So you’ve decided to make a full-time living with a food blog?
You know … a lot of blogs that earn 6-figure incomes today were all built by someone like you, with nothing but an unrelenting passion about their niche.
And I’m thrilled you’re taking your first step today. So, let’s get started.
Choosing a domain name, web host, and a site builder
To start your food blog, the first three things you’re going to need are:
- A domain name
- A hosting
- A site builder
First comes the domain name. Simply put, your domain name is your web address.
A lot of people fuss about using ‘keywords’ in the domain name so that Google shows it on the top for when users search for those keywords.
However, the presence of the keyword in the domain name no longer influences the search engine algorithm.
So, if you want to open a blog about paleo food, you don’t HAVE to call your blog paleofood.com. At least, doing so won’t give you any SEO brownie points.
That said, it’s entirely up to you what kind of a domain name you choose.
Also, you must know that it’s okay to start a food blog and use your own name as the domain name. So, if you’re Jane Doe, it’s OKAY to call your food blog JaneDeo.com.
That way, you’ll have higher returns in the long run because after some time, you will become a popular brand in your niche. You might as well become the influencer.
A great example of such a personal brand is customer support influencer, Shep Hyken. He could have easily called his blog, “customersupportadvice.com”.
You get the idea, right?
After you’ve chosen a domain name, you can use a domain name registrar service like Namecheap to book it. Or, you can also buy it from your hosting provider if they offer one. (Many of them even give free domains with annual plans.)
Once you get the domain name, you need to find a reliable WordPress host to make your website live.
There are many web hosts to choose from, and a lot of them come with managed WordPress packages as well. The difference between a normal WordPress hosting account and a managed WordPress hosting account is that in the latter, the hosting providers takes care of your site’s security and keeps your site up-to-date with the latest WordPress version.
Below, I’m recommending these customer-friendly hosting providers. All links point to Jerry’s review.
Web hosts can be as cheap as $3.99/month and as pricey as $29/month. Feel free to start your website with an entry-level plan and then pay more as your traffic grows.
With the web host and the domain name, the next thing you need to choose is a platform for building your site — or the site builder.
Note: Modern website builder (ie, Wix Website Builder) bundles domain and hosting platform together.
In this tutorial, we’re defaulting to the WordPress CMS.
Self-hosted vs. WordPress.com
The easiest way to understand the difference between a self-hosted and a WordPress.com account is to look at how your URLs will look with each.
The first one is a website that’s freely hosted with WordPress.com. Obviously, WordPress is branded all over it.
The second one — yourfoodblog.com — is a self-hosted website that’s independent in the true sense.
A website that’s freely hosted with WordPress.com website is for you if:
- You are ONLY a hobbyist blogger
- You DON’T want to … or aren’t serious about making a living online
- You don’t care about your personal brand
- You’re happy with the various limiting options like no support for plugins and others
- You don’t want to sell ads on your site (at least not until you become a high-traffic website)
If that’s not the case, go for a self-hosted WordPress website. Doing so will allow you to take advantage of the thousands of WordPress themes and plugins
(both free and paid) and build a website that you can run and scale.
With that, all the logistics are out of the way.
You’re now ready to start building your blog. For this, you’re going to need a theme and a few plugins.
The best WordPress food blog themes and plugins
Since you’re just starting out with your blog, and because it will be sometime before it starts making money for you, it’s okay to start with a free theme.
Here are three free WordPress food themes you could choose from:
Dyad is a gorgeous food blog theme with a beautiful blog layout. It keeps the images in the spotlight, which is a highly desirable feature for a food blog theme. You’ll also love the giant homepage slider that you can choose to feature your best recipes. Also, it’s from Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com), so you can be sure it adheres to the top coding and quality standards.
Kouki is for you if you love whitespace and prefer a zen and minimal design. Kouki uses a great font and displays images very elegantly. Club it with one of the free recipe plugins (recommended below), and you should be ready to go live with your food blog.
3. Veggie Lite
Veggie Lite is another simple WordPress theme for food bloggers. It has a focused layout that will grab your readers’ attention. And with all its whitespace, it lets your website breathe and is easy on the eyes.
Check out more free food blog themes from the WordPress.org repository.
Now – Free themes are good to start with, but if you have the budget and can accommodate a slick premium food theme, by all means, buy one.
A food blog’s visual appeal plays a big role in its success. Here are three mouth-watering themes to check out:
1. Cook’d Pro Theme
Cook’d Pro is a dazzling WordPress food theme that looks great on all devices. As you can see in the above screenshot, it focuses heavily on images.
Also, it’s built on the Genesis framework, which is known to be speedy and light. The Genesis framework also comes with a separate panel for SEO settings and for other layout settings as well.
Note that Genesis themes carry just the features you need; they don’t come with too many bells and whistles. That said, they do their job beautifully.
The Daily Dish Theme is another Genesis theme you should check out. It’s powered by the stability and speed of the Genesis framework and uses an appealing, elegant flat design
that’s fully responsive.
2. Food Blog Theme
The Food Blog Theme comes from NimbusThemes. What I like best about the theme other than the visual splash it makes is the theme’s focus on branding.
The Food Blog Theme ships with the plugin Recipe Card WordPress that allows you to add SEO-friendly recipes to your blog. Food bloggers have built some excellent websites with this theme.
3. YumBlog theme
This Up Themes product is easily one of the most thought out WordPress food blog theme. It comes with a custom recipe template and also allows you to accept recipe submissions from your readers. These recipe submissions are powered by Cooked – a premium $39 plugin. The directions and ingredients lists of the recipes in this theme come with a checkbox, thus enabling your readers to ensure they don’t miss out on any important step or item.
By using any of the above themes, you’ll be ready with a functional blog.
But – No matter how well-thought out a theme may be for a niche, it’s not possible to include all the functionality a website owner might need.
For example, for your food blog, you may realize that you need a better and more optimized way to show your recipes, or you might want to make your food post images easily shareable on Pinterest. Functions like these won’t necessarily come packed into the theme.
To get such functionalities, you need to install plugins.
Here are a few nice-to-have WordPress food blog plugins that will add value to your blog:
WP Ultimate Recipe
WP Ultimate Recipe is a mobile-friendly WordPress food blog plugin that lets you add recipes to your blog. You can use it to transform any regular WordPress theme into a food theme.
It also lets users share and print out your recipes.
WP Ultimate Recipe’s premium version unlocks features like letting users submit recipes, rate your recipes, show nutritional values and more.
Recipes by Simmer
Recipes by Simmer is another plugin that lets you publish recipes on your blog. It offers easy settings to list the ingredients, give cooking instructions and other information. The recipes you add using this plugin are search engine friendly because this plugin uses Google’s schema markup to build SEO friendly structures.
Chicory Recipe Ingredients
Chicory Recipe Ingredients is an interesting food blog plugin that lets you add a buy button under all your recipe ingredients.
When users click on it, they’re lead to online grocery stores where they can buy directly. Obviously, you get a cut for each sale you refer. Not only that, you also get weekly and monthly reports on how your recipes are performing in terms of generating revenue.
Cooked is a premium WordPress recipe plugin that comes with a drag-and-drop recipe builder. It also comes with 10 ready-to-use layouts.
With Cooked, each of your readers gets a profile page. Cooked also comes packed with a timer, a powerful search bar and nutrition facts about the recipes/ingredients. For all the features that it offers, this plugin is a complete steal at $39.
In addition to these plugins, there are a few plugins that I recommend each site to have. These aren’t specific to any niche as such, and add value to any site they’re used at. Check out the full list here.
Okay – so this takes care of the logistics. You’ve the domain, hosting, and a theme … and some optional plugins.
At this point, you’re ready to start working on your blog and determine what topics you’ll cover, how frequently you’ll publish, which social media platforms you’ll try and so on. To make things easy, try following the 5-step plan listed below.
5 easy-to-follow steps to get your blog off the ground
Step #1: Plan your blog/website structure
You want to get your food blog’s structure right straight from the beginning because a site’s structure (more so, its main navigation menu ) determines how your users’ navigation experience will be.
This is more important for a food blog because a food blog’s content can span across several categories, meals, cuisines and others. So, if you get the website’s main menu right, you’ll be off to a great start.
Besides, thinking about your site structure or just planning your site menu will give you time to reflect on what your content will be and the different things you’ll explore on your blog.
Here’s an example to give you a headstart.
Popular Food blogger Kate from CookieAndKate has a full-course website menu. Just look at how descriptive the menu items are and how neatly the drop-down works:
So if you’re going to have a content-heavy site, you can go for a menu like this.
Think about the content you want to share and sketch out a website menu based on that. Doing this exercise on paper will help you try several structural combinations until you feel you’ve got it right.
Step #2: Find relevant topics and finalize a content publishing schedule
First, let’s see how you can come up with topics to cover on your blog. The fastest way to find post ideas is to look at what the popular blogs are posting.
So, if you’re planning to start working on your blog in the next few weeks, start by subscribing to all the food bloggers you admire. This way, you’ll
get regular updates about their latest content updates.
So, after a week, you would have at least 7-10 emails like this one from Juli (from PaleOMG). In her first email, Juli shares lots of recipes.
Here’s a post idea you can easily steal from her recipes:
X ingredient Y minute Dish
Also, such emails/newsletters always have links to the best content from the blogs. Which means, you’ll have more than enough blog post ideas on popular topics.
Choose at least 5 such ideas and start writing. In the meantime, you’ll get more updates from these blogs, and so your ideas list will keep growing organically.
For the publishing schedule part — first, understand that readers love consistent publishing schedules. If you choose to publish a recipe every Friday, at one point, you’ll have loyal readers who’ll think:
Jane publishes a great recipe every Friday. I need to catch up so I can try it over the weekend!
Great! Do this prep work – Ideally, before you begin your blog, you should have at least 20 ready-to-publish posts. Which means, if you publish twice per week, you’ll be covered for more than two months.
Step #3: Create the content (with a special focus on the visuals)
The text part of your content will come naturally to you. Thanks to your expertise in the niche. However, this text will just make up for half of your content
because after all, how good a great recipe will look without some yummy images…
Unfortunately, photography doesn’t come naturally to all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn.
Be it the images of the finished dishes or the ingredients, images make up a big part of a food blog. Which means you can’t do with mediocre pictures. But luckily, you’ve these fantastic free food photography tutorials you can learn from:
If you don’t have the time to learn so much, at least start with this quick and dirty hack:
- Keep the ingredient or the dish on the counter
- Hold your camera right over it
- Set Autofocus and click
Just make sure there’s plenty of natural light when you shoot.
In addition to food images, try making some more creative visuals like image recipes and tips using free tools like Canva or DesignBold.
Image optimization tip – Optimize all your images with TinyPNG. This tool lets you compress your PNG files without reducing its quality. By compressing your image files, you’ll save your site from getting bloated and slow.
Step #4: Start with social media marketing
Since food lovers tend to love visuals, it would be best if you focus on visual mediums like Pinterest. In fact, it’s perfectly okay if you begin with just Pinterest. You can always move on to other platforms once you learn how to grow a following on one platform.
A plugin to increase following on Pinterest: Pinterest “Pin It” Button.
With this plugin, each time a user hovers over an image on your blog, they’ll be prompted to Pin it onto their Pinterest boards. Not only that, it also adds Pin It buttons to all your posts and pages.
Step #5: Start collecting emails
When you subscribe to the different blogs for collecting post ideas, notice the kind of lead magnets they use to build their email lists.
For example, Dana from MinimalistBaker offers a free monthly recipe to her blog subscribers.
Likewise, you also need to develop a freebie that you’ll give away to the readers who subscribe.
To develop your first email sign up freebie, just put together 5 great recipes and bundle them into a PDF. And you’re set.
Since you now have both a functional website and a work plan for your blog, let’s look at how you can choose the right monetization methods.
A foolproof plan to start start making money with your food blog
To make money as a food blogger, analyze how other food bloggers make money. This isn’t a tough job as many food bloggers publish their income reports. These reports offer lots of insights into how they make money (as well as the expenses).
Take for example, the monthly income report of Pinch of Yum — a massively popular WordPress blog.
As you can see in the following screenshot, Pinch of Yum make good money by selling their own products (Tasty Food Photography and How to Monetize Your Food Blog eBook).
Perhaps you too can consider creating a product to sell.
Check out as many income reports as you can and ask yourself which of those income channels you can benefit the most from.
Also, understand that it takes time to make money from a blog — so do all the hustle while keeping patience. You’ll surely get there if you try enough.
So that’s about it for starting a food blog with WordPress. If you have the money to invest in learning, check out programs like Food Blogger Pro. Or, do the next best thing and follow and study other food blogs and learn from them.
All the very best for your food blog!
Editor’s note – This article is first published on our sister site BuildThis.io. We have updated part of the content before re-publishing the post here.