Originally I had another post planned out for today but when I sat down to write I got nothing. It may have something to do with the cocktail I just made and photographed for you guys.A few weeks ago I started working on a post for you guys on how to start a successful food blog today. It’s taken me approximately 4 weeks to write it. Why? Because there’s so much to say! Eventually I realized I had to filter myself to the perspective of someone just starting out otherwise this post would turn into its own blog. Which may or may not be a possibility in the future…
It’s best to consider this post part #1 of a series. It’s how to START a blog that has the potential to be a great success, however it is that you define success. There are so many steps that come afterwards, but starting with a solid base is by far the most important.
I remember how stressful it was when I first decided I wanted to start a blog. I knew what I wanted it to be called, had posts written out in my head and recipes for the next 5 years, but the process of actually setting the blog up and all the technical stuff that comes with it was so incredibly daunting. As a result I ended up putting it off for a year until I could find the time to do some “research”.
Even with this research I have still encountered quite a few bumps along the way. Bumps that have taught me so much about blogging but I hope no other newbie food blogger should ever have to experience.
So I’m going to break it down for you, one step at a time. In fact, it will take you longer to read this page than it will to actually get your blog up and running. It’s that comprehensive.
I wrote this page channeling the mindset I had before I started THM. A year after starting it, I was running it as a business and less than 2 years later it is my full-time job. However, getting the blog fully functioning was by far the hardest part. But I’m here today to make your lives so much easier so that you can have your blog in less than 10 minutes and be blogging on your merry way.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Picking Your Blogging Platform.
You need a platform from which you can blog, Unless you’re a coder, in which case you probably don’t need to be reading this, you will need to utilize space on an already established platform.
Some blogging platforms that you may be familiar with include WordPress, Blogger, and Squarespace.
When I first started blogging I was using Blogger. Why? Because I didn’t have an awesome tutorial like this which told me NOT TO USE BLOGGER.
Now, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Blogger except that you are so limited in your ability to customize that your blog is likely going to look like everyone else’s. If you want to be generic, then you go glen coco but I knew I wanted THM to stand out, which is why I ultimately made the switch to WordPress.
And I highly recommend WordPress.
Here’s where things get tricky. WordPress runs two very similar sites both of which can be used as a blogging platform. There is WordPress.ORG and WordPress.COM. WordPress.COM is free, but it’s not what I recommend. While blogging on WordPress.com comes with no price tag it also comes with a distinct set of limitations, namely, it does NOT offer theme (i.e. layout) customizations, does not allow you to monetize and limits you to very little storage space so unless you plan to post once a year, you’ll end up having to buy more space from them anyway.
WordPress.ORG on the other hand offers thousands of themes, the ability to purchase and install new themes, unlimited space and most importantly, the ability to monetize. If you hope to one day throw some ads up on your blog, work with awesome food companies or sell products through your blog you need to be blogging on WordPress.ORG. Even if it’s not something you want right now but maybe could want down the road, just start blogging on WordPress.ORG. Trust me.
But before you go signing up on the WordPress.ORG site and get yourself confused, let’s cover step 2…
Step 2: Purchase Web Hosting and Your Domain Name
The reason why WordPress.ORG (unlike WordPress.com) comes at a cost is because you have to purchase web hosting in order to use it. Web hosting means you pay an external service to host your blog server. All of your content including your posts and pictures will sit on this server. So it isn’t WordPress.ORG that you are paying, but a hosting service which will work in conjunction with WordPress.ORG to keep your site running. This is what you frequently hear referred to as self-hosting. Here’s how I would sum it up:
You need a platform on which to blog, but your platform needs a place (i.e. a host) to store all of your content.
It’s purchasing this host that will cost you. Lucky for you, it isn’t too expensive and there are some very reasonable options out there.
I highly recommend Bluehost, which is the hosting company that I use. I recommend Bluehost to everyone because the setup is seamless, the pricing is reasonable, and they are a reliable hosting company. They also only cost $3.95 a month (an awesome sale price right now!). That’s less than a latte a month, and I’m willing to guess you don’t think twice before pulling out your wallet at Starbucks.
Then there’s your domain name. Your domain name is your blog’s URL. You want this URL to be owned by you and only you. So instead of thehealthymaven.wordpress.com, you own thehealthymaven.com. Most hosts make you buy your domain name externally (through sites like godaddy.com) but Bluehost actually includes the cost of your domain with your hosting. Win!
Bluehost also works hand-in-hand with WordPress so the second you purchase hosting it will direct you to WordPress so you can set up your account with them and have them linked.
For a full tutorial walking you through purchasing hosting with Bluehost and getting your blog set-up on WordPress, check out this page.
So now you have your blog set up on WordPress and hosted on Bluehost. It’s time to customize. Onto Step 3…
Step 3: Install a Theme
At this point you will be able to access the dashboard (i.e. behind-the-scenes homepage) to your blog. You will find this at yourdomainname.com/wp-admin and you will use the login information you entered on your Bluehost sign-up.
Now it’s time to install a theme. A theme is the layout of your blog and how it will look when visitors come to your site. It’s a mask you put on WordPress to make your blog look exactly how you want it. WordPress.ORG comes with thousands of free themes, some of which may work for you. But more often than not you’ll find a lot of the themes have been exhausted on the millions of other blogs out there and you’re looking for something that is more individualized to you. This is why you may decide to purchase a theme from a developer on another site.
There are so many themes and theme websites out there that it can be a little overwhelming picking the right one for you. The good news is that themes are pretty reasonable in price and are easy to install so you can try out a few before picking the final one.
If you are a food blogger just starting out, I highly recommend the Foodie theme. It is what THM uses and it is made specifically for food bloggers.
Sometimes themes are considered “child themes” which means they were for a lack of better term “birthed” out of a larger theme and share some of the (genetic) code of the parent theme. In this case you need to purchase both the parent and child theme for them to work.
One of the most popular parent themes you will come across is called Genesis. An example of a child theme would be the Foodie theme, which I just mentioned. Foodie is a child theme of Genesis so you would need to purchase both Genesis and Foodie for it to work. The cost is well worth it.
Step 4: Customize your Blog
Now that you’ve got your theme in place, it’s time to develop your blog into a brand.
Your blog layout is the first thing that someone sees when they land on your page. You want it to look as good as it possibly can.
If you have a background in graphic or web design, then aren’t you just a lucky duck. I’m jealous. However, most of us are lacking this skill set so sometimes it’s important to recognize your own misgivings and seek outside help.
While it isn’t necessary that you hire a web designer, if you are taking blogging seriously and would like it to be a business then I highly recommend that you do. How much you will earn with a well-branded site is likely to offset the cost of a designer. I hired a designer and began monetizing in the same month (November 2013). By the end of December 2013 I had completely earned back the total I spent on hosting, a theme and a web designer. That’s how much hiring a professional can really help.
Here are my recommendations:
Julie | Deluxe Designs (The Healthy Maven Designer/Developer- specializes in logo development and genesis framework)
Amanda | Lemon and Lapis (Specializes in brand/logo development, graphic design, and custom web design)
Ami | Poppy Designs (Specializes in brand/logo development, graphic design, and photography)
Step 5: Blog away!
And that, my friends is how to start a successful food blog today. Now it’s time to focus on creating quality content that your soon-to-be readers will love. But before you get started on your journey, be sure to sign-up for my exclusive blogging tips & tricks mailing list! I promise I will never spam your inbox. I only send you emails with information that is relevant to growing your blog. So far we’ve covered Pinterest’s new smartfeed, 5 blogging no-nos and where to submit your content after you publish a post. Don’t miss out on the next one!
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Am I missing anything? Is there anything I should elaborate on? What would you like to see next? Lots of questions today!
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