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. The Rustic Pear {Miranda} says:

    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

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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???

  4. Radhika @sugar 'n' spice by radhika says:

    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!

    1. Radhika @sugar 'n' spice by radhika says:

      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! 😮 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

      1. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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 🙂

  7. Amy @ What's Baking Baby? says:

    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.

  8. Courtney Parsley says:

    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. 🙂

    1. Best of luck!!

  9. 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!!

  10. 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

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

  12. Emma and Carla aka THE MERRYMAKER SISTERS says:

    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.

  13. 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 🙂

  14. 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)

  15. 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!

    1. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. Misty Ehret says:

    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

  18. 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!

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

  19. 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.

  20. Teresa @ A Cup of D.I.Y says:

    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.

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

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

    1. Purr Designs

  22. 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! (:

  23. BiancaMiller says:

    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.

  24. Chelsea @ A Duck's Oven says:

    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 😉

  25. 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

  26. Barbara Tidwell says:

    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

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

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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

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