Are you feeling the call to share your recipes with the world? Here's a quick overview of how to start a food blog. Whether you want to write about food for a hobby or try to make a little extra money, I'll share everything you need to get started. It's gonna be awesome.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.
Perhaps I'm the worst person in the world to be writing a post about how to start a food blog. I'm certainly not going to try to tell you how to make a lot of money off your blog because I haven't figured that out myself yet. But if you want to create a food blog out of pure passion for food and writing, I know how to do that.
I started "How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day" back in 2013 and have been writing it off and on ever since. At the end of 2019, I made the shift to make my blog more professional. In this post, you'll find everything you need to know to get your blog up and running, plus some recommendations for a couple of premium features if you think you'd like to monetize your site.
Set up your website
The first thing you'll need to do is set up your actual website. You have a couple of options. If you think you simply want a pure hobby blog to keep track of your favorite recipes and easily share them with friends and family, you can get yourself up and running in about 15 minutes with a free WordPress.com website. Choose a theme and start posting.
You'll have limited control over the look and feel of your site, and you won't be allowed to run ads. But if you want to try out blogging for a little while before you make an investment in a self-hosted site, this is a great way to do it. I recommend starting with WordPress.com rather than another free option because if you do decide to have your own website later, you're gonna want to run it on WordPress.org. It's much easier to migrate all your content if you're already on that platform. Plus, you will have already learned a lot about how to run things.
The term self-hosted is actually a little bit misleading. Unless you're Hilary Clinton, you probably don't actually have a server in your house. In this sense, self-hosted just means that you have your own domain and pay for your own hosting elsewhere, and then you use WordPress.org as the platform to create your site.
I'll be honest, I had my much more techy husband set up all this for me, but it's pretty easy. The first thing you'll need to do is decide on a name, then purchase the domain. Picking the right blog name is a whole other subject. Just make sure you google it and check socials like Instagram and Twitter to make sure no one else has a similar name.
Choosing a host
You can purchase a domain name from sites like GoDaddy for cheap, but it's probably best to Google some good deals and see what you can get. Sometimes you can get a discount on a domain name and a year's hosting. Do your research first, though. After your deal is up, the price will go way up, so consider more than just the initial cost if you think you'd like to keep your site going.
Geoff (my spectacularly awesome husband) says it's easiest to buy your domain and hosting together from the same provider. If you already own your domain name, you can switch to another host, but it's a bit complicated. Not impossible, but not a simple flip of a switch.
For hosting, a lot of people start out with Bluehost. They're very affordable for entry level plans. We use SiteGround, and they've been very easy to work with. Geoff chose them when we needed an upgrade from GoDaddy because they had the best reviews. The security seems good and the support is more professional. Shop around a little and see what's right for you.
Getting it up and running
Once you've got a website and a server to host it, you can install WordPress onto your site through your host. The specific instructions for that are different based on the hosting service, but you should be able to Google it pretty easily. Then all you need to do is log in to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and you'll be able to create content in WordPress that will publish to your domain.
There are a bajillion great tutorials out there on how to use WordPress, but I've always found it pretty intuitive. You don't really need to know any coding to create a beautiful site. Once you get more advanced and want some customisation, you may need to learn some code or work with a developer to create the site of your dreams.
Start Creating Content
Once you've got your website set up, all that's left to do is start creating content. Of course, that's no small thing, and hitting publish on your first post can be a bit nerve wracking. Don't worry about it too much. Just be yourself. WordPress makes it really easy to customise your site with theme cusomisations and plugins. You could spend ages getting it looking just right, but all of that is useless if you don't produce any content that people want to read.
If you're going to post recipes, you'll need a recipe plugin. This allows you to make your recipes easy to read, and it also does all the magic coding in the background that lets Google and other search engines know you're posting a recipe. There are lots of free recipe card options. I've used Recipe Card Block by WPZoom in the past and found it to be an easy to use free option.
I currently use a premium plugin called Tasty Recipes, and I absolutely love it. It has everything I need to include all the information that both my readers and Google are looking for to make my recipes easy to follow. It also works beautifully with another service I use called Nutrifox. If you've ever wondered how I get those little nutrion information cards at the bottom of each recipe, this is it. If you're ready to invest a little money in making your food blog look more professional, I can definitely recommend both of these for your recipes.
A few gorgeous photos never hurt anything
I realize no one's clamouring for photography advice from me, but if you're a beginner, maybe there's a little bit you'll want to know. Yes, you can use your phone to take photos for your blog. I'd advise sticking to overhead photos, aka flat lays. Other angles on phone cameras are not quite as flattering.
If you already have a dSLR camera, get it out now. I'm still using my entry-level Canon camera that I bought way back in 2014, but this year I bought a 50 mm lens, and it's made a big difference. You could spend thousands on camera equipment, but this is as far as I've gone.
I also invested in a few nice backdrops and props this year that I think have elevated my photos without having to take up a ton of space. I love Black Velvet Styling for backdrops and Wilbur and Wolf for linens. Both of these small, woman-owned businesses also use plastic-free packaging for all their products, which I love.
Promote your posts
So you've taken some great photos, written up your recipe, and published a beautiful blog post. If you want people to read it, though, you have to tell people it's there. If you don't care who reads it, you can skip all this. Here are some of the tools I use to help get more eyeballs on my blog.
I use CoSchedule to schedule out all of my Facebook and Twitter posts. It can actually help you schedule pretty much everything to do with running an online business, but I mainly use it for social sharing. I love that it integrates with WordPress so that I can create social messages at the same time as writing the post.
My Pinterest scheduler is Tailwind. They're an approved Pinterest partner, so you know there won't be any hassle with the algorithm. They make scheduling pins so simple, it barely takes up any of my time.
I also use a premium plugin called Tasty Pins to help optimise my images for both Pinterest and SEO. This is definitely more of a "blog as a business" sort of thing, but it's really cool. It allows me to set up my Pinterest description separate from my alt tag, block certain images from being pinned, easily upload hidden pins, and set a default pin description for every image.
For Instagram, I use Planoly to visually plan my grid and write out my captions ahead of time. I also love that you can save groups of hashtags and add them to a caption with a single click. The free version gets you 30 uploads a month which works great for me.
I also use Link in Profile to create a unique link directly back to my site for every Instagram post. It's so simple to use and makes it much easier for my Instagram followers to find my recipes.
Maybe make a little money
Right, this is the part that I need a lot of work on. I'm still working on growing my audience and making more money on my blog. But if you're just starting out and you want to monetize right away, here's what I've tried so far.
Google Adsense will take almost anyone. There's no minimum traffic requirement. I think you just need to meet some minimum decency standards and be 18. Oh, and you need to own your own site. Check for the details, but you can probably get approved pretty easily. The pay is not great, but it's slightly better than nothing.
The Amazon affiliate program is pretty easy to get approved for as well. Again, you have to own your website and meet some minimum decency requirements, but it's easy to use. It's much harder to actually make money with it. Maybe you'll be more lucky than me.
ShareASale is also pretty easy to get into. You sign up for the affiliate network then apply for individual merchants that interest you within the network. Again, I have yet to make any money, but I'm not a very aggressive sales person.
Something cool that I've invested in to help with my affiliate sales is Tasty Links. This is another premium plugin (I got a really good deal y'all). It allows me to automatically turn certain keywords within my text into affiliate links. Pretty smart, eh? It also incorporates with Tasty Recipes (they're all from the same company, WP Tasty) so you can put affiliate links for kitchen equipment right into your recipe card.
Oof, that was a lot of information, and it makes food blogging seem like a lot of work. It certainly can be. This is not yet my full-time job, but I probably spend at least 20 hours a week produing content for my blog, promoting it, and tidying up technical stuff. Some of it is a struggle, but mostly, I don't feel like I'm working. I still write this blog after more than seven years because I actually enjoy doing it. I hope it can be my full-time job someday.
If you want to get serious about blogging, I just want to recommend one more thing. By far the best investment I made in my blog in the past year was to become a Food Blogger Pro member. This is an incredible resource and a truly positive community. Every time I think I've hit a wall, there's an answer on Food Blogger Pro.
Maybe I shouldn't be encouraging the competition, but I have so much fun creating my food blog, I want everyone to join in. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or leave a comment. I love nerding out about this stuff, and I don't get the opportunity very often. I hope your food blog adventure is truly awesome.