Start Your Food Blog

You’ve come to the right page if you want to start your own food blog – or any blog for that matter.

Starting a blog can be quite the adventure and it can be frustrating in the beginning; especially if you are not Internet-savvy. Does that mean you can’t start a blog? Hell no! Resources are everywhere to help you create, build and maintain a blog.

This page will explain a few basics you need to know to begin your blogging project.

I plan on publishing multiple posts to teach you the basics of blogging and what can be done to have a professional looking website. Who knows, I might even go into advanced stuff the more our blog grows!

Keep in mind there isn’t a “this is how it’s done” that will get you at the same place in the same amount of time as another person that starts a blog at the same time as you with the same information. Blogging is part hard work, part patience and part luck.

You will not grow a blog to 1 million visits in one month but if you do, please, PLEASE, tell me about it and share your secret with me!

Index

  • Blog and domain name as well as hosting
  • Installing the WordPress blogging platform
  • Configuring WordPress for your food blog
  • Recommended plugins
  • Choose a theme
  • Join a community

Blog, domain name as well as hosting

Choosing a blog name is hard. Sometimes you have an idea that makes you scream “GENIUS!” only to find out it already exists or even more frustrating the domain name is registered but there is nothing on it. Remember you can’t put spaces in a domain name, and putting a lot of hyphens may seem spammy, although some people are pretty successful with domain names containing hyphens like Christine at Apple of My Eye.

Choose a name you like, that stands out and represent your blog as much as possible. If you are starting a food blog, don’t call it “Die Cast Cars in Trouble”. It doesn’t represent your subject at all. The only exception to this would be using your own name since you’ll be able to build your brand around it.

Alright so where do you buy your domain name?

The easiest way to start is to buy your domain name where you can also buy your hosting so everything will be connected for you. You won’t have to fiddle with any of the back end stuff so nothing will be complicated.

We recommend two hosting options: BlueHost or StableHost.

Choices already??!? ARG!

Don’t get mad. I’ll tell you the differences between both, but before that I’ll tell you their similarities:

  • Unlimited bandwidth (that’s the “memory” that is used when people load your website)
  • Unlimited domains
  • Include one free domain
  • Unlimited e-mail accounts
  • Unlimited MySQL Databases

And now for the differences:

  • BlueHost: Unlimited web space, ~$110 USD for one year
  • StableHost: 7 GB of web space, ~$70 USD for one year

Okay that’s cool, but what difference does it make? I can either save $70 per year or have unlimited bandwidth. What is the best option?

Well look at it this way: you can go to a pub and pay $20 for a nice, awesome meal, or you can pay $30 in an all-you-can eat restaurant where the food will vary between good and okay, depending on how much time it was left in the food bins and how they were kept warm.

How does that translate to web hosting? Well we are looking for a cheap hosting, and cheap hostings are called “shared hosting”, which means multiple users on the same server  sharing the same capabilities. Giving unlimited space to hundred of users will result in some people abusing it, and may result in slower speed for the others.

Notice that I said “may” result. It is not always the case and a lot

of people have had great success with BlueHost.

If you are not afraid of searching on Google when you have a problem, BlueHost would be perfect for you since it would give you a lot of space for multiple domains or the possibility to offer space to friends of yours if they want to try blogging as well, but to give something to StableHost apart from the cheaper price: they have an incredible support team. So if you are afraid of playing around with things and you think you may require personal help, go with them.

I recommend BlueHost if you don’t mind spending $40 more. If you want to keep the cost as low as possible, head over to StableHost

Here are the first steps to get you started on BlueHost:
  1. Head to their homepage
  2. Click on “Get started now”
  3. Select the plan you want (I recommend the “plus” plan)
  4. Enter the domain name you want in the box and click “Next”
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions

In the followings screens you will be asked a bunch of questions concerning options you can get with your hosting. You don’t need any of them but keep in mind that a good backup solution is always responsible to have. It can be done manually though.

Once you receive an e-mail from your hosting provider, you are ready to setup your blog! Read on…

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Installing the WordPress blogging platform

Since you’ve got your hosting and domain setup, you can say that you now have your own little space on the web.

HOORAY!

Unfortunately if you head over to your domain by typing it in your URL bar, you will see nothing. Well, maybe you will see the “stand-by” website from your hosting company but you will not see YOUR blog.

Let’s correct this.

The most used blogging platform is WordPress and, simply put, it is the best. It’s easy to setup and to modify, even with little to no coding experience. In cPanel (the control panel you have for your web hosting if you are with BlueHost or StableHost) there is an easy way to setup WordPress automatically.

Connect to your web host cPanel using your hosting provider’s instructions and look for something called Softaculous under Software/Services.

*Note: Before going further, make sure you don’t have an icon called WordPress in that section. If you have it click in and follow the instructions and don’t bother with Softaculous.

Once you click on it you will be brought to a page with scripts you can install. If you are not presented with the Top Scripts (or if WordPress isn’t there, which I’d doubt) you will find it under “Blogs” in the menu. If you have the same page as me, you will see it right at the top of the list.

Move your mouse over it and you will see two buttons appear: Install and Demo. Click on Install.

You will then be presented with a few fields to fill. Most of them don’t have to be changed but make sure you set the “Admin account” section accordingly. Use a strong password and remember it.

If you want to use your domain name directly for your blog, make sure you leave “In Directory” blank or you will have to access your blog through http://mydomain.com/subdirectory.

Once everything is filled, click on the button Install at the bottom of the page and wait for the installation to proceed.

WordPress is now installed on your domain, congrats!

Configuring WordPress for your food blog

Having WordPress installed is only a baby step towards your blogging adventure. The next thing you need to do is configure your blog. I will suggest plugins to install as well as some other options to configure. Keep in mind that I’m focusing on a food blog but some of it can apply to any other kind of blogs.

Let’s start with configuring what comes with WordPress natively, shall we?

To log into your blog, go to the URL http://mydomain.com/wp-admin where “mydomain.com” is your own domain name and enter your username and password.

Once logged in you will be presented with your WordPress dashboard. First things first head over to the menu on the left and go to Settings -> General.

The important settings to verify/change are:

  • Site title : The title of your blog.
  • Tagline : Think of the tag lines on movie posters. Make one up for your blog.
  • Timezone, Date format and Time format: This will affect how date and time appears on your blog. It could be the published date of a post or the time of a comment.

When you are done click on the button at the bottom “Save Changes”.

Before installing any plugins, we have one last change to make. This is purely personal but it helps with SEO (search engine optimization) and it looks more legit.

Under Settings -> Permalinks, I suggest using the “Common Settings” called “Post Name”. This will make your posts URL look like this – http://mydomain.com/delicious-recipe/ – instead of this – http://mydomain.com/?p=12. Way better!

To install a plugin, go to Plugins -> Add New in your menu and search for the plugin name.

Here’s a list of recommended plugins and what they do:

  • Akismet: Keeps spammers away from your comments.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress: Helps you setup Google Analytics on each of your blog’s pages. A must.
  • Jetpack by WordPress.com: Full of goodies. It’s a pot luck of plugins for your blog that can be activated through the menu Jetpack. I recommend the activation of the following Jetpack plugins: Publicize, Subscriptions, Spelling and Gramar and Sharing.
  • WordPress SEO: Helps you create SEO optimized posts and pages. By the same author as Google Analytics for WordPress.
  • Recipes Writer: Helps you write recipes correctly formatted for Google’s Rich Snippets (you know those beautiful images of double chocolate brownies that appear beside searches in Google?). I am the author of the plugin and will gladly help you with any questions or problems you may have!

I won’t go into details on how to use any of them, but read their documentations or author’s websites and you will find all the information you need.

Choose a theme

You are almost ready to write your first post, but before you write anything you need to work on your front-end, aka design, a bit. Branding is everything so you should visualize in your head which kind of logo, colors and layout you want.

While there are free themes, I recommend a paid one. Why? More features, more support, and all-around better.

Where should you go? Here are a few options:

StudioPress Genesis Framework (Highly recommended): If you are serious about your blog, this is the way to go. It’s the best framework out there and their themes are beautiful. Most people in the food blog community recommend the Foodie theme. For $100 you get the theme and the framework, and it’s worth it. You will have a professional looking (and working!) blog for the tenth of the price of a custom theme.
Thesis: If you want to create your own design without having to work under the hood this is for you. No code to write, just drag and drop and options selection. Thesis skins also exist.
Elegant Themes: One price, multiple themes. This one is good is you are not sure which theme to use. You make one payment and you can use any of their themes in as many sites as you want. Keep in mind that the price is per year if you want to receive the theme updates and the new themes. Once your subscription is over, you do keep the themes you downloaded and you can continue to use them.

Join a community

Well, you are now ready to start writing recipes and taking pictures! But along the way you might – scratch that – you will have many more questions concerning writing, design, analytics, photography, etc. One of the best thing you can do is join a community of like-minded people that work within the same niche as you.


Food Blogger Pro

Food Blogger Pro is the best community you could join. Why? Because the people running it are the ones behind Pinch Of Yum, one of the most successful food blog on the planet. Bjork and Lindsay are very active on the forums and answers a bunch of questions all the time, but they also have videos about tons of subjects pertaining to blogging and photography. If you want to become an expert, you need to follow in the steps of experts!