How to Start a Food Blog.

How To Start a New Food Blog

In 2011, I started a food blog. I have always loved to bake and 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 family 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. 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 did my research 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 and maybe one day call this my job? That was my goal.

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. 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 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.

The Bluehost Solution

I self-hosted my website through Bluehost in the beginning. Bluehost has the cheapest prices around and you can register your domain name for FREE. At the time, 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. I highly, highly recommend them.


After Bluehost, I switched to 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 switched to a larger server in 2012. Since then, I’ve had to make a switch again due to traffic increases. At the end of 2014, I switched to WP Engine who is my current host.

To self-host your blog, you need a host server like BlueHostServint, or WP Engine 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 (???), I hired help. WordPress.org does offer a 5-minute install guide but even step 1 left me confused. To avoid completely breaking my blog, I paid a web designer for help and a seamless transition.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 3.15.42 PM

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. There are so many available and they’re 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 thousands of spam comments on your own and ultimately go insane.
  • 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

Website Design

My website was designed by Purr Design in August 2013. Purr Design transformed my blog to have a cleaner, sleeker look. They updated my Visual Recipe Index so each recipe has a category and photo.

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 3 times per week, with an occasional personal post or recipe-round up post. I write my posts in the evening and weekends and plan out which recipes will go live on which days. 3 or 4 posts per week is all that my schedule allows.

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. As of April 2013, my full time job is my blog! Food writing, baking, 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 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, 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.

Final Comments 

(Does this girl ever stop typing?!)

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 blogging pages:

 

   

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

  1. #
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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    Hannahposted August 24, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Hi Sally. Thanku for this post, it has helped me a lot!!! I am wanting to start blogging and am very passioante about it, its 100% what i want to do. The only problem is, i have no money to pay for the technical support etc. Would you recommend i begin with the WordPress.com direction first until i get some money and income or wait until i can afford it? any help would be brilliant. Thanks again x

    Reply

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    Barbara Tidwellposted September 23, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Hello,
    I’ve been reading your blog and am intrigued by the fact that you were able to get this up and so popular so quickly. I’ll be looking at doing a lot of these tips on my blog The Culinary Camper (culinarycamper.com). Thanks for the information!

    Barbara

    Reply

  10. #
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    Dustinposted October 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for the mentions 🙂 Great article. I know its a little delayed but congrats on making this full time.

    Reply

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    Sarahposted November 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Sally! I’ve pinned a ton of your recipes and am about to start my own food blog and came across this article when looking for tips. I figured you are definitely a very good source of advice for food blogs! I’m wondering if you published several recipes at one time, or several blog posts in one day, when you first started your blog or if you only did one at a time at roughly the same rate as you do now?
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on November 19th, 2014 at 11:16 am

      Sarah, when I first began I posted a few recipes per day to build my recipe archive. that is not necessary at all. do what you can! best of luck and congrats on your new blog!

      Reply

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    Joleenposted December 8, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Hello Sally! So glad I stumbled upon your blog 🙂 Really appreciate all the posts about self-hosting and photography because I’m definitely hoping to make some changes to my blog once school starts getting less busy. i’ve always wondered with food blogs-do you come up with the recipes entirely on your own? Or do you model your recipes after other recipes and tweak some of the ingredients here and there and add your own touch to it?

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on December 8th, 2014 at 9:24 am

      I mostly develop them on my own through trial and error. I have a lot of “basic” recipes I work off of. Sometimes I’m inspired by recipes in cookbooks and on cooking shows– of which I’m sure to credit in the recipe itself. Just takes practice.

      Reply

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    Jimi Cposted December 26, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Just a quick question to clear up the self-hosting vs. wordpress. I didn’t fully understand if you stopped using wordpress all together or if you still use the paid version of wordpress. Or does your designer design from scratch? I’m trying to decide if wordpress – that you pay for – is a good place to start or if I will get more hits using a designer. Does that make sense? lol

    Reply

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    Nicoleposted January 9, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Hi Sally,

    I have been developing a cookbook for the past year, and I’m not sure what the best process is for publishing it. Should I try to get it published first, and then start a blog? Or should I start a blog and build a following first before trying to get it published?

    Thanks,
    Nicole

    Reply

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    Rosemary Hansonposted January 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I stumbled across your blog a few months ago and it inspired me to put the idea that I had for a blog into action. There is so much information in your Blogging TIps series and your energy for blogging that you show is completely contagious!! Thank-you so much!

    Reply

  16. #
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    Sarah @ Sprinkled Cakesposted February 9, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Sally! This really helped me get started and take the plunge 🙂 especially the plugin recommendations!

    Reply

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    KWposted February 16, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Sally
    Thank you so much for posting your tips. I have my own food blog hosted through wordpress since about a year, but haven’t had much action, but I am hanging in there! Maybe I will go thru the self-hosting route.
    I am not a baker, but I love your baking recipes, simple and delicious! Thank you for sharing them with us. 🙂

    Reply

  18. #
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    Sarah P @ Sprinkled Cakesposted February 19, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Sally,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight and writing this series! Your blog helped me fall more in love with baking, and inspired me to start my own blog. These posts have been super helpful and encouraging for those of us who are just starting out!

    Reply

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    Maya @ Maya - Kitchenetteposted March 2, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Sally Thanks for the tips on site design and growing the blog really appreciated 🙂

    Reply

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    camilaposted March 17, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Hi, Sally! First of all I’d just like to say that I absolutely ADORE your recipes, especially cookies, I’ve tried maybe 5 of them in the last couple of weeks and my husband and son thank you very much… xD I was looking for something delicious for dessert today when I stumbled upon this post… which is amazing, since I’m also designing my own food blog. So many helpful tips! what I wanted to ask you is this: My blog is in Portuguese, and I could never find a single Brazilian website that has recipes half as delicious as yours. So do you think it would be alright if I translated and posted a few of your recipes that I’ve tried? I would, obviously, link every single one back to the original… Please, let me know, and keep on being awesome!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on March 17th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Camila! Congrats on your food blog! You can use my recipes as long as you link to my blog as the inspiration/source. Thank you!

      Reply

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    Hillary Steffenposted May 5, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Hi Sally,
    I love your blog and have found many of your delicious recipes via Pinterest. I’m brainstorming and in the beginning stages of starting my own baking blog but it will all be converted to dairy free recipes.
    I often find recipes that look delicious but due to my husband’s dairy intolerance I change certain ingredients so that he can enjoy it. Is this an okay thing to do in the blogging world? If I reference and link to the original recipe is that all I need to do, or should I be asking the author for permission each time? I have some of my own family recipes but for the most part I find recipes on Pinterest or online and then make them dairy free for my family.
    Thank you so much for your help!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on May 6th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      As long as you credit the source of the recipe, I welcome sharing recipes on other blogs!

      Reply

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    Manidipaposted May 7, 2015 at 12:55 am

    I think the pictures play the most important part for a recipe blog. More pictures with step by step process can make a recipe blog successful and popular instantly. But I think this niche has become saturated.

    Reply

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    Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nutposted June 14, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for all of your blogging posts. I’ve been blogging 5 years and haven’t made a full time income yet, but all of your posts are so inspiring and make me feel like I can do it too! 🙂 

    Reply

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    Nettie Byrdposted June 29, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Sally! I was just about at the end of my rope with my blogging dream, and then I came across this wealth of information, thank you! Every question that I was thinking of was mentioned here and I just had to say thank you! I was so confused, and questioned if I even wanted to blog anymore.

    Thanks again,

    Nettie Byrd

    Reply

  25. #
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    Priyankaposted August 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Wow, wonderful post. Insightful, informative and to the point. For someone looking to start a food blog, this is a gold mine. Thank you for sharing your knowledge 🙂

    Reply

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    Kateposted September 23, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Love this post!

    Do you have any advice for a super broke college girl wanting to start a blog? Not sure if I should self-host right away, or wait to start one until I have the money to invest in it.

    Either way, thanks so much for your info!!

    Reply

    • Elaine @ FoodParsedreplied on March 7th, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Not OP, but I’m in college, and my blog is self-hosted. I chose to start out with self-hosting because I didn’t want the hassle of transferring my blog to a new domain. The cheapest hosting options are quite affordable – $4 a month. I got a 3 year plan for ~$100.

      Reply

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    Carrieposted December 29, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Hi Sally,
    We have exchanged a few emails, but I wanted to write a comment here also.  This tip for starting a food blog, and all of the others that you have shared, are invaluable.  I had no idea where to begin and was able to figure it all out with the information that you so generously shared.
    Thank you so much!

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on December 30th, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      You are very welcome, Carrie! xo

      Reply

  28. #
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    Monica Marbrandposted January 12, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Your words are as delicious as your recipes, Sally. thank you for this post.

    Reply

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    Jennifer Landsbergerposted May 14, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Sally, your site is amazing and been an inspiration to me. I’m still about 10 years away from being successful! (I had no idea how much I had to learn until I really starting working at this)…may I ask what “print recipe” plug-in you use? 
    I’ve looked at review for a few, and if I’m going to spend $50-$100, I want to make sure I get one I like and can use from the start. 
    Thank you! 
    Jennie
    aka: The Housewife Modern

    Reply

    • Sallyreplied on May 15th, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Hi Jennifer, congrats on your blog! There is always something to learn. In fact, I’m still learning 5 years later! The print recipe is actually not a plug-in, it’s a custom template my website developer customized for my site.

      Reply

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    Lousieposted May 19, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    you really inspire me so much!! i’m a 15yr old girl who is passionate about baking and im slowing teaching myself with blogging techniques. i’m starting of with instagram and with luck i’m moving towards using wordpress.com! this post is really motivating!!

    Reply

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