Why and how should you start a food blog?
Food blogs are an awesome hobby. They have the potential to push your creative boundaries, and teach you more about cooking and yourself than you ever thought possible. Food blogs are an outlet for creativity on so many levels. Photography, writing and recipe creation are all places where you can express yourself and carve out your own style and voice. We live in an age where it’s never been easier to create art that will benefit the world.
Blogging is also a supportive, generous and creative community that is an honour to be a part of. I’ve met new friends, had amazing opportunities and made a bit of money too! So, how can you do all the same things?
This guide walks you through exactly what to do and how to do it.
How to start a food blog- step by step
1. Pick a name and buy your domain
Domain names are best when they’re kept short and punchy. They usually end in a .com or with a suffix of where you live. (Eg. .co.uk)
Cost: Free with Bluehost or $15 with Go Daddy.
2. Find a reliable website host
A web host is like your website’s house online. It stores your website and makes it accessible to anyone looking for you online.
Cost: Bluehost starts at $3.95 per month.
3. Install WordPress
WordPress is industry standard for running websites. There are other options like Square Space, but we prefer WordPress.
4. Install a wordpress theme
This is where things really start to come together and the fun begins. A theme is what determines the design and features of your website.
Cost: Free to approx. $175.00
5. Set up Google Tools
One of the most thrilling things about creating a food blog is seeing it grow. The way to do that is with the Google suite of tools. Google analytics and Google search console.
6. Install WordPress plugins
Plugins extend functionality in some areas of your site and can help run your site more efficiently. For example a recipe plugin.
Cost: Most are free. Premium plugins are about $25.00
7. Start Blogging
Share your recipes, photos and expertise.
Step 1. Choose a name and buy the matching domain
Choosing a name is often one of the hardest steps of starting a food blog, or any blog for that matter. To get started brain storming, you can write down some words that relate to your cooking style, lifestyle or area of experience. Make a list of potential names and think about it for a couple of days before you decide. Once you’ve picked something, you’re not necessarily stuck with it, but it is a messy job to change blog and domain names. I’ve done it, and do not recommend it.
Properties of the perfect blog name
- Easy to spell
Once you’ve narrowed your blog names down to just a couple, it’s time to make sure that they’re available. You can pop on over to Bluehost and use their domain checker to make sure. If it is available, grab it! Most web addresses end in .com but there are other extensions available, like .co.uk or .ca depending on where you live.
Once you’ve picked your name, you can get it for free with Bluehost, with the purchase of a hosting plan. You can also purchase a domain from Go Daddy and connect it with your hosting at a later date. But, it’s so much simpler to get the hosting and domain in one simple step.
Step 2. Find reliable web hosting
What’s the best hosting for new food blogs?
Yep. You guessed it! Bluehost has 24/7 support and it’s super quick and easy to set up so that you can get the techie stuff out of the way as quick as possible and get blogging.
When you’re first starting out, there’s no need to go for a major hosting plan. You’ll want a shared plan to keep the costs down while you build traffic. You can always increase your plan when your blog takes off, but while you’re getting started it’s really best to keep expenses down to just the necessities, and Bluehost is about as cheap as it gets.
First you’ll need to choose your plan. I started out with the basic plan and went from there. For the first couple of months that did me just fine!
Choose your term
Once you’ve chosen your plan (go for the basic plan) you’ll need to choose your term. So, if you go for the 36 month term that will give you plenty of time to build your traffic and get some traction before you need to make any more hosting decisions. Once I got started, I didn’t want to have to make any more techie decisions. I just wanted to be able to produce content and share my work.
Step 3 Install WordPress
This bit will be really easy and Bluehost has a step by step guide to get you going.
Once you’ve installed WordPress on your site go to Settings > Permalink Settings page. Change your permalink structure to “post names” and hit save. And now you’re ready for all the real fun to begin! Now is when we start talking about themes and design.
Step 4 Install A Theme
Okay. This is the fun part. Now you get to pick a theme to create the look and feel of your website. Think of this as your digital shop front. If it’s clean and tidy, well designed and easy to navigate people will want to stay and look around. If it’s not user friendly, well organised or stylish people will bounce… literally. So, make sure you pick a good one!
What to look for in a great WordPress theme
- Responsive: In a “mobile first” world your theme really needs to be responsive. What does all that even mean?! Well, it means that normally websites have been designed thinking about desktop first and making it look good on mobile second. Well, in a world where Google is giving higher ranking to mobile friendly sites, and 57% of all searches happen either on a smart phone or a tablet, it means that your site needs to be able to fit any device without the reader having to do anything. The great news is that pretty much all the quality themes that you’ll be looking at are responsive.
- Well Designed: Your theme should suite the functionality and aesthetic that you’re looking for. And it just so happens that I have a list of some stunning themes for you to choose from. But in addition to it looking pretty, be sure that it’s coded by someone who knows what they’re doing. All the themes that I list below are tried and tested and some of the best in the business.
- Optimised for search results: This goes hand in hand with it being well designed and coded. A well designed website will naturally help you to rank higher in search results than a theme with lots of coding errors.
- User friendly: You should be looking for a theme that has the ability to customise things like colour palette and fonts, logos etc without you having to go in and edit code. It will save you a ton of time and more than likely lots of headaches.
- Backed by great support: If you do run into a problem, it’s really important to know that you have somewhere to turn and a place where you can get some help and questioned answered.
So, even though you CAN build your shiny new food blog on a free theme, I wouldn’t recommend it. This is the time to invest some money upfront and get a premium theme that you are going to love for a couple of years and will help you grow.
I ♥ StudioPress Themes
Studiopress has the best portfolio of high quality, gorgeous themes available. This blog uses the Foodie Pro them, but I’ve used several others during the life of my blog and I love them all. Here’s a list of a few of my favourites!
Benefits- Clean design, maximised widget area for ad opportunities, easy to customise fonts and endless colour palette options.
Another popular theme with a different layout and SO many customisation options is Cook’d Pro.
I’ve used this theme before as well and I absolutely love the 3 photos side by side for a bold statement and to showcase your most recent posts.
My next favourite is the the Refined theme. It’s Woo Commerce ready so you can start hustling and making some cash right out of the gate! It also has Pinterest image templates built right in, so you can look super polished without having to be a designer!
The bottom line is that even though you can get a WordPress theme for free, it really is worth it to spend some cash and get a premium theme so that you look polished and profesh from the beginning.
Tips for designing a stunning and user- friendly blog
- Keep it clear– don’t use jargon or slang. If a page is about recipes, call it “recipes”.
- Following- Encourage your readers to follow along with you. Place links to your social profiles in your sidebar.
- Tell readers what to do– At the end of every blog post ask your readers to follow along, leave a comment and a rating and to sign up to your email list to stay up to date on the latest.
- Commenting– Make it easy for your readers to leave comments and skip the requirements of a CAPTCHAs.
Step 5 Install Plugins
Like I mentioned before, plugins are the extensions that refine the usability of your theme. Each of these plugins (some free, some premium) will provide valuable features that may not come with your theme. *All of these plugins are ones that I use here on Salted Mint.
- Akismet: Filters out spam comments without requiring readers to fill out CAPTCHAs. Nobody likes a CAPTCHA.
- Social Warfare: Social sharing is the KEY to getting increases in traffic. The easier it is for people to share your amazing content, the easier it is for word to spread about your latest and greatest posts. More traffic= more income= more time to create better content.
- Yoast SEO: One of the things that Google looks for in a website is rock solid SEO and using a plugin like Yoast will help let you know when you’re on the right track. Be sure to set up your Google tools (see below) to have your whole system running smoothly. It may take a bit of time, but it will be very worthwhile!
- WP Tasty Recipes: Formats your recipe for rich card markup and SEO. ← Both really important to Google. This plugin allows users to leave ratings, print with recipe with the click of a mouse and helps your featured image show up in search results. It is a premium plugin, but it’s worth every penny!
- Subscribe to comments reloaded: Having a great reader experience should be your primary concern and if that’s the case, you definitely need this plugin. It sends your reader an email when you have responded to one of their questions of comments, so that they don’t have to keep checking back.
- WordPress Related Posts: This plugin displays recipes and posts that are similar encouraging readers to enjoy more of your content, rather than taking in just one post and leaving.
- Tasty Pins: This super helpful plugin allows you to write a really compelling description for Pinterest, while also maximising your alt tag for SEO. I’ve been using this plugin for months and absolutely LOVE IT!
Step 5 Set Up Google Tools
Firstly, set up a Gmail account with a matching email for your blog.
Once you have a Google account, log in and set up the following:
- Google Analytics: Helps you track blog traffic. (Note: install the tracking code in your Yoast SEO plugin settings.)
- Google Search Console: Makes sure your website is up and running. (Note: install the tracking code in your Yoast SEO plugin settings.)
Step 7 Start Blogging!
Cue the champagne and the confetti! You’ve now got your very own shop front on the interwebs ready for people to come and hangout and get involved in your blog and your message!
Okay… Now what???
Learn to take amazing photos
Well, you’ll want to start with taking amazing photos! You can take classes, you can register for webinars, but in reality, the BEST way to improve your photography is to get yourself a couple of books and practice, practice, practice! I’ve never taken a food photography course, but I have taken tens of thousands of photos and I’ve learned A LOT! I’ll start some photography posts later on this summer. For now you can find some amazing posts about food photography over on Jonathan Thompson Photography.
The only book I have read about food photography is Plate to Pixel. This book was one of the first food photography books out there and it’s still a great place to start. And learn to edit in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
Write rock solid recipes and great content!
On creative work- Ira Glass– This is possibly one of the greatest pieces of commentary on creating content. Amazing!
Questions??? Just leave them below and I’ll do my very best to answer them!