How to Start a Successful Food Blog?
Are you a walking encyclopedia of delicious recipes? Do you have the same passion for cooking as others have for eating? Maybe you’re an aspiring chef set out to make healthy cooking accessible and easy for all?
If you don’t have an online platform yet, but you’re considering it, starting a food blog is a quick and easy way to share your culinary knowledge and get immediate feedback from audiences worldwide.
If you’re worried about not having the tech skills to match your cooking skills, you needn’t worry, starting a food blog is the equivalent of whipping up an omelet – literally anyone can do it.
In this guide on how to create a food blog, we’ll hand you down the recipe to making a successful food blog. Here are the ingredients you’ll be needing:
- Blogging platform;
- Domain name & brand name;
- Web hosting;
- Food blogging tips.
Choosing Your Blogging Platform
Because we’ve promised you that you don’t have to deal with coding to start a culinary blog, you need to know a few things about the platforms that make coding-free blogging possible.
They’re called content management systems, and they do exactly that – help you manage content by offering a visual interface that allows you upload, customize, add images, place links, etc. based on your inputs.
Popular CMSs include Joomla and Drupal, but the best blogging CMS by far is WordPress. This blogging platform owes its popularity to its highly versatile nature that doesn’t detract from its user-friendliness.
Not only does WordPress take away the burden of coding, but it also hands you on a plate the design elements of your blog.
In WordPress, the design of your blog is achieved via themes, while the functional aspects of your site (e.g. speed optimization tool) are achieved through plugins.
While some functionality can also be added to your site through themes (e.g. contact forms, newsletter subscription, comment section, social media integration, etc.), themes primarily determine the visual aspect of your website, i.e. how your visitors see your site when they access it. Themes can be customized to your preferences, meaning that you can choose page templates, color schemes, and so on.
Plugins on the other hand only add functionality to your website, so you can integrate tools like search engine optimization, content delivery network, caching tools to speed up your site, security plugins (malware detection, firewall, etc.).
Both themes and plugins are available for free, but premium options are the best if you want to have access to updates, security patches, or support.
More importantly even, WordPress itself is free to download and use by anyone, so you don’t have to pay for the CMS itself.
Picking a Domain Name
A domain name is what you type into your internet browser to access a website. It’s set off by www. followed by a unique name and ends in .com or other extension like .net, .org, etc.
You can buy a domain name at a domain registrar for a small yearly fee, or if you choose a good hosting provider (see point 3 below), you can even get one registered for free.
When you pick your domain name, consider the following things:
- Keep it short – make your domain name too long and nobody will remember it, keep it short and catchy, and it will stick.
- Make it food, cooking, or eating related like tasty.com, or use clever wordplay like mineat.com (a contraction of the words “minute” and “eat”). If you’re already a popular chef, you can get away with using your own name instead;
- It should reflect your brand – if you’re not using your own name, make sure that the brand name you’ve chosen is in line with the content you’re planning on rolling out (e.g. if you’re only going to do vegetarian recipes, don’t name your site meatit.com).
Signing up With a Hosting Provider
Web hosting is a service that allows your website to be visible for anyone accessing your site from the browser on their desktop, phone or other device. Hosting is also a paid-for service available for a monthly or a yearly fee. Usually, the longer the commitment time (the period for which you sign up for a hosting plan), the cheaper the monthly fee.
As mentioned when we discussed choosing a domain name, you can also take advantage of the package deals offered by web hosts that include a domain name for free. Both budget and premium web hosting services tend to include free domain registration with 1-year contracts.
You can, of course, keep your domain separate from your hosting, but it’s best to take advantage of bundle deals offered by web hosts.
When choosing a hosting provider, make sure you’re going for quality just like with choosing ingredients for a meal. A meal is only as good as the quality of the ingredients that it contains. Your website can be a real eye-candy with top-notch functionality, but if it’s slow or down most of the time, the public can’t access it.
When choosing your hosting, here’s what you should look for:
Choose a web host with great uptime records and load times. Uptime or availability refers to the time your site is online, which should be 24/7. Web hosts often offer uptime guarantees in the range of 99.9%-100% uptime guarantee.
Downtime issues put a damper on your blogging efforts and potentially make you lose out on revenue and drive away your readership. Slow load times interfere with the user experience your visitors have. A slowly loading page is a buzz killer, so it’s important that your site loads fast.
Not only that performance issues can undermine your efforts to win over audiences, it can also negatively influence your ranking in search engines like Google or Bing. Site performance is a significant ranking factor for search engines.
The features of your web hosting plan are tools and services that are included with your package, beyond server resources (storage, bandwidth, etc.). Some features to look out for, especially if you’re a beginner, include: design and site building tools, 1-click installation of software and apps, money-back guarantee, free domain, and site backup.
Good support is crucial for your web hosting experience, especially if you’re inexperienced. Choose a web host that offers around-the-clock support via email, phone or live chat. Stay away from hosting companies with notoriously bad support.
Value for Money
Choose a web host that’s reputable for offering good value for money. Although there can be premium hosting options with expensive packages, there are many budget hosts that offer a trustworthy service for much less.
You may not know much about hosting, but there are many hosting experts who do, and you can read their opinions in hosting reviews. You can even cross-check those opinions by reading customer reviews on trustpilot or other similar sites where users can submit their reviews.
And because we ourselves are web hosting specialists, here’s the budget host we recommend for hosting your WordPress culinary blog: BlueHost.
One of the reasons why BlueHost is our top choice for WordPress blogs is because it’s a web hosting company approved by WordPress itself. In fact, WordPress has been recommending BlueHost year after year since 2005.
Other reasons why BlueHost may be a good fit for a novice is their easy-to-use hosting platform, reliability, varied hosting packages, and responsive support.
Next up, we’ll walk you through the steps of creating an account with BlueHost, registering your domain with BlueHost, and launching your culinary blog with WordPress.
Signing Up with BlueHost – A Step by Step Guide
Even though the sign-up process can be different at different web hosts, most registration processes usually follow the steps described below:
Step 1: Getting Started
Click here to access BlueHost’s WordPress hosting page, then locate the green “Get Started Now” button and click on it. This will take you to the page where you can choose from various hosting plans.
Step 2: Choosing Your Plan
There are three hosting packages in this category: Basic, Plus, and Prime.
The Basic plan is designed for beginners who want to host a single website on their account. Although this plan is limited in its resources, it’s a good package to start with. If your site outgrows it – which usually never happens overnight – you can upgrade to the Plus or Prime plans.
Both the Plus and Prime plans allow you to host multiple domains and offer more resources and more advanced tools, but they’re better suited for established bloggers who already have a large audience.
In terms of pricing, you’ll notice two prices – a promotional price and a regular price. The promotional price applies to the first term of your hosting plan, after which plans renew at regular rates, but more on this a bit later.
Click on “Select” to choose your plan. The link will navigate you to the next step of your signup process.
Step 3: Choosing a Domain Name
In this step, you’ll be presented with two options: you can register a new domain or, if you already have a domain, you can sign up with your existing domain.
If you don’t have a domain yet, but you don’t know what domain to choose, BlueHost will allow you to choose a domain later by giving you free credit ($11.99 in value). Simply click on the “Choose Later” link and go to the next step.
If the domain name you want to register is already taken, BlueHost will offer up a list of similar domain options.
Step 4: Account Info
After you’ve chosen your domain name, in the next step, BlueHost will ask for your account information. Also, on this page you will see the package information (the price of your package, the time period you want, and different add-ons) and payment information input fields.
Complete the required fields (personal information, business details, billing details, email address, etc.), then scroll down to the next step.
Step 5: Select Contract Term
There are 4 pricing options you can choose from. The longer the commitment period, the cheaper the package. The 12-month period is the shortest, while the 60-month period is the cheapest package option.
While the price is displayed per month, you’ll have to pay upfront for the entire period you’ve chosen, the price of which is displayed under “Hosting Price”.
The per month price you see displayed when you select your plan (see step 2 above) is the promotional price for you contract period. When this period expires, your hosting plan will renew at the regular rate that is displayed under the promotional price.
Besides the contract term, you’ll also see several add-on options like SiteLock Security, CodeGuard Basic, SEO Tools, etc. These options are selected by default, but you can untick them and add them later, if needed.
After you’re done selecting the hosting period and any add-ons you may want, scroll down to submit your payment.
Step 6: Submit Payment
Step 7: Set Password
Before you can login to your account, you need to set a password. As with any password, make sure you choose a strong password that is a combination of characters and symbols.
After you’ve set your password, click the “Next” button and sign into your account.
Step 8: Log Into Your Account
Click on “Log In” or if you’re returned to the homepage, access the “Login” tab in the upper right corner and submit your login credentials.
After you’ve logged into your account, locate the WordPress icon and click on it for a quick installation.
Step 9: Choose a Theme
You will be presented with a number of default WordPress themes that you can select for your food blog. This is not a permanent choice, you can always change your theme or add a new theme if you want to go for a premium option. You can find several food and cooking related premium WordPress themes on themeforest.net.
After you select your theme, you can start blogging, but first:
Step 10: Log Into Your WordPress Dashboard
Click on the “Start building” button, which will take you to the Welcome page of your WordPress dashboard. Select the kind of site you want to build — Personal or Business.
If you don’t want to forgo the BlueHost provided help, click on the “I don’t need help” link. If you want to continue with BlueHost’s help, click on the “BlueHost” in the upper left corner of the navigation menu.
Step 11: Launch
After you click on BlueHost, various tabs will display with tools that you need to build your site (e.g. Site Content, Design & Build, etc.).
Next, click on the “Launch” button, then complete the Site Title (name of your site) and Site Description (what your site is about) fields.
You can now select your layout, customize your theme, add menus, pages, or edit the existing ones that come with your theme.
Finally, you’re ready to blog about food, recipes, and all things culinary!
Food Blogging FAQs & Tips for Successful Culinary Blogging
You probably have some unanswered questions left about food blogging, especially related to site maintenance costs, monetization, or coming up with good content.
Here’s a list of the most commonly asked questions about culinary blogging, and our answers to it.
Can Food Blogging be Successful?
You may think people have become less interested in cooking, but the success of food blogs and cooking shows worldwide proves otherwise.
Everybody likes to eat, but not everyone has the time or the inclination to cook. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t like watching others cook. Think about all the food networks, cooking shows, and popular food bloggers out there — they’re successful precisely because people have a natural desire to look at food.
Cooking shows create an emotional connection with the dish being created and play into the “visual hunger” of people who are watching.
Just think about the success of Tasty videos on Youtube or their popular gif recipes. These videos and gifs take a “top down” approach to cooking, putting the watcher into the shoes of the chef, and offer simple and easy to follow recipes, which motivates even people without much free time to try their hand at cooking.
Therefore, food blogs are in no way outdated and there are many ways to elicit the “visual hunger” of audiences, some of which we will discuss in the “How to Elicit Visual Hunger” section of this article.
What are the costs of starting a food blog?
So far, we’ve covered hosting as the only paid-for service you will be needing to start a blog and maybe a domain name if you don’t want to take advantage of the free domain offered by your web hosting provider. WordPress hosting is available for as low as $2.95/month at BlueHost.
You may also want to pay for a premium food blogging WordPress theme, which can cost anywhere between $20 and $69. These themes are specifically designed for food blogging and recipe sites, and include features such as custom-made widgets tailored for recipes, cooking timer, searchable recipe ingredients, user review functionality, etc.
While you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go for custom-made WordPress themes, which can cost thousands of dollars or expensive hosting, which you may not use to the fullest. You can always upgrade your WordPress theme and hosting plan once you hit it big.
How to Monetize Your Food Blog?
At some point, you will want to make money with your blog either to support its maintenance costs or even as a way to supplement your income. If your blog hits it big, you may even be able to support yourself entirely from your blog.
If you already have a well-established follower base, generating revenue from your blog can be very easy by trying one or all of the methods below:
- Ad space – One of the easiest ways to monetize your blog is to feature ads in sidebars or banners from companies selling cooking utensils, kitchen equipment, spices, etc.
- Affiliate programs – If said companies run affiliate programs, you can sign up for their program to advertise their products on your site and get paid a commission after every purchase customers make through your site.
- Sign up for Google AdSense – Google AdSense is a popular advertising network that you can sign up to. After your application to sign up is accepted, your visitors will see targeted ads featured on your website.
- Restaurant & Product Reviews – You can feature sponsored content on your blog, which includes restaurant reviews (e.g. if you blog about the vegetarian diet, you can review the best vegetarian restaurants in your area) or product reviews. As your site grows in popularity, businesses will want to get featured on your website.
- Promote your Cookbook – You can also sell your own products on your blog like a cookbook or an eBook that you’ve written, or other products like your own branded kitchen aprons, for example.
- Exclusive Content – You can create membership options on your site if you want to sell unique content that visitors would be willing to pay for.
These are some of the ways you can earn money from blogging, but you may also discover other methods that work best for you. It’s important not to get discouraged if some of these methods don’t work out for you. Keep on experimenting until you find the one that does.
How Much Can You Earn from Food Blogging?
It depends. Food blogger celebrities earn hundreds of dollars per year, others much less. It all depends on how much time you’re willing to invest in your food blogging and how many followers you have.
Irish celebrity food blogger Donal Shekan has a follower base of 500,000 people, so it’s certainly easier for him to make a living out of his blog than someone who has only 500 followers.
It’s important to stay consistent and grow your follower base, and with time, you too can make enough money from your blog.
General Recipes or Niche?
It’s important for you to decide if you want to focus on a niche or cover cooking in general. The difference is usually that with a niche, you’re more likely to stand out. If you’re going to have a gluten-free food blog, you may be able to draw a more avid readership than with a run-of-the-mill general cooking blog.
So, unless you’re able to put an interesting twist on your general recipes (think of Tasty’s bite-sized videos and gifs, for example), you may want to find a unique niche to tap into, where competition is less fierce, yet there’s a large enough audience to address (e.g. vegan and vegetarian recipes, cooking for children, etc.).
How Often Should You Update Content?
In the beginning, it will probably take more time to prepare a post or a video, but as you get the hang of it, it will become second nature to you.
Update your blog as often as you can come up with creative and original content. This could be daily or weekly. Creating one post per month won’t propel your blog to the heights of success, so if you’re serious about making a living off your blog, you must update it more frequently.
Top Food Blogging Tips
To help you get your culinary blogging off to a great start, we’ve gathered the most important tips on how to plan, spice up and serve your content.
Possible Topics to Cover
Below you will find a list of the most common topics covered by popular recipe blogs. You can come up with new topics that are in line with your niche, you can apply some of these topics to your niche, or you can even put a fresh new twist on these.
- Must-try international dishes (Indian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, French cuisine, etc.);
- Foods that promote a healthy microbiota;
- Foods that reduce inflammation in the gut;
- Best summer recipes (you can apply this format for all seasons);
- Cooking for holidays (Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving etc.);
- Product & restaurant reviews;
- Tips and tricks for cooking;
- Secret family recipes;
- Quick meals;
- Healthy meals with few ingredients (e.g. 3-ingredient meals);
- Promoting cooking classes, etc.
Simply just writing about these topics won’t be enough, you have to elicit people’s visual hunger through appetizing images, how-to videos, or gifs.
Feast for the Eyes: How to Elicit Visual Hunger
Cooking is an experience for all of the senses — visual, olfactory, tactile, auditory — but how can you engage these senses only through the visual medium? The answer: through a mix of visually striking images, videos, and descriptions.
You don’t have to be a food photographer to take great shots of meals, you can take photos yourself with a decent camera or phone. Just think of all the Instagram photos on accounts like Foodporn snapped with a smartphone camera.
When taking photos of the steps involved in a recipe, make sure you clear your countertop and focus on the ingredients involved. Make sure images are clean and crisp and the lighting is adjusted. Avoid dark and blurred images.
You can play with decorations to enhance the imagery. For example, if you’re preparing dishes involving colorful fruits or spices, you can use colorful cups, plates and other kitchen utensils to match the overall color scheme of what you’re cooking.
You should optimize your images, so you don’t have any loading issues on your blog. Save photos in .png or .jpg formats and at a resolution of 72dpi. You can further optimize your images with tools like TinyPNG, which reduces the file size of your images.
Don’t forget to title your photos before uploading and number them if you add them to a gallery of steps required for a recipe. Make the finished product the featured image of your post.
You can even feature your images on your blog’s social media channels to drive more readers to your blog.
Infographics are another great imagery tool that can help you offer bite-sized information in a visually appealing manner. Infographics are useful if you want to summarize the benefits of certain cuisine (e.g. the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine), talk about the origin, uses and benefits of certain spices (e.g. the benefits of cumin), and so on.
Integrate Infographics in your posts to make your food articles even more interesting and easy to read.
Using photos and infographics to entice your readers is great, but don’t stop there! If you want your audiences to form an emotional connection with the food you are cooking, make a video of yourself actually preparing the dish.
Video allows your audience to see you and your passion for food in action and hear your commentary of the cooking process. Seeing and hearing a steak fry in a skillet adds much more to the whole experience than a simple image. Plus, video is a great window into your life as a chef or food enthusiast.
You can set up a Youtube channel, where you share your videos with your followers and to drive new traffic to your site.
Gifs are another imagery tool to consider for your food blog, especially for smaller recipes. You could make gifs of breakfast recipes or no-bake desserts for those too busy to spend much time in the kitchen.
Besides actual images and videos make sure your text-based content is also well-structured, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to read. Avoid long walls of text, keep things simple and easy to follow.
Now that you’re familiar with the steps required to create a food blog, you can start sharing your unique recipes and cooking tips online. Integrate videos, gifs, images and infographics in your posts, and don’t shy away from promoting yourself on social media.
We hope our detailed guide to food blogging has answered most of your burning questions about it, and you can easily apply your newfound knowledge to promote your brand, share delicious new recipes, and make people more passionate about cooking.