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. Hey Sally,
    Thanks so much for linking my “start a blog” page here! I’m flattered! Your blog is beautiful and you’ve made a ton of progress in a short amount of time! Running a blog definitely can be a lot of work but it is so rewarding and is such a great learning process. It’s crazy to look back and see what my photos were like when I first started – truly horrendous and even now I still feel like I have a ton to learn but I feel so much better about my photos now than when I started! It feels like there;s never enough time to do everything with the blog though (especially now that I am all traveling full time through Asia with my boyfriend and also running a travel blog)! Aaah always so much to do! I would love to talk more with you about advertising so if you don’t mind I’ll shoot you an email!

    1. hi Vicky! Thank you SO much for the comment and for all of the compliments. And for your blog post – it’s very helpful.

      It’s scary to look back on my photos as well, but also encouraging to think about how they can improve by this time next year. There is certianly not enough hours in a day to complete EVERYTHING I want donw tih my blog. Especially with a full time job. I am eager to chat more. Please send me an email Vicky! Thanks so much.

  2. Hi Nicole – thanks for your input! I owned my own domain before switching to a self-hosted solution, like I said above. However, I wanted to add plug-ins and add third party advertising through a blog network, which is why I switched to self-hosting. But yes, it is indeed possible to own a domain hosted through a blogging platform, you are correct.

  3. jo @ including cake says:

    Hello Sally, I have another question, I had bookmarked this post and have just come back for another browse! 🙂 I am looking to go down the self hosting route in the new year as i want to step things up a gear with my blog and think about incorporating advertising etc into my side bars. when did you decide to have advertising on your blog? Was it when you’d reached a certain level of traffic by way of unique visitors per day (that seems to be the criteria people go by?) If so, would you be able to give me an indication of how many hits per month generates what level of advertising income? I’m trying to work out how far off I am on making it worth my while. P.s if you’d prefer not to answer this question i understand. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jo! Send me an email to discuss this. I will try my best to help you here, but the level of income and CPM varies depending on which ad network you are using. [email protected]

  4. Heather @French Press says:

    thanks so much for sharing your information. I do have a questions – what do you think was the biggest jump in traffic for you – the new design, pics – self hosting? HELP

    1. Hi heather! The biggest jump in traffic for me was both the new design and the new camera. I got both around the same time. But I honestly think they were both a large culprit in the traffic spike for me. People eat with their eyes and if the photography isn’t appealing, I know my readers wouldn’t always come back. That’s just for me, but may not be the same for other bloggers. Once I began to get featured on foodgawker, tastespotting, and other food photography sites, my traffic also jumped. So I think it was a mix of the new, clean, professional site design and the purchase of a DSLR and teaching myself to use it. Trust, me I am still learning something new with that camera with every photoshoot. Even pictures from last month make me cringe – it’s an always changing journey!

  5. Thank you sooo much! I have thought about starting a food blog. This was very informative. Now, if I could only decide on a name:)

    1. Thanks June! I’m glad this can be helpful to you. The name took me a couple days – but go with whatever speaks to you. It’s YOUR internet space. 🙂

  6. Wow. That was EXTREMELY nice of you to post this!!!
    thank you so much I adore your blog and all the yummy goodness!! 🙂

    1. Hi Doreese! I’m glad you find this helpful. Let me know if you make anything from my site. Thank you!

  7. Hello! I just found your site through another blog, and it couldn’t be better timing! I have a blog that I just recently decided I really want to make a go of. In this post you mentioned remembering the first day your blog got over 100 views – that was yesterday for me. I know it’s nothing compared to blogs like yours but I was still super excited. I am so grateful for all this information you’re sharing – thank you so much! I just started researching options for buying my own domain and trying to customize my blog. It’s all so confusing but you spell it out nice and clearly. I was wondering, at what point do you think it is worth making the financial investment to pay per month and hire a site designer and all that? Obviously at only 100 views I’m not anywhere close to having that pay off. I’m a Dietetic Intern right now so I don’t really have any extra money, but someday when I have a job I would love to do the blogging as a second job, like you do. What kind of traffic do you think I need in order to make the financial investment worth it?

    1. Hey Danielle! To be honest, I made the investment into hiring a designer before I made any money off of my website. I saved for two months, took a plunge, and it paid itself back plus more quite quickly. So it’s really not about page views, it’s just when you are ready. The page views will increase if you work hard on your newly designed site too. CONGRATS on 100 views! That’s freaking awesome!!

  8. Marcie @ FlavortheMoments says:

    I’m reading through your series, Sally. This is a God-send! I have so many questions on how to grow my blog, improve photography, etc. I’m planning on a professional blog design because boy, is this stuff a lot of work! Thank you for this, and I really like your style. It’s no wonder your blog is such a success!

    1. Hey Marcie! wow, thank you so much! A professional blog design really helped jump start my blog. I like for things to be easy, clean, simple, and pleasing to the eye. Not too much going on so readers get confused and lost. Just keep it simple! It’s definitely a lot of work to keep growing, but you can do it if you are determined.

  9. Wow this is a helpful post for so many reasons! You have a beautiful site and thanks for sharing so much info with other bloggers. I am going to continue reading and learning. Thanks!

    1. Hey Holly! Thank you so much for the compliment on my website. And I am always glad to share what I’ve learned with others. It’s a learning journey, for sure! Thank you =)

  10. Sarah / Mrs. DeYarmond says:

    Well Hi Sally !
    I’m following your blog but that’s the first time I comment ! I love all your recipes : your blog is such a good inspiration for me.
    I am 17 years old and started my blog few weeks ago… Thoses tips are so precious for me and I am trying each day to developp my blog (if you have time, check it and tell me what you think of it !).
    Your blog carrier makes me so envious and you’re such a model for me !
    Hope one day my blog will be as perfect as yours !
    Please continue to be such an amazing blogger !

    Lots of love from France.
    Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah! You are so sweet. Thank you so much for the very kind comment and compliments! Just work very hard on it. It sounds like you are quite passionate about the blog, so I know working hard won’t be a problem. I can’t wait to check it out! Thank you for reading and taking the time to write to me. 🙂

  11. Hey Sally, thanks again for doing this series…it is great!!

    I was wondering what theme you use for your blog? It is such a clean, pretty theme!

    1. Hey Mandie! I use Thesis theme.

      1. Thanks! Is it the “Thesis Basic” ?

  12. Sorry, I don’t know much about themes right now 🙂 Do you like this theme enough to recommend it?

    1. It’s ok Mandie. It’s the most popular theme for wordpress I believe. Many, many users use it and love it. I highly recommend it.

      1. Well, thank you so much, Sally! You are awesome!

  13. I just found your blog today (thanks Pinterest!!). Not only am I going to attempt to make and eat almost all your recipes, but I really appreciate this series on how you got started blogging! I have a ‘for fun’ blog now that I throw whatever whenever onto and am tinkering with the idea of trying to make it into something special once I figure out which way I want to take it. I love how simply you explained things and I LOVE your photos! Moving from WordPress.com to .org is suddenly not so completely terrifying. Consider me a BIG fan of your blog! I haven’t been this big of a blog fan since I found my dearest Pioneer Woman. 🙂 Keep up the fun, fantastic, tasty work!

    1. Hey Jenny! What a sweet comment. Thank you so much! What would we do without Pinterest? I honestly LOVE that site. I’m glad to know that you love the way I put together my blog and each post. and the photography too! That all means SO much to me. and GOOD LUCK on your blog, wherever it takes you in life!

  14. This blog has made my year – your care and passion are incredible, if I can write a blog even half as good as yours I’ll be completely thrilled! I’ve wanted to start up my own online bakery for months, but I think, after reading your blog and seeing your fantastic website, I’ll try blogging first and see what happens! Are all the wonderful recipes your own (so you create at least four amazing new recipes a week?)?! Where do you get the inspiration for recipes? Do you have any start-up advice? I can’t wait to get started!

    Thank you so much for your inspirational website! Love from England 🙂

    1. Hi Phoebe! Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. Wow! It truly made my day. About 80% of the recipes you find on my website are self-developed and created by me. I draw inspiration from my family recipes, cookbooks, and magazines. Also, I’ve been baking since I was little so there are a lot of ideas floating around my head. I bake what I enjoy to eat. I create about 10 recipes per week, not all of them make it to my website. Some go into my cookbook that is due out spring 2014. I suggest pinpointing your favorite flavors and food and go from there. Test different recipes until you find what you love. Good luck!

  15. Jennifer @ Licious Food says:

    Congrats on your 1 year anniversary! I love all the advise dispensed. I am currently on wordpress.com and will be making a change to wordpress.org. I look forward to the upcoming posts! Thanks for sharing your tips.

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer! Good luck in the self-hosting transition.

  16. Mark Gibson says:

    Hi Sally,
    Congratulations on the one year anniversary. Your blog is both beautiful and incredibly informative. Thank you for your suggestions and advice. I am going to start a food blog and have already opened an account with bluehost. My question is if there is a Worldpress theme that you suggest to power your site and why? Were you lucky enough to start with one that allowed you to add all the bells and whistles you wanted as your blog grew?

    Thanks and happy Blogging!
    Mark

    1. Hi Mark – I suggest Thesis theme. It’s clean, sleek, easy to use, and design. Fantastic template for adding on pretty much anything. I didn’t design my website, so I have no design/technical input. But from the website owner’s input – it’s very rewarding to go with Thesis! Good luck on your blog!

  17. Love all of these blogging tips! Will be very useful for the blog I am working on.

    1. Good luck with your blog, Jenna! Thanks for stopping by to read through my blogging series.

  18. This series is super-helpful! I found your recipes via Pinterest but stayed for the blogging advice. Thanks for being so open and sharing.

  19. Hi Sally,

    I’m a huge fan of your blog! I’m planning to take the plunge and buy the thesis theme.. But like you said, I can’t be bothered with all the technicalities! 🙂 It would be really helpful if you redirected me to the person who did your blog design.

    Thanks a bunch!

    1. Hi Kavi! I used http://zestyblogconsulting.com for my website design last year. They are great!

  20. Hi Sally!
    I came across your blog through IG and I LOVE it! I’m so happy I came across this post of yours. I’m actually about to purchase self-hosting soon and in my mind, I’m freaking out worried about losing everything I already have.
    I started blogging late Feb of this year and made many transitions along the way from BlogSpot to WP.com. I regret not getting WP.org from the start but didn’t know what I now know at that time. Did the same like you, buying the domain on GoDaddy and the WP trail is still left behind. This plus a lack of plugins are the main reasons why I want to get self-hosting.
    I’m glad you did a screen shot of how quickly your blog grew and it gives me that extra push to do the same. (thank you!) And I hear you’re coming out with a cook book- looking forward to it! ~ CC

    1. Hi Connie! Congrats on your blog – that’s so wonderful! I wish I purchased a self-hosting site right off the bat, it would’ve been much easier. If you have a professional switch your site over to self-hosted, you shouldn’t lose any material. You can always go through BlueHost and they can walk you through making the switch. It seemed complicated, so I hired professional help. Good luck with everything. I’m so glad you found my blog!

  21. Hi Sally! I had a quick question about linking my blog to Instagram. Is there a way that I can share photos from my posts directly on my Instagram?

    1. Hmm. I don’t think so Gayatri. Unless I’m missing something, of course. I simply save a photo from my post and then update it manually to Instagram.

      1. Yup, that’s what I thought, thanks! Uploaded a picture manually this morning in fact 🙂 It’s odd that if you share a link on instagram it’s not clickable through to the site!

      2. That’s just instagram – they only allow links in profiles, not accompanying photos. But hopefully that will change!

  22. Becky @ My Utensil Crock says:

    Hi Sally! Great post! As a new blogger considering switching to self-hosting, I appreciate it. I was wondering what you attribute the increase in stats to, when you switched to self-hosting? How did that change itself increase your stats, or were you also changing other things at the time, like refining your pictures? Thanks SO much!

    1. Hey Becky! Congrats on your new blog. I am so happy that this post was helpful for you. By migrating over to a self hosted blog, I was able to have full control of the widgets in my sidebar, like adding photos of other recipes and getting folks to click around my website. I also bought a new DSLR camera at that time and spent hours and hours studying how to use it. I also bought Adobe Lightroom, a premium photo editing software easy enough for anyone to use. It’s quite affordable as well. With a self-hosted blog, I also had a professional designer design it so it was more appealing to the eye. Bright, colorful, yet simple and clean. Looks are everything when it comes to a food blog, at least in my opinion. I hope this helps!

      1. Becky @ My Utensil Crock says:

        Thank you! Lightroom has made a difference with my pictures for sure. I will continue to explore all of the options – thank you so much for being so available to your fans!

  23. Thank you so much for sharing such precious advice! I really appreciate all the tips and information you shared here. Thank you! May God bless you tremendously! I love your blog and look at your recipes every single day. Wow! You are truly incredible, I don’t know how you can create so many amazing recipes!

    I would be so honored if you would take the time to check out my blog and let me know what you think. I am fairly new to the whole blogging adventure, and I would love it if you would take a peek at my blog. Thanks! 🙂

    http://fit2behealth.blogspot.com/

    1. mmm your homemade granola looks delicious, Mariah and I love that adorable labeled jar you have it in.

      I am so happy that this post was helpful for you. I really had no clue what I was doing in the beginning. It really just takes time and practice. Keep up your hard work!

      1. Thank you so much! God bless you! 🙂

  24. This is truly inspiring. I am in the process right now to get my blog off the ground, because everyone CAN do it, it’s just actually DOING that some don’t choose to work for. And it is HARD work I can tell you that! My chart is starting to look like yours, and growing! But I definitely feel that the work is exactly like a fulltime job (which I also have). I wish you the best on your endeavors and commend you on creating such a beautiful blog! Loving it all! If you wouldn’t mind shooting me an email, I’d like to ask you some questions!

    1. Elaine, it sounds like you are very passionate about your food blog. That’s wonderful! And yes, it’s truly a ton of work. But if you love it, it really doesn’t feel like work – well, to me at least. Thank you for all the kind words!

  25. Thank you, so much this has been so helpful. I’m trying to begin my own blog page. I had done some research about it. By far this has been the best information I have found.

  26. If you don’t mind, can you please tell me what plugin you’re using for comments? I have a self hosted wordpress blog as well and I’ll like to have the option of “Notify follow-up comments / posts by email” when someone comments on my posts. I’ve searched a lot but can’t seem to find a proper plugin for this purpose.

    Thanks a bunch! 🙂

    1. Hi RK, I use “comment reply notification” as my plug-in.

  27. Rebekah Playfair says:

    Really enjoyed reading through your blog, gave me quite a bit of inspiration! And your recipes are scrumptious! I can’t wait to give them a try 🙂

  28. Thanks for the tips! My friend and just started a baking blog about a month ago and this is really helpful! I will definitely be referencing this once we start growing more! And, your recipes look delicious!!

  29. Chelsie @ MixPourBake says:

    Hi Sally! Thank you so much for posting all these helpful tips and resources! I started a baking blog earlier this year, and it can be frustrating and intimidating sometimes but you are so inspiring!

    1. I know all too well how challenging it is to first start out, Chelsie. A small fish in a big pond. Don’t worry! Just work hard, stay focused and passionate.

  30. yusra abdullah says:

    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

    1. 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.

      1. yusra abdullah says:

        ohkaaayy 🙂 no problem at all 🙂 thanku for the reply

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