Trust me, after working with clients to establish blogs across multiple niches, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
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In this post, I’ll drill down into the nuances of how to start a food blog that actually makes money. Yes, there are people who start blogs but never make any money.
Follow this guide to cut your learning curve in half and you’ll be sure to avoid that fate while having a good time in the process.
Let’s dive in.
In this walkthrough, we’ll focus on how to start a food blog using a self-hosted WordPress installation. These are the exact steps we follow when setting up a new blog.
This is obvious; you’ve already chosen a niche by settling on food blogging right? Food blogging is a huge space. You’ll have to get a bit more specific if you want to see early success. This section details how to select the right niche for your food blog.
Investment: a few hours of your time
Your domain name should be the same as your brand name or very close to it. This section will show a few tips and tricks to name your food blog and get the right domain name.
Investment: Free as part of your hosting or $10/year
Hosting can make or break your website. This section gives you a few options depending on your budget.
Investment: $3.95 up to 24.99/month
This section will point you in the right direction to get the most powerful content management system installed for your food blog (100% free).
There are a few pages you have to make in order to be on the right side of the law. I’ll walk you through those pages and resources that’ll help you make them.
The theme you choose sets you up for success and can make your life so much easier. There are high-quality WordPress themes built for food blogs. I’ll show you the best ones.
Investment: free up to $70/m
Even if you have good hosting, there are a few ways to speed up your website even more. At the same time, I’ll reveal the exact plugins we use to turn websites into Fort Knox.
There are a bunch of free tools from the major search engines that make it easier to get found by the right people. We’ll walk through how to set them up.
You probably won’t be making your own cookbook or course when you first start. Instead, I’ll show you a few places to find partners that’ll help you make money with the least amount of effort.
In this section, we’ll look at how to create compelling articles for your food blog that your audience loves, shares, and gets found on search engines. Even if you’ve got no prior experience.
Well, it’s a blog so you’ve got to start blogging right?
There are a lot of benefits associated with starting and running a successful food blog. Some of them are nice to have and some are life changing.
When you build your audience, there are tons of ways to make money from your blog. You can create courses, books, hold workshops, promote products you believe in, and use ads on your website.
The possibilities are, quite literally, endless. Many bloggers have gone before you and created a full time income in the process.
This is where blogging really shines. You get to connect and engage with passionate people from all walks of life. They want to be better cooks, discuss the nuances of food, and you’re the bridge to get them there.
How many other businesses can you start for less than $200? Not many. It’s super easy to get started with blogging and maintain your business. The only other investment is your time.
When you have a blog, the first few weeks are easy, you’re brimming with ideas. After that, you have to think harder to come up with posts. This is a good thing because it forces you to get creative in many other areas of your life.
At first glance, it seems like food blogging is a niche. It’s not. It’s more of an industry. No matter how well you write or do social media, you’ll never be able to conquer the entire food market. It’s impossible.
You know what’s not impossible?
Starting a food blog that focuses on certain aspects of food. For example, instead of food, you can do American cuisine. You can go even deeper and focus on Southern cuisine. Or you could focus on reviewing all the restaurants in and around your city or state.
Here are a few ideas about what you can focus your food blog on.
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways and niches you can make your mark in the world of food blogging. Here’s a quick trick I like to use when determining the demand in a certain niche.
Navigate to the Google Keyword Planner. You’ll need an account but it’s free. After you sign up, type in the topic you’re considering for your food blog.
From there, it’ll bring back estimates.
In the above image, I typed in Caribbean food. It told me 10,000 to 100,000 people search for that term each month which proves there’s demand. It also suggests a few more relevant topics I can talk about.
This looks promising so I’ll dive a bit deeper using a tool called SEMrush. This is a paid tool but you can get a limited amount of usage for free. I’d suggest using the paid version for a month to learn as much as you can about your niche and get solid topic ideas. The choice is yours of course and it’s not a must.
Anyways, I’m going to use this tool to get more exact numbers for my search terms before making a final decision.
Type in your main topic in the search bar. It’ll take you to the following page.
In the above screenshot, I outlined a more accurate search volume. It looks like this topic gets 22,200 unique searches a month give or take a few hundred. That means, if you start a food blog around Caribbean food, you can get that much traffic from search engines.
Of course, there are many factors involved but it gives us a good idea of what one of the search terms can fetch us. When you do this for more search terms, it really starts to add up.
Another tool I like to use is KWFinder from Mangools. It’s also free to use and will let you know how many people are searching for a specific term as well as how difficult it will be for you to get on the first page of Google.
I go deeper into niche research in this article.
Now, once you’ve chosen your niche, it’s time to choose a brand name and domain name.
This is by no means easy. I’ve named many websites poorly in the past and it’s come back to bite me. If you look at some of the most iconic brands in the world, they have nothing to do with what the company sells.
Apple sells computer hardware.
Microsoft sells computer software.
Google is a search engine.
Amazon started off selling books.
They’re short, memorable, and unique. That’s all your name needs to be. You can build a brand around it as long as it fills those criteria.
A lot of advice online will tell you to choose a name that’s descriptive or niche relevant. That’s dated advice. They can be a drawback because you won’t be able to expand into other areas later.
For example, bestcaribbeanfood.com would paint you into a corner long after you’ve outgrown your original niche. Maybe your food blog becomes wildly popular and you want to cover more than just Caribbean food. With an exact match name, you’d have to start a new website or do a rebrand. Neither option is ideal.
Sliceofyum.com is much friendlier when it comes to building a brand. Brainstorm a few names and plug them into a tool like namemesh.com to see if it’s available. If it is, they’ll ask you if you’d like to register.
Skip that step because you’ll get the domain name for free when you sign up for hosting.
Once you’ve determined the domain name is available, go ahead and secure your social profiles on the major platforms. Don’t worry about a logo, descriptions, and all that good stuff. Just make sure you secure them for when you’re ready to start growing a following.
The right host is important. Speed, reliability, and security all play a part when choosing a host. It can be complicated because there are so many options available.
When you’re first starting out, a shared hosting option with easy WordPress installation is ideal. When your blog grows, you can switch to a dedicated host. They’re much more expensive but they’re also worth it.
For starting a food blog, I recommend Bluehost.
Bluehost is a trusted hosting provider by many popular websites. They have solid customer support, an easy to use interface, affordable pricing, and are relatively fast. They have an entry plan that’ll be perfect for starting your food blog. Click here to get started with Bluehost and get a free domain in the process.
You’ll pay upfront but if you’re not happy with it then they’ll refund you within a 30-day window. That doesn’t include your domain which is registered separately and still belongs to you even if you cancel your hosting.
Here are step by step instructions for getting started with Bluehost.
Step 1. Choose a plan.
I recommend the basic plan. It has everything you need to start your food blog without unnecessary bells and whistles.
Step 2: Select your domain
You remember I told you not to register your domain? You can register it here.
Step 3: Choose a package and extras
Next, you’ll be prompted to choose your subscription term. In order to qualify for a free domain and save on the cost of registration, you’ll have to sign up for at least a year.
They’ll also prompt you to choose your add-ons. The only add-on I get for every domain is privacy protection. This prevents your personal contact information from being available in the public registry. If you skip this step, anyone on the internet can find your phone number and personal email to spam you.
Follow the prompts until you’ve finished all the necessary steps for setting up your account.
If you’re not happy with Bluehost or want to go big from the beginning, I recommend WPXhosting. They’re a dedicated WordPress host which means you’re not sharing servers with so many other people.
The service is also much more expensive with the cheapest plan coming in at $24.99. I also use this on many of my websites.
This may be the easiest part of it all. There are two ways to do this. You can use this Bluehost help article or simply reach out to their 24-hour support.
There are a few things to keep in mind:
We’ll look at a few more things to keep your blog secure in a different section.
Once you have WordPress set up, it’s important to change your permalink structure. If you skip this step, your links will look like iaexperiment.com/32432 which isn’t pretty.
You have multiple options, but I like to use the post name or keyword as the URL. Go to your WordPress dashboard > click settings > permalink settings > and change it to post name.
Every website, no matter what you do or how you do it needs a few specific pages. These protect you from legal issues, let your visitors know you’re legit, and build trust in the eyes of search engines.
This is the bare minimum.
Basically, you have to tell your visitors what you’re using their information for, which third-party services you’re sharing the data with, and how they can get the data you have about them deleted.
Please note: The generators are just a basic template. Be sure to read it and add any necessary clauses to make sure you’re fully protected.
We live in a world of choice. There are literally thousands of WordPress themes to choose from. Before I share the themes I recommend, there are a few things to take note of in a theme – especially for a food blog.
Now, you can choose a free theme or a paid theme. I suggest you go with a paid theme because they tend to have more customization options.
Anyways, here are my recommendations.
Neptune is a specialty theme for food blogs. It was built with collaboration in mind. Your visitors can register for your website and share recipes with the world (if you’re into that kind of thing). What I really like about the theme is the ability to customize it to your heart’s content.
It also comes with a module that allows you to set create recipes in a step by step format. For example, you can start with step one, add an image, move on to step two and add another image until you’re done. Your users can come around and rate recipes which give you insights into what they like and dislike.
Last (but not least), you can create customized meal plans complete with ingredients, calories, and other nutritional information.
Salt and Pepper is a beautifully designed WordPress theme with a focus on recipes. It’s mobile-optimized right out the box and comes with recipe filter, cooking methods, and ingredients list support.
It’s also optimized for SEO and boasts lightweight code that won’t slow your website down when it matters most. That doesn’t hold it back from giving you tons of customization options.
Finally, it comes with visual composer, a drag and drop builder, and one-click demo import.
It’s $58/year (optional upgrade).
This is another theme with a focus on displaying your recipes to the best of your ability. You can create recipes and place them in different categories. Your visitors can then sort and access them. In addition to that, anyone can rate the recipes so you have an idea of what’s good and what’s not.
They don’t have as many demo options as the other themes on this list but it’s just enough to get you started.
Whether you go free or premium, be sure to make it your own.
On a side note: You may want to create landing pages for the products you create and sell down the line or for list building. For that, I recommend either Leadpages or Thrive Architect. I use both depending on the project and neither one has failed me.
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world. Because of that, people are familiar with how to access the admin section. The more popular your website becomes, the more attacks you’ll face.
People will constantly attempt to break into your website to install malicious code or hold it ransom. That can be to highjack your affiliate links or to send links to websites in bad neighborhoods like porn, gambling, or pharma.
Either way, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here are a few plugins I recommend for speed, security, and optimization. They’re all free for the basic functionality which should be more than enough when you’re first starting your food blog.
Every plugin on this list can be accessed through your WP backend. Simply click on plugins > add new > and type in the name of the plugins in the search bar.
With this setup, your website will be fast, safer than most, and ready to wow your visitors.
There are a lot of tools available from Google and other search engines that help you control how your website appears in their results. In addition to that, they give you insights into what people are searching for and clicking on in relation to your website.
On the other side, Google analytics is a free tool that gives you insights into how many people are on your website, what they’re reading, and how they got there (social media, search engines, referrals, etc).
The other search engines also have tools that allow you to monitor your website’s performance in the SERPS (search engine results page).
Google analytics https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/
Google Webmaster tools https://www.google.com/webmasters
Bing webmaster tools https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster
All of them are free so there’s no excuse not to use them. I suggest you set up Google analytics first then use that to prove ownership of your website for Google Webmasters.
The Google Analyticator plugin will make it easy to add your Google Analytics script. Just click a few buttons.
Yes, you’re starting a food blog to share your passion with the world. It also takes time, energy, and money to maintain and grow it.
I’m sure you’d like to reap a few benefits in the form of income. It’s important to go in with a game plan about how you’re going to make money from your website.
There are two ways most people do this when they’re first starting out.
The first one is advertising. The problem there is you don’t have much traffic so your advertising revenue will be, at best, a few dollars a month.
A better way would be to promote products for other people. In return, they give you a cut of the sale amount. This is called affiliate marketing.
The first program most people sign up for is the one hosted through Amazon. I’d hold off until you’ve gotten a bit of traffic. That’s because if you don’t make sales within the first few months, they’ll revoke your account.
Conversely, you can sign up with platforms like ShareASale.com and CJ.com which aggregate affiliate programs from different advertisers. You can apply to each one and will be accepted or denied on an individual basis.
As much as it pains me to admit this, I’ve been denied multiple times. It happens. Don’t take it personally.
The last method to find products is to reach out to the vendor directly and ask If they have an affiliate program. Some of them do and some don’t. Either way, it’s worth a shot.
Don’t jump right in and start writing. That’s the fastest road to burning yourself out.
There are two things you should do for yourself.
Blogging is a long game and your articles will be online for a long time. It’s not something you do this week then give up next week. That’s not how it works. It takes a few months, at least, to build up an audience. It can take even longer for that audience to grow large enough to earn a decent living.
There’s nothing wrong with that, you just need to be prepared.
Don’t write 10 articles in one week then leave your blog alone. It’s better to write one article a week for ten weeks. People will begin to count on you.
Create a simple content calendar that:
The content calendar is by no means written in stone but it does help you focus your energy and attention. That way, when you decide to sit down and write, you’ve already done the preliminary work.
There’s only so much I can tell you in a guide. In the end, you have to get out there and start blogging for yourself. You’ll learn a lot pretty quickly so don’t get overwhelmed.
If you follow the steps in this guide then you’ll be able to be up and running within a day or two.
Let me know what you think about this guide to starting a food blog in the comments and don’t forget to share.