How to Start a Food Blog – The Definitive Guide
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You love to cook and you enjoy sharing your creations with your friends. Sure enough, people have started begging for your recipes. You’ve already checked out some food blogs and now you think “I can do this too!”. Yes, you can! It’s very easy actually. Follow this definitive guide on how to start a food blog and you’ll have a great foundation to make your food blog a success! It includes everything you need from setting up your hosting to food photography and getting traffic.
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Chapter 1: The Set Up – Start Your Food Blog
Step 1: Domain name and hosting
Do you already know what you’ll name your blog? We thought our name through and finally settled on www.hurrythefoodup.com. We brainstormed a while though and wrote down all the names we could think of.
Please bear in mind it’s not just about the name it’s also about a concept: There are already quite some food blogs out there, so it’s important to set yourself apart from the rest in order to make yourself a name. Do you want to focus on gluten-free food? Are you into vegan freezer cooking? How about baking without sugar?
Once you’ve found a lovely name, jump over to Bluehost and click on “get started now”.
You’re then directed to Bluehost’s hosting plans. Hosting pretty much means renting space on the web for displaying blogs. Bluehost is probably the biggest hosting service worldwide and used by most food bloggers out there. Plus they give you your domain name for free, something other hosting services don’t do.
When picking the plan we’d recommend starting off with the ‘starter’ plan. You can always upgrade to a different plan as your blog grows.
Next, check if your domain name is available and fill in your account information.
Last but not least on to the ‘package information’ (screenshot below): We recommend just picking ‘Domain Privacy Protection.’ It hides your personal address and phone number from the public.
Cool, that’s it with step 1!
Step 2: Install WordPress
Next step is installing WordPress. This might look a little complicated, but it really isn’t. In case the name doesn’t mean anything to you: WordPress is a piece of software that most bloggers use to run their blogs. We use it as well 🙂
Alright, let’s go! First, login to Bluehost.
Then, in your cPanel, go find the section named ‘Website Builders’ and click the WordPress icon.
Now the installation window should be open. Just click on the green “Install” button to start the WordPress installation.
1: Select your blog domain and click on “Check Domain,” which will make sure the domain is assigned and pointing to your account.
2: In the “Show Advanced options” you can set up your own username and password for your WordPress. It definitely makes sense to do so.
Also make sure that “Automatically create a new database for this installation” box is checked, unless you have a database already set up that you want to use.
3: Check the “terms and conditions” button and click “Install Now.”
Now wait a little until WordPress is fully installed. Make a nice cup of tea or something. Once it’s done you’ll see your site URL, the admin login URL, your username, and password. Perfect, that’s all we need!
Log into your WordPress site by going to the admin login URL. Enter your username and password, then click “Log In.” This will take you to your WordPress dashboard.
Nice, you’ve just logged in to your WordPress blog for the first time!
Step 3: Make your food blog sexy!
Awesome! The only thing that’s missing now is a little beautification. The standard WordPress theme is ok, but with almost no effort you can update to a much better theme to make your photos stand out and your text much more enjoyable to read.
A theme is basically a “skin” that you put on top of your WordPress platform. There are many out there that have been customized to the needs of food bloggers and will allow you to change it easily to your own preferences.
Many of them are free, but honestly, we recommend you get a premium theme as they are usually better to customize and get updated on a regular basis, which is super important to keep your food blog up to date.
Popular Premium Themes
1. Genesis Framework – This is the theme most food bloggers use and has been proven to be very satisfactory. Definitely also check other Studiopress Themes like the Foodie Pro Theme that has been customized especially for food bloggers.
2. Elegant Themes – Elegant Themes look, well, very elegant. They’re easy to use and are a little cheaper than other premium themes.
3. Sahifa – That’s what we use. It’s great, but we had to put in a fair old effort to make it look as nice as it does now. With a Genesis Theme you’ll avoid many future headaches.
Cool, that’s it with the basic set up!
Most food bloggers also think a lot about a beautiful logo. Even though I think a logo is not important when just starting out in food blogging, I have trouble to convince most people not to spend a lot of time on that.
If you want to have a cool looking logo, I suggest to come up with an idea and roughly sketch it using PowerPoint or a similar simple software. Then hire a designer from the freelancer platform fiverr. Many of them are very talented and it’s a cheap way to get the job done. Sometimes you don’t even have to pay more than $5.
Step 4: Install essential plugins and tools
WordPress provides just the basic framework, and with a theme you customize your blog into a certain direction. Theoretically that’s enough to start your food blog. But in practice you further need customize your blog with plugins and tools. I highly recommend installing the following nifty little helpers before you start writing your first recipe:
1. Akismet (Free) – This is a plugin that keeps your blog protected from spam. Without Akismet you’ll end up having lots of automated comments by strange advertisers below your blog posts. We’re sure that’s something you’d like to avoid.
2. EasyRecipe (Free) – This is a neat tool that allows you to easily enter, format and print your recipes in a blog post. It’s really handy for displaying your everything from ingredients to directions in a nice way. There’s also a paid version, but the free one will do for now.
3. Limit Login Attempts (Free) – This is plugin is important to protect your blog from bots trying to hack your blog. It basically limits the rate of login attempts, by including cookies for each IP.
4. Vaultpress (Paid, 5$/Month) – This plugin automatically creates back-ups of your entire blog, from your content to comments and settings. We highly recommend you to use it, so you can always restore your blog, in case something happens. And trust us, something will happen at some point. We use the basic plan which is $5 per month. It automatically creates one backup per day from our blog.
5. W3 Total Cache (Free) – This is a “performance plugin” that helps to speed up your blog by optimizing a few processes when loading pages. You should definitely install it, since the plugin makes a notable difference. There are quite a few setting possibilities, but you can just leave the standard set up as is.
6. Yoast SEO (Free) – This is an “all-in-one” Search Engine Optimization tool for WordPress. It helps you to create content that ranks well in Google. We highly recommend using it, so you increase chances to get search engine traffic. There is also a good quality competitor called “All-In-One-SEO” which works similarly.
7. Mailchimp (free up to 500 emails) – This tool allows you to collect email addresses on your blog and send them newsletters. You can also set up “Welcome emails” for when someone subscribes to you newsletter and such things. I recommend using it right away so you can build your email list from day 1.
8. SumoMe (Free) – This is a box with different tools to grow your email list. There are quite a few competitors out there (optinmonster, bloom, leadpages), but we were the happiest with SumoMe, especially to start out with. At the moment we use their “Exit Pop Up Window”. When a new visitor wants to leave our blog, a pop up appears asking him/her to sign up for our newsletter. We only ask once every 20 days, in case that visitor comes back to our page. So it’s not very pushy.
9. Google Analytics (Free) – With this tool you see exactly what happens on your blog. How much traffic you have, how long visitors stay, what pages they look at, where they are from and so on and so forth. It’s a must have too, if you want to strategically grow your blog.
10. Jetpack by WordPress (Free) – Jetpack is box with many different plugins. It basically helps you secure your site, increase performance and traffic, and simplify how you manage your site. For example, you can easily add a contact form to your blog or make a few customizations by using the CSS editor.
Chapter 2: Food Photography
Using a smartphone – If you want to start your food blog without expensive equipment, you can use your phone to start off with. Though, one disadvantage is that you don’t have depth of field with your smartphone, which takes away much of the atmosphere if you take a photo from a side angle. Because of that I recommend you to focus on overhead shots.
These are a few sources that help you to improve your food photography with your phone:
- Oh My Veggies – Food photography with an iPhone
- iPhone Photography School – Food
- CotterCrunch – 5 food photography tips using a smart phone
Using a DSLR – If you want to get serious with food blogging a DSLR camera is the way to go. We use this T3I Rebel by Canon and this lense. I claim this is one of the cheapest set ups to scratch the high quality photo league. In total you pay roundabout $450. On that note, the camera is not so important; the lense is what does the trick!
Also, get a tripod to start off with. You’ll need some time to get the composition right and it’s easiest to do when you don’t have your camera in your hand all the time. Later on, I’m sure you prefer to have your camera in your hand, but one step at a time.
1. Compostion – In the beginning you might feel insecure with angles, lighting and most of all, composition. I went a very simple route to improve my food photography quickly. I headed over to foodgawker and checked out the photos of similar recipes (foodgawker is a website that allows you to submit your recipes to share it with the world). Next, I set up my composition like I saw in the best photos from that recipe sharing site.
Since those photos already have been accepted by their editor’s team, I knew that my photos would have a good chance too if I reached a similar quality.
2. Amount of photos – I take 100 – 150 photos per recipe and later in the editing process I settle for the top four or five. Shoot those photos from different angles, with different camera settings and improve the composition during the process. I highly recommend taking that many photos; you’ll have more results that hit your taste and you’ll improve your food photography faster.
3. Vertical photos – Make sure you shoot mostly vertical style photos. One reason for that is the social media platform Pinterest. The “longer” an image the more visibility you get over there. This will eventually bring you more clicks over to your blog.
Here are some more resources to hone your photography skills:
- Food Photography eBook (Free) by Christina from Food Photography Blog (excellent source to learn the basics)
- Ten household items to improve your photography by Lindsay from Pinch Of Yum
- Food photography tips by Bella Eats
- Tasty Food Photography eBook ($30) by Lindsay from Pinch Of Yum (that money is well invested. The eBook includes videos, tutorials and very practical tips)
Chapter 3: Photo Editing
Lightroom – When you load the original photos from your camera to your photos only half of the job is done. Your photos may look good, but to make them really pop, I highly recommend using a piece of software like Lightroom. It makes a good photo great. Also, there might be occasions when the lighting wasn’t too good, or when you find a spot that you’d like to delete. Lightroom is perfect for that.
Here’s an example:
See what I mean?
Photoshop – After editing and cutting my photos properly, I open them in Photoshop to convert them in the appropriate sizes. I need a version for Pinterest, a preview photo for the blog, a version for Instagram, and so on and so forth. Photoshop is perfect for that, especially because you can create templates that speed up the process significantly.
You can get a Lightroom and Photoshop bundle here.
Gimp – You can also go for the free tool called Gimp. It allows you to re-touch, crop and convert your photos, but it’s definitely a little cumbersome to use. I tried it for a couple of hours, but then gave up. Spending a little money on Lightroom and Photoshop is definitely the more comfortable way to start a food blog. It will make food photography life so much easier.
1. Photo size – Convert your photos to a jpeg file format and make sure they are not much bigger than 250kb. That ensures your blog won’t take ages to load your photos.
2. Cloud storage – Use a cloud system where you save your beautifully edited 5-6 photos. That way they won’t be lost in case your hard drive breaks down. We use the free tool Google Drive for that.
Chapter 4: Getting Traffic
You have your first recipe with scrumptious photos on the food blog and now you wonder how to show it to the world. Here are the most important tips to kick-start your traffic.
Food Sharing Websites
Food bloggers can upload their recipe with a photo on those websites. Some of them have quite a lot of traffic. So, if their editor’s team accepts your recipe you can look forward to your first couple of visits. The following list shows the most important food sharing websites. If you want to start your food blog with a bang, I recommend uploading your recipes to all of them:
It takes a little time until Google ranks your recipes high enough so that people are likely to click on them. Getting your recipe on the first page of relatively popular search terms usually takes a couple of weeks.
With the Yoast SEO tool and a modern theme you already have everything on your blog set up for Google to index your recipes. But that is only one part: You also need to properly research for what people are searching for. I’m sure many more people are looking for “guacamole recipe” than for “avocado cream recipe”. So it’s important that you name your recipe so that people can find it. I created a blog post on keyword research for Google and I highly recommend you read it. It explains the most important skill you need to learn to get traffic from Google.
On that note, I recently wrote an eBook on that topic too. I’ll teach you everything you need to know to get thousands of visits per day from Google.
Pinterest is a social media platform where many food bloggers get their biggest share of traffic from. Make sure you create an account over there and upload your recipes.
These are my 3 best tips on Pinterest:
1. Join group boards – This allows you to reach followers from other bloggers, which is great because if you just started out with your food blog you don’t have followers at all. To start off with, just go on our Pinterest account and ask the owners of the group boards if you could join as well. Feel free to look for more boards on your own.
2. Create your own group boards and invite your followers: Again, this is a great way to tap into the audience of other food bloggers. Your board will appear on the wall of everybody who joins it. This means Their followers have a higher possibility to see your creations. Note: It takes a little bit of work to keep your boards “tidy”, so don’t more people than you can handle.
3. Join this Facebook Food Blogger Group where Food Bloggers share each others content. That leverages your reach a lot, because your pins will appear on many more boards with different following.
Also, check out these blog posts on how to successfully get traffic from Pinterest:
Yummly is a mix between a food sharing website and a social network. To get traffic from Yummly to your food blog you need to upload your recipes to that platform. Then comes the tricky part – boosting your recipes. One way to do that is by joining a Facebook Group where food blogger help each other to promote their recipes on Yummly. Check out this one or just use the search bar in Facebook.
This a good article on how to get started and grow with Yummly:
- How Yummly Helps Drive Traffic to My Food Blog
Of course almost everybody uses Facebook and it can be a great way to promote your content. Create a Facebook page for your food blog and start posting your recipes. There are many tips and tricks in the internet that tell you how many times you should post per week, at what time and which content, but let’s keep it simple for now.
1. Invite everybody you know or don’t know to like your brand new Facebook page. You can even write them a message, if you want to.
2. Join Facebook groups, for example this one, in order to cross promote content with other food bloggers. As already mentioned, this increases your reach a lot.
3. Go to big Facebook pages that fit your niche and suggest to them to share your recipe. Sure you’ll get rejected, but some pages will definitely be happy to have good quality content that they can show to their audience.
Also make sure to check out this post to get you on the right path for Facebook:
Let me say right away that it becomes increasingly difficult to build and reach an audience on Facebook, but with a good concept and dedication it’s still possible. See what platform works best for you to get traffic and invest your time in those that work! For us Facebook plays a small role.
Instagram is the favorite social media for many food bloggers. It’s fun to use but most certainly will never be a huge direct traffic driver to your blog. But traffic is not always the most important metric for social media platforms.
For many food bloggers Instagram is rather a public relations platform to connect with other bloggers, publishers and advertisers.
Need more info on growing an audience on Instagram? Check out these articles to kick-start your account:
Twitter and Google+
Twitter and Google+ play an unimportant role for almost every food blogger. Whereas I believe that Twitter is just not the platform for people to look for recipes, I think Google+ has potential, but very few really focus on it. At hurrythefoodup.com we were not able to make these channels work for us, but this definitely doesn’t mean you can’t have success with them.
That being said, make sure you create accounts on these channels and post your recipes. Get a feel for those social media platforms yourself. But please make sure to read the articles below for more info on Twitter and Google+:
- Unlock the Power of Google+
- How to Get at Least 500 More Followers on Google+ by Next Week
- 50 Ways to Increase Your twitter Followers
Periscope, tumblr, snapchat, Buzzfeed reddit, Youtube etc.
There are plenty more social media networks out there where you can reach a large audience.
On periscope, tumblr and snapchat you’ll mostly find a younger audience from around 16 – 28. All of these platforms have its specifics, and once you figured out how to engage an audience there you might be able to get a decent amount of traffic. Many other food bloggers have success on them. So, it’s worth to check out these platforms and see how they work for you. For us all these channels play a small role though, because we decided to focus on different ones.
Buzzfeed created a new service where you can become an editor yourself and create recipe round-ups like “25 delicious vegan breakfast recipes that make you jump out of bed”. You basically collect those recipes with photos from other bloggers (with their permission!) and upload it with a little text and link to Buzzfeed. Their editor staff will then decide whether it goes live. There have been some food bloggers reporting a lot of success with this method. We didn’t try it yet, but we’ll definitely want to give it a shot!
Here’s a great example on how a fellow food blogger successfully drove thousands of visits to her blog via Buzzfeed.
Reddit is great for finding niches and create content for these communities. On that note, reddit is a forum and emphasizes a lot on helping each other out. So, just promoting your content will not work. You’ll have to dedicate time to being a part of your community.
Also make sure to check out this article:
Youtube is a whole new thing, especially because you have to create videos and not “just photos. Based on my experience you can only have success on Youtube, if you cross-promote your videos with other youtube channels, if you are pushing content at least twice a week and if it’s original. As you might already notice, Youtube is not just another channel. Because of the time you have to dedicate to that platform it means either blog or Youtube channel.
Now you know all the big traffic channels. As mentioned Pinterest and Google Search are by far the biggest traffic sources for most food bloggers. Still, I’ve seen many more having success on Yummly, Facebook, Buzzfeed and even tumblr.
I suggest you create an account on all of them. Then decide which platforms you like best and build a promotion strategy around them. See on what channels you gain most traction. You shouldn’t focus on more than three in the beginning. Why? Just because if you try to be active on all of them you won’t be able to keep up, it’s just too much. Instead figure out exactly how your best channels work and find ways to leverage them.
If I started a food blog again I would primarily focus on food sharing websites, Google Search (SEO), Pinterest and Facebook. When time allows I’d grow Instagram.
Alrighty, that’s it for now. I know it’s a lot to take in, but I’m sure with dedication and time you can build something amazing. Again, make sure to join a food Food Blogger community like this one. The best way to grow is to grow together!