This Good Food Reads is a little departure from our normal, and for all of you missing the food, rest assured, it will return soon. But I’ve had a lot people ask me lately how we started our blog. It can be intimidating and scary to put yourself out there, but it can also be SO MUCH FUN! The creative energy, the new blog-o-sphere friends, the content creation. But there are a few details that have to be hammered out first before you start your first blog. So grab some caffeine, curl up in your favorite blanket, and read on for some tips on How to Start a Blog!
As most of you know Holly and I started this blog together about 2 and a half years ago. We went live in December of 2015 and haven’t looked back since. We’ve had strategy sessions, coffee dates, long planning lunches and crazy blogging weekends at the cabin. We’ve had a blast hosting dinners together, creating new recipes, and drinking more caffeine than is healthy for either one of us. We’re learning an amazing amount about cooking, photography, web design, marketing, branding and social media. As we are both life long learners, this has been an amazing journey. Most of all we thank you for allowing us to share our journey with you!
Have you been thinking about how to start a blog? If so, here are a few tips:
The first and most important part is to choose your niche. Although this can be altered later on, it will be easiest to build a brand if you know what you want to write about. Keep in mind that this will be something you will be writing about for (hopefully) years to come, so choose your passion! You will be doing a ton of research and learning about your subject, so make sure it’s one that you love. We spent tons of time cooking, talking about food, reading cookbooks like novels, and sharing great meals. Food was a natural choice for us.
To build a brand you need to have a blog name that reflects that brand. Or if you’re not interesting in “branding”, then at least choose a name that you feel fits you and your niche. This sounds easy but is unbelievably hard. We went through at least twenty potential blog names-and they were either taken or they just didn’t fit us for one reason or another. You will need to see if it is already taken (google it) and if not, you will need to buy it. Just because there isn’t a blog with the name that you want doesn’t mean it will be available as their are “domain squatters” who buy domain names just to drive up the price. If your domain name is taken by a squatter, you can certainly contact them to see if they are willing to sell, however it will likely be more expensive. Keep in mind that hyphens and other symbols can be difficult to find in a google search, so may not be the best to include in your blog name. You also want to make sure that the name that you choose is available on all of the social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. After all you’re going to want people to be able to find you.
Choose a platform. WordPress is the most popular (I’ll talk about this in a minute-this is what we use), but is not the only option. Squarespace, Weebly and Wix all provide platforms + hosting as a combination which may be a simpler way to go. There are pros and cons to each, but Squarespace is used by Molly Yeh for her gorgeous blog My Name is Yeh, so it is definitely a viable option and is supposed to be very easy to use (reportedly, I mean, it’s not like we’ve tried it…). We went with WordPress which is widely used among food bloggers (translation: there is tons of help in the blog-o-sphere if you run into trouble using it or have questions about customization!).
A note about WordPress. If you are doing your blog just for your eyes only, you never want to monetize it, you don’t want to own your content, and you never want to create a brand then wordpress.com is OK. Since this isn’t any of you, let’s talk about WordPress.org (yep, this is what you want). WordPress.org is a free platform that is infinitely customizable. The sky is the limit. You can find a “plug-in” or a web designer to do just about anything on your site. But if you are like me (a total tech novice), yet a total control freak, a theme is a great way to go. You can get free themes from WordPress, or buy themes from StudioPress, Etsy, 0r other third party suppliers. Make sure your theme is easy to use (read reviews), you understand the parameters that can be changed and those which can’t (and you can live with those that can’t be altered) and that your theme is mobile responsive, as a large number of your readers will be perusing your site on their phones! We use the Foodie Pro theme by Studiopress. This theme (although there was a one time cost) made setting up our blog easy. Well, as easy it could be for two website novices. (I won’t lie, I leave the vast majority of the technical stuff to Holly, as she is a whiz and can figure out anything if given some time.) Keep in mind you often get what you pay for, so don’t just automatically choose the cheapest option without doing your research. Some of the themes, like the one we chose, was specifically designed with specific features for food bloggers. Although you can get plug ins to give you just about any feature (some are free and some are not-we will talk more about this in Part 2), but keep in mind that the more plug ins you have the more problems you may run into with instability and timely updates.
Lastly hosting. WordPress.org is considered self-hosted. This means you need choose a web host. Some popular choices for food bloggers are Bluehost, SiteGround and WPopt. Some other well-vetted choices are listed here (make sure to only look at the ones that offer WordPress hosting). The important things you want from your host are site speed, customer support, back up capability and reliability. Customer support is so, so important when things go down (and trust me they will). If you are selling something through a store on your blog, you will need to be sure that your hosting company can support ecommerce appropriately. Here are some webhosts that are reportedly good for this purpose. Call a few of the web hosts and get your questions answered. This is an important choice, so make it carefully (although it can be changed down the road). Most entry level bloggers should be able to start at the lowest level of hosting service, don’t expect many views at first, and you can always go up to the next level when you do start getting larger numbers of viewers! Talk to other bloggers about their experiences with their hosting company, Holly and I have found the blogging community to be unbelievably helpful and available to answer even the simplest of questions!
Think about cost! Very little of this is free (wordpress.org is free-but the hosting is not). Having said that, we were able to start our blog without cutting any corners for less than $300-including the domain name, web hosting for a year and the one time cost of a theme (the theme was the most expensive of what we did, and you could certainly start with a less expensive or even free theme cutting this figure by more than half). We looked at it as starting our small business and you need to spend a little to grow.
Once you’ve gotten this far it’s time to set up your site! Follow the directions through your web host using your new domain names. Install wordpress, install your theme and then the real work begins!
Before you move on to Part 2, spend some time looking at other blogs within your niche. No, no, no not to copy! But it is helpful to get a sense of what kind of design that you like. Do you like blogs with light and bright photography like Pinch of Yum? Or dark and moody like Half Baked Harvest? Do you like a funny, irreverent voice like The Pioneer Woman or more no-nonsense writing? Do you like a more stark design or something more homey? Start making a list of your style preferences…they will come in handy when we release part 2 of How to Start a Blog.
Looking for a quick summary on How to Start a Blog? Pin the image below!
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll discuss photography, the blogging community, and social media!
Questions? Ask them below! We’ll be happy to try to help!