How to Start a Food Blog.

Easy tips and tricks for starting a food blog

 *Disclaimer: Before I begin my Blogging Series, I must disclose that I have a bachelor’s degree in marketing/advertising, but no professional background in technology, photography, or writing.  To celebrate Sally’s Baking Addiction’s 1st birthday, I am throwing together a series of posts dedicated to my readers who are eager to start their own blog.  It is also dedicated to readers who are looking to grow their own blogs and market themselves.  All of my thoughts and advice are merely things I have learned in the past year and strategies that I’ve used to get to this point.

Getting started with the tech stuff of a blog. Oy. How boring, right? But the tech stuff is backbone of your blog, so listen up.

Exactly 1 year ago I decided to create a recipe blog. I posted pictures of my cookies and cupcakes on facebook all the time - each picture resulted in an email or message from a friend asking for the recipe. I followed blogs myself and loved the  idea of using a blog as a way to share my recipes. A personal little online outlet for cookies, if you will.

I love to write, I love to take pictures, and I love to bake.  A baking blog was my destiny. But how on earth do I create one?

I went to my friend and very talented photographer Harper for advice (hi Harper!). She has a photography website and a personal blog. She told me I had a few options as far as platforms go – WordPress, Google Blogger, TypePad, etc. I didn’t know much about any of them but researched around and chose WordPress.com as my hosted blogging platform.  This means my website’s URL was initially www.sallysbakingaddiction.wordpress.com.

 

What is Self Hosting?

There is a very big difference between a hosted blog and a self-hosted blog. The hosted solution is where a company houses and maintains your blog on its servers.  It frees you from the stress of manually backing up your site and updating your software. And it’s free. Not knowing how much time I’d have to dedicate to Sally’s Baking Addiction, I chose the hosted solution.

Within four months, I wanted more leverage, more design control, more freedom, and the ability to install third party advertising on my site so I could make money.  I wanted a more professional URL (without the .wordpress) and I wanted to own my domain - sallysbakingaddiction.com. I wanted the ability to install my own plug-ins, which are the little bells and whistles you see around these parts – like my slideshow above (more on that below).  I purchased my own domain before switching to a self-hosted solution, though – which is possible through godaddy.com.

After 4 months using wordpress.com to host my blog, I transferred to a self-hosted blog through wordpress.org in April 2012 so I could allow my blog to really take off.

There is no right or wrong choice when you are considering a hosted blog or a self-hosted blog.  It all depends on what your blogging goals are.  To take total control of your blog with endless customizations, a custom domain, and so many plug-ins to choose from – I highly suggest bypassing the hosted option and head straight for self-hosting.

I self-hosted my website through Bluehost for the first year of its life.  Bluehost has the cheapest prices around and you can register your domain name for FREE.  I paid $6.95 per month to host my site. The whole hosting-domain stuff can be quite confusing at first, but Bluehost will be more than happy to walk you through anything.

**Edited to add (January 2013): I now use Servint for my hosting solution. Bluehost is a wonderful option to get started in the self-hosted scene. Once I reached 25K+ views per day, I began to notice that readers could not access my website and it was very slow to load. That is a good problem! I had to make a switch to a larger server.

To self-host your blog, you need a server like BlueHost or Servint AND you need to install a blogging software.

Installing and configuring your own blogging software is very serious stuff to understand and to implement.  To save myself from the headache trying to figure out .zip files and configure scripts (what does that even mean???), I hired help.  Wordpress.org does offer a 5-minute install guide but even step 1 is gibberish to me.  To avoid completely breaking my blog, I paid for help and a seamless transition.  Worth EVERY single penny.

My website designer transferred the host and redesigned Sally’s Baking Addiction in April 2012. Along with investing in a new camera, my stats and page views tripled in May and have exponentially increased ever since:

 

For WordPress users – once your blog is self-hosted, you’ll be able to add in little bells and whistles all over your pages.  These are called “plug-ins” and they can extend the functionality of your blog.  They’re so many available and are completely free.

 

My favorite WordPress plug-ins include:

  • Akismet – Akismet guards my blog from spam comments.  As your site grows, this plug-in is crucial or else you will be monitoring hundreds of spam comments on your own.  That would stink!
  • Smooth Slider - the little slideshow of recipes you see at the top of my page?  That was created through the plug-in called Smooth Slider. With customizable backgrounds, slide intervals, size, and fonts, this tool is a slick way to advertise your posts and pages.
  • Comment Reply Notification - the most important plug-in I have, no questions asked.  When a comment or question is left on my blog, more often than not I have a response or a thank you to say.  Installing this plug-in will allow the reader to receive an email when I respond to their comment, rather than having the reader check back on the post. It’s most convenient for my readers and is a handy way to extend the conversation.
  • Related Posts Thumbnails - the bottom of each of my posts always have 3 tiny thumbnails with links to similar posts or recipes.  Based on the recipe category, similar posts are chosen at random to display at the bottom. It’s another easy & effortless tool to advertise your other posts.

Related Posts Plug-in

Current Website Design

My website was redesigned by Purr Design in August 2013.  You can read about my new design in this post. Purr Design transformed my blog to have a cleaner, sleeker look.  They updated my Visual Recipe Index so each recipe has a category and photos.  They also formatted my recipes using Ziplist.  I highly suggest all food bloggers use Ziplist to format their recipes. It makes them very easy to read and navigate through for our readers. And that’s the most important part too, right?

Web

 

 

Posting Schedules

As far as post schedules go – I have to admit that I currently do not follow a strict one.  But I do believe being on a regimented blogging schedule is important for time management and for loyal readership.

I typically post 4 times per week, with an occasional personal post or recipe-round up post.  I do not post on weekends, although I will throw in a Saturday or Sunday post if I have an extra recipe to share that week.  I write my posts in the evening and weekends and plan out which recipes will go live on which days.  Four or five posts per week is all that my schedule can allow at this point.

Consistency, I believe, is more important than frequency.  My readers can depend on a certain number of posts per week and that is what matters most.

 

Two things to consider as you start your blog:

  • Dedication. How dedicated are you to your new blog? I was not sure if the whole blogging thing would work out for me given my schedule limitations and commitments. I have a full time commitment to running, yoga, my family, friends, fiancé, and our dog. Within a few months, I realized how much I enjoy blogging and how much time I am willing to dedicate to it.  I immediately wanted to take it to the next level. I do wish that I began my blog as a self-hosted site, but starting with a free blog from wordpress.com allowed me to get my feet wet before taking the self-hosting plunge.

**Edited to add (October 2013): As of April of earlier this year, I am happy to say that my full time job is my blog.  Food writing, food photography, connecting with readers, cookbook writing, and recipe development. And boy, does it take a lot of work!

  • Budget. If you are looking to significantly increase your traffic and really make a career out of food blogging, you’re going to have to make an investment in your site.  Paying for a web designer, paying for a server, paying for technical support, etc. Then there is the camera, editing software (if you chose to use one), lenses, food props, groceries, etc. You may, of course, design and maintain your blog on your own but being quite tech-clueless, I opted to pay for help in the technical area.

If you truly dedicate yourself to your blog, the money invested into the start of your blog will be paid back to you plus more. Trust me. I have made a career out of my blog through very hard work and am able to support myself financially.

Don’t let the millions of other bloggers out there intimidate you as you take the blogging plunge.  What began as a mere way to share my recipes with my friends has grown into something that now means the world to me.  I still remember the first day I reached 100 site views.  Then 1,000.  And it still makes me smile to read an email, a picture, or a comment from a reader saying they made and enjoyed one of my recipes.  It takes a lot of time and effort to grow your blog and the journey is far from over!

 

Be sure to check out my other posts on the subject of blogging: 

 

Here are some helpful links that have helped me along the way:

 

Have any more questions?  Let me know!

   

158 Responses to “How to Start a Food Blog.”

  1. #
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    yusra abdullahposted December 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Hi sally!
    am totally inspired with your work. awsome!
    as a beginner in blogging i need to ask you something

    how do insert your recipe template in your blog post? I have made a templete for my blog, but I cant just insert it as image. I have to save it as jpeg file with the ssimple software “paint” and then i upload that image in my posts. do u do the same way? am facing a lots of difficluties going this way. sometimes, the image quality gets bad and the recipe i have typed doesnt look nice n all. can you tell me how you recipe templates look this way? what do u do? is it an image uploaded like all other images on a blog post? or what?

    thank you so much in advance

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on December 15th, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Hi Yusra, congrats on your new blog! Happy my blog has inspired you. My website designer designed a special recipe template formulated for my website, so I apologize – I’m not much help with it.

      Reply

      • yusra abdullahreplied on December 15th, 2013 at 8:53 am

        ohkaaayy :) no problem at all :) thanku for the reply

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    The Rustic Pear {Miranda}posted December 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    So I’ve published my blog! {insert happy giddy/scared intimidating dance} And I’ve noticed on food bloggers recipes they list the source of the recipe… So I just want to make sure I’m doing this kosher and everything… if i find an amazing recipe online, recreate it/make it and publish it on my blog as long as I list the source with blog link I’m covered?? :)

    Thanks for all your help Sally, I really do appreciate all you have done for me through your blog posts & blogging philosphey! I love ya!!!

    Miranda @therusticpear

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on December 16th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Miranda, yes always list the source of your recipe if you are taking/modifying/adapting. Congrats on your blog!

      Reply

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    Kimberlyposted December 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I have been wanting to start a food blog and I read yours all the time and just noticed this information today. Thanks so much for all your details!

    Reply

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    Noelleposted December 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Sally, I would love to start a baking blog, I actaully am using wordpress, I’m just about done but how do you get your blog out there on google???

    Reply

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    Radhika @sugar 'n' spice by radhikaposted December 31, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Whenever you write about your blog’s beginning and how you grew it, you amuse me! It is so similar to what I’m experiencing right now! Sometimes, I do compare my baby food blog to yours and other big blogs and feel lost. I have to remind myself that it only has been 8 days! I guess I just want it to grow super fast and since I’m looking to make my blog a full time career, I’m thinking of a self hosted site. I have however set a deadline, as soon as I hit 3000 views, I’ll get a self hosted website (what do you think?). I feel like right now wordpress bloggers, who are following me are giving me a lot of traffic because of our interactions.
    When you originally switched to a self hosted website, where did you get your majority traffic from? I’ve read about people pinning your pictures and food gawker getting traffic, but how soon did you start to get major traffic from search engines?
    (on a sidenote: can people ‘follow’ you on a self hosted website? or the email subscriptions are the only thing?)
    Sorry for the lengthy comment, I’m a curious!
    Best wishes to you Sally!

    Reply

    • Radhika @sugar 'n' spice by radhikareplied on December 31st, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Another question Sally! When do you think (in terms of views) that a site has taken off? I read that you have about 25k views per day! :o Not comparing to yours or anyone else’s, but for a food blog, how many views per day means that you’re ‘popular’? What’s the industry standard, if there is any for a relatively new blog? And what should my monthly views target should be to start getting paid (through advertising)?
      Sorry for so many questions! This was the last one! (on this post at least) :)

      Much Love!
      Radhika

      Reply

      • Sallyreplied on January 2nd, 2014 at 10:38 am

        Hi Radhika, I think that a food blog is truly successful not based on the amount of page views it receives, but how often readers actually make your recipes. That’s how I measure my own success. My blog receives well over 25K hits a day, but that doesn’t measure its success. It’s the amount of emails and comments I receive from readers saying how much they appreciate my blog. That’s what counts the most for me! I feel that you should switch to self hosting whenever you feel more comfortable. I saw my traffic grow after I switched from hosted to self-hosted because my blog had a more professional redesign, as mentioned in this post. People can follow your self hosted blog through blog readers and email subscriptions, yes. Good luck!

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    Radhikaposted January 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I agree with you. I feel the beauty of your blog lies in your community building efforts.. I’m trying to walk that path too.. I feel like being prompt and taking time to engage builds a loyal reader base.. You’ve nailed that bit! But to monetize my blog I will require more than that.. I was wondering if you could give some numbers in terms of views! If you decide it not share that info, I come rely understand! Best of Luck Sally. You’re doing a great job!

    Reply

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    Vanessaposted January 18, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Awesome information, Sally. Thank you so much. I’ve been thinking a lot about starting my own blog, because like you, I love photography, baking and writing. Definitely an inspiration for me. I’m going to save this page on my “favorite’ tab :)

    Reply

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    Amy @ What's Baking Baby?posted February 1, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Hi sally, Love your blog! I was just wondering, when you first started your blog how did you get followers? I read where you wrote at first your only follower was your mom. That’s where Im at right now lol. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply

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    Courtney Parsleyposted February 3, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks for the great tips on how to get started with food blogging! I have been a dedicated follower of your site for a while and you are truly an inspiration to me. I’m just getting started with this whole blogging business and you have answered some of the questions that I’ve had.

    I hope that one day I can be as successful as you have been at this. :-)

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on February 4th, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Best of luck!!

      Reply

  10. #
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    Linda Burtonposted February 10, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Sally,
    Thank you for your tutorial. I am in the planning stages of my blog and am really excited to get out there. Your tips and tools are extremely helpful!!

    Reply

  11. #
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    Susan Monkposted February 14, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I LOVE all your recipes – but will do anything with chocolate. would love a signed copy of your book – any one will do. not picky – thanks

    Reply

  12. #
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    Jamie Pizanoposted February 16, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Hi Sally! Congratulations on all of your wonderful work. I extremely enjoyed your blog.

    Reply

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    Emma and Carla aka THE MERRYMAKER SISTERSposted February 27, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Sending lots of love tonight all the way from Australia! We have spent like an hour just looking in awe at the quality + functionality of you amazing blog! Has really inspired us, thank you! Just shows what a lot of hard work can do.

    Reply

  14. #
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    Marthaposted March 27, 2014 at 2:34 am

    Hi sally!

    I have recently published a blog relating to food for a class project. I have to say food (and everything about it)is one of my passions, yet sometimes I find myself with writers block. Do you sometimes experience this? And if so where do you draw your inspiration from?

    Hope to hear from you :)

    Reply

  15. #
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    Tijanaposted March 30, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Hi sally! I’ve just made the start to creating my own blog. As a COMPLETE beginner, seeing that you took the time to tell beginners like me how you first started your blog makes me feel more comfortable in my own blog.
    I was way too shy to post my creations on facebook so i made myself a tumblr. To me, getting myself out there is definitely the biggest challenge, but after seeing this and seeing that you started off at a similar place made me feel more confident in pursuing the idea of creating my own blog. This made me feel more confident in myself, so thank you :)
    P.S I love the marble cupcakes and have tried out the recipe myself, and i posted my results on my blog ! (with the link to your recipe attached)

    Reply

  16. #
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    Aryaneposted April 9, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Bonjour Sally!
    I just discovered your blog and I must say I really like it, thank you for the great advice on blogging!
    I am getting ready to launch a travel/food blog soon and was wondering how many posts are necessary for the beginning. Did you start yours and upload several posts at once?
    Also, do you think it’s possible to do a bilingual blog without too much of a hassle?
    I am excited to join the blogging community, thank you again for your input!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on April 9th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      I posted about once per week. Some days, I posted more than 1 recipe. It was very inconsistent and random until I found a flow that worked best for me and my life at the time. So do whatever feels natural to you and whenever you’re inspired to publish a new post. Good luck!

      Reply

  17. #
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    Luke Bakerposted April 15, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you for such a useful post, Sally! I’ve really been drawn to creating recipes and sharing them as of late, and this post really helped clear a few things up for me. Like you, I’m a bit daunted about the whole hosting issue and how to go about it, but now I think what’s most important for me is to just start working on quality recipes and getting them out there – the complicated stuff can be dealt with as I get into the rythym a little more. Your blog is beautiful, and I’m so happy that you’ve managed to grow it to the size it is now! Best wishes all the way from New Zealand!

    It’s my day off work, so it’s time to start cooking and writing! Yay!

    Reply

  18. #
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    Misty Ehretposted April 17, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Quick question……..so would I need to purchase a domain name first and then use bluehost to maintain it? I’m not a techy person and this is all very confusing.

    Thanks
    Misty

    Reply

  19. #
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    Luposted April 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Sally! I read here that you use Ziplist to format your recipes. I’ve been doing the same on my new food blog, but today when I updated to WP 3.9 the Ziplist plugin appears to be incompatible. Have you encountered this issue? Do you know of any quick fixes I could try out?

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on April 17th, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      I’m unsure, I haven’t upgraded yet. I’m not the person to ask in this situation!

      Reply

  20. #
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    Nadiaposted May 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Hi sally,
    Hooked to your blog right from the moment I found it. Around 4 tabs of sallysbakingaddiction are open right now. Thanks for sharing such insightful posts on bloggin,photography and ofcourse recipes. Am a blogger as well but needs to revamp big time. Will definitely use all the pointers.

    Reply

  21. #
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    Lindsayposted May 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Sally,

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips! This is by far the best and most informative post I have read on starting a successful food blog. I love your blog and read it daily!

    Reply

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    Teresa @ A Cup of D.I.Yposted June 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    I have enjoyed reading your whole blogging series. It is all very informative! One question though…how did you customize your ziplist recipe boxes? Yours look so much nicer than the plain ones.

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on June 26th, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Hi Teresa – my website designer made a custom design. Purr Designs is who I used.

      Reply

  23. #
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    BuoybyBposted June 29, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Hi Sally! Who is your website designer? Looking for references!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on June 29th, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Purr Designs

      Reply

  24. #
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    Kateposted July 10, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Thank you Sally for all your wonderful recipes & posts! I love reading them! I can tell you really love what you do! I just had to tell you this post was so helpful when I started my blog! THANK YOU! (:

    Reply

  25. #
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    BiancaMillerposted July 20, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Hi Sally, I too wanted to start up a food blog and this wonderful article of yours truly shed some light on what do I need to do in starting my own blog. (BTW, the blue berry muffin got me salivating, it look really yummy I might bake one tomorrow.)

    Also, I do have a question, how much do think should I spend if I start a blog? A rough cost will do. Thanks.

    Reply

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    Chelsea @ A Duck's Ovenposted August 19, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I’m really glad to read about this from someone who made the switch! I’m considering switching from Blogger to self-hosted, but am super nervous. I think I most likely will- I’m feeling a bit limited, like you were, and I have the time right now to make it happen. I just need to talk myself into taking the plunge ;)

    Reply

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