How to Start a Food Blog

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Sprinkled Episode 4 - Chocolate Chip Cookies on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Updated in 2019 🙂

I started a food blog in 2011. I always enjoyed baking and loved sharing pictures of my cookies and cupcakes on Facebook with my friends and family. I followed food blogs 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 felt like the perfect hobby. But how on earth do I create one?

You Need a Website Platform

There are many options for website platforms these days. I did my research and chose WordPress.com as my hosted blog platform. This means my website’s URL was initially www.sallysbakingaddiction.wordpress.com.

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What is Self Hosting?

There’s 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 earn 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 design bells and whistles you see on my site. I purchased my own domain through GoDaddy before switching to a self-hosted solution. 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 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 the load was very slow. 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. They are 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 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.

WordPress Plug-ins Include:

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 most are free.

  • 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 – This one is my favorite. When a comment or question is left on my blog, I usually have a response! 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 a convenient and handy way to extend the conversation.
  • Related Posts Thumbnails – The bottom of each of my posts always have 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.

Website Design

My website has gotten many facelifts over the years. I began with sweet Lindsay from Purr Design in 2013. She’s made several design updates over the years and I highly recommend her talent and services. She designed my logo!

In 2018, I launched a major redesign with Southern Web, who is also my monthly tech support. There are so many talented website designers and helpful tech support teams. Do your research to find a good match.

Web

Two Things to Consider

Before you start a food blog, I encourage you to consider these:

  • 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. 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 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!
  • 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. I have made a career out of my blog through consistent hard work.

Crispy chocolate chip cookies with a big CRUNCH when you bite into one! Melted butter, an egg yolk, a little milk and liquid sweetener are the secrets to the best crispy chocolate chip cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Don’t Be Intimidated

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 courage to put yourself out there in a very large food blogging community, but there is room at the table for YOU and what YOU have to offer. 🙂

Check out my other blogging pages:

193 Comments

  1. 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!

    1. 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!

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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. 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

    1. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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 🙂

  13. 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!!

    1. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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

    1. 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.

  16. 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!!

  17. Every other blog starting tutorial I’ve ever read just stressed getting a domain. I appreciate your details on how long everything actually take off and become a full on career. However, I don’t really think this really pertains to a food blog but rather just a blog in general. As I’m struggling to find a niche for my blog, I’ve been debating becoming a cooking blog and well that lead me here. But I don’t think the post would be any less helpful if I was debating a fashion blog or indie music blog?

  18. Thanks so much for this informative and insightful post! I’ve been a fan for many years now and have executed so many of your perfect recipes. I feel so guilty for not always leaving a comment but you’re my number one go to blogger for delish baked goods.
    I’m such a foodie and would love to share my passion of food as well. I had always wanted to start a blog but never quite made the move to take it off. This post is so inspiring and gives me a sense of direction and encouragement.

    Thank you Sally!

    From a fellow foodie 🙂

  19. Hi Sally. I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting my own food blog for the same reason you started your blog, to share recipes with family and friends. My 13 year old son is also a baker and we bake together about once a week. If I were to start a blog with my son should I put that in my title?
    Also, thank you for the baking challenges. Our favorite has been the Choux pastry.

    Jeanette

    1. Hi Jeanette! I think it’s important that the name of your blog matches the content. So if the content will be based around you and your son’s recipes, cooking with kids, etc– then absolutely. So excited you are starting a food blog!

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