Considering starting a food blog? Better yet -- a profitable food blog? A ton of people have this dream, and it's totally achievable, albeit a lot of hard work! The following guide is intended as a roadmap for those who are seriously considering blogging as a source of income. Starting is not hard -- but with a bit of strategy you can start smart and avoid some setbacks later on. Let's go over, step-by-step, how to start a professional-looking food blog that you can make money from.
Some of the below links are affiliate links, which means that you'll be supporting this site if you decide to purchase through one of them (at no additional cost to you). Everything on this page are services that I currently use myself or have used in the past for running this blog.
Since figuring out how to create a food blog can feel overwhelming in the beginning, I've listed the steps this tutorial will explain below. This is your bird's eye view of where we're headed -->
How to Create a Food Blog: Overview of Steps
- Register a domain name
- Sign up for hosting
- Install WordPress
- Point DNS to your host
- Choose a theme
- Install your first plugin
- Set up Google Analytics tracking
- Learn to compress your images
Brainstorming / Planning
Before we dive straight into the 'how to' technical aspects, you definitely want to consider your blog subject. What kind of food blog will you create? Will you focus on Mexican food? Healthy dinnertime recipes that can be thrown together in 15 minutes or less? Themed snacks and goodies that are perfect for little girls' birthday parties?
If you're not sure yet it's ok, but if you can identify a specific area, or niche, that you'd like to focus on it will give you a big leg up. Food blogging is pretty darn competitive by nature -- with so many awesome bloggers out there you have to find a way to make yourself stand out in the crowd, so the more you can differentiate yourself from other "general" food blogs, the better. It means you'll have an easier time ranking your site, getting readers, monetizing your traffic, and of course choosing a unique blog name.
Hosting, Domains, WordPress Oh My!
Ok, once you've brainstormed and chosen a specific niche / area you want to cover, you're almost at the fun part of looking for a domain name. But first... let's make sure you understand the big picture of how a website is built. All the terminology can be super confusing at first, so below is a bit of a map to help you visualize what you're building, and understand why you need each of the building blocks.
Pretend for a moment you already have a food blog going, here's what happens when someone searches for it in Google (or another search engine):
REGISTRAR: You need to buy your domain name from a registrar. So for this site, I purchased the domain name UnconventionalBaker.com from the registrar Namecheap.
HOSTING: You need to purchase web hosting for your site. Your host is the one that has a computer server where your website will "live". A host I really like is Siteground.
WORDPRESS: You need website software to build your site and make it function properly. WordPress is an excellent CMS (Content Management System -- aka software that lets you organize your writing and photos easily). It's extremely user-friendly, open source, and popular. Oh yeah, and free!
Now, the tricky thing to understand about buying a domain name, and buying hosting, is that some companies will offer to sell you both. While you can do this, I think it's better to separate where you buy your domain and where your site is hosted. The reason for this is in case you have any trouble with your host, it won't affect the ownership of your domain name. Since the product / services you are purchasing are digital, it just mitigates your risk in case you run into troubles with any one company. A better safe than sorry kind of thing.
Those are the basic elements that will get your food blog going on your own little corner of the internet. Ready to choose your name? Time to hit up a registrar!
8 Step Video Tutorial: Creating a Food Blog
#1 Finding your Perfect Domain Name
Try brainstorming some ideas before you fire up the computer. What words describe you, your style, your food. What sounds catchy? A good domain name will ideally be short and easy to remember, and stand out as something truly different amongst the competitive world of food blogs. Once you have some ideas, it's time to use a search tool to see what domains or domain variations are available.
The best idea is to use the registrar you will buy from to search. I recommend using Namecheap, as they are inexpensive, have a good solid reputation, and excellent customer support (their support chat has helped me out on more than one occasion). Below is a video of how to find and register an interesting domain name using Namecheap.
#2 Hosting: A Home for Your Food Blog
Got your perfect domain name? Yay! It's starting to get exciting. The next step is to get hosting for your new site. Hosting is basically renting the computer space where your blog will "live". Just like the house you live in, there are different levels that you can pay for. The cheapest hosting is great because it's affordable but you share server space with a ton of other websites. Great for the wallet, but not great when you start getting really popular (because there are only so many resources to go around). There's also more expensive hosting, where you pay for having more resources to yourself (great for when something goes viral and there is a ton of traffic) and more personalized service, but you obviously pay for it.
If you want to start out as low cost as possible, the shared hosting I recommend is Siteground. You can get started for $3.95/mo, so it's an inexpensive way to get hosting and great customer service. Check out the video below to see how easy it is to sign up with SiteGround.
Right now the host that I'm using is Synthesis. They are a managed WordPress host, which means if there are server problems they take care of it. Once this blog started to grow I switched to Synthesis and noticed an immediate improvement in speed and responsiveness from the site. I'm very happy with the service I've received from them, so can definitely recommend them, but only once your blog is starting to get more traffic due to the cost.
#3 Installing WordPress
Next step is to get some website software installed so that you have the basis of a site. I recommend WordPress, because it's free, easy to use, and there is a huge community of people online to support all the needs you may have for your site. Installing WordPress is easy. The video below walks you through using the easy installer if your host is SiteGround.
#4 Pointing your DNS Records to your Host
This next step applies specifically if your registrar (in this case Namecheap) is different than your host (in this case Siteground). Since mine are different companies, I'll need to tell the registrar where my website is going to live (my host) so that it can direct traffic there when people visit my url. To do this I need to point my DNS (Domain Name Server) records to my host. This step is absolutely critical to get right...if you forget to do it your website won't show up online! Luckily it's a pretty straightforward process. Watch to see how to set it up:
#5 Choosing a Theme
Now that you've installed WordPress, you have a very basic site running. Hooray! Time to make it look good now. You need a theme to control the way your site is styled. There are hundreds of options online, some free, and some premium (paid). The free themes are good if you want to experiment when you just start out, but you'll always get the best features and support from premium themes. If you're planning on earning an income from your blog, go premium as soon as you can. You can find free themes here. Here are some premium themes that are excellent for food bloggers:
Once you have downloaded your theme (in the form of a zip file) to your computer, it's time to install it on your new site. The video below will show you how I install the Foodie Pro theme on my WordPress site:
#6 Installing Plugins
The theme you choose will have some functionality built into it. For example, some of the ones mentioned above have a custom recipe index built in. But what if you need a feature that is not included in your theme? What if you want a special email signup form, or some good looking social sharing buttons so that visitors can share your recipes? There's probably a plugin for that :)
Plugins are the way that you can extend the functions of your website, and make WordPress do pretty much anything conceivable. So, let's walk through how to install a simple useful plugin: AddFunc Head & Footer. Once you install this plugin you'll be able to add bits of tracking code to your site and you'll know the process for installing other kinds of plugins as well.
Now I have to warn you, plugins can be a bit addictive! You don't want to go too overboard on them, because if you use too many they can start to conflict with each other (causing your site to slow down or pages not to load) and it's a pain to figure out which one is causing the problem. It's also best to go with plugins with good reviews and support, as often times plugins are abandoned by the developers and become buggy over time and sometimes plugins come with security risks, so best to use ones that are trusted and recommended by users and have the best reviews.
#7 Tracking with Analytics
If your want to be able to monitor traffic to your blog (very important if you're looking at making money from your food blog) then you'll want to have Google Analytics running. To do this, you need need a Google account, and we'll use that plugin we just installed to get some tracking code in there. Watch below how I find my tracking code and get it installed on my site.
#8 Image Size Matters
Photography is such a huge deal for a food blog, and we tend to have a ton of giant detailed photos on even a single post. One mistake I made in the beginning (and I see a lot of food blogs out there make) was not resizing my images. This is a huuuuge deal. When your site starts accumulating many large images, it makes your pages load slow. And a slow site annoys visitors (they leave) and makes your rankings suffer because search engines favor fast-loading sites (so double whammy if your images are massive).
So, it's vital from the beginning to get into the habit of compressing your images properly. I try to make sure my images aren't over 100kb, with the 80kb range being more ideal. You can use a free web service like TinyPNG to resize your images (if you're not using Photoshop to just save it that size from the beginning). Using TinyPNG to resize an image is quick and easy:
The only thing is that it's important to keep a saved original size version of your images -- you never know, you might be asked for a full resolution photo for a magazine, a photography site, a book, etc., or if you change themes and need bigger images down the road.
That covers the very basic steps of how to set up a food blog. Now about making it professional so that you can make money from it... this comes down to many factors, but at the basic level you need to have great content -- if you're a food blogger then that means gorgeous photos and delicious recipes. It helps if you're a great writer, too... but I'd say the recipe quality and photos and are the most important aspect. Below are more tips to set your blog up for success from the beginning.
Once you've reserved your blog name, it's a good idea to set up social accounts with the same name (if possible). Even if you're not going to be posting to social for a little while, go ahead and do it now so you have them when you're ready. I'd definitely reserve: Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube, and then whatever other channels you see yourself using (Twitter, Snapchat, etc).
✔ Tip: Work on Your Photography
This is one of the quickest ways to get more traction with your site. If your images are beautiful, that means they are sharable, and shares lead to traffic. A good camera and lens helps a lot with capturing good images. I use this camera with this lens and this adapter, which is a pretty simple setup. My other favorite food photography props are listed on the resources for bloggers page. The biggest thing here is that you need to practice, practice, practice and invest in good equipment as you can.
✔ Tip: Stick to a Posting Schedule
Believe it or not, sticking to a regular posting schedule will help you get traffic. A lot. It doesn't matter how often you post (once a week or daily each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) whatever you pick just stick to it. In the world of food blogging, Consistency and Stamina are the name of the game. You'll see your rankings naturally growing, and your audience will as well when they know that you reliably post every Tuesday morning. Honestly, being consistent will set you ahead of the pack.
✔ Tip: Gain Readers Through Food Photo Sharing Sites
Once you get going with posting recipes it's time to hit up the photo sharing sites. Some of these are more difficult to get accepted to, but just keep at it and you'll get your first photo in in no time. There are a lot out there, but the ones that most people use and find worthwhile are FoodGawker, TasteSpotting, and Finding Vegan (if your recipe is vegan). This can be an excellent way to drive traffic as well as picking up new blog readers.
Currently I only submit to Finding Vegan as I found the best return from submitting there, especially when a recipe gets featured on their Facebook page. With the blog growing rapidly I found that I wanted to focus my energy on the most efficient ways to communicate with others, and so I decided to pare it down to the most useful resources for me. Finding Vegan happened to be the closest one to my niche and one from which I could connect with my target audience (as opposed to sites like FoodGawker and TasteSpotting which cater to a wider variety of diets and food types, and are largely focused on a very specific type of photography style -- so standing out as an alternative dessert maker with a unique photography style is not as simple). Other submission sites might work best for you -- pick the ones that bring you to most results in terms of exposure, more targeted audience, and so on. Try out different ones and see which do best for your blog.
✔ Tip: Build an Email List
One of the most important assets to your blog will be an email list of people who want to hear from you. Why? Well, social media is amazing, but the algorithms and even favored platforms and content formats change quite rapidly. It's great to have thousands of Facebook followers, but what happens when Facebook changes their algorithm and most of your page fans never see what you post? Because these platforms belong to someone else, it's much better to collect a list of emails from people who want to hear from you. Then you can send them back to your site, where you make the rules. At the most basic level you can send emails out when you post new recipes, or a once a week digest with all your posts for the week. Start early and you will be thankful when the time comes to launch a new project or product that you have an existing base of fans happy to hear from you. The email service I use now and highly recommend is Convertkit. When I first started out I used MailChimp since it is free.
If you have any other questions, please let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. Good luck starting your blog!!