So you’re interested in starting a food blog but you don’t know where to start. You probably have a vague idea about domain names, hosting and blogging platforms but with so many options out there now it’s hard to know which to choose. That’s why I’ve put together this simple guide explaining how to start a food blog and the services and products I use to keep my blog up, running and growing.
This page contains affiliate links meaning we earn a commission if you use those links. We only recommend brands we use and trust.
Pageview statistics for Cilantro and Citronella from Sept. 2015 – Aug. 2016
Blogger or WordPress?
Without a doubt, a self-hosted WordPress site (WordPress.org) is the way to go. WordPress offers many more features and customizations. You have total control over the design, feel and content that you can publish which allows you to build a more professional-looking website. You can easily add new features and extend the functionality of your blog with free add-ons (called plugins). With WordPress, unlike with Blogger, you own all your content, maintain copyright and are free to move it wherever you want. If you plan to monetize your blog, the platform that offers the most flexibility, ability to grow with you over the long term and a professional look is definitely your best option.
Now you need somewhere for your blog to live on the internet. Choosing a host was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make when setting up my blog. There are many options in all price ranges and it’s hard to understand the technical jargon when you’re just starting out.
My blog is currently hosted on SiteGround. This is the second host that I’ve had for my site and I highly recommend them. The price of their starter package is comparable to other budget hosts like Bluehost but their service is much more reliable. Furthermore, they offer services that other budget hosts don’t offer such as free website migration if you already have a site hosted elsewhere and a free CDN (this one is BIG for food blogs and I talk about it more below).
Now you need to choose a design for your new website. This is another big decision with thousands of options. What kind of look and feel do you want for your blog? How will your recipes be organized and how easy will it be for users to navigate your site?
WordPress has thousands of free themes to choose from. Some of them are nice, but not many of them are optimized for food blogs to include a recipe index. But a free theme is a good place to start if you don’t want to spend a lot of money setting up your blog. You can always change it later.
My blog uses the premium Foodie Pro theme. This theme was designed specifically for food blogs to be clean and minimalist to put the focus on your amazing food photography. Foodie Pro offers a customizable recipe grid index to classify your recipes and makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Furthermore, it’s mobile responsive, meaning that your website automatically resizes and optimizes for pc, tablet and mobile screen. This is super important for Google and will help your seo.
Foodie Pro runs on top of a framework called Genesis. A framework is a basic structure that developers use when designing new themes. Most of the programming of the basic functionalities of your website is on the framework and the design of your page is in the theme. Because the functionalities and design of your website are separate, customizing your page is much easier and you can add new functionalities without messing up your customizations.
Plugins add design features, functionality and security to your website. Some of them are free and some of them are paid. Here’s a list of some of the plugins I’m currently using on my blog.
Easy Recipe: This plugin formats the recipe on each page. It also adds data to each post telling Google that it’s a recipe and to pull a photo to display in the search results. Using a recipe plugin will help you rank higher in Google.
VaultPress: This is a backup system. VaultPress makes a daily copy of your website and stores it on their servers. If anything ever happens to your blog, you can easily access the files on VaultPress and re-upload them onto your host.
Wordfence: This free plugin is a security measure to protect your site from hackers. You can also block annoying trolls by their IP addresses.
WordPress Multilingual: I blog in both English and Spanish under the same domain name. WordPress Multilingual allows me to easily translate my content, connects the posts together and creates the little flags in my menu that allow users to access my content in either language.
Yoast: This plugin helps you improve the way you write your content thereby improving your search engine optimization so that you can rank higher in Google search. It also creates a sitemap (a list of everything on your blog) so that Google knows what your site is about and can serve it up in search results.
SumoMe: SumoMe adds the share buttons to the side of each post allowing each visitor to share the recipe to their social media of choice. It also creates pop-ups. You can add a variety of different pop-ups for visitors to sign up to your email list or follow you on your social networks.
These are other products or services that I use to help me run and grow my website.
MailChimp: MailChimp is the email marketing software I use to send my weekly newsletter via email. I have used it to create an email signup form on the right side of my page and connected it to SumoMe to add save the emails collected from my pop-ups. My newsletter is sent automatically by MailChimp every Monday at 4:00 and designed to include my most recent posts of the week.
Tailwind: The majority of visitors to my website arrive through Pinterest. Tailwind is an app that allows me to schedule a high volume pins to each of my Pinterest boards at a specified day and time. This is hands down the number one reason that my blog has grown as quickly as it has in the last six months.
Cloudflare CDN: CDN stands for Content Delivery Network and it’s a system that allows your website to load faster and improve your overall site speed. Basically, copies of the photos on your blog are saved on different servers around the world. Visitors to your site are shown these saved copies rather than connecting to your main server. The result is a faster website which both visitors and Google really like, helping you move higher in the search results. Cloudflare comes free with a hosting package from SiteGround, something which other hosting companies don’t offer and a major reason why I recommend choosing SiteGround.
Google Analytics: A free tool that basically every website uses to track visitors and statistics. If you plan to blog professionally, you will need Google Analytics as most companies who offer you sponsored work will ask to see your statistics.