PHEW!!! I made it!! I’m officially part of the food blogging world! 🙂 I started my blog about a week ago, so I figured one of my first posts should be explaining the steps I took to make it this far (since it’s fresh in my mind!). For anyone here just for the food, feel free to scroll along past this post. For anyone interested in starting their own blog, here are my 7 Easy Steps to Starting a Food Blog (including the costs!) Obviously there are many ways to start a blog, but this was the process that most of my favorite bloggers recommended! Feel free to explore your options if you wish, but from my research this seems to be the most popular method!
Note: This process will set you up with a wordpress.org website. There is a difference between wordpress.org and wordpess.com websites. WordPress.org will give you a self hosted platform that allows you more freedom to customize and monetize your blog. For more information on the difference you can read more from the experts here!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will get a small portion of any sales that result from readers clicking my links. This is of no cost to you but is greatly appreciated by me! Thank you! And thank you for supporting these sites that I love!
Before you start: I LOVE organizing. So I recommend purchasing a blog notebook or binder where you can record everything you learn along the way. I recorded costs, helpful websites, usernames and passwords (there will be a lot!), inspirational bloggers, and just general tips and notes for me to refer back to as I continue this process! Okay, let’s begin!
1. Pick your domain name (This will be something like ‘yourblogname.com’, i.e. my domain name is cutsandcrumbles)
This will be your name in the blog world. It will be your website address. It will be your instagram name, your pinterest name, your twitter name, etc etc. Pick something you like, something that will last, and something that applies to what your blog is about.
If you decide on your name first, it will make the rest of the steps much easier.
Also, I recommend searching the name a bit. You don’t want to choose something that ends up being a copyright issue because the name you chose (or something a little too similar) already exists. I ran into this with a few of my first ideas!
2. Sign up for bluehost ($137.52) [36 months at $3.49/month plus $11.88 total for privacy protection]
This is the hosting site you will use. They provide you with a free domain name (which you have already chosen in step number 1) and privacy protection to protect your personal information from website hackers.
1. Select the basic package
2. Enter your domain name into the box
3. TADA!!! You now own your website!!
4. Complete your registration with bluehost.
- Once you purchase your domain, I recommend setting up an email account for your new name. That way you can use that email address for everything to come! This will help you keep everything with your blog organized and separate from your personal email. (Ahh, organization <3)
3. Log into blue host and download wordpress
**This portion of the instructions have changed since I launched my site. Bluehost has provided me with the following screen shots to help illustrate the next few steps. It seems to be pretty step-by-step as you will choose a theme then simply launch your site and enter in your site title and description. (For reference, my title is “Cuts and Crumbles” and my description is “Making the journey to a healthier lifestyle a little tastier!”)
WELCOME TO YOUR WEBSITE!!! 🙂
4. Purchase and download the Genesis framework ($59.95)
**Steps 4 and 5 are optional. Wordpress comes with free themes that you can use for your website, if you wish! I chose to purchase the Genesis framework because it was recommended by a lot of my favorite bloggers (read as: heroes!) and I wanted my site to appear professional. If you want to use the free options in wordpress instead, feel free!
At this point, consider these steps like setting up a new laptop. Think of the framework as the “operating system” of your website. You will also need to purchase what is called a ‘child theme’ to go with this framework (you can’t do much on your computer if it only has an operating system, we will learn more about the theme in step 5).
1. Once you purchase Genesis, you need to download it as a zip file.
- **I repeat: You NEED to download it as a ZIP file. It will NOT work if it is not a zip file. I have a mac and my computer automatically opened the file (rather than saving it as a zip file) so I could not upload it to wordpress. This lead to so much Caitlin frustration. If you have this issue on your mac you can fix it by doing this:
- 1. Under “Safari,” go to “Preferences,” then “General,” then uncheck the box that says “Open safe downloads automatically”
- 2. Re-download the Genesis zip file
- Save this in a new folder on your computer designated for your wordpress zip files. You will be downloading a LOT of them!
2. Go to your wordpress dashboard. Under “Appearance,” select “Themes”.
3. Click on “Install Themes”
4. Select “Upload”
5. Find your Genesis framework zip file and select it
6. Click the “Install” button
7. Once the installation is complete, you can click return to themes. You do not need to click activate theme.
5. Purchase and download a child theme ($45.00)
**The Genesis zip file MUST be installed before you can install a child theme. And you MUST select a child theme that is compatible with the genesis framework.
Think of it this way: as I said in step 4, the framework is your computer operating system. You need it in order for your computer to run and it has to be installed before you do anything else. The child theme is like your “desktop.” This is where you will make your computer look the way you want it to and lay out all your folders and programs in a way that looks nice and works well for you, but you can’t use it if the computer isn’t up and operating first.
There are a million places to find a child theme so prices will vary. I started to get confused when looking through the available wordpress and Genesis themes so I googled “Genesis child themes” to try to make sense of this and found some ADORABLE themes!
Keep in mind that in some themes you can’t change colors or layouts. I wanted to find a theme that gave me some options to change these in the future, so that I could change the look of my site without having to purchase a new theme. Select whatever works best for you!
- I HIGHLY recommend this site!! My page would not even be functioning without Lauren’s help. She offers multiple tutorials (including ones that are specifically geared towards your individual theme) and resources that teach you how to set up your blog and make your theme function as it should.
- I had suspected that you just download a theme and then kind of click and type in what you want, like a template, to personalize it. So wrong, so, so wrong. There is sooo much more involved and she really helps you figure out what steps you need to take to get your website looking like her demos.
Sorry, I digressed. NEXT–>
You need to download the theme that you purchase, from whatever site you so choose, and follow the first 6 steps you did for installing the Genesis framework. Except this time you need to ACTIVATE the theme.
6. Next step, PANIC. (Just kidding, but that’s what I did.) The next step is actually to learn how to operate the wordpress dashboard.
Now that everything is installed, it’s time to learn the wordpress dashboard and terminology. I could not have been more confused. What is a page? What is a post? A plugin?? A widget??? A category?? A tag??? Do I need a disclaimer??? WHAT THE HECK IS SEO??!!
I still don’t FULLY understand everything (hence, this is a learning blog)…but here are some pointers to get you started.
A page vs a post:
A page is something that will likely not be changing much. For example, my pages include my about me, about the name, and disclaimer pages. The information on these pages are “static.” They won’t be changing frequently so you can commit them to a page.
A post is what you will be writing when you want to create a blog post. Each recipe I share is a post. What you are reading right now is a post.
A plugin vs a widget:
Plugins are what you need in order keep your website running and looking the way you want it to.
Think of it like this, you already have your operating system and desktop set up. Now you need to determine what “programs” are important to you to have on your computer. Do you want to install word and excel? Do you need adobe? Do you need a security/anti-spam program? Whatever is important to you as a plugin you can add. Just like a computer, there will be some plugins already included, but that’s just the basics. Anything else you want can be searched for by clicking on “plugins” then “add new.” As you work on your website you will begin to discover the plugins you need.
For example, some of the plugins I installed are:
- Akismet: Anti-spam to prevent and block spam messages and comments on your site. This can be downloaded for free, simply choose the basic “name your price” option and drag the pricing tool down to $0.
- Responsive WordPress Slider-Soliloquy Lite: This is the plugin that allowed me to create the picture slider on my homepage. Thank goodness for Lauren at Restored 316, I would have never figured that one out if it wasn’t for her tutorial and size specifications for my theme!!
- Jetpack: It’s recommended by wordpress as soon as you sign in. Everyone recommends it. Do it!
- Yoast SEO: This plugin helps you make sense of SEO (search engine optimization) to help improve your odds of readers finding your content when they search for words that relate to your posts. Each post has SEO recommendations for how to make your post more likely to show up in a search engine.
A widget is similar to a plug in. It’s a fancy plug in. Think of it this way: you have downloaded your anti-spam and programs you want on your computer, now you get to have fun and download some things you want like Facebook and instagram apps.
For example, some of the widgets I have are:
- Easy Recipe: This widget allows me to create the recipes and nutritional labels that are in my posts. It prevents them from looking like a hot mess if I were to try to format them myself 🙂
- Instagram Feed: This allows you to create a link to your instagram account so that your images will show up on your blog as well.
- Pinterest Pin It Button: Pretty self-explanatory, it puts the ‘pin it’ button on my pages so pinterest users can save my content!
- Shortcode widget: This is a widget I didn’t realize was a thing until I tried to load my instagram feed widget. If you insert this widget first you can copy and past the code from your instagram feed widget into ‘content’ and TADA, it magically posts it for you, easy as that.
I still don’t fully understand widget vs plugin so these may be under the wrong category but hopefully this helps you start to figure it out!
These are all installed using the same technique as the genesis framework.
1. Go to “plugins”
2. Search and install or use the “upload” button on the top to select your zip file (I warned you there would be a lot!)
3. Click “activate the plugin”
4.WOOHOO you have plugins! And widgets! And stuff…
So categories are a break down of what you are posting about. For example, my categories are things like side dishes, appetizers, and desserts (actually, I created these as subcategories to my categories of “Cuts” and “Crumbles” so that I can categorize each recipe appropriately, but you get the gist!). That way when I make posts I can select the appropriate category so that my post will show up where I have listed the category title.
For example, if you are posting about fashion your categories could be fall outfits, summer outfits, winter outfits, or shirts/blouses, bottoms, and shoes. However you want to break down and organize your posts!
Tags complement your categories and helps readers searching for specific content. They are keywords that help readers find topics of interest of them.
For example, in my blog you can search for “bacon” and find recipes that contain bacon.
From my best understanding, this is just information that helps protect your content and images, as well as protect YOU from the information you are posting into the internet world.
For example, I wanted my disclaimer to specify how I am not an expert, nor professionally trained, in regards to the content I post, to help prevent any misconception or confusion that I am providing expert advice! (If you need dietician advice, see a dietician, not my personal blog :))
This is also where you could disclose any affiliate information, if applicable. (i.e. if a company is paying you to create posts about their products, or if you make commission off affiliate links, you HAVE to disclose this.)
- There are strict rules from the FTC regarding affiliate posts so you can’t just put a blanket disclosure on your disclaimer page but it wouldn’t hurt to have it there! I hope to get more involved in affiliate work so I will post more as I learn but I did find a good resource on FTC regulations for bloggers.
7. Explore, research, and play with your new website
Obviously I am still figuring everything out but what I recommend is just playing around with your website. It took me awhile to actually make my site live because I wanted to practice with everything on the dashboard without publicly making my website look like a hot mess.
I did a lot of googling…..like, a LOT. It is AMAZING what you can find if you just type in what you need to know (e.g. I googled “how to add instagram feed to wordpress blog” and instantly found out I had to use the shortcode widget. Who knew! Oh wait, the interweb always knows…)
Also, in addition to google, this site was a great source for general wordpress questions and tutorials. (I found that the actual wordpress.org support page answers always seemed to be well over my head…so this site helps break it down for you!)
My current goals are to learn more of the intricacies of running a functioning, socially connected, and pretty food blog! My favorite and best resource is Lindsay and Bjork at Pinch of Yum. They’re pretty much the queen and king of the food blogging world with excellent tutorials, eBooks, and photography tips. Here are some of my favorite resources from them:
- How to start a food blog: Their tutorial that made it possible for me to even be here right now! For reals. This is what inspired me to create my own resource page so I could help other newbies like they helped me!
- Food Blogger Pro ($29 subscription fee per month [can be cancelled at any time!]): A phenomenal resource full of a BAGILLION video tutorials about everything you ever wanted to know (about food blogging at least)! An active community forum to connect with other food bloggers and have your questions answered by real people rather than google! Discounts on tools and services specifically geared towards food bloggers! (Including a pretty hefty discount on bluehost! Dagnabbit, wish I had known that!)
- I am currently in my first month of this and OVERWHELMED (in a good way) by the amount of information and posts there are! I think I can confidently say anything you ever wanted to know about food blogging can be found on here!
- Tasty Food Photography eBook. ($29) Still from Pinch of Yum (serious gurus, guys), this book provides tutorials, recommendations and tips for food photography. Again, I just purchased this so I am still learning all that it has to offer but I have seen some examples of before and after pictures and can’t WAIT to start learning about food photography and improving the quality of my pictures. I plan to post some photography tidbits and before and after pictures under my Food for Thought page as I work my way through the eBook! Keep checking back for updates! 🙂
So here’s my take away message, there’s a million ways to do this, there’s a million things to learn and a million places to learn more!! Take it one step at a time, if you get stuck don’t hesitate to find new resources or ask other bloggers, we’re all learning! I will be posting what I learn as time goes on, so be sure to check back for more updates on my Food for Thought page!
Thanks for reading! Please contact me if you have any questions!