Start your own Food Blog
How to Start a Food Blog in 5 Steps
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So you have decided that you want to start a food blog! That makes the "choosing a niche" part of the equation almost solved! Many people will tell you that the first step to having a blog is to find something you really like so your chances to stick to it are higher. I love photography and food so decided to start a food blog mostly as a creative outlet.
A Little Background
I started FoodieFoodMood at the beginning of 2017, and it finally came into existence on June 7th, 2017. I've been trying to switch careers since 2012. I'm a graphic designer, with too many years of experience and sometimes I feel like I have run out of ideas. My choice was to move to photography, as it is a passion of mine, but couldn't manage to get myself together and had no idea where to start. Back to 2016, I turned again to photography as a way to ease my anxiety, as I was going through a rough time at work, and so food photography turned into my therapy. I was enjoying taking pictures, and posting them to Instagram, occasionally Facebook, and then, at the beginning of 2017, I was offered a job as a designer for a food blog, one I couldn't accept due to location. This got me thinking: "so people actually make enough money blogging to pay for designers?" And started my research to see how to go about a blog.
But I was intimidated! All those food blogs are filled with beautiful pictures, and I thought I couldn't compete with them! But guess what? I don't have to compete with them. What I do is unique, and so is what they do! There is enough space for all of us to grow. So I spent the following 6 months preparing a portfolio, taking food photography workshops, writing some recipes. There was a lot of going back and forth because I was indecisive about blogging in Spanish or English. And I wasn't feeling quite ready but on June 7th I hit "publish".
I love this blog so much. It's almost as it has its own personality, or maybe there is a little bit of me showing up there that I didn't know existed. For that I am grateful. I have been forced to get out of my comfort zone to "network", which means interacting with people (a thing that as a serious, very serious introvert I avoid at all costs), and it's been good. The community is very supportive and I have found nothing but encouragement and people willing to help. FoodieFoodMood makes me happy. So my blog is also helping me to grow on a personal level.
Of course, I am no expert, and I'm still learning, but I can tell you what worked for me. The Internet and the blogosphere are full of noise so it is up to you to look for what's best for your particular case.
How I Started my Food Blog
If you want to start a food blog it means that you already have chosen a niche and in my opinion, the more specific your niche is, the better. For instance, your food blog can be a healthy food blog, a vegan blog, a desserts blog, etc. I have to say that the word "niche" it is not one of my favourites, I feel it's one of those words that are so overused that it seems to have lost its meaning. Regardless, you do need a niche, it will make it easier for you to stick to your blogging goals if you are already in love with what you want to talk about. I decided that the focus of my blog would be pop culture, and occasionally throwing a random post about travel places or other interests I might have. Doing so that way I feel that makes you a real person and people can have a connection with you.
After I made my decision, I followed these 5 steps:
1. I bought a domain name and found a host. Some hosting companies offer you plans with the domain name included, the trick is that you have to pay a lot of money in advance. I wasn't able to do that so I chose a monthly option and brought them separately. I didn't do much research about where to buy the domain name and went to GoDaddy because, well, it kept popping up everywhere, stalking me with emails and following me around the Internet, so I gave in. Haven't had any problems so far, except that I was about to lose my mind while setting up G-Suite, but that is another story.
Here are some other places where you can you buy a domain name:
👎 BlueHost.com: You might have heard that many bloggers like BlueHost. At the beginning of my research, I did try to get on board with them, but I felt cheated. They advertise prices for hosting, including domain name and other extras as low as $2.95 per month. The problem, for me, at least, is that this money has to be paid annually, and for you to take advantage of the offer, you must buy a 60-month plan, not for me.
👍 GoDaddy.com: I bought my domain name with GoDaddy, it cost me $24 for a year and I chose to have a private domain as I didn't want my personal details flying around the Internet. I have no complains so far, except for how difficult was for me to set up G-Suite. If you decide to go ahead with GoDaddy, they include a free website builder trial.
👍 Namecheap.com: Is another popular option for bloggers. They offer Wordpress hosting.
👍 Porkbun.com: I got to know this website thanks to a design newsletter to which I've been subscribed for ages. They have a great variety of domain extensions, like "design", "dating", "accountant". Also, free WhoIs privacy, free SSL certificate and free site builder.
For the hosting site, I did do my homework. I searched for the best option (note that I am talking in personal terms: the best option for me might not be for you). I started with Wordpress, because, well, everybody was there. But, I hated it. I hated the templates, I hated the messy dashboard, I hated the themes. To be honest I don't know how people get around there so well; I couldn't. Wordpress isn't for me (at least not at this point in my journey). So I went with Squarespace: their themes are clean, the interface is super intuitive, the analytics rock, and it's affordable. I currently have a monthly plan and an email plan with G-Suite, and it works for me. If you decide to go for this, I can help you personalise a bit your theme, but their interface is extremely easy to navigate.
2. I made my blog pretty: Hire a Designer vs. DIY. Having a clean and presentable blog is more important than you'd think, and I'm telling you this as a professional designer. Having a cohesive brand is going to help you find your ideal customer. You are doing something you love, but wouldn't it be great if you could profit from it? Many people undermine the value of great design by thinking all they have to do is put some colours together and find some free icon online and that's that. There are many resources out there to help you out, but none is going to be as valuable as the help of a professional. This is something I can help you out with, as I've been a designer and working with branding and web since 2005. Feel free to drop me a line!
3. I took an interest in data. You want Google to find you! I think the ultimate goal for a website owner is to get a constant flow of traffic coming from search engines. Google will guide you through the process of setting up the code on your website. Also, make sure you use Google and Bing Webmasters tools, to gain insight into optimization and best practices. I noticed recently that I am getting referral traffic from Yandex.ru. If you are like me and don't know what is that, it is a search engine like Google, but mostly used by people in Eastern Europe and Russia, who knew! Sometimes your blog decides where to take you. So I created an account there, just in case.
4. I created my social media channels. You might think you know everything there is to know about social media, but believe me, you don't (or if you are under 25, you probably do). To give you an example, I've been using Pinterest for ages. Only when I started blogging I realised I knew nothing about it. I didn't take into account if somebody was repining my pins, I didn't even know how many followers I got. Facebook is also mighty: most of my traffic is coming from there. I decided not to create new accounts for Pinterest and Instagram and just keep my personal ones, but then again, do what feels good to you. My decision was based mostly on the fact that I already had a following on those two platforms. I also have a Twitter account, but since its inception, Twitter has been a mystery to me. Also, a word of advice: just keep the social media accounts you can manage, or the ones that are helping you grow.
5. Promote. You will hear this advice very often: 20% of the time is to create content, and 80% is to promote it. The most precious advice I can give you about promotion is to join Facebook groups. You need to advertise a lot! Trust me, that most of my efforts are going towards promotion, either growing my social media accounts or promoting my latest blog post. The communities I've joined are very supportive and have boost growth and engagement alike. You need to request to join and be active and thoughtful. Here are the ones that I love and are giving me the most right now, in no particular order:
I recently became a mod in Blogging Loving, and I accepted gladly because the group is run in an excellent manner. The members are very supportive and accountability is key on all of these groups, that is why I stay and feel encouraged to participate. You will find many, many groups of bloggers on Facebook, but be sure to look for groups that encourage accountability and reciprocation, as "link-droppers" abound!
Tools that are helping me grow
Tailwind: I have discovered that Pinterest can be a very powerful tool to drive traffic to my website. I am following all the advice I can possibly take, and I've learned that if you want results from Pinterest, you must pin, a lot. Tailwind will choose the best times to post, so you can schedule at the beginning of the week and then leave it to do its magic.
Since we are talking about Pinterest, it is very important that you get a recipe plugin, rich pins (note that is you decide to go with Squarespace like I did you will need to DIY your own code for rich pins - I will be able to help you out with that as well!) will also help you to get noticed, and, don't forget hashtags, that now is a thing over there at Pinterest!
By the way, you can get one month for FREE if you use my code!
Buffer: Similar to Tailwind, Buffer is a scheduler for your social media. I am using the free plan with no problems whatsoever. You will find that social media is very time consuming (you probably knew that already!), and sometimes it makes me think that I am spending more time than necessary on social media. Schedulers let you grab the power of content marketing, and to present in the mind of your readers. I share one post a day for Facebook, except on Mondays where I share my own content, and 4 times a day on Twitter.
They also have an "awesome plan" with which you can manage up to 10 social media account, 100 posts (the free plan offers 10) and more.
Grammarly: In case you didn't know, my first language is not English. I live in South Africa, married to a South African, so I'm very used to the language, but I am a native Spanish speaker, from the beautiful paradise that is Costa Rica. Languages have always have come easy to me, but that doesn't mean I don't make mistakes. Now that I have a blog I have to make sure that I don't make that many, and Grammarly helps a lot! I really recommend this tool to anybody whose first language is not English, or even to those native speakers, because you never know!
Envato Market: Envato has been a huge help for me over the years. They started years ago as Tuts+, a super cool place where you could learn different graphics techniques and fancy effects. It was great for me as at that time I was having a job that allowed me all kinds of creative freedom. Over time they evolved to become a marketplace, and as of now, you can even buy their very affordable Wordpress themes if Wordpress is what tickles your fancy; but not only that, you can also buy royalty free images for as little as $1, and their library is huge. Go "window shopping" to Envato and have a look at all the stuff you can find, plus, you can also enhance your learning skill with all their tutorials, which I can personally recommend!
Powered by Creative Market
Payoneer: Living in South Africa is a bit difficult to find payment options from overseas, this is mostly because of the tight regulations the government has in place when it comes to money and taxes, but I decided not to let this discourage me. I signed up with Share-a-Sale and discovered that Payoneer is a payment method accepted in South Africa. They have a cool refer-a-friend program where both you and I can earn $25 if you sign up using my code! Learn more here.
MailChimp: This is the platform I am using at the moment to send emails. It is free forever unless you want to upgrade or reach 2,000 subscribers. Last year I found that maintaining an email list was more work than I was willing to do, in spite of the recommendation of everybody and their mother about having an email list. Months later I decided to investigate how to send automated emails via RSS and that is what I'm doing at the moment, still in the process of trying and seeing what works best. I have heard about other platforms but this one is working for me at the moment, we will review when I actually have a substantial following (currently only 19!).
Google AdSense: I started to see movement in my AdSense account in September last year and since then I've been making pocket money from it! I've heard people adding Google AdSense and get it approved within 1 week. In my case, it took about a month. I thought I needed to have more traffic, or the blog needed to be a little older, but I think what Google likes are content and consistency. I have a couple of ads showing on the blog now, and although I'm happy about it, I don't put them everywhere because I know how annoying that can be. This is currently close to becoming passive income, but at the moment it is just pocket money. Regardless, it is more than I ever thought!
ShareASale: I decided to give a try to affiliate marketing, and joined ShareASale based on a recommendation and also that not living in the USA narrows your opportunities quite a lot! I think affiliate marketing is a bit better when it comes to monetizing because the commissions are higher, and you are not dependent on how much traffic you are getting. I don't know a lot about it, but I've joined Shareasale because another blogger recommended it to me. They have improved their website design so it doesn't resemble something from the 90's; very user-friendly and clean. Of course, I'm not going to join a lot of programs just to have something to show. I was happy to find some cool programs that I actually use, like Grammarly, Tailwind and Viator. I also joined Zazzle but at the moment I can't figure a way to market it.
Webfluential: If you have more than 1,000 followers on any social media you can join Webfluential, they will help you to connect with brands. I recently reached 1,000 followers on Instagram and decided to give it a try. One thing I am enjoying is their "Influencer Bootcamp", a series of emails where they teach you how to be at the top of their search engine!
Don't dismiss your education. If there is something that you don't know, either look for help from someone or take a course. I am very inclined to do everything myself, so courses are the way to go for me. I have formal training in design and photography, but thanks to the blog I took a food photography course and an SEO course. To learn is to grow! I've also taken some email courses about blogging for beginners. When it comes to blogging there are basics that we all need to master. I recommend you to take these 3 FREE courses to get you started:
Besides this, I have downloaded tons and tons of e-books about food photography, social media, business and other stuff I consider useful.
To end this, my general advice for you would be to invest in yourself and to treat your blog as a business from the beginning. Things can happen faster than you think, if you work hard, like everything in life!