I’ve been planning for a while to write a post about how to start up a food blog, and how to make it a successful fulfilling one. But before I get into the nitty gritty I must say – when it comes to blogging and any other social media: success is a matter of opinion and perspective. You might consider a successful blog one that connects you to a few new people with whom you create special bonds, or you might consider it one that ends up bringing in additional income. Maybe you just want an online portfolio of your work, and to be able to use this as an extension of your resume so-to-speak. Maybe you just want a means to share recipes with your family members and friends. Whichever your motives in starting up a food blog may be, I hope the tips and pointers in this post help you get off to a positive start, and that this article at the very least helps you get your brain around what’s involved, so you have a little more confidence in building your blog-baby.
There are many many things to consider and decide upon when you’re building a blog from the ground up, but the first thing you need to decide is why are you doing this? What is the number one purpose for this blog, is it just recipe sharing? Is it photography and recipe testing you want to work with? Is it restaurant reviews you want to share, or do you want to share all that exotic stuff you’ve been eating lately? Whatever your motive: identify it. It may be that you want to accomplish more than one of these things, that’s okay too – but have a clear idea in your head of what your purpose is in creating this extension of yourself. The decisions that come after this will be much easier once you’ve defined your goal.
Personal hobby = casual effort.
Business intentions = professional effort
Choosing a Platform
The two most popular blogging platforms are Google’s Blogger, and WordPress, though of course there are others as well. Both of these platforms will provide you with a basic blogging experience for free, with paid upgrades available for an array of different things such as themes and other customization. You can also manage your own styling with the use of HTML, but that’s a post for another day as I’m still learning that stuff for myself. Both Blogger and WordPress are widely praised but if you’re looking for a more streamlined professional website with lots of free theme options: I’d highly recommend WordPress. Where WP costs you more in time spent creating: it pays you back tenfold in appearance and functionality. When tagged and titled properly your posts are easily found in Google searches, showing off your writings and images to viewers who search for similar content. I’ve come across my own work while doing Google Image and recipe searches many times over. Either way – if you’re not sure you should check out both, sign up for free, and try creating the same post with each platform. See which you prefer when it comes to managing your own content, and the appearance of the posts afterward. If you’re having issues with learning how to create posts with WP you can sift through tons of help threads in the WP universe, there’s tons of assistance out there. You can also shoot me a message and I can give you some basic assistance.
Styling Your Content
Once you’ve narrowed down your blog-purpose or intention and settled on a platform, it’s time to decide on an aesthetic for your site. This may sound unimportant to you but trust me: the style and first-glance look of your blog are the first impression you make on your readers. If you’re not looking to gain a following and you just want to share recipes with friends, then of course it’s less important. Play around with the available themes within your chosen platform and see what you think makes most sense with your content.
Are you looking for something bold and graphic? Something clean and crisp? What’s the specific topic of your blog? If it’s recipe sharing you’re into then a clean looking streamlined design is what will work best for you. Keep in mind that you want to keep viewers attention on the food and content, so less distraction is best. It took me many months to settle on a theme and style that I felt suited my content best, and I assure you this will be the same for you.
Keep in mind too – that your intention in writing a food blog will determine which theme you end up using, especially in regards to WordPress. One theme may show an easy-click link-back to previous or next recipes, which will encourage further browsing. Another theme may display images in a format that is more, or less flattering. Some themes allow for nice wide side bars and footers where you can display other info such as contact details, archives, links to other social media, and a laundry list of other items. While you’re viewing samples of the themes be sure you click and scroll around and see what you’re gaining or losing in switching from one theme to the next. Each theme is styled and designed for different blog purposes, so not all will work aesthetically or functionally well for you.
I’m currently using WordPress’s UBUD (paid) theme.
Get a notebook. Or better yet: the Evernote App. Start jotting down all of your post ideas, however tiny or silly they may seem in the moment. The first step in getting inspired to write good content is writing down your ideas. Sometimes one really great sentence can start an avalanche of thoughts that end up stringing themselves together into a really intriguing and original piece. Try to include tidbits of yourself in your posts, even if you’re just sharing a recipe or reviewing some crazy looking, deep fried, tentacle laden, plate of food. People want to see you in your content no matter if it’s friends and family or your readers on the other side of the globe. This one was brought to my attention rather loudly in recent months! Try not to get lazy. Don’t write an effortless, uninspired post just for the sake of putting your content out in the blogverse. Nobody appreciates this. Don’t underestimate your viewers and make the mistake of thinking they can’t see your lack of care. They see it. Make every post count. If you have nothing to say today then say nothing. Keep it real people. And keep it original.
Now of course the first few times you post you’ll feel rather silly. You don’t know how or where to begin. You don’t know if you sound foolish or if you’re boring us all half to death. But guess what? That’s fine. Just tell us a bit about who you are and why you’re “here”, and we’ll appreciate you. Tell us what you like, what made you want to start a website of your own, and what you hope to accomplish. That’s a good start. Once you do it a time or two it will feel more easy, more natural.
Take the leap!
Once you’ve posted something and gotten yourself situated with a blog that looks the way you like – start browsing other people’s content and commenting on their work. See what other people are doing with similar topics and start building a blogverse community around yourself. The more you follow others and get involved with blog-world networking the more others will join you in your quest. You can follow others within Blogger and WordPress and you can also try Bloglovin’ which allows you to get updates from multiple blogs and sites from around the web that may not be affiliated with Blogger, WP, etc. WordPress definitely has the largest community of online blogger/sharers, and they even have their own admin favorites shared daily on their homepage. Original content always gets noticed and WP admin are great about sharing blogs that have great substance and deserve more attention.
If you’re looking to gain a following and make more of a business out of your blog: make sure accessibility is a priority. Make sure you create live links in your posts to share other content or reference other sites and information. Make sure readers are easily directed to past articles you’ve written, other social media accounts you may have, and contact information. Write a great profile piece for yourself with an additional “About Me” page, so readers can really get a sense of you and feel a connection with what you’re working to achieve.
If you’re looking to create business for yourself with your blog, I highly suggest creating a separate email address just for your blog. Include this in your contact information and make it obvious in multiple places. Make sure those who want to contact you can find your info easily.
Watch your P’s and Q’s. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Make sure you have proper blogger etiquette! Reply to comments. Thank viewers for taking the time to sift through your work. Answer their questions. Give them a shout out. Ask them questions! There are a million ways to engage your readers, and you want them to keep coming back. If they feel like you ignore them when they take the time to write to you and comment on your work – they might not bother sticking around. People like interaction and half the fun of food blogging is sharing information and inspiration, so get chatting.
As we all know, when it comes to food: imagery is king. A great looking dish captured in a yellowed out-of-focus image isn’t going to keep anyone scrolling, so work on your photography skills. You don’t have to have professional looking photos to keep your viewers interested, but learning how to use focus and depth of field to capture an enticing meal in a creative way will make a world of difference. Learn how to take photos of food with natural light to show it off. Buy yourself a tripod and get those shots extra sharp and focused. Try taking photos from the side, from the top, and with relevant ingredients surrounding the subject. If you’re not into developing your photography skills much that’s ok, just keeping these few things in mind will ensure your images, at the very least, don’t suck completely!
Having an SLR camera is obviously an asset here, but you don’t have to have one. Any decent quality point and shoot can take images good enough for a food blog so long as they have the option to control the shooting settings. Play with your depth of field by setting your A (aperture) to a low number (which will widen the diaphragm that allows light to enter the camera through the lens) to focus on parts of the subject while blurring the background. This paired with a good source of natural light alone will take your images from drab to interesting.
The use of a tripod allows you change the settings in your camera to capture more interesting images, without having to worry about camera shake. Camera shake most often occurs in low light, or where you’re using high aperture numbers (smaller diaphragm hole where the light enters the camera) because the camera knows to keep the shutter open long enough that it captures enough light to expose the image well. This means the shutter is open sometimes too long and movement made with the camera during these seconds (or even milliseconds) creates blur.
Seriously, get a tripod!
There are hundreds of tips and pointers for blogging beginners, but the best thing I can tell you is to browse, browse, browse! Check out as many blogs and websites as you can, and find as much content that you aspire to as you can. Get inspired by the work of other people and start trying out new things. Don’t look at someone else’s work and think “oh I could never make mine look that lovely”, think “wow, hey, how can I make my work look this great? Where can I find the tools and gain the skills to make this happen”. Quite often it’s easier than you think.
It always takes time to build something like this. It took me two years to compile my recipe index of nearly 130 recipes, and I still look back on old posts and cringe at the corny things I wrote or the horrid images I thought were so cool. We improve if we keep working.
Best of luck in your blogging adventures, and be sure to give us a shout out if you’re new in these woods!
And PS …. this is my 160th WordPress post! You too can become a blogging addict!