At the end of 2020, I decided I wanted to take my food instagram to the next level by starting a food blog! Only issue was...I had no idea how to do that! So, after making a ton of mistakes and spending too much money (and then fixing those mistakes and spending more money), I decided to put together this guide on everything I wish I had known and purchased when I was getting started.
I know my blog is new and doesn't have thousands of recipes up YET, but hey, it's up and running and that's a huge feat. So, if you want to start a food blog or are just getting started and feeling overwhelmed, read on!
Why Start a Food Blog?
Let me start by saying if you've been wanting to start a food blog, JUST DO IT! Blogging is not dead, at least not food blogging. People are constantly on google searching for recipes or tips when it comes to tricky recipes (I'm looking at you, bread), and so much more. Plus, it's fun!
There's so many reasons as to why you should start one, but these are my top 3:
- Content is evergreen aka it'll live longer. For example, if you have a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe, sharing it on your blog will allow people to find it for years. Whereas on Instagram, your post starts losing it's reach after 36 hours, making it harder for people to find....womp.
- You own your blog! If you follow me on instagram, you know in early February my instagram got replicated by scammers and my account was taken down for almost 5 days. I had absolutely no control on whether or not Instagram would give it back to me. If they hadn't, I would have lost hundreds of recipes and thousands of followers. When I did get it back, it took weeks to 'earn' Instagram's trust, aka my posts were hardly being shown to anyone. Having a blog means you own your domain and space online, a space that YOU actually control.
- You're helping others! It's funny, I used to constantly say I wanted to do something fulfilling, something that helped others. I NEVER thought blogging or creating recipes would be the something that did that but it does. In my case, I've helped people who have wanted to switch to a vegan or plant-based lifestyle, but had no idea where to start. You even help by answering general/broad questions too, like what's the point of butter in baking? There's more ways you'd be helping people than that but you get the idea!
Overall, I promise starting a blog is not as complicated as you might think, especially once you find the right resources to help you get started. Hopefully, I can be one of those resources!
Do Your Research!
This is something I need to say before we get going and please don't take it the wrong way. I just want to be as honest as possible and share my experience so you don't go through the same thing.
When I was first starting my food blog a few months ago, I was signing up for and downloading everything bigger food bloggers suggested....this was big mistake, HUGE! Rather than doing my own research, I trusted these bloggers completely because they're the 'head honchos,' they're at the top of the totem pole. They would only recommend the best of the best, right? WRONG. This is sadly not true and this blind trust ended up costing me more money than I ever actually needed to spend.
If you notice, most (not all) of the products they suggest are backed by affiliate links. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE affiliate links for products I use and love. They give you a discount and the food blogger a small commission. However, make sure you do you do some deep research before buying those products...I know you'll learn they're not all great or are not actually the best option for your blog. You'll also learn that some of the recommendations are the best. Regardless, buying any product without doing your own research just means you're potentially going to lose money while someone else is making more of it...off of you, a fellow foodie!
So, after a lot of research, a lot of money spent, asking hundreds of questions in facebook groups, and so much more, I have finally figured out everything that goes into starting your food blog and the essentials you need for a good site. And I'm gonna share that with you, no affiliate links, no BS!
*Even after you read this, please still do your own research!! Only you know what will work best for you, the vision you have for your site, and what fits into your budget.
How to Start a Food Blog
It's time to name your blog! Honestly, picking a name was hard for me, but don't overthink it! Write down every single name idea you have, no matter how silly. Then go through that list and pick your favorite, preferably one that relates to your niche!
Now that you have your name picked, you'll want to buy your domain name. Just search your domain name (this will also tell you if it's already taken), add it to your cart, and check out! Congrats, YOU OWN YOUR OWN SPACE ON THE WEB!
Platforms to buy your domain:
Tip: If your domain name is already taken, try a similar name or use ".co" instead of ".com." This switch won't hinder your websites ability to rank in google.
Next, you need a host! Think of this as digital space on the web that will host your website, or in more generic terms, like an apartment that you're renting that 'hosts' (houses) all your stuff.
Having a good host is one the most important things when it comes to your blog. Your host plays a huge role in how your website performs. For example, crappy host can result in a website that loads super slowly. I know if a website is taking forever to load, I'm saying screw it and finding a different site that will show me whatever I was searching for. Google will know this about your site and likely won't rank you as high you potentially could rank because of it.
Also, you need to know the difference between shared hosting and dedicated hosting:
- Shared hosting: multiple websites are hosting on a single server (think 1 house divided into 8 apartments for 8 families but times a few thousand....I don't know why I keep using these apartment analogies, hopefully they're helpful?). I recommend just avoiding this entirely, honestly.
- Dedicated hosting: the exclusive use of a server and related software
I have one major thing to say here: stop signing up with BlueHost, GoDaddy, Hostgator, or anything similar. I'm sorry, I don't care how many big bloggers are telling you to get it cause it's affordable blah blah blah, don't do it. This is where 'you get what you pay for' seriously applies. Overall, your site is slower since it's on shared hosting, you'll have to switch hosts as your site grows, you actually get less traffic, you don't get as good of customer service if something goes wrong, you won't always have the latest updates immediately, and so much more.
Yes, you will spend more money when using a better host BUT if you seriously want to do this and are in it for the long haul, trust me, it's worth it.
3. blogging platform
This is what you will use to manage your content (recipes, photos, posts, customizing how it looks, etc). It's what I'm typing this post on right now and what I log into almost daily!
You can also go with Squarespace or Wix, as it's a bit easier to initially set up! However, as your blog grows you'll probably need to migrate over to WordPress and it's a huge headache and you run the risk of losing content. So do yourself a favor, and just start with WordPress.
4. pick a theme for your food blog
This part is super fun, you get to choose how your blog looks! There's so many options out there but not all are created equal.
choose a free theme
There are thousands of free themes out there that you could choose from! They're easy to use, as they're aimed at beginners. However, they're often very limited in their look, functionality, and customizations. They're not the best for food bloggers, but great if you just need to get started and on a budget.
buy a premium wordpress theme
I would highly recommend this!! If you’re serious about food blogging, a professional and fully customized site is really important. Premium themes are designed by experts, have more functionality, great support teams & tutorials, and consistent updates. Plus, you have the ability to totally customize it so it looks how you want it to!
I use Foodie Pro theme package. This gives me both the Genesis Framework (which keeps your site secure, optimized, and running quickly) and the food blogger focused theme from Feast Design Co. Even if you don't use Foodie Pro, I highly recommend getting the genesis framework. There are a ton of other themes, like Cook'd Pro or Brunch Pro (also from Feast) that work well with the framework while still being geared towards food bloggers.
Money saving tip: Feast Design Co has great themes that are designed specifically for food bloggers. Look at the live demos and if you like them and want to buy one, stop and buy their feast plugin FIRST (this is recommended when buying any of their themes - breakdown as to why here). When you buy the plug-in, you'll get all 5 of their themes included. This is awesome because you can see which theme you like best with your customizations. So instead of doing what I did, buy this plug-in and then the genesis framework by itself! You'll save $70 doing it this way.
What the heck is a plugin? Think of them like apps on your phone! Basically, it’s a piece of software that will help your website in terms of functionality and added features. These plug-ins are a large reason why WordPress is so popular.
Some plugins are free, some have a small price tag, and some have a large price tag. These are the ones I truly think are essential for your food blog:
- WordPress Recipe Maker: every food blogger needs a recipe card! This one is the best because you can start with the free version, then upgrade when you need to for access to more customizations and features (scaling up recipes, measurement conversions, automated nutrition facts, and more). I originally went with Tasty Recipes off a recommendation but they don't have nearly as many features and there's not a centralized location for your recipes like there is with WPRM.
- WPRocket: Everyone needs a caching plugin and this ones the best. This boosts the performance of your site with decreased load times and overall performance.
- Shortpixel: Shrinks the size of your images while maintaining the quality so they’re optimized for web.
- Akistmet: This blocks spam comments from being left on your posts. Nobody likes spam, especially from a 'person' with the username of "aw9a7fshn9s7yg0hahgahfao97hgah" 🙂
- Yoast SEO: This plugin helps with SEO (search engine optimization - SO IMPORTANT). It helps guide you on what to include, and even better, what NOT to include, in your blog post in order to improve your rankings on google. This is free! You can upgrade to premium, but there's really no need.
- Feast*: Only get this if you have a premium theme from Feast Design Co, as mentioned above.
- Sucuri Security: This is free and keeps your site secure from risks like hacking!
First, I recommend getting a professional business e-mail that contains your domain name (for example, mine is [email protected]). I recommend getting this through Gmail, Outlook, or your host.
Now that you have your business e-mail, one of the most important things you can do is start building your e-mail list! You'll need to sign up with an e-mail marketing service. This not only helps you create connections, but it also drives traffic to your site! Not everyone on your e-mail list is on other social medias where you might be posting your new recipes. Make sure people know about that yummy breakfast recipe you just shared.
E-mail marketing service providers:
7. Connect your website to Google Analytics & Google Search Console
These two tools are amazing for not only collecting data on users but helping you grow your site efficiently and effectively. Most importantly, it will help you understand your readers: what posts they're loving, how people are arriving at your site, how many new users you have, their age and interests, and so much more.
Other than being able to understand your readers, these tools with help with your SEO and will notify you of any issues that arise on your website that need to be fixed.
If you plan to monetize your blog through an ad agency (like AdThrive or Mediavine), make sure you have these tools set up, as you'll need them in order to prove your monthly pageviews for approval!
Check out these videos and links to help you get set up:
- How to Set up Google Analytics
- Add the Google Analytics tracking code to your site (I missed doing this step for the first month and had no clue why I wasn't seeing anything!!)
- How to Set up Google Search Console (Don't forgot to add the TXT record provided onto your DNS records with your hosting service!!)
8. Launch your food blog!
Congratulations!! You're ready to take the leap and launch your food blog! Creating a fully functioning website is a challenge, go you! Can't wait to see your yummy recipes.
Other recommendations for food blogging success
1. Monetize your food blog!
You can do this in many ways:
- Running ads on your site: I honestly wouldn't recommend this until your site is a bit older and you're getting steady traffic; you won't make much money from it until then anyway. Avoid signing up with Google Adsense, they can cause a lot of issues and put you in poor standing with the good ad companies that you'll want to join when you're bigger. When you're ready/you qualify, sign up with an ad service like Mediavine or AdThrive.
- Use affiliate links: As I mentioned at the beginning of this novel of a post, I love affiliate links. Affiliate links are when you link to a product and then if a reader purchases that product via your link, you get a small commission (at absolutely no additional cost to the reader). I'm being serious when I say only link to products you actually use and love. You need to be (and just should be) as honest with your readers as possible, don't link to something crappy (LIKE A HOST), just to make money. Popular hosts for affiliate links are Amazon, Reward Style, and Share A Sale.
- Sponsored blog posts: This one will be your biggest payout! This is when you partner with brands to write a blog post on their product (this could look like using it in a recipe you've developed or just a dedicated post about the product).
- Sell a digital product: Sell something like a recipe e-book! I'd recommend selling whatever your digital product is through Shopify.
2. Join facebook groups!
It might sound corny but I am SERIOUS. This food blogging community is filled with incredible creators who are want to see you succeed and are willing to share their knowledge. The community I've learned the most from is Food Bloggers Central.
3. Invest in yourself
I know, spending money when you're not sure if you'll see a return on your investment is so scary! BUT, it's necessary for growth and will teach you so much about things you need to know in order to succeed in this space. Some ways I've invested in myself are through buying educational courses. Here's the 3 I've taken:
- Foodtography School: everything you need to up your photography as well as the business side of food photography.
- The Blog Academy by Grow with Jess: covers everything you need to know regarding how to write a blog post, SEO, google analytics, pinterest, monetization, and more!
- Artificial Academy: 1. Joanie is the best so any of her courses I'd suggest (or her free youtube videos!). 2. another way for me to up my photography.
I hope you found everything in this post helpful! I am by no means an expert and am super new to the food blogging game, but this is everything I wish I had known when I got started a few months ago in order to save time and money! If you ever have any questions or just want to chat, you can leave a comment on this post, email me at [email protected], or send me a DM on Instagram!