One of the most common questions we get from readers is about starting a (food) blog. How do you start one? Should you start one? What if you don’t know anything about websites? Where do you get it designed? So, to respond to some of those questions, we’ve set up this page.
(Before you read the rest of this post, you might want to read our previous one on “Why You Should Start a Food Blog.” It’s much less technical, and it doesn’t only apply to food blogging. Plus, it features kale and eggs.)
disclaimer: this page contains affiliate links.
The Nuts and Bolts of Blogging
The main thing people want to know about starting a food blog is how to start one—as in, literally, how. Where do you set it up, and what does it cost? Should you get your own domain?
So the first thing to know is you have two options: Use free hosting on another domain, or pay for hosting or your own dot com.
Free Hosting on Another Domain
I usually tell friends that it’s perfectly fine to set up a blogger.com or wordpress.com site (i.e., your URL will include those names) when you’re starting out. Using a free service in the beginning gives you time to grow your audience and develop a strong voice before investing major money. Some of my favorite blogs started out as blogspot or wordpress.com blogs—many still are*. They are easy to set up (you just follow instructions, pick a template and start posting), and they’re perfectly legitimate. What’s more, these hosting options are easy to move to your own hosting/domain later if you wish.
*With these options, you can also pay a small fee to direct the site to your own domain. You’ll be using the free hosting plan but pointing it to the domain you’ve purchased.
Paid Hosting on Your Own Dot Com
Despite what I said about free hosting in the last paragraph, I personally started Food Loves Writing on its own paid domain/hosting from the beginning. I did this for a few reasons: I wanted to have more control, I wanted to have my own domain name to send people to and I’d already played with Blogspot and WordPress-based free hosting for a few years. (I felt ready to tackle HTML by that point.) If you want to go this route, you pick your hosting company, buy your domain and start building your site.
A Small Orange
Tim was using A Small Orange hosting for a while before we switched Food Loves Writing over to consolidate the sites. We like this company (bonus: they have a great aesthetic!).
One more good option is Liquid Web, which Tim has also used in the past and which many of our friends recommend, and we like them as well.
We like using WordPress software because it is user-friendly, popular and convenient (So many plugins! So many how-to guides online!)—oh, and also, it’s free. If you use Bluehost, there’s a one-click button to upload WordPress; but whatever hosting provider you use, the software is a free download at WordPress.org.
The Internet is filled with WordPress themes, which are essentially templates/layouts for your site. We are currently using a highly tweaked version of the Hoarder theme from Theme Forest. It is the first Premium (paid) theme I’ve ever used, and it was 100 times easier to work with than all the free themes I’d tried. There are tons of other Premium themes at Theme Forest, too.
If you do use WordPress, you have an easy way to customize your site through plugins. There are so many plugins available—just go to http://wordpress.org/plugins/ to see what we mean. For your reference (and because I find this sort of stuff interesting), here are all the plugins currently used at FoodLovesWriting.com:
- Akismet Spam Blocker
- All-in-One SEO Pack
- Related Author Plugin
- Custom Headers and Footers
- Fast Secure Contact Form
- Get Recent Comments
- Google Sitemaps Generator
- List Category Posts
- WordPress Popular Posts
- Posts by Tag
- Social Metrics
- Subscribe to Comments
- WP Super Cache
- Tweet Old Post
We are by no means experts in photography, but for those of you who are curious, we have a Canon EOS 40D with several lenses: 50mm (my favorite!), a 35mm, a 18-55mm (great for wide shots like the ones in this post) and a pretty amazing macro lens I still don’t totally know what to do with.
Not every blog is about writing. Yours might focus more on photos or recipes or design or something else. But if it’s writing that’s drawing you to blogging, our best advice is to read writing you admire and keep practicing your craft. Also, we have a Writer Chats series going on at the blog, featuring personal anecdotes and advice about the writing process.
Growing a Community
If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: Blogging is about giving more than it is about getting. If you go into blogging wanting everyone to promote you and praise you, you’ll be disappointed—even if you get your wish, it’s not actually that satisfying to push and stomp your way to the top. Practice the Golden Rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Promote others. Link to others. Read their posts and respond. Distinguish yourself as a giving blogger in this great big sea, and you’ll make the blog world a better place.
Further Super Helpful Resources:
- Blog, Inc. | Joy Cho: This book is kind of the encyclopedia of blogging, and we recommend it to anyone looking for a comprehensive overview on the subject. Joy covers everything from hosting options to ad networks to photography—when you’re starting out, this book may offer more information than you need, but it’s a good resource to consult.
- “Resources for Food Bloggers” | Pinch of Yum: I like the way Lindsay presents food-blogging resources in this post, which is streamlined and bullet-organized and simple. If you want a quick go-to guide, this is it.
- “How to Start a Food Blog” | From Away: The first time I read this blog post, I was completely blown away (and I had already been blogging 5+ years!). This resource is so long, informative and detailed, you’re sure to come away with something you didn’t know.