The most important thing you need in order to start a food blog is a love of food and writing, which you likely already have in spades. If food is your passion, then all you have to do is follow a few steps in order to get your blog up and running.
It can seem like a daunting task to start your own food blog, but with the current resources available, it can be easily managed, even for those who aren’t great with technical aspects like web design and coding. You don’t need to hire anyone to do it for you (though you can if you want); you just have to know the basics.
If you want to start sharing your recipes with the world, all you have to do is follow this guide. Each step will boost the quality of your blog, leading to a potential increase in traffic, followers, engagement and potentially even profit.
Step 1: Give Your Food Blog a Name
This one is part of the fun. You get to come up with the name of your blog, and choose its domain name (which will typically follow the format of yourfoodblog.com). A few years ago, I started a blog so I could learn the basics of WordPress, and a coworker and I had a ridiculous amount of fun coming up with blog names and domain names. Take some time to brainstorm names.
You want your domain name to be:
- Short: If it’s too long, people are more likely to have trouble remembering it
- Easy to Spell: The last thing you want is people giving up because they can’t spell “macaron.master.” A lot of people misspell macaron.
- Relevant: If you give your blog and domain name a title that isn’t relevant, you could have a struggle finding or connecting with your relevant audience.
- Memorable: Creating an eye-catching, memorable name will not only make it easier for people to find you, but refer you as well. Names like The Pioneer Woman and The Girl Who Ate Everything are memorable. And guess what? Their blogs are famous, and easily found by their matching domain names.
To see if your desired domain name is free, you can go to sites like this one to tell you.
If it is, grab it. Domain names can range in price, but normally stay under $20 per year.
Step 2: Choose a Quality Web Host
This part doesn’t come free. Sorry folks.
Technically, yes, you can blog for free. Sites like Blogger and WordPress offer free blogging options, but if you want to blog seriously instead of casually (which I define as blogging with the ambition for your content to reach large audiences and potentially make money), you’re going to have to give up some dough (pun intended).
A reliable web host not only offers support to your site, but can also help you get traffic, which, as a blogger, you obviously want. HostGator (starting at $3.47 per month) clocks in at the most recommended web host for food bloggers, with BlueHost (starting at $3.95 per month) following at a close second. Both hosts are known for fantastic customer service and their high quality product.
Paying for web hosting will likely cost you somewhere between $6 to $20 per month, and the results are well worth it. The adage “you have to spend money to make money” holds true, and the increase in traffic and the professional look that comes with a reliable web host will help you make more money.
You now officially have your blog, even though it’s just an empty web page right now. That’s ok. It’s still all yours!
Step 3: Get WordPress
WordPress’s software is an incredible tool, and it is one you should definitely use. It is high quality blogging software, and it is what most professionals use.
Knowing WordPress is a marketable skill for professional writers, and it’s a good one to grasp when you decide to start a food blog. WordPress will make your job easier, giving your blog a professional, clean look while letting you customize it.
Even though it can be a bit tricky to install on Macs, it’s worth the effort. Some web hosts like Bluehost will even prompt you to download WordPress, and they each have individual how-to guides on their sites.
Step 4: Choose Your Layout and Theme
When I say “theme” I’m not referring to whether your blog will focus on Southern cooking or a vegan diet or only sandwiches. “Theme” refers to the WordPress theme you’ll need to pick, which dictates the look and feel of your site. These themes provide customizable color schemes and layouts.
WordPress offers both free and premium themes. When choosing a theme, it’s important to make sure it meets several criteria:
- Easy to Navigate. This is one of the most important aspects to consider when selecting your theme. If users struggle to get through your site, unable to find what they want, they’re likely to click away. While your competitor’s triple-chocolate-german-cake-cheesecake might not be half as good as yours, its theirs that is going to get the visitors if users can’t find your blog post.
- Clean Look. You want your site to look clean. Clutter is distracting and just looks messy. Part of ease of navigation will come from a clean look, too.
- Responsive. WordPress boasts 100% responsive themes on the majority of their premium layouts. What this means is that your site will be mobile responsive. Desktop traffic has been surpassed by mobile traffic, so having a site that is optimized for mobile devices won’t risk losing you any visitors.
- Optimized for Search Results. Some themes boast being optimized for search results. Combing this with a basic understanding of SEO (see Step 7) will help your site appear higher up in search engine rankings and thus get you more traffic.
For specific recommendations on WordPress themes, this article names some good ones.
Step 5: Utilize Google’s Tools
First you’ll want to set up an e-mail through Google that is just for your blog. If you’re worried you won’t check it, you can always forward the mail to your actual account, but you want to have a Google account for your blog.
Once you do, you can set up several tools Google offers to monitor and enhance your site. Some of these tools need to be installed, like Google’s Analytics, which takes tracking your blog traffic a step further. It’s worth it. Knowing who is coming to your site, and potentially from where, can make a difference in knowing how to reach visitors in the future. You can also evaluate which posts are performing better than others, giving you insight into the content your target audience wants the most.
Feedburner is another tool I recommend to all bloggers. It allows visitors to subscribe to your blog either by RSS or e-mail, as well as helping you keep tracking of your current subscribers. And while we’re on visitors, on a brief side note, not requiring them to log in or register to leave a comment is a good thing, since most people won’t bother. You want engagement, so don’t risk losing it because it’s too much work for your followers.
Step 6: Get on Social Media
Social media doesn’t just mean Facebook. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram are among the biggest social media sites right now, but there are always more sites coming to the party. Users like Rosanna Pasino actually became famous on YouTube. Being part of different platforms of social media will give you more access to more readers. Social media is how you build a following.
Rosanna Pasino has become a YouTube sensation with her baking videos.
You may very well spend more time on social media than on your actual blog, at least at first, while your site is still gaining traction. There are blogging groups on Facebook you can join, and you can create a Page to build engagement with current followers on social media and connect with new ones. Social media can even help you find your niche.
Social media is viral in nature, and building a strong following there can lead to an even stronger following on your blog.
Step 7: Learn SEO Basics
When most writers go to start a food blog, they have never heard of SEO. It’s ok if you haven’t, or you’re not an expert in it. Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to certain practices used to boost your site higher in search engine rankings. Since search engines dictate a huge majority of all traffic, making sure you’re ranked highly can be crucial to getting your site the exposure it needs.
SEO is often at least a minor annoyance for those with no interest in the subject, but there’s a lot of great resources out there to teach you the basics. SEO changes as algorithms in search engines change (which is constantly), but understanding tactics like keyword usage can help boost your blog to a whole new level of profit.
More Helpful Tools:
These are the basics to getting your blog started, and—in the last two steps—promoting them and getting closer to long term success. There are a lot of great resources out there that cover different areas crucial to food blogging. Some of my favorite posts are:
Cookie+Kate’s Photography Guide : This photography guide goes over everything you need to know to create beautiful, visually stunning and drool-worthy pictures for your blog. You don’t need to be a pro, but your pictures need to be high quality to match your high quality site and recipes. We do, after all, eat with our eyes first.
8 Things They Don’t Tell You When You Start a Food Blog: This post is exactly what it sounds like. Jen gives you a glimpse into the glamorous life of a food blogger, letting you know she learned over time. There’s helpful tips as well as a rundown of what you’ll be working on and how you’ll likely spend a chunk of your time.
How I Turned My Food Blog Into a Career: There’s a variety of resources discussing how to make money with your food blog, and this is a good post going over the basics. Blogging isn’t going to pay your bills overnight, but sticking to a few principles and adding in a lot of time and hard work can help your blog become a career.
Also be sure to check out our complete guide to setting up your own blog in just 15 minutes by clicking here.