’re ready to choose a theme for your blog!

BlueHost has wonderful tool to walk you through setting up WordPress step-by-step. Go to this link, which is the self-help resources landing page.

1. Click on the WordPress icon.
2. Click on 'How to Install WordPress'
3. Click 'walk through'

This tutorial will guide you through the entire process!

The WordPress Theme you choose should complement the content of your website.  Food blogs today are geared toward large beautiful images of food, so choose a theme that puts photos front-and-center. You also want to keep things fairly simple. Some themes with fancy animations and complex layouts can make your website slow, and no one visits a slow website for very long (and Google prefers to rank faster websites higher).

Another suggestion to consider is selecting a ‘Responsive Theme’. This type of theme optimizes browsing on all kinds of devices like phones and tablets. Most WordPress themes are already responsive, and the way you can check to see if your theme is responsive is to resize your browser window.  As you make the window larger and smaller, you will notice that the theme’s layout with adjust itself to the screen’s width. Why is this so important? Google shows mobile friendly websites on top in their mobile search results.  Also, when I realized that over half of Sprinkle Bakes’ readers were on mobile devices, I made sure the site was optimized for their viewing.

Step 4 – Monetize your blog
Let’s face it – butter isn’t free.  No matter how often you blog or what kind of food you blog, it all adds up. It can be especially costly if you do recipe development and make several trial runs of a single recipe. There are many ways to monetize your blog, and I highly recommend you do so. Although you may not make very much money in the beginning, eventually you’ll begin to see some meaningful income that will help with expenses.  Monetization can be personalized to your liking. For example, I belong to an ad network that runs ads in the sidebar and footer of my website and blogposts. I don’t like to visit websites that have pop-up advertising, ads that auto play loud music, or ugly click-bait ad images; so I told my network that I didn’t want them on my site. Easy!  Most networks require you to sign a contract, and some may require that you display ads in the top 1/3 of your blog. Be sure to read the contract thoroughly and ask lots of questions before you sign.

If you’re unsure about where to start, check out Google Adsense. It is popular and very widely used. It’s something you can place on your blog TODAY while you shop around for other, more profitable ad networks.

Step 5 – Create Content
What makes great content? Here are a few considerations.

1.       Photos: Most food blog browsers are drawn to big beautiful images of food.  That’s not to say you might not do well without them; you may be a great story-teller or have an amazing flair for food writing and hook a devoted following with just words. But when I say photos are important, it’s not just my opinion. It’s a fact that the internet is killing our attention spans and photos do a good job of hooking people within just a few seconds and getting them to click to read more.  All this is to say – you need a camera. It doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, a lot of food bloggers today are using their phones to take pictures for their websites. I started out using a Canon point-and-shoot, and within a few months I had fallen in love with food photography. I decided to invest in a nicer camera, which was this Canon Rebel SLR Kit. I recommend this kit as a starter SLR because of its low price point and quality. I have since graduated to a fancy full frame camera, but I still occasionally use my Rebel.
2.       Words: The most important advice I can give is to speak in an authentic relatable voice. That means use your own voice and correct grammar. Other considerations are length and tone. Most of my blog posts are between 250 and 800 words and I try to keep the tone upbeat. I have struggles in life just like everyone else, but my baking blog is my happy place. I want others to have fun here, too.
3.       Recipes: There is much to be said about recipe attribution and using recipes from copyrighted cookbooks, and I can’t say it any better than this article does. I suggest reading and bookmarking it for later reference. I will only reiterate that you should always give attribution to the person who originally wrote a recipe. If you have an extra $15, I suggest picking up the book ‘Recipes into Type’. It was a great help to me while writing my second cookbook. Reading it will better your recipe writing.
4.       Surprise Me: I love to be surprised when reading other people’s blogs. Whether they’ve put a new spin on an old recipe, made ‘Secret Ingredient’ chocolate chip cookies, or found a new way to frost cupcakes – I love it all. Not every blog post has to hold a surprise, but it’s definitely something I ‘sprinkle’ in to my own content.

Step 6- Grow your audience!
1.       Subscription services - Mailchimp has a great ‘RSS to Email’ service that will automatically email your newsletter to subscribers when you publish a new blog post. In my opinion, Mailchimp has the best template designer that allows you to create sharp, attention-grabbing emails (and I’ve tried many others!).  Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails monthly, so it’s ideal (economical!) for beginner bloggers. You can find more information about their Free Plan here. Sign up for Mailchimp through this link and earn $30 in credit, which will help when your audience grows beyond 2,000 subscribers. 
2.       Social media – There are a TON of social media platforms that you can sign up for and update regularly with the content you create. My top tier picks are G+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Updating these regularly with links to your new content will grow your audience and drive more traffic to your website.
3.       Curated food photo sites – You can submit your food photos to food photo gallery sites and, if your photo is accepted, it can yield an increase in your blog traffic and draw in like-minded food fanatics. These sites can be picky about their content, so don’t feel bad if your photo gets declined. Nowadays, sites like Foodgawker will give you feedback as to why your picture was declined, and that can help you sharpen your photo taking skills. I submit to Foodgawker semi-regularly, and occasionally to Tastespotting.
4.       Answer questions for your audience – It’s important to be there for your readers when they have questions about your recipes and techniques.  If people are taking time to read your content and respond thoughtfully, make sure you give them time back. This builds trust and will help you build a long-term audience.

I hope by now you’re feeling confident! Please drop me a line with your new blog so I can add it to my reading list. Like cookbooks, I can never have too many blogs in my reader. 

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. I only recommend services that I trust or use personally, and believe will benefit the efforts of my readers. 

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