Loving to cook and writing about it are two completely different skill sets. While you may already be adept at the former (let’s assume that’s why you are starting a food blog), you’ll need to pick up some nuances on creating and maintaining a good food blog. Let’s tell you one thing – it is harder than it looks. The food isn’t right in front of your reader like a restaurant. It is miles away in your kitchen. And somehow, with the right mix of language, story, recipe and pictures you have to draw the reader to salivate enough to take action. Here’s the recipe to get started on a food blog that’ll get your readers to ask for a second helping.
Choosing your (food) theme
Cooking is a vast domain. From cuisine specific cooking to region-specific ones, there are lots to try out. Do you want to blog about all things food, reviewing food, a food type (only desserts)?
Keeping things a little open, in the beginning, helps as it allows you to share things around your style and preferences. But if you keep things close – for example, choose to blog only about Maharashtrian food – it makes you an authority on the food type and also narrows down your audience type.
Knowing what’s hot
Of course, your casserole is. But other than that, food trends also help you gauge where the flavours of the world lie. The first recipes on the internet had just recipes. Then they started adding information like calorie count to help the health conscious. Eventually, food blogs have now evolved and share the story behind the food along with the recipe. A niche and evolving trend is creating custom versions of the same recipe in different categories like vegetarian and vegan versions. Similarly, video recipes that are under a minute and fast-forwarded are ideal for the feed-swiping audience who doesn’t have time to sit through the half hour version. Getting a hang of trending recipe styles will help you get started on the right note. It’ll also give you an idea of the skills you need to hone (like video editing).
Domain name, hosting, the basic setup
Getting a foodilicious domain while keeping it simple and SEO-friendly isn’t as easy as it sounds. As a start check for domain availability with sites like GoDaddy, Bluehost or Hostgator. Some offer first timers a discount on the domain name when you purchase hosting in the bundle. Most people swear by WordPress for hosting as it is a scalable, easy for first timers and comes with loads of plugins and themes that can work like magic.
Website design and set up: Will you need a developer?
If you are completely new to the world of development, it’ll be good to have a helping hand. Most people start by asking friends to take the set up as a weekend project. It will save you a ton of time considering that you are itching to get your killer recipes out for the world. If you do take it up as a DIY project, you’ll have a learning curve. It’ll also mean you know inside out of your website and will be able to make changes in the future by yourself.
Choosing the right website design
This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your food blog. It’ll dictate how awesome your food images will look and how easy it’ll be for your readers to access your information and navigate the site. WordPress has many ‘Food Blog’ themes that come built in with a lot of plug-n-play. There are both free and paid themes available. A paid theme is a one-time investment and one like Foodie Pro will go a long way in getting the look and feel of your site right. Some come with built-in recipe cards. After all, when you send the blog for the first time to friends and family, you want it to look good. Others offer Google rich snippet support which can eventually help increase your organic ranking.
Pick blogs whose design you really like. Try checking their code (right click on the website and click on ‘View Source’) and then search for the theme to know its name. Or simply pick one from the several ready options.
After this, get on with installing a basic set of plugins that’ll add functionality to the blog. Here’s a quick checklist
- AddThis: A social bookmarking plugin which makes it easier for visitors to share your posts. (You can also try the ‘Genesis Simple Share’ plugin which works well with StudioPress themes
- Akismet: Nobody likes spam, let alone monitoring it. The plugin filters out spam comments without a CAPTCHA
- EasyRecipe: Adds some secret ingredients to get your blog some search engine, love
- jQuery PinIt button for images: Makes it super easy for visitors to Pin your image
- Related Posts: Shows recipes/posts of a similar category at the end of the blog. Helps people maintain the continuity. If someone is reading a recipe for a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie, the are likely to click on the banana oatmeal cookie recipe too.
- Yoast SEO: The best SEO plugin out there that’ll keep your blog compliant with standard SEO requirements.
- Mailchimp: Help people join your mailing list promising that you won’t spam.
Setting up Google Tools
A base set up of Google tools will help you monitor your site’s organic health. You’ll need to set up the Google Search Console, Google Analytics (you can add the plugin too) and Feedburner which allows you to build your base of subscribers.
Photos and videos
High-quality photos are the life of any food blog. There is a substantial craze for people to first devour the food with their eyes (read food porn) and then taste it. You may not need a DSLR (although it’ll be good to have one) but you’ll at least need a phone with a great camera and some software to edit the pics. Photography is an acquired skill and you may not get it right on day 1. But there are ample websites with tips that can decrease your learning curve and help you get better quality photos. Think through your cooking process thoroughly, the ingredients, the pots and pan you’ll be using and walk through your set up a couple of times before you begin. It is a little difficult to click and cook and it’ll be good to enlist some help.
The second most interesting section of your site is ‘About me’
Your audience is not only interested in your recipe but also you. As strange as you may find it, your ‘About me’ page will get a lot of hits. They’ll want to know why you are doing what your are doing. How much do you love food really and what is your food blog’s inspiration and purpose in the universe. They’ll want to know if they can replicate some yards in your journey while they walk a few steps with your recipes. So make it interesting for them.
Here’s the bio of chef Aniket from his award-winning blog ‘Belly over mind’ which clearly states why his blog is different and deserves your attention over the scores of food blogs on the internet.
Every food blog has a story of how and why it was set up. You’ll find many bloggers who’ve taken up cooking for the first time after marriage and discovered their love for it. You’ll find others who are channelling their professional chef ambitions via their blog to maintain their brand name. Some are simply celebrating the foodie in them.
Here’s the story behind the popular Hebbar’s kitchen
While Rocky and Mayur’s popular show Highway on my plate isn’t a blog it is a perfect example of how you can do something amazingly well if you love doing it and have the right partner.
The first most interesting section: The recipe behind the recipes
How risky are your recipes?
Do they source ingredients from exotic lands which are inaccessible to your readers?
Do the complicated procedures take hours to execute?
The nature of recipes you choose and how you present them will go a long way in determining your blog audience.
Are they all original or you’ll find them on a few hundred websites?
Think of SEO from the start
They type of recipes you choose will determine how easy or difficult it’ll be for you to get organic traffic. If you share recipes that already have a lot of searches (read cookies and cakes), it’ll be harder to rank as there are several people who’ve already written about it. Even special creations like the ‘Beetroot Wellington’ by Flynn McGarry (also known as the Justin Beiber of food) sees re-creations by many people. But it is a unique recipe and if you gain an authoritative handle over it, you can drive considerable traffic from niche keywords.
The content of your recipes will be instrumental in the discovery of your food blog and the community you develop around it. So choose wisely.
Safeguard your content
Recipe plagiarism is a big problem in the industry. There are bloggers of the pretend kind who are there primarily for the traffic. They steal recipes, change it around a little and pass it as their own.
Though laws change according to countries, there is currently no substantial law that provides copyright restrictions on recipes. The only workarounds are
- Having a proper copyright statement throughout your websites
- Have high-quality, original photos with your recipes. If these get copied, you’ll know it right away
- Ask people to request a link back to your website if they try an ‘adaptation’.
Claim social handles
Your clout as a food blogger will be known by the community and following you create around your food. While this will take time to build, you need to get started with it on day one and keep at it every day. You’ll have to keep at it on days you are not too enthusiastic. You’ll have to trudge through it to create more content than you cook. You’ll have to learn the hashtags and new social media as they come up. When you create a community, it’ll be worth its weight in gold.
The secret ingredient – Your Personality
There are hundreds of food blogs on the internet. A simple search for Oats cookies recipe throws 2,54,00,000 search results. While there are several ways to make cookies, what makes it different is the way ‘you’ present the content. There are Oats cookies by the busy mom which takes just four ingredients readily available at home. There are Oats cookies prepared by a masterchef like blogger that incorporates some infused flavours from exotic spices. There are chewey cookies, soft cookies, honey cookies, healthy cookies, brown sugar cookies, crispy cookies and more varieties out there. How you portray your cookies USP will choose who your followers are. If you are a mommy blogger who goes with easy and healthy recipes, you’ll have followers who are in a similar life juncture or those that are looking for flexi cooking options.
Moderating comments, especially with the amount of spam and link farm comments these days, is quite a pain. But encouraging them and showing the genuine ones on the website is a great way to show how your users are engaging with your content. It also helps you get feedback for your recipes and gloat when the appreciation comes in.
Building your brand
Once you enter the world of food blogging, you want to be known for your creations. This is one exercise that’ll take time but will ultimately decide how your blog shapes up and the opportunities that it brings to you in the future. You’ll have to pick your path – whether it is reviewing restaurants, attending foodie events or partnering with fellow popular food bloggers to offer co-creations. After you’ve built a good bank of recipes, you can also apply for food blog awards that can draw some attention your way.
How to make money with your food blog
We are sure the thought has crossed your mind. Most bloggers turn to Adsense as the first resort and then try to work with affiliate marketing. Unless you have more than a few thousand views a day, neither of these methods can get you income – at least not enough to sustain a living.
But food bloggers have many interesting ways of monetization. You can have weekend pop-up menus where you can offer your creations to a local audience. You can package and sell signature curries and sauces that can make daily cooking easier for your readers. You can even supply packaged meals to offices and homes. It can be an amazing start to your catering career. You never know – that dream restaurant or bistro might be around the corner.
Mom’s advice works best
Most food bloggers will attribute a part of their success to their mother’s recipes – recipes that are cooked with an equal measure of love and heirloom cooking. But other than actual cooking, it’s the life advice that comes handy.
Be nice, creative, constructive, respectful, humble, work hard and do it with a smile. Love what you do and do what you love