One of the most common questions we get from readers is about starting a food blog (or a personal blog or some other blog). How do you start a blog? Should you? Is it hard? What if you don’t know anything about starting a blog or about websites? Where do you get it designed? What does it cost?
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.
Starting a Food Blog
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 let’s talk basic site construction.
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. Squarespace.com is also pretty cool. 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.
We used Bluehost hosting for FoodLovesWriting.com for the first five years. It was pretty user-friendly, and there’s Live Chat available 24/7. It’s probably one of the easiest options in terms of getting your domain and hosting and WordPress quickly and conveniently — in fact, we set up a “how-to” page all about using Bluehost here: Starting a Food Blog with Blue Host.
So you decide where you’re going to put your blog. If you’re going with your own domain, you have to think about software next. (If you’re using WordPress.com or Blogspot.com the decision is made for you.) 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 were using a $35 theme from Bloom Blog Shop for a long time and loved it. So clean and minimal! So easy to use! A great tutorial is included! Now we’re using another free theme that lets us feature more content on the front page. Try Googling WordPress themes and exploring to see what you like.
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 some of the plugins we have and/or do use 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
The basic idea with plugins is that whenever you want a new feature on your site (highlighted blog author comments? a tool that Tweets your archived posts on a certain schedule? A tricked-up contact form?), plugins make adding those features easy.
Beyond the mechanics of getting a site up, there’s the way more important issue of content. Content is what matters more than anything else, and whenever we think about making the blog better, this is where we start. Content includes photography, writing, videos, etc.—let’s start with photography. We are by no means experts in photography, but for those of you who are curious, we have a Canon EOS 40D and a Canon EOS 5D , which we use with several different 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. We also bought Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 while we were working on the cookbook and it is a HUGE HUGE asset.
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 ran a Writer Chats series with first-person thoughts on what it means to be a writer, featuring personal anecdotes and advice from other bloggers and friends.
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.
- “12 Things That Have Helped My Food Photography” | Bojon Gourmet: Everything we didn’t have the energy to write into this page and some things we are still learning. Great resource.