Welcome to this guide
Your talent in the kitchen speaks for itself. You have a host of fans among your family, guests, co-workers and random recipients of your culinary delights. So why not share your talent with the world? Imagine teaching people how to be creative in the kitchen. Helping them break the fast-food habit. Even showing them how to eat and live healthier?
You need a forum for this, and since most people would rather check for recipes online than buy expensive cookbooks, it’s probably high time you started your own food blog!
Building your own food blog is not a difficult task, however daunting it may seem initially. Search for food blogs on Google and you’ll see many blogs hosted by people who are masters in the kitchen but novices in the tech world. Blogs are affordable—there are many ways you can be online for less than you spend on the ingredients of a single recipe. Blogs are popular and trendy. And a blog can become a steady source of passive or active income for you. It’s up to you to decide whether you want your blog to be a hobby—or a serious business. Don’t forget: whatever your goals are, you’ll have fun in the process, meet interesting people and even improve your cooking skills.
So, are you ready to get started with your blog? First Site Guide’s here to help! Here are four easy steps you’ll find in our Food Blog Guide:
- selecting the right content managament system(CMS)
- choosing your domain name
- setting up your account with a hosting provider
- tips for successful food blogging
When starting your blog, you may become discouraged by all the random information on the internet. It’s easy to get bogged down trying to figure out the technical details. Well, with your food blog, there’s no need to. We provide everything needed to give you a big head start. And you’ll have the pride and satisfaction of having created a terrific blog—of the quality many people spend a lot of money for. Let’s start with the basics.
Selecting the right content management system (CMS)
What is a content management system? In order to build, manage or add content to your blog, you’ll need a visual interface that lets you perform all these actions—and more. Instead of working with code, you’ll be able to do everything: upload, move, size, drag, drop, copy, paste and link.
The complicated coding and design behind each website are still there, but they’re performed by the content management system, based on your visual input. While numerous CMS options exist, the most popular choices are limited to a handful, such as Joomla, Blogger and Drupal. But the international vote of popularity goes to WordPress, the content management system we use for this guide.
We’ve chosen WordPress because, since 2009, WordPress has been the world’s most popular blogging platform. WordPress works perfectly with blogs, but also with company websites. It’s highly customizable. And it gives you options for unlimited creativity and functionality.
Knowing coding or design can be a plus when working with WordPress, but you can build a real web masterpiece without knowing the first thing about codes, design or blogging. Additionally, its worldwide availability and the fact that it has already been localized in a number of languages, make WordPressthe hands-down favorite.
Choosing your domain name
When you visit your favorite websites on the web, you use their name to access them. A Google search starts from the Google homepage, whereas a chat with an old friend on Facebook will start from your personal Facebook page. You get to them, and other websites, because you know their address and type it in the address bar of your browser.
In order to reach them, you use a convention that includes a web domain name sandwiched between www. and .com. Top-level domains (such as the ending .com) can vary, but the convention is the same. In order to have your own domain and culinary website, you’ll need to pay an inexpensive amount, usually on a yearly basis. Let’s see how we can get there!
When you choose your blog name, you’ll need to give careful consideration to a number of details. Your blog name is unique; it should reflect your personality and style, and also give people an idea what they’re about to read on the page. For your convenience, we’ve prepared a short list of tips aimed at fine-tuning your choice of a domain name.
New gTLDs as percentage of total TLDs
1. Brevity is golden. Even services with shorter names such as Facebook and Twitter go for shorter variants for their links fb.com and t.co. This is because it’s crucial to be accessible and memorable.
You could name your blog something like: food for people who dont have time. But we doubt many people will remember the name and be able to access it. Instead, you should aim for something short and memorable, such as: http://quickbite.com. There’s not too much information, the word order in the domain name is obvious and it’s easy to remember.
So choose the shortest and catchiest name—people will remember it and know how to look you up and access your content.
2. Make the topic of your blog clear. It should stand out from the domain name, even for someone who has not visited your blog before. If you’re already widely known for your cooking, use your name. If you’re not, stick with a clear description of what your blog will be about.
3. It should read YOU. All the food bloggers we interviewed agree on one point: the foodie internet business is about being genuine and making your readers feel comfortable. Don’t barricade yourself behind a name that doesn’t represent you—you need to feel a strong connection to your blog, and make it clear to your readers, too.
Setting up your account with hosting provider
We’re getting closer to the moment when you’re online! If you already have the perfect domain name for your food blog, it’s now time to concentrate on finding a host. A web host is the service that enables your blog to be accessible to your readers 24/7 through their desktop and mobile browsers. Hosting is a paid service.
Some people prefer to go with a one-time deal for both securing their domain under their name and for purchasing hosting. Other people prefer to keep their domain and hosting accounts separate with two providers. Since it’s more likely you’ll get the best deal by bundling your domain name and hosting service, this is this option we recommend.
The number of factors that you should pay attention to when selecting your web host is boundless, but these are the key points you should take a look at when you’re shopping:
Get good value for your money. Make sure the price you pay is fair and that you actually get what you pay for.
The time your blog is “up,” or online, is crucial because you want your readers to be able to access your blog at all times. Downtime issues with a provider should raise doubts.
Optimal load time is in the range of milliseconds. While your blog content is key, the load time record of your hosting provider’s servers is also important.
24/7 support is key for those times when accessing your blog is a problem. Next-day, or worse—next-week solutions—are definitely not what you want.
Features Hosting providers should offer different special features, such as apps, themes, design options and tools.
A simple Google search for reviews of the hosting services you’re considering should enlighten you and help you make a smarter choice.
At First Site Guide, we take a professional interest in determining which are the best hosting services. Based on our experience, we recommend Bluehost. Bluehost offers top-notch services, including reliable support and great value for your money. Prices start from as little as $2.95 per month. There’s more! When you click on the link above, you’ll get 50 percent off for the first year of service plus a FREE Domain Name. This offer is exclusive to First Site Guide followers.
Whereas different hosting providers have different sign-up and check-out processes, we’re going to walk you through the signup process with Bluehost—the tried and tested option we enthusiastically recommend.
Bluehost provides you with a variety of blogging options. If you’re a beginner, the best way to go is with the Basic Plan. Once your needs have evolved, you can upgrade your package.
Although the Basic Plan has some limitations, it still offers everything you need to get off to a good start. As your blog grows, you may consider going with the unlimited Plus Plan, which is the top-selling package Bluehost offers.
You can also get the Pro Plan, which is similar to the Plus Plan, but it offers even greater performance. This is an advanced package, suitable for seasoned bloggers who have a large base of followers visiting their blogs on a daily basis.
Choosing a domain name is a vital step that can make or break your blogging career. No need to worry, though, because Bluehost has everything you need to get started on the right track.
Bluehost is set up almost as a brainstorming tool that feeds you an abundance of domain name options during the registration process. Look at the options, play with different combinations and when you come up with a domain that appeals to you, type it in the box.
If that name is already taken, Bluehost will notify you and give you an additional list of similar domain names you can use.
At last, it’s time to register your domain. If you see this on your screen, it means you’ve chosen a domain name and you’re getting closer to finishing the process of setting up your account. On this page, you’ll fill out your personal information, business information and billing address.
Bluehost guarantees that all your information will be kept safe and private.
Step five deals with payments, so you may want to keep a calculator handy to check your totals.
The 12-month package is the lower-priced option. However, if you’re ready to make a longer commitment, the 24-month and 36-month packages are cheaper. The longer the package you take, the lower you monthly fee will be.
You don’t have to commit to all the other package features at this point, so you can leave the selection boxes empty for now. When you want to try new features, you can easily come back to this page and add them.
When you write for your food blog, there are a number of things you should take into account. Below we have prepared a starter list for the successful food blogger—guided by the food bloggers we interviewed and our own expertise.
1. Aim for a constant flow of new articles. Whether daily or weekly—that’s your call! But make sure you create a schedule and stick to it. More than anything, your faithful readers need to be rewarded by your new articles.
2. Create your own style and voice. Write in a natural, easy-to-understand and friendly tone. Read what you’ve written aloud to yourself. Does it sound unnatural or hard to understand? Don’t hesitate to change it.
3. If you provide recipes, make sure the title and link of your new post reads exactly the same as the name of the recipe—nothing else. All other information may be added to the post content, so don’t try to cover too much information in the title. Clear titles with names of recipes are helpful to your readers and give you a boost with search engines.
4. Be consistent. For example, don’t use the term “instructions” once, then shift to “directions” or “method.” Search engines and your readers like to see structure. Decide on main headings for the sections of your posts and stick with them. And always use the same text style.
6. Try to keep your articles somewhere between 300 and 700 words. Not only do people have short attention spans, search indexes do, too.
7. Use a plugin for lists—be they ingredients or steps—you‘ll need to point out there’s a “list” thing behind what you’re doing.
8. Always title your photos before uploading. If you’re building a gallery and there are more pictures, such as photos used to show the steps of a recipe, make sure you number them, name the recipe and each step.
9. Always make the finished product photo the featured photo of your post.
10. Strive to use keywords (e.g. the main tags of your post) in the first 25 words of your article. This helps give readers a better idea what they’re about to read.
11. Don’t copy content, such as recipes or photos, from other bloggers. If you are thrilled with a recipe and want to try it out, make it your own and provide your photos.
The motivation to food blogging
Following are suggestions for topics suitable for food bloggers. You may not cover them all at once, or regularly, but there should be a common thread to your blog. Use this list when you have writer’s block and want ideas for what to write about next:
* Recipes and re-visiting recipes
* Seasonal foods
* International cuisine you’re trying out
* Restaurant, product, cookbook or market reviews
* Kitchen layouts – tweaks you’ve done to your kitchen that make it work better for you
* Festive meals – how you choose the menu, seating, table setting, music, etc.
* Kitchen tips and tricks
* Cooking classes, courses, accreditations
* Hot deals, sales and coupons
Don’t just use text. Provide images, videos and links.
Tasty photos of tasty dishes
It’s very important to provide rich and vivid visual content. Your readers will be attracted by the food photography on your blog and you’ll need clear illustrations for your recipes.
Even for the blogger debutante, it’s pretty easy to take decent-quality food photos, if you follow some basic advice:
* Lighting should be uniform, with no unnecessary shadows, blurred areas or stark contrasts.
* Make sure you’ve cleaned your tabletop! And unless decoration is key to your photos, don’t distract your readers with unnecessary background elements.
* Take photos of all relevant steps, but don’t overdo it. Adding one more egg yolk to the mixer is not photo-worthy, but the general step of kneading is.
* Make a mental map of the steps you’re about to photograph. Write them on a post-it note, if needed, to avoid having to redo steps you’ve already completed.
Which of the following topics do you cover in your food blog?
Drinks (wine, spirits, etc.)
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* If possible, keep the same focal distance and lighting conditions for all your shots. Unless you shoot macros of food details, you need to keep your readers’ attention focused.
* Before taking each photo, make sure your hands and prep area are pristine and adjust lighting as necessary.
* Don’t over-edit. If you need to, adjust levels and crop out distracting materials.
* Save at a resolution of 72dpi. This is enough for the web and you won’t have to worry about how long a page with a number of photos takes to load.
* Save in *.jpg or *.png formats—they’re rendered the best online.
Forgot anything about your photos? Do you need to rotate, crop, resize, rename? The good news is many of these actions can be performed directly from your WordPress dashboard!
WordPress was first released on May 27 in 2003 by its founders Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little under licensed GPLv2 with released version was 0.7. Currently the version has reached the number of 4.7.1 which was released on January 11, 2017
The WordPress platform consists of two areas: your blog’s front end and back end. The front end is what your visitors will see when they come to your blog. Many of the tasks performed in the back end will be visible on the front end, such as theme customizations, plugin functionality enhancements and content publication. There are also actions that can be performed by you and your visitors directly from the front end of the blog, including commenting and social sharing.
The back end, known as the WordPress dashboard, allows you to fully manage your blog’s content, community, functionality and design. It is accessible only by users who you designate and assign an account on your blog. In order to access your WordPress dashboard, you need to type: example.com/wp-admin in the address bar of your browser and log in using your WordPress username and password.
Navigating the dashboard
Watch a quick demo (4:03)
The Dashboard is the center of blog administration. It consists of three main parts: left side menu, top toolbar and middle section.
The left-hand column of your WordPress dashboard is where you’ll find all of your admin options and where most of your creative effort will be focused. This column includes menu options for each of the following functional areas:
Find updates to the WordPress platformalong with plugins and themes you have installed.
View all posts (blog content), add a new post, view and create categories, view and create tags.
View your media library (images, documents and other file uploads) and upload new files.
View and add new static pages to your blog.
Comment manager where you will approve or delete new comments on blog posts and pages.
Manage themes, customize your blog design (dependent upon theme), manage widgets, manage menu items and edit your blog’s header (dependent upon theme).
Manage and add new plugins to enhance WordPress functionality.
Manage users, add new users and update your WordPress profile (name, password, and details).
Tools to import and export content to and from your WordPress blog.
Edit general blog settings, writing settings, reading settings, discussion (comment) settings, media settings and permalinks (URL formatting for your blog).
In addition to the general menu items in the left hand column mentioned above, you’ll also find menu options for plugins you have installed. Depending on the plugin’s purpose and coding, it’s settings can be added to any standard menu (posts, pages, comments, appearance, plugins, users, tools or settings) or as a new menu item anywhere in the left-hand column.
A closer look at each area of a dashboard
Watch a quick demo (1:06)
WordPress, like any popular CMS, releases both minor and major updates to their platform in order to introduce new features, fix bugs and increase security. In the past, you would be given the choice to update to the latest version of WordPress through your Dashboard using a one-click install process or by downloading the latest version and installing it yourself.
For anyone who has WordPress 4.3 or above, updates to the core WordPress platform are automatically installed on your website. You are still responsible for updating your plugins and themes when updates become available. If you don’t want WordPress to automatically update the core of their platform, you can find directions on how to configure automatic updates in the WordPress Codex.
Watch a quick demo (5:15)
The Posts menu allows you to control the new content you add to your blog. Blog posts are published on your blog in descending order (newest first). In the Posts menu, you will find the following options:
on WordPress sites around the world
A list all of your posts in the dashboard. You can use the listing to quickly edit single or multiple post categories, tags, status, author and ability to comment.
This is where you go to add a new post to your blog.
Watch a quick demo (1:42)
Your WordPress installation comes with a unique media manager. With it, you can upload rich media content and assign it to posts, pages, sidebars and headers—anything from photos and videos to audio files. Media can be previewed, added, edited or deleted. In the Media menu, you will find the following options:
View all of the media uploaded to your WordPress blog.
Add new media to your WordPress blog.
Watch a quick demo (3:09)
Pages provide static content or information to the readers. Standard pages that WordPress bloggers use include: About, Contact, Advertise, Products, Services and Resources. The following options are available on the Pages menu, you will find the following options:
A list of all pages in the dashboard. You can use the listing to quickly edit single or multiple pages’ status, author, parent, template and ability to comment.
Add new pages to your blog.
Posts vs. Pages
Watch a quick demo (1:41)
Your blog content will be displayed in pages and posts. While they have similarities, they serve different purposes and have different behaviors.
They both have the following in common:
- A title/headline and specific content.
- Meta information (author, date of publishing, etc.).
- They can be added, deleted, updated or edited.
- They will be available for everyone or only a limited number of users based on your choice of settings.
- They can contain anything from plain text to media-rich content (video, audio, photo, links, etc.).
- They can be altered or extended via plugins.
- What sets posts and pages apart:
Pages are generally not a part of your main blog’s content. For example, if you have a travel blog, you would write posts about your latest travels. You would reserve pages for things that relate to you and the blog, such as a page with information about you or a page with a contact form to contact you.
Posts are part of your main blog’s content. They will show up as new entries within your blog and your RSS feed (Rich Site Summary is a web feed used to distribute information from your blog to subscribers.) Pages will only be displayed when you link to them directly and never within your RSS feed.
Watch a quick demo (1:36)
The Comments feature is the best way to manage reader interaction. It allows readers to add comments on the topic, ask questions and provide feedback. It allows you and your readers to stay engaged with the community and interact around your specific niche market. Both blog posts and pages can accept comments. Most WordPress themes come equipped with comment layout functionality. However, it is up to you to engage with your readers and encourage them to leave comments on your blog. Check for new comments regularly. Approve them promptly and reply to them as needed.
In the Comments section, you will have the ability to moderate comments, including approving them, marking them as spam or deleting them entirely.
Watch a quick demo (2:20)
This menu is where most of the activity of changing the design and layout of your blog will take place. Here you can search for and install new themes and make additional customizations to your blog’s header image, colors and background.
In the Appearance menu, you will find the following options: (We’re presenting options that are commonly available. Keep in mind that options will vary, depending on the theme you choose.)
Themes – This is where you can search for themes on the WordPress network or install themes you have downloaded from elsewhere. We will talk about theme selection momentarily.
Watch a quick demo (2:05)
Customize – Depending on the theme you have chosen, you will be able to use the Customize sectionto make changes to the theme’s design in a visual editor. Things that can be customized include: Title and Tagline, Color, Background Image, Static Front Page, and Featured Content.
Watch a quick demo (1:51)
Widgets – Widgets are boxes you can add to various areas of your WordPress blog. Depending on the theme you have chosen, this can include the homepage, header, sidebar and footer. Adding widgets is a simple task, and it works using a drag & drop building experience. Widgets can showcase a social media links, a search bar, subscription links, about text for the blog, most recent posts, most recent comments, links to other blogs you like, and more.
Watch a quick demo (2:09)
Menus – Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can create one or more menus that will appear horizontally in your header.
Watch a quick demo (2:40)
Header – Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can upload a graphic at a specific size (determined by your theme) which will be displayed at the top of your blog.
Watch a quick demo (1:18)
Background – Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can change background colors or upload your own background image.
Watch a quick demo (1:12)
Editor – The editor is for advanced users and involves code knowledge. It gives you the option of editing theme code for specific functionality and design changes. Because visitors will be able to immediately see any changes that you save in your theme’s code, it’s usually safer to edit copies of your files offline, test, and upload your changes when they are verified. If you are going to use editor, always make sure you backup current version of your blog before editing your files. If there is a problem, you can always upload a previous version of the code to fix it.
Watch a quick demo (1:16)
More on themes (blog’s design and layout)
The first thing your blog’s front end needs is a face (design and layout). You want to create an environment that is both eye-catching and practical. In the long run, you want your visitors to easily find information on your blog. You don’t want visitors to be discouraged by the colors you choose or the non-intuitive and unpractical way in which information is displayed. Your design can cause instant distrust of your blog or instant acceptance.
Start your search for a theme as soon as your WordPress platform is installed. The look and feel of your blog relies on the theme you choose. Your readers will first notice the overall appearance of the blog, before even taking a look at the content. Choose a theme that looks great, but also works for your unique content needs. The default theme that comes with your WordPress blog installed is Twenty Seventeen—while it’s a good starter theme, you’ll want to choose a theme that is more unique to your blog and compatible with your niche.
Here’s a quick checklist for choosing your theme by searching within blog dashboard:
- Read the descriptionMost themes come with a short description of features and functionality. By reading it, you should have a rough idea if the theme matches your needs and how customizable it is.
- Preview the themePreview the theme to get an idea of the overall look and layout.
- Check the ratingsPopular themes will have star ratings that are visible in the preview and under theme details. They should give you a clear idea how good the theme is.
- Check for responsivenessAim for a responsive design that will work on desktop browsers and mobile devices. This is recommended by Google.
If you find a theme that takes your breath away, cool down. Once you install a theme you like, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t look quite right. Your theme is just a skeleton of your blog.To make it appealing, you’ll have to fill in content (text, photos, videos, etc.). Earlier, we showed you how to add content to your blog.
Free, premium, and custom themes
For many visionary novice bloggers, the world is not enough. The stash of free themes (more than two thousand themes are available on wordpress.org) does not satisfy their particular desire for look and feel. There are two other options you can take a look at, premium and custom themes. But they incur a cost, sometimes a tiny one, at other times a huge amount.
For the most part, it’s hard to choose the right theme from such a wide variety. At FirstSiteGuide, we’re doing our best to make that process easier for you.
Premium themes are created by both single developers and dedicated showcase websites. Top sources for premium themes that are worth checking include StudioPress, Elegant Themes, Themefuse, Thesis, WooThemes, Cssigniter Themes and ThemeForest. The price range for a single-use licenses ranges from $30 to $500, depending on which premium theme you choose.
Prospective revenue from usage of a WordPress theme from ThemeForest
Breakdown by amount earned
Custom themes are created by an individual developer (coder and designer, or agency) who will either customize an existing theme or create a brand new theme for you. While coming with clear-cut advantages, they are not the ideal choice for beginner bloggers due to their high cost. Prices to customize a theme range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the features you want.
Examples of good free and premium themes
Based on our experience, we recommend the following free and premium themes for new bloggers.
You can find different premium themes online from the resources mentioned earlier. We recommend you to check the themes series from StudioPress. Their services and support are top notch and all of their themes are highly customizable. Here are three themes that are suited for the blog:
Now, let’s look at the areas in your WordPress dashboard where you can do most of your customizations.
Watch a quick demo (2:15)
Plugins are bundled pieces of code which affect the way your blog looks or feels. They can add new functionality to your blog, extend your theme’s capabilities, and customize your blog as a whole or in part.
While a majority of plugins are free, there are plenty that are offered for a fee based on their unique functionality.
List of recommended plugins for new bloggers
To save you time, we’ve selected some important plugins for your immediate blogging needs. They cover many aspects of your blogging experience, enhance the functionality of your blog and make it more professional and attractive to your readers.
Google Analytics – The top choice when it comes to monitoring and analyzing your website traffic.
Contact Form 7 – A contact form with flexible email options.
Disqus Commenting System – An alternative to the basic WordPress comment system with advanced administrative and comment capabilities.
Yoast SEO – A comprehensive SEO plugin for your blog. The best out there for free.
WP Super Cache – Helps with the load time of your WordPress blog.
Akismet – Protection from comment spam (you won’t need this if you go with Disqus for comments).
YARPP – Creates a related posts list at the end of each of your posts automatically to encourage people to continue browsing your site.
Authors Widget – A great way to display multiple authors and their activity on-site.
Additional menu options
Watch a quick demo (2:08)
This section allows you to add new users to your WordPress blog, customize your own user profile, and edit users you have added to your WordPress blog. You can assign each user the following roles:
Able to perform all actions on the blog. This should be reserved for you as the site owner and only those you trust highly with your blog as they have the power to do anything, including lock you out of your own site.
Access and edit all posts, pages, comments, categories, tags, and links.
Publish and edit articles, posts, and upload media.
Write and edit own posts, but is not able to publish without consent.
Can only read and comment on posts or pages
Watch a quick demo (1:50)
With tools you are able to execute some extended tasks on your WordPress blog.
This section comes with pre-installed option called “Press This” that provides a quick and easy way to clip text, images and videos from any site and share them on your blog. Under “Press This,” there is also a categories-to-tags converter.
Enables to import data from other blogging platforms into WordPress.
Enables to export blog content which can later be imported into new WordPress installation. It is a very useful way to backup your blog content.
Watch a quick demo (2:44)
This menu contains all of the settings options for your WordPress site.
Configure basic options for your WordPress site, including the site name, description, URL, timezone, date format and main administrator email.
Set default categories and post formats for your content. WordPress will automatically assign a category and format if you don’t.
Set the home page for your site (either a static page or the latest blog posts), the number of blog posts on your homepage and archives, the number of items in your RSS feed, and whether you want to show your full post or a summary in your RSS feed.
Control how comments are received on your blog. The optimum setting is to moderate all new-comment authors and automatically approve comments by previously approved comment authors. Also hold in moderation comments with multiple links as this is a sign of a spammer.
Customize the default sizes for images uploaded to your blog.
Customize the URL structure for your blog. The best option is to have a structure that allows keywords from your post/page titles to be implemented into your URL, also known as the post name structure.