Want to start a food blog and don’t know where to start? I know how frustrating it can be to deal with technical stuff when you really just want to share that killer recipe. Whether you want to start a cooking blog, or you want to become a more successful food blogger, I hope the tips I’m sharing here will ease your technical troubles.
Ready to start a beautiful food blog? You have three options:
- Hire a web designer to do it for you. I recommend my friends at Wooden Spoons Kitchen. Melissa and Erin are seasoned food bloggers and talented designers.
- Bribe a geeky friend to help you. Ask him to help you set up a self-hosted WordPress blog and install a user-friendly WordPress theme. (Homemade cookies and/or beer usually do the trick.)
- Do it yourself! Don’t worry, I’ll explain how below.
Start your own food blog: the basic steps
I’m going to explain how to set up a beautiful and functional food blog that is all yours. Your blog will have your domain name and your distinct look, and it will be under your control. To do that, you need to set up a self-hosted WordPress food blog. Take your time and be thorough for less trouble down the road and a greater shot at success.
1) Name your blog and buy a matching domain name.
Domain names are short, memorable and typically end in .com (ex: yourblogname.com).
Free to $20 per year.
2) Find a reliable web host.
A web host stores your website and makes it accessible to the world wide web. In other words, your website “lives” on your web host’s servers.
$7 to $15 per month.
3) Install WordPress.
WordPress is top-of-the-line, industry standard blogging software.
4) Install a WordPress theme.
Your WordPress theme will determine the look and feel (and functionality) of your website.
Free to $80+.
5) Set up Google tools.
Google offers invaluable tools and services like Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and Feedburner.
6) Install WordPress plugins.
WordPress plugins extend the functionality of WordPress in certain areas. For example, one of my recommended WordPress plugins helps prevent spam comments.
7) Start blogging!
Publish those recipes, stories and photos.
Hard work, sanity.
Step 1: Name your blog and buy a matching domain name.
Coming up with a name for your new blog might be the hardest step. You could start brainstorming by coming up with a short mission statement or by listing words that describe your cooking style, your lifestyle, etc. Throw in your name and/or your dog’s name. ;) Talk it out with friends. There are tons of great names out there that aren’t yet taken, I promise!
Characteristics of an ideal blog name:
- Easy to spell
- Has an available .com domain name
The last point is very important. You’ll want a domain name because they look legit and are easier to remember (for example, catchyblogname.com is easier to remember than catchyblogname.blogspot.com). Once you have some potential names in mind for your blog, go to GoDaddy and check their availability. Since .com is the standard domain suffix, keep trying potential names until you find one that is available in .com (and don’t resort to hyphens to make it work!).
Once you have picked your perfect domain name, you can buy it for well under $20 a year at GoDaddy and connect it to your web host later, or you can get it for free with your BlueHost hosting plan. Either way, be sure to snatch it up quick, before someone else does.
Step 2: Find a reliable web host.
When it comes to web hosts, I’ve learned the hard way that you really do get what you pay for. You’ll want to start with an affordable shared hosting plan that offers one-click WordPress installation.
The best web host for food blogs:
BlueHost: Food bloggers seem to have less trouble with BlueHost than GoDaddy (I do not recommend GoDaddy hosting). Beware that although “unlimited web hosting plans” seem like a good deal, you’ll inevitably need to upgrade down the road if your blog gains significant traffic. This is because you’ll be sharing the same server with a bunch of other web sites, and you’ll be subject to their spikes in traffic as well as your own. Click here to get started with BlueHost for $6.95 per month and get a free domain name!
Liquid Web: Liquid Web is the company that hosts my food blog. Why? I can call them any time of day and a knowledgable, competent person will answer the phone in under 60 seconds and help me. Their self-proclaimed “heroic support” is truly heroic; they always do their best to help me with whatever technical issue I bring to their attention. LiquidWeb plans are scalable, so if you start with the least expensive shared hosting plan and your blog starts growing like crazy, you can easily upgrade to a virtual private server. Click here to get started with Liquid Web for $14.95 per month.
Step 3: Install WordPress.
Step 4: Install a WordPress theme.
Now we’re getting to the fun part! Your WordPress theme will determine the look and feel of your site, so pick a good one.
What to look for in a WordPress theme
You want a theme that is:
- Well designed. Your theme should suit your aesthetic and offer the features you want. The theme should also be coded by someone who knows what they’re doing.
- Optimized for search results. This goes along with the last point, because a well-designed site will naturally rank higher in search results than a site built on a theme that is full of errors. (Want to know if you potential theme has coding errors? Run its URL through the W3C’s markup validation service. You don’t have to understand what all the errors mean, but know that fewer errors are better than more errors.)
- User friendly. Find a theme that offers built-in design options so you don’t have to edit code to change basic stuff. Your theme should make it easy for you to change your logo, color scheme, etc.
- Backed by great support. When you experience technical issues, a responsive support team is an invaluable resource.
The bottom line: pony up some cash for a premium WordPress theme from a reputable provider. The time and headaches that you save down the road will make it money well spent.
Recommended premium WordPress themes
I built this blog on a basic, free WordPress theme (Thematic) and customized it extensively myself. It has truly been a painstaking, time-consuming process. If I were starting out today, I’d save my time and buy a theme a beautiful, feature-packed theme from one of the following sources:
Elegant Themes were recommended at a WordPress design session I attended recently. They make lovely themes that are as functional as they are beautiful, and their support is top notch. Check out Elegant Themes’ designs, available for $39 per year.
The Thesis Theme is popular in general and notoriously well-optimized for search engines (geeky fact: Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, uses it for his personal blog). You can install the theme and tweak the theme settings to your heart’s desire, and/or apply a pre-designed “skin” to it for a more unique look. Check out Thesis, available for $87.
Tips for designing a user-friendly food blog
When you’re tweaking the settings on your WordPress theme, keep these points in mind. You want to make sure that your blog is easy for visitors to:
- Navigate. Keep your blog design clean and uncluttered.
- Become followers. Place prominent links to your RSS feed, email subscription option and social media on every page.
- Comment. Don’t require CAPTCHAs or ask them to login first.
- Share your content. Provide social media sharing buttons at the end of each post.
Step 5: Set up Google tools.
First, set up a new google account and email (gmail) address for your blog. Create a new gmail account here.
Once you have a google account, log in and set up the following tools:
- Google Analytics: helps you track blog traffic. (Note: install the tracking code in your WordPress SEO by Yoost plugin settings.)
- Webmaster Tools: makes sure your website is up and running. (Note: install the tracking code in your WordPress SEO by Yoost plugin settings.)
- Feedburner: allows your visitors to subscribe to your posts by RSS or email. Also helps you keep track of your subscriber numbers.
Step 6: Install my recommended WordPress plugins.
Each of these plugins provide valuable features that do not automatically come with your theme.
Recommended WordPress plugins for food blogs:
- AddThis: I use this social bookmarking plugin to add a Facebook like button, Pinterest’s Pin-It button, etc. at the bottom of each post. If you don’t use AddThis, use a plug-in that provides similar capabilities so it’s easy for visitors to share your posts.
- Akismet: filters out spam comments without requiring CAPTCHA. Nobody likes CAPTCHAs.
- Comment Reply Notification: sends your commenters replies to their own comments via email if they leave the “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail” box checked.
- Easy Recipe: formats your recipes for search engine optimization. This plugin will help your recipe’s photo show up in the search results, for instance, and we all know we’re more likely to click on those links, right?
- WordPress SEO by Yoost: SEO is a complicated, multi-faceted beast and this plug-in will help you make sure you have covered your bases. You will need to take the time to go through all the steps and set it up properly, though. Be sure to use it to set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. It will be worth the effort!
- W3 Total Cache: This plugin greatly helps to speed up your page loading time. No one wants to wait around for your blog to load, and fast websites tend to rank higher in the search results. This is another plugin that you need to take the time to set up properly (Google it to find instructions and reward yourself with a large glass of wine when you’re finished).
Step 7: Start blogging!
Now you’re ready to start publishing posts on your new food blog.
Further resources for food bloggers:
Search engine optimization (SEO): help your posts rank well in search results. Recommended resources include Onextrapixel’s Complete Guide to WordPress SEO, ZipList’s SEO Tips for Food Bloggers [PDF] and Bake Your Day’s SEO For Food Bloggers Guide.
Food photography: find my tips and links to further online resources on my food photography tips page.
How to build a successful blog: don’t miss my 20 tips for food blogging.
Food blog inspiration: find lots of links to gorgeous food blogs on my links page.
Please leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them. Don’t forget check out my other resources on food blogging, my Top 20 Tips for Food Blogging and Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers.
Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links; I only link to products I trust and wholeheartedly recommend. Thank you for your support.