Disclaimer: some of the links that are provided in this post are affiliate links, meaning that clicking on them and making a purchase will result in a commission for me. That being said, all affiliate links are clearly marked, and I am not recommending anything I haven’t personally used and loved!
If you’re here reading this, we can probably already assume two things: 1. you enjoy reading food blogs and 2. you want to start your own food blog. Having read some (or quite a few) food blogs is a good start; you’ve already seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t, but the question remains, where do you start? Before we jump into some of the major things to consider when starting a food blog, let me pose a few questions to you.
Why do you want to start a food blog? I’ll just come out and say right now that starting any type of blog for the sole purpose of making money is never a good idea. There are a lot of long hours, and, in all likelihood, it will take a long time before you see any sort of revenue for your efforts. There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to monetize your blog, but it shouldn’t be the main reason you write a blog. Considering why you want to start a blog will also help you decide how much time you want to devote to it. Is this going to be a leisure activity? A way to share your knowledge? Are you interested in doing it once a week, or once a month? These are all important things that will help you shape your blog.
What do you want to write about? Ok, this one may seem silly. You may be sitting there thinking “I’m reading an article about starting a food blog. I want to write about food. Duh!” Yes, ok, you want to write about food, but what about food? “Food” is a broad topic, and it’s a good idea to focus on something a little less broad. Your readers, in all likelihood, won’t be interested in the broad spectrum of all things food-related. Most people don’t want to read a restaurant review, followed by a recipe for dinner, followed by a vegan power bar recipe, followed by a difficult and time consuming cake decorating tutorial. Can you start to see how this looks a little all over the board? When starting your food blog, it’s a good idea to start with a niche. That niche can, of course, change and evolve over time, but it will help narrow down the things you talk about. Do you want to focus on dessert? Baking? Food on the go? Quick, inexpensive meals? Vegan? Edible decoration?
Now that you’ve thought about what, specifically, you want to write about, you’ll need to come up with a name for your blog. This is one of the really fun parts! It can be serious or witty, but whatever you come up with should, in some way, be a reflection of you and your blog. It’s important to pick a name you like because it may be hard to change later (yes, that’s the voice of experience speaking right there). As you’re picking out a name, it’s a good idea to google your ideas and see how many, if any, are already in use. You definitely want a name that’s unique and will stand out! If it’s unique, that also means that you’ll probably be able to get it as a domain name (as in a www.domainname.com sort of thing).
Hopefully you’ve taken a little time to think about these questions, and to really start thinking about your want your blog. And you know what that means? You’re already on your way to starting that blog! Now that you’ve done the mental work, let’s roll up those sleeves and move onto building that blog!
Although there are lots of great, free blog hosting sites, like wordpress.com and blogger.com, self-hosting is the better choice in the long run. There’s certainly nothing wrong with starting out with a free blog hosting site, but you’ll probably want to switch to self-hosting at some point if you decide to seriously take up blogging. Why? You simply have more freedom with self-hosting. You’r not limited to a small number of themes or plugins, you can advertise how you see fit, etc. If you’re interested in self-hosting, I recommend BlueHost (affiliate link), who currently hosts this site. Their plans start out very reasonably and they offer 24/7 support if you need it.
If you go the self-hosting route, you’ll want to use wordpress software (for those of you who have seen wordpress.com and wordpress.org, and are wondering about the difference, this is it. WordPress.com is the free blog hosting site, while wordpress.org is the software you can use on a self-hosted blog). Because of this, if you want to go with a free blog hosting site, I recommend wordpress.com. That way, if you decide to switch to self-hosting at some point in the future, you’ll be familiar with the software.
It may sound kind of superficial, but the way your blog looks will have a big impact on whether people look at it and come back to look at it again. Having an appealing theme can help make your blog more attractive to your readers. Of course, the theme you choose and the way to set up your blog will depend on your own personal taste and what you find appealing. If you’re not sure about how you want it to look, you can never go wrong with something minimal. The theme I use for this blog is Good Times by Theme Fashion. Honestly, I would recommend pretty much any theme from this shop because their themes are reasonably priced and their customer service is excellent. Really, I mean excellent!
I’ve also used, and loved, the themes by Bluchic (affiliate link). One of their themes was actually the first theme I used on this blog after I started self-hosting the site. They have some really beautiful (albeit slightly more feminine) themes.
Plugins are absolutely fantastic, and you’ll want to take advantage of the great things they can do when you start a food blog. I recommend the following (I currently use all of these myself on this blog):
Yoast WordPress SEO: This little plugin helps take some of the mystery out of SEO. It analyzes each of your posts/pages, rates your SEO, and provides feedback on places you can improve.
Akismet: This plugin is a spam filter, and will help protect your comment section against spam.
jQuery Pin It Button For Images: Often times when you’re reading a food blog, you may notice that mousing over an image will pop up a little “Pin it” button in one of the top corners of the picture. jQuery is one of the add-ons that allows you to do that. It’s super simple, and once it’s installed, it does the all the work for you.
Related Posts by Zemanta: This is a great plugin for driving traffic to other pages on your blog. Simply install the plugin and it will generate related posts based on keywords at the bottom of each post. If you’re not satisfied with Zemanta’s post choice, you can manually edit in the posts you’d like shown as related.
Google Analytics for WordPress: Google Analytics is, by far, your best option for tracking traffic to your blog. This plugin makes setting up your blog’s connection to Google Analytics a piece of cake!
When writing your blog, there are a couple of key points I’d like to highlight.
#1. BE YOURSELF. Write in such a way that reflects your personality, because that’s part of what keeps people reading. For some bloggers, their style involves stories, others involve humor. Some like simple and to-the-point instructions, while others prefer details. Whatever your style, you’ll attract readers. But trying to be someone you’re not, won’t.
#2. PHOTOS. Ok, so maybe you’re wondering why I have photos under writing. For me, I prefer to let my photographs take the place of some of my writing (except for this post, obviously). I’m a firm believer in “less text, more pictures.” That, of course, plays partly into my style of blogging, but I think for food blogging, in particular, that pictures are an important part of the instruction process; your photographs will say things that your words can’t, or will support the things you say. In this sort of blogging, writing and photography are inseparable.
One of the most important things about establishing a blog is getting organized. Remember when we talked earlier about why you were blogging and how much you wanted to do it? This plays right into your organization. If you plan to post once a week, make sure you’re posting once a week. Write multiple posts and keep a backlog of available, quality posts so you can post regularly. I like to keep a calendar with my post dates on it, as well as any upcoming holidays that I might want to post things for. Although I don’t always keep to my calendar, the majority of the time I do, and it helps both my readers and me have a sense of structure. I also keep a notebook where I have all of my notes and ideas for upcoming projects (I don’t know about anyone else, but if I don’t write these sorts of things down, I’ll forget them).
At this point, you should have all of the basics you need to start your food blog. I’m putting the emphasis on “start” here because, as you probably already know, there are a lot of other things that go into maintaining, promoting, and improving your blog. You may be wondering, “what about social media?” or “what is this SEO stuff you’re talking about?” These are, of course, great questions, but I also think they deserve more attention than I can give them here. I will begin to address some of these topics over the next couple of months, so be sure to check back for the latest posts. In the meantime, here are some other sources to help you get started:
i am baker: 8 Reasons You Should Never Start a Food Blog (and 24 Reasons Why You Should)
From Away: How to Start a Food Blog
Pinch of Yum: How to Start a Food Blog
Jen’s Favorite Cookies: 8 Things They Don’t Tell You When You Start a Food Blog
Food Blogger Pro
First Site Guide: How to Start a Blog