Lots of people ask me about my food blog, and how to get started with their own. It’s something that seems super intimidating with lots of daunting steps, but it’s not that complicated and once you’re up and running, you’re done with that part! Most of the gritty work happens behind the scenes as you’re getting set up, and that’s the challenging part if you’ve never done this before.I wanted to have something to point to when people as how to set up a food blog and I’ve included some insight into the way I do things and why to help guide you.
Keep in mind there are a million ways to do this, so do your homework! Read up on anything you’re unsure about and decide what will work best for your skill level. My best advice though, is just dive in. You’ll learn the most by doing and once you’re up and running, you can tweak and play with the visual aspects as you go.
A lot of people tend to wait until they have built up a library of posts or have something really good to share to start blogging, but I say just get it out there! I mean, let’s be real, your first couple posts aren’t gonna get seen by many people outside your family and friends. But the more you post, the better you’ll get and the larger your audience will grow. So do your homework, get set up and get in the kitchen and show off what you’ve been cooking!
1. Blogging Platform:
One of the first decisions you will need to make is what platform to use for your blog. This will determine all the other steps for getting setup. The most popular options are Blogger and WordPress — although there are many others. Blogger is a free service, that requires no hosting. There are a lot of successful blogs that use Blogger and it’s owned by Google, which is a plus when considering things like updates and spam protection. WordPress is another service that can be free if you choose or you can chose the self-hosted option. This mean you will pay for hosting and your domain name. Both Blogger and WordPress have a variety of themes you can download (some free) or you can have someone design a theme for you to get the look you want for your site, but that can be much more costly.
2. Hosting your Website:
Self Hosted vs Hosted:
Hosted sites are free and they are hosted by the platform. This means all your files are uploaded and kept on their servers. This is free and they are set up differently on Blogger and WordPress. You’ll need a google account to set up a blog on blogger– this is as simple as opening an email account on gmail. WordPress will require you to set up an account as well. It’s a little harder to customize these free versions, but it’s a good place to start if you’re worried about whether or not you can commit to a blog. You can always add hosting later as you grow and expand, if you want to. For a self-hosted site you’ll need to choose a hosting company like BlueHost, GoDaddy or Host Gator to name a few (there are hundreds– do your research!) and you will pay them to store your files on a server– basically you’re renting space to store your files on one of their computers. When starting out, you won’t need much space, go with a basic package. A self-hosted site will give you much more control over your site– this is NOT an option with Blogger, it’s only for WordPress users. They will install WordPress for you on your site. You will log in to your site to make changes, unlike with a hosted site where you would log into their site to make changes. If you’re not self hosting, once you set up your account you’re pretty much ready to start blogging immediately, so if you’re eager to get going this might be the way to go.
Other options are Squarespace and Wix. These platforms charge you monthly and are pretty inclusive, meaning they will provide themes, email, domain and support along with hosting. This is a great option for those who are nervous about technical stuff and don’t want to do a lot of customization. These both provide beautiful and professional looking sites, but they are more expensive than the more do-it-yourself options.
My recommendation? I use (and love) WordPress for my food blog. I have built many sites using WordPress (blogs and business sites) and when setting up a client site, I usually recommend it. I set up and customize the site to meet the needs of the business and then train the business owners on how to use and run the site, empowering them to maintain their site without the added cost of a web developer. And for business owners I always recommend blogging as a way to connect to your audience.
2. Domain Name:
You will want to consider your domain name and look to see if it’s available. You will want this to be as close to the name of your blog as possible, otherwise you can create confusion. Example: You want to call your blog Coffee Talk– you’ll want to buy the domain coffeetalk.com. Pick something professional, that you can love for a long time. Pick something that can be easy to brand and goes with the theme of your blog. You can use your own name or a nickname. Use Google as a tool to see what comes up when you search for your title and subject matter.Keep in mind that setting this up takes time. If you’re purchasing a domain, you’ll need to give it about 24-48 hours to propagate. Basically this means that the files are taking time to update and point to the new domain.
What if your domain is taken?
Your blog title and the domain don’t have to be the same, you just want them to be as close as possible because this is how people are going to find you. There are a couple things you can do here. You can make your domain coffeetalkblog.com or coffeetalkonline.com. Another option is search for a .net or .tv option (there are lots of other extensions, when you buy and search for your domain they will likely suggest some.) The .com isn’t necessary– but again, it’s the most common at the moment.
With the free options of WordPress and Blogger, your domain will be part of their domain. For example, your site is called Coffee Talk. So your domain with your platform will be www.coffeetalk.wordpress.com or www.coffeetalk.blogger.com. Like I said, there are plenty of successful blogs that use these free options and have their domain set up this way– but some people chose to buy a domain, like www.coffeetalk.com, and that tends to look more professional. You do have this option even if your not self-hosting your site. To do this, you’ll buy a domain and have it redirected to your site on the platform you’re using. It’s not complicated, but if you’re confused, ask your hosting company to help set this up for you.
Set up an email account for your site– specifically for your site. If you bought a domain, you can set up an email with that address, this might be included with your hosting charges or you might have to pay extra. (Example: firstname.lastname@example.org) A free option is to set up an email account on gmail (or your preferred email provider) like email@example.com and use that for your blog. Having this email address separate from your personal email will help keep you organized and keep spam separate from your personal emails. My recommendation? I have email that I purchased with hosting (so it includes my domain name, it looks way more professional but chances are you will pay extra) and I have that forwarded to my personal gmail account. You can do this with multiple accounts, so all the emails that come from that address are routed though gmail, putting everything in one place. Here is an article that shows you how to route your email though gmail.
4. Social Media:
A great tip when searching for your domain is to also search for that name’s availability on various social sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Think about the social accounts you want to set up and use to promote your blog and set up accounts with the name you want to use with the aim of keeping it consistent. It gets confusing if someone is searching for you and your twitter handle is completely different than your blog name. Plus, you don’t want to copy someone else who might be using that name!
A quick checklist to get you started..
1. Start thinking about your name: the name of your site and your domain name. Once you’ve decided what platform you want to use for your blog, you can purchase your domain name or use it to set up your account.
2. Read up on blogging platforms and if you want to host your site yourself or if you want to use their hosting. Look into your hosting options and choose a company. You’ll want to consider your budget and look at their pricing options. Do you want to start with a free site or will paying for something help you commit? How much are you willing to spend yearly?
3. Set up your account, get hosting, buy your domain name. Give everything a few days to get set up and installed if you’re self-hosting.
4. Decide what social media accounts you want to link to your blog and get those set up, along with an email account for your blog.
5. Start thinking about branding, logos, themes and customizing– we’ll be talking about ‘the look’ of your site next. Make a list of site you like – the layout, color schemes and style for inspiration. I love Pinterest for this– create a secret board for your branding and pin anything that inspires you!
Are you just getting started? Are you looking for advice and guidance? Join our Facebook group for food bloggers! Get tips, ask questions and share your posts! CLICK HERE to join!