A Step-By-Step Guide to Starting a Food Blog

If you’ve been looking for a comprehensive ‘how to’ food bloggers guide, enjoy this detailed post on starting, managing, and growing your new food blogging site.

by Gus Van der Walt

SEO | Web Development | WordPress

Reading Time | 25 min

With more people in their kitchens than ever before as home cooking makes a gourmet come-back, there’s never been a better time to start a food blog. If you’ve dreamed of becoming a successful culinary blogger, here’s a quick-start guide to going from zero to hero.

Find out everything you need to know to become a novice blogger, rapidly grow a following, and monetise fans fast.

Table of Contents

How to start a food blog

Ever since cooking legend, Julia Child, democratized French Cuisine by making it accessible to all, food blogging has been on the rise. Now that remote working is the norm, and with so many people at home during the global pandemic, kitchens have come alive; almost everyone is becoming a “foodie” and dusting off their family’s favorite cookbooks to explore the delicious recipes within.

With blogging technology easier than ever to use, there’s never been a better time to start food blogging and working out how to create a high-impact, influential food channel that you can monetize.

If you’ve been looking for a comprehensive ‘how to’ food bloggers guide, enjoy this detailed post on starting, managing, and quickly growing your new food blogging site. 

Start by finding your foodie niche.

What is a niche?

When you start researching food blogging, or “blogging for beginners,” you’ll quickly discover that millions of bloggers are making a life (if not a living) from food blogging. Food and cooking is a hugely diverse field. There are as many different kinds of cuisine as cultures and reasons for eating. Food industry niches range from healthy to indulgent, decadent to austere, freshness to fowl, and everything in between.

Before rushing into publishing yourself, think carefully about what will set you apart from the rest of the floggers out there – in short, WHAT IS YOUR ‘FOODIE’ NICHE? 

A niche is the focus or subject of your blog. In the food blog space, an example would be a blog focused on French cuisine, or making simple meals for two (aka “small batch cooking”). In essence, a niche asks what you want to be known for in the food blogging world.

Is there a specific audience or market sector to whom your cooking appeals? Which section of the food market do you best relate to? Whether Bisque orVol-au-Vent, which of your meals quickly delight family and friends?

Why is a niche important?

When you start a blog, the last thing you want is to become is ‘wallpaper’ – an unloved and unnoticed website that isn’t worth the time and effort you’re putting into it because you’re not getting any online attention. 

By carefully choosing a food niche that suits who and what your palate is about, you can plan what content you’re going to create, how you’re going to do it, and also understand how to attract your audience.

Choosing and defining a niche will help you:

  1. Organize your content more effectively. If your niche is vegan, for example, you know that you’re writing for an audience who only favors a certain kind of food and has particular habits, needs, and wants.
  2. Enable you to scout out your audience online. You can research who they are and what they want before you start creating content. A strong understanding of your niche and your subject makes you an expert and will build your blog’s credibility and trust.
  3. Drive traffic to your blog with search engine optimization. Knowing your niche means you can understand the keywords that will drive traffic to your site.  You also have a much greater chance of being recognized as a specialist and showcased on other foodie blogs and websites. This will help to create those all-important backlinks to build out your profile, and grow your influence and traffic over time.

Ways to differentiate yourself and choose a niche that best suits you

The big questions you need to ask yourself include:

  • What makes your take on food unique or different?
  • What particular food or cooking styles will you focus on?
  • What niche or corner of the food world will you inhabit?
  • As a food blogger, what will you become famous for?

Let’s look at a real-life food niche example and some of the high-impact bloggers who have excelled in that space.

To better explain what your niche could be, we have found a couple of examples below:

  • Iowa girl eats is a foodie who has become successful by combining the growing trend for comfort food with the need for quick, healthy recipes that the whole family will enjoy. Utterly delicious but simple recipes, like One-Pot Chicken and Rice, is what has made this WordPress site a viral sensation.
  • Fit Men Cook, by Kevin Curry, is another blogging site focused on yummy recipes that are healthy and relatively easy to make. What started as one man’s journey to wellness has become a veritable industry with cookbooks, spices, and even an app that monetizes this popular foodie destination.
  • Pinch of Yum is a WordPress blog that started as a hobby but now has become a hugely successful business that services recipes to millions of people worldwide. The accent here is on quality – try finding a better photographed and designed site! And the recipes are as enjoyable as the user journey.
  • Dessert for Two is a food blog focused on creating meals for two. Christina Lane of Dessert for Two noticed that the large majority of recipe sites create recipes that cater for large groups, serving multiple portions, which often leads to wasted food. The Dessert for Two blog focuses on couples, singles, and small families wanting small-batch recipes covering a wide range of various cuisines.

Examples of other popular, growing, and relevant niches in the food industry.

  • Recipes. Blogs dedicated to creating, sharing, and testing recipes are a mainstay of the food market and remain among the most popular food niches to blog about today.
  • Diets. Like the popular paleo, banting, or Sirtfood Diet that singer Adele recently used to lose weight, trendy eating plans are a popular niche with strong possibilities for revenue streams.
  • Regional cuisine. While French, Chinese, and Italian food have always been popular, hyper-local food is now generating huge awareness and interest amongst foodies. This has created much interest in exotic ingredients and their uses for bringing new flavor and excitement to everyday meals.
  • Sustainable eating. A big deal topic at the moment as more and more people want to know where their food comes from, what it’s been eating, and whether or not it’s been ethically sourced.

11 steps for starting a food blog

As much as we’d love to tell you that food blogging is simply about writing mouth-watering recipes, taking great photographs of tables laden with sumptuous food, and generally wowing the crowds with culinary delights, things do need to get more technical than that.

After deciding on your food niche, you need to set up your blog. Here’s you’ll have to think about your blogging platform, domain, web host, design and layout, and the plugins you’ll need to facilitate the posting and sharing of recipes.

Step 1: Choose your blogging platform

Step 2: Choose your domain

Step 3: Hire your host

Step 4: Get the look

Step 5: Add features and function

Step 6: Create categories and tags

Step 8: Create pages and posts

Step 8: Consider your maintenance needs

Step 9: Start writing and publishing

Step 10: Power SEO

Step 11: Make oodles of moodles

1. Choose your blogging platform

As WordPress specialists, we can best tell you how to set up your food blog on WordPress. WordPress is one of the best established and most versatile blogging platforms out there. According to W3Tech’s live usage statistics, as of June 2021, the platform is used by 41.9% of all the websites they analyze. This means it has a market share of 65% of all content management systems.

This is because it’s easy to use, under constant development and improvement, and infinitely customizable. The basic installation is free, and there are loads of themes and plugins (more on those later) that are free or low-cost to use to add functionality and aesthetics to your blog.

2. Choose your domain

So, what’s in a blog name?

The name you choose for your food blog will not only reflect your food niche and brand, but it will also be the online ‘address’ you use to direct friends, family, (in)fluencers, and foes (checking out the competition) to your blog page.

In the online world, this address is actually called a domain name – a user-friendly, easy-to-remember version of the string of numbers that the internet actually uses to locate a website on a server via the internet. These numbers are called an Internet Protocol, or IP, address.

When it comes to choosing a domain name, here are some top tips:

  1. First, keep it short and simple – avoid confusing spelling that makes it hard to pronounce.
  2. Include keywords – use ahrefs.com or Google Analytics to find top search terms in your industry
  3. Find out if it’s already taken –it may already exist, so do a domain name search using WordPress’s online domain name searcher to confirm.
  4. Decide if you want to DIY or get help – you may want to purchase (or register) the name yourself by filling in the forms and paying a domain renewal service directly, but this can also often be handled by your web host.

3. Find a WordPress hosting company

A web host is a company that owns space on servers that house your blog. They are “in the cloud” — always on, always available, and well connected (in terms of bandwidth). You want a reliable host that supports WordPress and gets good reviews in terms of customer service.

The impact of an unreliable web host can cause your site to go offline: people visiting your site or looking for you will see an error message instead of your recipes. This can cause your site to lose visibility in search and, more importantly, lower your subscriber base and audience.

Read our blog on the best WordPress hosting providers in 2021 to see some of the top considerations for choosing a WordPress host.

4. Get the look

WordPress allows for an incredible range of design choices, and you don’t have to know an ounce of HTML or CSS to get it done. Many aspects of your blog’s design can be implemented with the right theme.

Themes come in two basic flavors — free and premium. Free themes are great for starting with, but as soon as you start to grow in your content requirements, the free themes may not have all the functionality you want.

Take, for example, Neptune, a premium theme from ThemeForest.

This image is a screen grab of the Neptune food blog preview.

Here are a few of the extra features you get with the Neptune theme:

  • Searchable recipe ingredients
  • Recipe nutritional information
  • User registration and login function
  • Users can like, rate, and review recipes
  • Users can upload their own recipes
  • Video, gallery, and single photo support
  • Users can bookmark recipes they like
  • Organize recipes by country cuisine
  • Icons and images for each recipe category
  • Recipe cooking steps support with photos
  • Social media functionality built-in
  • Unique “cooking mode”
  • Unique integrated cooking timer
  • Instant Ajax recipe search engine
  • Over 700 fonts
  • User can earn badges and achievements
  • Support for multiple advertising placement
  • Setup support

Many of these features (like memberships) would require a specialized plugin (more on plugins later), so this theme may seem expensive at $69, but it could be a worthwhile investment if you’re going to take your food blog seriously.

Perhaps you don’t need all this functionality, and a free theme is all you need, along with some basic plugins. However, if you elect to use a free theme, you must be prepared to put in time and effort to learn some of the intricacies of WordPress and plugins and be prepared to try customizing and experimenting.

While it is possible to start with a free theme, our recommendation is to invest the money and buy a premium theme from the start. It will save you time, money, and headaches in the future.

Where can you find themes?

The following is a list of the sites we would recommend using to find your perfect theme:

  1. Themeforest
  2. Template Monster
  3. Elegant Themes
  4. Creative Market

Our guide to WordPress themes should also help you find and select the best theme for your blog.

5. Add features and functions – WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins are add-ons to your blog that provide extra functionality. These could be tools to improve your SEO or visual elements like popups, chatbots, and menus.

Plugins can be searched via Google, on the WordPress.org page, or within your WordPress blog administration panel.

When it comes to recipe plugins, you may be looking for:

  • Access to templates created specifically for publishing recipes. 
  • Systems for organizing and filtering your recipes so that your audience can find what they’re looking for,
  • The ability to display nutritional information and cooking times.
  • Functionality to upload videos to your recipes.
  • Consistent formatting across all your recipes.
  • A search tool that enables your visitors to search just your recipe content.

SEO plugins considerations

Many of the best recipe plugins for WordPress also have the ability to ensure your recipe content is optimized for search engines. This not only increases the chances of your website and its content ranking online but also tells search engines, like Google, that your website includes recipes rather than just blog posts and pages. This should help your content show up when people are searching specifically for recipes.

To improve your SEO, consider a theme or plugin that integrates schema markup into your page. This allows you to add an extra layer of data to your content, which tells search engines that your post is a recipe.

With schema markup in place, when someone searches Google for a recipe, your blog should pop up in a format like this:

This image shows the Google SERP feature for recipes, which pulls in images and ratings from tip recipes related to a search query.

Online users are more inclined to click on these types of search results than simple, text-based ones. Food, after all, appeals to all the senses, including sight.

Here are a few plugins you may want to try out to SEO optimize your recipes:

  1. WP Recipe Maker, by Bootstrapped Ventures, simplifies the process of adding recipes to your blog. It gets favorable reviews from its users, and it has been SEO-optimized to increase its chances of being found by users of search engines like Google. Other features include:
  • Template editor for editing default templates
  • Recipe videos
  • Reformatting recipes for printing
  • Good social media sharing tools
  • Visitors can rate recipes
  1. Zip Recipes has a template editor that helps you layout your recipes the way you want them. Features include:
  • Endless possibilities with the template editor and a wide range of settings.
  • Optimize your recipes for Google and other search engines and increase your organic reach.
  • Professional-looking recipes for any device.
  • WYSIWYG Editors for adding new recipes or creating your recipe template.
  1. Tasty Recipes is a premium plugin ($79) that allows you to import recipes from many different sources, including Ziplist, Meal Planner Pro, and Cookbook. Other features:
  • Ability to choose from a range of recipe card presentation styles and insert adverts right into your recipe content to enable you to monetize your website.
  • Support for search engines.
  • Integration with Pinterest to help with social media marketing.
  • A user-friendly interface for adding recipes to your website.
  • Users can leave star ratings for your recipes.
  1. Recipe Card Blocks adds beautiful blocks to the new Gutenberg editor to help you create recipe cards easily in your posts. Features include: 
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Support
  • Multiple Designs
  • Gutenberg-ready
  • Works with any theme
  • Video integration
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant
  • Bulk add Ingredients and directions

6. Create categories and tags

As a food blogger, you need to pay special attention to how you label your recipes from the outset. You can do this with two main WordPress functions: categories and tags. Which is which?

  • Categories are best used for broad groupings of topics. For example, if your food blog is about international cuisine, you may consider different categories, such as French, Italian, Mexican, etc. Categories are hierarchical and can be shown as a “menu” in your sidebar.
  • Tags are more specific topics that you want to use to associate related content. For example, you may want to divide your recipes into low carb, vegetarian, quick and easy, etc., and you can do this using tags.

We recommend using categories over tags. Tags should only be used as a navigational feature. For example, if your food blog is going to be focused on French cuisine, the categories should be:

  1. Dinners
  2. Desserts
  3. Baking
  4. Breakfasts
  5. Traditional

Your tags would be the ingredient type such as:

  1. Chicken
  2. Steak
  3. Butter etc.

The reason being is that you want to create a structure in your site. Having too many categories can make your site too large and confusing to navigate.

Pro tip: Make sure that you have content on your category page. One thing that we have noticed when reviewing food bloggers is that their category pages (“Dinner,” for example) don’t have an introduction that lets readers know what they can expect to find in that category. You can use a category page to list your favorite recipes and indicate the main ingredients used.

7. Create pages and posts

Initially, WordPress was created as a blogging platform, but it has increasingly become a website-building platform. When setting up your food blog, you have the option of creating Pages or Posts (or both).

  • Pages would normally house information that doesn’t change much, such as your Homepage, About page, or Contact page. By default,
  • Posts are displayed in reverse chronological order of creation. Blogs are like articles or updates, so it’s good for your followers to see the newest posts first.

The large majority of the content you will add to your website will be recipe posts. Examples of pages you would need to create would be your Home Page, About you page, Contact page, and potentially an Online store page.

8. Consider your maintenance needs

Like most software, WordPress themes and plugins are updated from time to time, so part of your job is to ensure you keep an eye on updates. Your WordPress Administrator page on your dashboard will always notify you about updates, and there will be links to known issues for you to check before upgrading.

Because third parties create themes and plugins, they are not always upgraded at the same time. Therefore, it is possible that a major upgrade to WordPress could cause one of your plugins to stop working or start misbehaving. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on updates and test your site every time an update takes place.

Top theme and plugin developers are responsive to queries, so if a plugin misbehaves after an upgrade, reach out to the creators and describe the issue you are having in as much detail as possible. There are also forums and Facebook groups that can give you advice.

Most of the time, upgrades have been tested well, and you should upgrade as soon as you have checked for issues, as these upgrades often fix security issues and improve performance.

9. Start writing and publishing

Sadly, writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it’s hard work to write relevant blogs that attract readers and go viral. But, like baking, there are several tips you can employ to become a better wordsmith over time.

Best practice for creating engaging food posts

  • Begin with humility. Not everyone’s great on day one. Writing or vlogging (video blogging) is an iterative process. The more you do it, the better you get. It is a journey of improvement, and with each new post, you’ll learn to get better all the time.
  • Understand and communicate your niche. Now that you’ve chosen a niche, create credibility by establishing yourself as an expert in your particular segment. Communicate why you’re good at this niche and what you bring to the experience.
  • Put your audience above all else. Ultimately, vlogging or blogging is about connection. It’s about building an engaged community of readers. By making quality your north star and respecting your audience’s time by delivering your best content, you’re on your way to a good start.
  • Create a compelling start. The beginning is all about weaving a story, or creating a hook, or capturing your reader or viewer’s attention. Make sure your opening gambit is worthing it.
  • Understand what a recipe is. Cooking has a tradition of specific content formats, and when it comes to recipes, this normally appears in two sections. First comes the list of ingredients and how they’re used to create the dish. Then, other embellishments include your personal story of why this dish is special to you or hints and tips you’ve created to improve the recipe.
  • Create compelling imagery. There’s an old saying that “we eat with our eyes before we taste with our tongues.” Smart use of imagery is a real game-changer when it comes to food blogging because it drives traffic. 
  • Call to action. Remember that new content is a great way to grow your blog’s reach by calling for new readers or viewers to subscribe or join an email list that keeps your database growing.

The question of blog length

It’s important to remember that search engines are lovers of long-form SEO content. When it comes to post-length and SEO, use the following pointers as a guide:

  • Up to 300 words. While these short posts are great for communicating news, commenting on issues, or quickly highlighting trends, they are bad when it comes to search engine optimization. 
  • 300 to 600 words. This is standard blog length, but once again, from a search engine perspective, it isn’t ideal.
  • 600 to 1,500 words. The length of most news stories is around the 1,000-wordmark. 
  • 1,500 to 2,500 words. Now you’re veering into a narrative or long-form blogging. A good rule of thumb here is that the longer the length, the better the blog needs to be to hold a reader’s attention.
  • 2,500 words and over. This is the sweet spot for SEO and search platforms like Google that love long-form content. But keeping reader attention is a challenge in long-form, so the quality needs to increase if you’re using length as a strategy to drive traffic, attention, and influence.

A question of blog frequency

Just like search engines reward blog length, platforms like Google also reward frequent posting. Research shows that top food bloggers publish about two to three times a week. Does this mean that you should be posting with the same frequency? Before committing to a publishing schedule, consider:

  • How much time you have for blogging each week.
  • Whether or not you will sacrifice quality for quantity.
  • What your audience’s expectations are.

Generating recipe ideas

The three-point rule for differentiating your recipes and making sure you stand out from the crowd are:

  1. Think about your niche. Your particular specialization and point of expertise is the starting place. If your niche is vegan, creating the most healthy, delicious vegan recipes is a way to get noticed quickly.
  2. Use keyword research. To build traffic and attract the right audience, you want to use smart SEO practices. You can read our hub page to find out more about keywords and Search Engine Optimization.
  3. Be differentiated. Injecting your food blog with your expertise, culture, humor, or what makes you uniquely you is critical. Your unique spin is what will set you apart from everyone else and is how you’ll get noticed and generate a loyal following.

If you do get stuck on ideas, have a look at the post, which can help you find the next idea for a recipe.

10. Power SEO success

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. Food bloggers wanting to monetize their blog need to stand out from the crowd and build a strong following; this means creating great content and finding ways to make your page rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Site speed and responsiveness

Foodies are aesthetes who live in a world of taste, texture, smell, and experience. They are often also digitally savvy. To cater to this audience, you need to ensure your site is fast, frictionless, and delivers what your audience wants, across any device they are using. The large majority of the food bloggers that SiteCare helps get their traffic from mobile devices.

This means your site needs to be responsive (i.e., it needs to display well across mobile, desktop, and tablets), and it needs to load quickly. Very few people have the time or patience these days to wait for a page to load – they’ll hop over to another blog where they can access quality content faster. 

It is getting more and more important that you ensure that your site loads quickly and is responsive.

The second reason is that Google is releasing a mobile algorithm update focusing on the page experience which looks at site speed and the experience. You can read more about this update here.

Get your core website vitals checked for free

11. Monetize your food blog

Food blogging can offer a sustainable way to make money, especially if you consistently put in the time and effort needed to grow awareness around your brand. Popular ways to “get yourself out there” to begin monetizing your blog include paid advertising in the form of display ads, paid partnerships, and affiliate marketing.

Display advertising 

Display ads are shown on websites (when you search online with search engines like Google), in popular apps (often free ones, like AVG Antivirus), and on social media platforms, such as Facebook.

Display ads can be in text, image, video, or banner ad formats. They are commonly used to build brand awareness and encourage users to click on the ad to visit a website or landing page.

  • Google Adsense is a popular tool by Google, used to monetize blogs or websites. It’s easy to integrate into your blog and start using it straight away. Google takes a small management fee for this, and you get the remainder of the cash. To find out how to make the most of this, please read our post on the 9 Ways to Get the Most Out Of Your Blog Advertising.

If you’d prefer not to use Google, other automated ad-serving platforms include Media.Net and Criteo.

Paid partnerships 

As you build credibility and trust with your online audience, it becomes easier for you to attract paid sponsorships or partnerships with other food-makers, ecommerce brands, manufacturers, kitchen equipment makers, and startups in the food and beverages space. 

Remember that you want to work with brands and people who support your values and care about your followers. Ensure the brands you work with support your objectives as much as you support theirs. Paid partnerships should be a sweet, two-way street.

Here’s a quick list to get you started with paid sponsorships and partnerships:

  • Research your dream brands —the brands you want to work with most—and approach them with your offering and what differentiates you from the competition. (Let’s be honest, the size and quality of your follower base is a top consideration here, so don’t jump the gun until you can prove you have a sizeable fan base). 
  • Look for influencer agencies or networks that specialize in the food sector. Platforms like Heepsy aggregate quality Instagram creators, while TapFluence links influencers with brands on an automated platform that offers quick payments and no fuss. Similar networks include AspireIQ, Influence.co, and Taboola.
  • Network on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms; Sign up for blogs. Follow top influencers on these platforms, and be sure to comment and show interest in their posts and news feeds. Attend online events and conferences.
  • Create a sponsor page that describes what your partnership offer includes and how best to contact and work with you. This lets brands and agencies know you’re available.
  • Remember that each social media and each country will have different laws and rules for working with social media influencers or sponsorships. In the US, for example, this is governed by the Federal Trade Commission, which offers this comprehensive PDF downloadable on everything you need to know about disclosing partnerships and sponsorships.

Affiliate links and marketing:

This type of marketing is where an established online marketplace, such as Amazon, rewards bloggers for helping the ecommerce giant make a sale. Affiliate marketing basically means that a marketplace or platform uses your blog to present a mini-shop window to your audience to secure more sales. 

In the case of Amazon, a piece of code is inserted in your site, and this automates the mini-store that offers books for sale on your blog, allied to your niche. So, if you’re focusing on “fresh and healthy food,” an affiliate link to Amazon would offer your followers top reads on eating well. Each time a customer is directed to Amazon from your site and completes a purchase, you collect a small piece of the profit pie. 

Find out everything there is to know about Amazon’s affiliate effort, Amazon Associates, here. Amazon is the gorilla in this market because of its size, but here are several other marketplaces that run affiliate programs that you can approach, like:

  • Shopify’s affiliate program
  • The Etsy affiliate program

Create your own products and services

Many food bloggers monetize their culinary creativity with cookbooks (and other merchandise), consulting services, and by hosting bespoke cooking experiences with guests.

Start experimenting with small projects, like selling an e-book created from some of your most popular blog recipes, and remember to put yourself out there and take some risks. This way, you can discover what works best for your followers and the foodie community. Then, use your social media to engage your audience and discover what they’d support.

Good luck with your food blogging journey, and let us know how you’re doing! Sign up for our newsletter for more nutritious advice on how to get the best out of your blogging experience with WordPress.

Gus Van der Walt | Senior SEO Strategist

Gus van der Walt is a Senior SEO strategist here at SiteCare, LLC. Gus has been growing traffic and visibility for 10+ years. In his spare time, Gus can be found researching new SEO tactics or snapping photos of Cape Town.

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