How to Start a Food Blog

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.

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 WP Engine. They are my current host.

To self-host your blog, you need a host server like BlueHost 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!
  • 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:

189 Comments

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  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks says:

    Wow, what a post! Thanks for all the linky love, for starters.

    And I am in awe of how much you’ve grown your blog and in just one year. When I started food blogging, I had no idea that I’d not only need to know how to cook, but minor(s) in photography, journalism, computer programming, or advertising/marketing; or a combo of any or all of them – would also be helpful! It’s amazing how blogging forces you to ‘learn on the job’ with all these things.

    Totally agree about comment reply notification and I am amazed that not everyone has it! I sometimes go back to sites, only to randomly discover month(s) later the person replied to me and it was just by accident I figured it out. All that time spent on comments back to readers, you want to make sure they’re actually seeing them!

    And I am also amazed you can still use Bluehost and that you haven’t outgrown a 6.95 plan. That is so sweet$$ 🙂

    1. Thanks for being my #1 supporter, ALWAYS, Averie. You have helped me troubleshoot the basics, the hard stuff, photography, recipes, writing, etc. It’s all meant a lot to me and you are welcome for the link love! I’ve found your blogging series incredibly helpful! I wish I took photography classes in college and even a computer tech class too. Sometimes I do feel lost!

      And I am glad I haven’t outgrown Bluehost yet, that is for sure!

  2. Sally – I’m so thrilled that you are doing this. These tips so helpful, even for those of us who are not so new to blogging. I use Bluehost as well, and have been so happy. I had all sorts of trouble at the beginning, and found their support to be incredibly helpful! Looking forward to the rest of your posts this week!!

    1. Jess, I am so glad this is helpful for even bloggers like you. I had and still do have a lot of trouble sometimes, and I know these posts are worth their weight in gold for beginners. Thank you so much for your support, always.

      1. PS. I JUST installed the Comment Reply Notification Plug-in! I always wondered how you did that. Great advice!

      2. The BEST plug-in. I always forget to check back on my favorite blogs to see if blogger’s responded.Comment Reply Notification makes it so easy for readers!

  3. I’m so glad this was helpful! A full site makeover isn’t always necessary but for my blogging gols – I knew I needed some help! I never try to fix somethign on my blog myself – I ahve heard nightmare stories about sites crashing because of that!

  4. Thank you for such an informative and helpful post! I am in the start-up phase with my blog, so I’m anxious to read more from you since I have no idea of where to go next. I really appreciate the tips!

    1. I am very, very glad to hear that Dana! I know how difficult it is in the beginning – and how hard it is for me still. good luck with everything!

  5. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes says:

    You are spot-on with a lot of your advice, some of it I knew and some I didn’t so I’m glad you shared this. Thanks!!

    P.s. I also use that akismet and it’s a life saver 🙂

    1. Askimet is a lifesaver! And so glad you found a few things helpful. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the shout-out Sally! I’m so proud of how far you’ve come in such a short time, and it’s incredible that you’re willing to share all of your start-up tips. You are amazing!! xoxo

    1. THANK YOU Harps! For all your help! I miss you and hope you and matt have a wonderful thanksgiving!!

  7. think that is the best article thet i have read

  8. Thanks so much, Sal! You are motivating me to take that plunge to self-hosted. I appreciate you putting all you’ve learned out there for the rest of us. You’re a peach 🙂

    1. let me know if you need help with the transition to self hosting – Cory did most of it for me, but there were some things I had to teach myself tackle after it was all done!

      1. Thank you! 🙂

  9. Thanks Laura! While there are a lot of factors behind a blog’s growth – the writing, the recipes, the layout, the photos, the personality (all items I am touching on in this series of posts), I do feel that having a website professionally designed and therefore granting me more control over the look, features, and hosting do play a large role in my own blog’s success. Of course, not every blog needs a professional website design and I admire many blogs who are hosting through wordpress using its themes, but my blog’s stats can visably prove that May 2012 (after my redesign) was the starting point for its growth. Thank you for your support, as always!

  10. Julie @White Lights on Wednesday says:

    Sally, I am so excited for this series. I went into blogging blind (not knowing any bloggers for start up help) and grabbed Blogger. It seems like everyone is moving to WordPress and I’ve been nervous about the investment, but I do want to make blogging an income. I’m really looking forward to the next posts. I’ll be pinning it all. I’ll be reading the photography post with bells on! I think your pictures are fantastic. I just got a DSLR camera and am looking for every possible note and trick I can get my hands on to start taking really good pictures. And you’re swell and I completely adore your blog. 🙂

    1. Hi Julie! THANK YOU for all the kind words and support. You and i go way back – I remember following your blog in the beginning. 🙂 I don’t have any experience with Blogger, but I know that WP has been a dream. I’m very pleased with it. Switching over to a self hosted blog is most definitely an investment, but it is very very worth it – at least to me it was. Can’t wait to share some photo tips and tricks later in the series. 🙂

  11. You are so awesome! Thank you so much for doing this! It’s nice to see success come to the people that deserve it. 🙂

    1. Hi Andrea! Thank you so the nice comment! That really means a lot to me, so thank you.

  12. Elaine @ Cooking to Perfection says:

    Love all of the links! So much useful information!! Can’t wait to see the other posts 🙂

    1. All of the links are ones which I have read over and over again – so helpful!

  13. Becky @ Olives n Wine says:

    Thank you for the post! I am just starting out and although my blog isn’t 100% food focused, I already know that your beginner series is going to be super helpful!

    1. I am glad to hear that Becky! I hope that I can still be helpful – a lot of the things in the next post are not necessarily for food bloggers, but ALL bloggers. 🙂

  14. This is brilliant Sally, thank you so much for the brilliant advice 🙂 I’ve only been blogging for just over a month, but I’m fairly certain I want to make the jump from hosted to self-hosted soon! 🙂

    1. Hi Joy! That is a great idea. While so many blogs are successful hosted through WP or another server, I feel self-hosting is a must if you have big dreams for your blog! I am always happy to help 🙂

  15. Sally, What a great post!! You covered so much information and I cannot wait to see what you post about next!! I am really debating right now between buying a dslr or getting my page done… I really want both but realistically with Christmas just around the corner I think I should stick to one! Any thoughts?

    1. A new site design would ultimately be cheaper than a new DSLR. However, pictures are the bread and butter of a food blog and from my experience, I have learned that the only way to get readers to notice your blog and have them stay is to have very beautiful photos. Photography is a never ending lesson for me and I try to improve with each photoshoot – but I do know that my blog would not have many views if my photography wasn’t up to par. I would suggest going with a DSLR and then redesigning your site after, if you are in the market for both. By the way, I think your blog is adorable Elizabeth! I love all the hot pink 🙂

      1. Thanks for your input! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  16. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious says:

    This is such a helpful post! I definitely have to make some changes to my blog now 🙂

    1. i think Damn Delicious is Damn Wonderful as is 🙂

  17. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious says:

    Oh and btw, my budget has gone through the roof for this blog! I need to find ways to cut down!

  18. I can hardly believe your blog is only one year old!
    My wee little blog is just a couple months old, so these tips are really helpful to me. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!

    Do you ever think about quitting your full-time job to go full-time with baking? I’m just finishing college this semester, and I don’t really desire to have a “career.” I love making food and often think about further pursuing that passion– whether it’s opening a bakery, starting a mini catering business, or something like that.

    In the meantime though, I’m thoroughly enjoying my hobby, and your beautiful blog fuels my passion even more by providing me with fantastic recipes!

    Thanks, Sally! You’re an inspiration. 🙂

    1. If you can dream it, you can do it Ali! Opening a bakery or a mini catering business sound completely doable if you really work hard at it! You sound determined. 🙂 I’m glad my post could be of some help and I wish you ALL the luck!

  19. Cassie | Bake Your Day says:

    This is a great post, Sally! I love reading about how others have found success. And a great roundup of helpful posts too! There is always something to learn, that is for sure!

    1. I too enjoy reading about other bloggers and all their how-tos Cassie! I am still learning every day!

  20. Jen @ Savory SImple says:

    Thanks for including me in this post, Sally! I’ve been meaning to create something similar but I just never get around to it. A great resource.

    1. Thank YOU Jen for the helpful post! I’ve read it a handful of times!

  21. Thank you for this post! Very helpful! I have a baking/food blog that I want to take to the next level. I just email Cory and we are chatting tomorrow 🙂

    1. Yay Haley! I’m so glad I could put you in touch with Cory. Let me know how it all goes!!

  22. Ashley @ Kitchen Meets Girl says:

    What great tips and links, Sally. I still can’t believe you’ve only been at this for a year. Can I be you when I grow up? 🙂 Can’t WAIT to read the rest of your series!!

    1. Can I be YOU when I grow up? Your recipes are an inspiration! Hello raspberry swirl cheesecake.. must check that out now!!

  23. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen says:

    I’m totally itching to switch over to wordpress, hire some folks, etc., but I have to remind myself to focus on one thing at a time! These tips are great and all those links are priceless. Can’t wait to see what’s next…

    1. Yes, one thing at a time. All of my website changes occurred over a few months period – buying a new camera, web design, switching to self-hosting. I’m glad you find the links helpful!They are all articles and blog posts that have given me so much useful and handy guidance.

  24. Gerry @ Foodness Gracious says:

    Awesome post with bajillions of great advice! I’m waiting eagerly on a new blog coming my way soon and can’t wait to ditch blogger. Glad to have found your place 🙂

    1. Hi Gerry! I am so glad this was helpful! I don’t have any experience with Blogger, but I do know that WP has been a wonderful server for me.

  25. Sally, I thought this post was so great and I can’t wait for your next ones! I clicked on a number of the links you posted and some of them were pretty helpful, but I found that I skimmed most of them, but I really sat down and read your post word for word. This was especially helpful since I started my blog on wordpress and have been thinking about moving to self-hosting for awhile…so you totally answered a bunch of questions I had and some I didn’t even know I had! So THANK YOU!

    1. Hi Erika! That is so nice to hear and I am glad that I could be helpful to you – a lot of those links/blog posts have helped me along the way,so I am glad I could pass them a long! You are SO welcome and I am always here to help!

  26. Thanks for posting this Sally! I’m pretty new to WordPress. I transferred from blogger and still don’t know what the heck I’m doing. My site was down overnight on Sunday because of some silly little thing I changed. I’m off to install the comment reply plug-in! Love it.

  27. Christina @ The Hungry Australian says:

    What a great post (and site) you have here, Sally. Thanks for the awesome shout out, too. I’m so glad you found it useful. PS Thanks for the heads-up re the comment reply plug in 🙂

    1. Hi Christina! Thank YOU so much for the wonderful and very resourceful blog post – I literally visit it EVERY day. It’s saved in my favorites! 🙂

  28. Danielle Antinozzi says:

    I love that you’re doing these posts now! I could really use all the help I can get in creating my own recipe site, even though it’s mostly just for fun. How do you format your recipes so that they’re printable? I still haven’t figured out how!

    Thanks!

  29. Erin @ Texanerin Baking says:

    What a great post! And a fantastic groups of links. But I’ve got a bone to pick with you. My husband, who has been begging me to switch over to WordPress, read this and now he’s going at it even harder. Thanks, Sally. 😉

    But no really, loved this post! Can’t wait to see what comes next.

  30. Kristy (Sweet Treats & More) says:

    Can’t wait to read all of the posts in this series Sally! And I seriously, seriously need to switch to wordpress. Soon!!!

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