Pour yourself a cup of tea and get comfy, this is a big one. This is a really important post for those of you that are interested in starting a blog. Over the last couple of years I have answered many how-to questions from blog readers that are ready to start their own blogs. I finally decided to write a post about it, as I think it will be helpful to many of you.
I have been blogging for close to 4 years now. I made many mistakes early on, which caused me lots of stress and money. I am here to tell you everything you need to know to get started the right way, so you can avoid unnecessary stress and experience success immediately! I really wish I had this information when I started. To say I learned the hard way, would be an understatement. By following the below steps, you can set up a successful blog from the get go.
If you are wondering, it is possible to make money blogging. I’ll provide some resources below to help you learn how. I left a well paying, high tech job to become a full time blogger. Be warned, it takes a lot of dedication, commitment and many hours of work to build a career as a real food blogger, but it is possible (and worth it!). I work more than I ever have before, but I don’t mind it. It usually doesn’t feel like work. I love what I do. I genuinely enjoy blogging and I am deeply passionate about helping others improve their health. Even if you just want to do this as a hobby (which is how I started), it is still beneficial to follow the below steps. The below steps will also help you grow your traffic, which in turn will help you get your delicious and nourishing recipes on more people’s tables!
Start with WordPress.org, NOT .com
This is probably the most important step in starting your blog. WordPress.com and wordpress.org are very different platforms. WordPress.org is a robust and powerful blogging tool. It allows you to customize your blog, using “plugins”. Plugins are software created by different developers that allows you to expand the functionality of your site. There is basically a plugin for anything you want to do. WordPress.org does not offer hosting (which is why it is so tempting to go with WordPress.com). But, don’t worry, hosting can be very inexpensive when you first start out. You can get hosting for as as low as $5 a month, that’s like the cost of one kombucha . I’ll talk more about this below.
It might be tempting to go with wordpress.com, it’s free and user friendly. However, you will not be able to customize your site as much and as easily, as you can on WordPress.org. You also cannot run ads on wordpress.com. If you are just starting out, ads might not be of concern to you, but as you grow, you will likely want to run a couple of ads. When you are blogging seriously it can get expensive and to be able to continue blogging in the long run, you will have to earn some money, in order to support your efforts. So, you will want to have the option of running ads. There are lots of posts around the internet about the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org, google it, if you are interested in learning more. Every blogger I know, ends up migrating to WordPress.org. Unless, you are a techy, migrating is no fun, so save yourself the trouble and start on WordPress.org.
Several of you have asked me about Squarespace, although it is a user friendly platform, I don’t recommend it. I started out on a user friendly platform. Although it was nice when I was a newbie, as I grew, I couldn’t make the changes I needed and I had to move to wordpress.org and the transition was a nightmare (and very expensive) to say the least.
Logistics: How to set up your new blog
- Purchase your domain name, this can be done at Godaddy.com
- Download wordpress.org
- You will have to host your own site. I recommend Bluehost to start. They offer some really affordable packages (as low as $5 a month) and they are very reliable. As your traffic grows, you can either scale up with them or move to a more boutique hosting service. Learn more about Bluehost here.
- You will also need a “theme”, which basically means a designed website template. You can find free ones. Or you can purchase more robust ones for really reasonable prices. The Foodie theme from Studiopress is a great option. It is simple and clean and it will allow your photos and content to standout. The Genesis Framework is considered to be the best base for starting a wordpress.org site, so make sure that you purchase a theme that has the Genesis framework. Genesis has built in search engine optimization (aka it will help your blog rank better in Google searches), great security features and much more. This quick video explains exactly what themes are and what Genesis is.
Work on your photography skills
You don’t have to start out as a superb photographer, but start honing that skill early on. Nice photos make a world of difference. People are more likely to click through to your post or pin your recipe, when it is accompanied by a beautiful photo. If the recipe looks appetizing, they are much more likely to make it. I really can’t stress this enough. I started out taking iPhone photos. They were horrible. Even if the recipes are good, those posts get no traffic. As I take time to update the photos, those posts get a ton of traffic. Same recipe, different photo, much different results. I am now slowly working on recreating and re-shooting those recipes. Save yourself the time and start working on photography early on.
How to improve your photos:
- If you are going to blog seriously, you need a DSLR camera. This entry level model from Canon is perfect to start with. Most bloggers I know use it. If you get really into photography, it’s really easy to sell your camera on Amazon and upgrade to a more professional model. That’s what I did!
- Learn how to use your camera. Read the manual. There is a lot of great info there.
- The Tasty Food Photography eBook from Pinch of Yum is the best book I have found on food photography. I have several books on the topic and this eBook, is the most clear and easy to follow for beginners. Almost every blogger I know has used this book to improve their photos. You can download it here.
- The best thing I did was take a food photography and styling workshop with Diane Cu and Todd Porter of White On Rice Couple. I learned a ridiculous amount and it was worth every single penny. If you are reading this between June 5th and June 7th, you are so lucky! Their workshops usually cost around $1,000, but it is currently available for live streaming for free! You can view it here. After the free viewing period, the price will be $99 (or $129 depending on when you purchase it). Which is still a steal! These guys are really good.
- Look at food magazines and food blogs, not just Paleo blogs. Study their photos, save or pin the ones you like to refer to later. I even have a Pinterest food photography board, where I post pretty food photos, even if they aren’t Paleo.
Grow your traffic
- Create great content. This is really important. Good content will be shared and will get people coming back for more. If you hope to make blogging your career, the first thing you need is solid traffic. You can sign up for Google Analytics. It’s a great way to keep track of your blog traffic.
- Offer a newsletter opt in form from the start (even if you don’t plan on sending out a newsletter yet). This is the one thing I would change if I could. I wish I had collected email addresses from the beginning. Social media is great for connecting with your audience, but you don’t have control over what happens to it, such as all the Facebook algorithm changes in the last year. Your newsletter is really important. You can always access your readers via email and tell them about new and exciting stuff going on. People are busy and don’t have time to check their favorite blogs regularly. A weekly newsletter is a great way to let your readers know what is going on in your corner of the internet. Two popular services with varying fucntionalities are MailChimp and Aweber. MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers.
- Be active on social media. Connect with your audience through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus.
- Connect with other bloggers in your niche. I started to see real growth with my blog once I became friends with other bloggers. When people know you, they get more excited and motivated to share your work with their audience. Plus, it is so nice to have people to share your successes with and vent about your challenges. A great way of meeting other bloggers is to regularly leave thoughtful comments on their blog posts. Trust me, we notice! Of course, social media is great too. I have made several friends on Instagram!
How to Make Money Blogging
This is a huge topic that needs a post of it’s own. There are a lot of creative ways to make money blogging. If you plan to do this seriously, even if you have a full time job, it will be important to make some money. Blogging can get expensive. It requires a lot of time, ingredients, props and website maintenance costs. If it is costing you money, chances are that in the long run, you will abandon it. For you to be able to do this and help people, it will be important that you make some money to cover your blogging efforts. There are various ways to make money, including running ads through Google Adsense. Amazon also has a great affiliate program called Amazon Associates. There are so many options, including working with brands directly and promoting relevant eBooks, as well as creating and selling your own products. It is really important to be authentic and only promote products that you wholeheartedly believe in and/or use. This way, it is a win-win for everyone. You can make recommendations that will help your audience live more healthfully and you can also make some income to help you keep blogging.
If you would like to make money, blogging, I highly recommend reading Earn Big Money Blogging by Kelly Bejelly. This eBook has everything you need to know about earning money from a real food blog, a health blog or even a mommy blog! You can download it HERE.
Have you started a blog? Tell us about it in the comments!
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PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only recommend products that I wholeheartedly believe to be valuable or that I use myself.