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Blogging wasn’t the intention for me when I started to blog. I was a new freelance writer with no experience, and I needed something to show people what I could do. I liked the idea of blogging, so I started a couple of blogs.
A little while later, I learned about how to start a food blog. Being married to a chef, this seemed a fun idea – because I’m really not a foodie and a very fussy eater! One thing led to another and we have Pesto & Margaritas. But if you are thinking about starting a food blog, how do you know if it is right for you? And what do you need to get started?
Why start a blog?
Let me start high level with the question of why you might want to start a blog. Sure, there are millions out there and people always say that there’s nothing new to be done. That’s sort of true but not the whole story – and definitely NOT a reason to start your own.
Some of the best reasons to start a blog include:
- Creative outlet – you can turn your passion into something you share with the world
- Side hustle that turns into a full time job – you can make money from a blog and even grow it into a full time income if you want to
- Flexible around your life – it can be done with just a few hours a week available so can fit around the other parts of your life
- You can help people – whether it sharing a passion for cocktails, helping them grow their hobby into a business or sharing DIY tips, you can help people solve problems
- You could become famous – I know, it isn’t really something to aim for, but you never know, there are some pretty famous bloggers out there!
Why start a food blog?
These reasons can apply to any type of blog from a lifestyle to a business one like this one. But what about starting a food blog specifically – why might this be the one for you?
Voice your opinions and help people
Voicing your opinions and helping people might not seem connected but they could be. A friend of mine has a food blog where she teaches people to make dinner for a dollar. She teaches what she learned when one of her kids had a dietary requirement that was costing her a fortune. She helps other moms with what she learned.
Share your passion
One of the things I love about my food blog is that I get to share my passion for cocktails with others who are interested. I can talk about trying a certain gin in a classic cocktail recipe and these people will be interested in what I have to say because that’s why they came to the blog.
Learn new skills
You will definitely learn new skills when you have a food blog, and these aren’t always to do with cooking. Robert (my husband) does most of the cooking but I’m in charge of photography and all the tech side. Even compared with other blogs I have, there are specific skills to learn for a food blog.
Have great fun
The majority of the time, food blogging is great fun. Sure, you can get the odd idiot leaving nasty comments but that happens anywhere, for any type of blog. Occasionally, all of the work can seem like a mountain but then you will get a viral pin on Pinterest or a featured snippet on Google and it all seems worth it again.
Types of food blog
Now food blogging is a huge category with millions of blogs in it. Looking at it might seem a bit overwhelming when you are trying to figure out what you want to blog about. But there are a few broad categories that help you narrow things down.
- Recipe blogs – these are primarily about recipes and often focus on a specific area such as recipes for families, vegan recipes or even something like breakfast recipes
- Cooking blogs – these focus more on the type of cooking so you could have an Italian cooking blog or focus on baking cakes or even something like sous vide cooking
- Food tasting blogs – these are popular in some parts of the world where people go out and work like a food critic, eating and restaurants and writing reviews
- Food review blogs – these focus on reviewing anything from appliances to kitchen gadgets to cookbooks
- Healthy eating blogs – these focus on a specific diet or eating approach such as vegan, gluten free or paleo
Then you can create a blog that is a mixture of one or more elements. For example, on my blog I have recipes, I have roundups where I have a selection of recipes in a post (15 gin cocktails, for example) as well as product reviews and some healthy eating tips but no specific diet or cuisine.
Food blog post examples
As well as the type of food blog you want to start, you will also want to start thinking about the types of blog post you will write. This will be tied up with what your content is about but there are a few main post types such as
- Recipe only – this is focused purely on one recipe, often with some background or tips on making the recipe, sometimes with a little information about a particular ingredient or piece of equipment used
- Round up – this is a post that offers a collection of information which could be a set of recipes around a theme, a series of cookbooks on a topic or something similar
- Informative post – this teaches you about a specific topic which might be a guide to different types of a food, how to cook a certain way and sometimes does include recipes but sometimes not
- Product review – this is where you review a particular product or a group of them to compare them
How to make money with a food blog
When you are planning the early stages of your food blog, it is also worth thinking about how you want to make money from it. Sure, that might not be the early consideration, but it is worth starting with the end in mind. Like with all kinds of blogging, there are a good few options available.
Affiliate marketing for food bloggers can take a number of different paths. One of the easiest to start is with something like Amazon. While the pay-out may not be spectacular, there’s the Amazon factor – people know it and use it all the time. You can recommend equipment, tools, products and even food items as an affiliate.
Not only is there Amazon but loads of individual programs or ones through things like ShareASale. Here you can sign up for programs to promote things that your audience could be interested in. This could be anything from subscription boxes for menu planning to the latest kitchen gadgets.
Sponsored posts are a popular option with food bloggers because everyone needs to eat and there are lots of companies out there with products or services, they can partner up with bloggers to promote. You may need a bit of traffic and a following to get these opportunities, but it never hurts to start early.
Digital products are great ways for food bloggers to make money and there are countless ways to do it. Obviously, the most popular is with cookbooks – creating a book of your own recipes and selling it, digitally and even physically.
There are other avenues to go down too. Meal planning is huge and there’s demand for everything from pre-made menus to meal planning printables that you could consider. You could also create eBooks that aren’t just recipes.
Recipe creation services
This is something that Robert would love – creating and testing recipes for people who are paying you. This might be for a brand partner using their ingredient, it could be for other food bloggers or even to sell in PLR content style.
Are there downsides to blogging?
I can tell, you are interested in blogging. Food blogging definitely seems to be the right avenue for you. But it isn’t all roses and making instant money so let’s take a moment to pause and look at the downsides. For me, none of these are enough to put me off but I like to be upfront.
Takes time to work on it
Like anything else, you always have the chance of becoming an overnight success but in most cases, food blogging takes time and a lot of work. You need to make sure you have time in your schedule to work on it and commit to regular work.
No guarantee of success
Depending on what success looks like for you, there’s no guarantee of achieving it. If you want to make a certain amount of money, be famous or have big brand sponsorships, then go for it. But no-one can say that you will 100% get where you are aiming for, just like with any other venture.
There’s a lot to it
When I mentioned having time to work on your blog, that also means all the other things you have to do as a blogger. Just creating the recipe and writing the post is only a part of it. You need to have time to:
- Create the post on a platform like WordPress
- Create all graphics to go with it
- Promote it on social media
- Use Pinterest to drive traffic
- Network with other bloggers to get more traffic and backlinks
- Constantly learn new stuff like SEO
- Maintain your website
You need some money to start
You definitely can start a food blog for free (more on that in a moment) but if you want to scale and grow, you will need some money to spend on it. This is for things like your website theme, paid plugins, better photography equipment and even help with your blog such as a VA.
How to start a blog for free
Well, you are still here so I’m guessing those downsides didn’t put you off. Okay, then the first step is to actually make a start by creating your blog and that you can do for free.
There’s a couple of ways to do this but the route I recommend from experience is to create your blog on WordPress.com. This is a free and somewhat limited version of the software that this website and millions more run on. But it lets you get the basics in place, start creating posts and understand the basics of what you need to do.
As your blog grows, you will want to swap to WordPress.org and this means having a domain and a website host. These cost money but can be very reasonable with domains costing around £10-20 depending on the name and extension you choose. I use Lyrical Host for my website hosting and their basic plan starts from around £15 a month.
The other thing you will want to upgrade when you move from free to paid website is your theme. You don’t have to, but you will likely find that a free theme is a little restrictive and your site looks too much like others running it. There are loads of paid themes including from people like Elegant Themes as well as food blog specialists.
Crucial plugins for your food blog
When you move to a paid version of WordPress, you will get access to a lot more plugins. There’s the urge to go a little nuts with these but that is a bad idea because they can slow your site down. Instead focus on the most important ones. Here are my general and food specific go-to plugins.
- Akismet – this is a spam comment prevention plugin that is free and keeps the majority of crappy spam comments from filling up your website
- All in One Security – a great free security plugin that has firewall and other features to help protect your website (your host should also help with this)
- Easy Table of Contents – a lightweight way to add a table of contents to the start of the post which helps people navigate the post better and has SEO benefits
- Affiliate disclosure & GDPR plugins – I use FMTC Affiliate Disclosure & GDPR Cookie Consent Banner to handle the technical stuff to cover legal requirements
- Insert headers & footers – a simple plugin that lets you add code such as for Google Analytics without messing around with the backend of your website
- Short Pixel – site speed is important, and this plugin helps make sure images are optimised, look great and don’t slow down your website
- Social Pug – recently became Grow by MediaVine, this offers free social sharing features and a paid plugin for Pinterest features such as a dedicated Pinterest description for every image
- WP Rocket – a paid optimisation plugin that does loads of clever stuff to make your site run better, half of which I don’t totally understand yet!
- Yoast SEO – one of the top SEO plugins, it helps you ensure you are ticking all those crucial on-page SEO boxes on your posts as well as stuff like submitting sitemaps
Food blog plugins
As well as the ones above which are used on all of my websites, there are some specific food blog plugins that I use.
A recipe plugin is crucial for a couple of reasons. First, it makes for good user experience, creating an easy to read and print recipe in a relatively standard format. It also sends the right signals to Google and co to help them realise it is a recipe and rank it accordingly. I use Tasty Recipes which is paid and have also used WP Recipe Maker in the past which has a free and paid version.
Adding nutritional information isn’t compulsory but can help with SEO and many users want it. I use a paid service called Nutrifox which comes from the same people as Tasty Recipes. I add ingredients and how much is in the recipe and it creates a standard nutrition label that I can then add to the recipe and displays at the bottom.
Roundup post plugin
If you plan on doing roundups or collections of recipes, then a plugin that can mark this correctly for search engines is a good idea. I use Create by MediaVine which is free and very easy to use, allowing you to link internally and externally (although always be careful of image permissions as it pulls the image for external links).
Extra plugins to consider
Finally, there are a few plugins that I use and would mention that you may not need, depending on how you do things.
Link handling plugin
If you use things like Amazon for affiliate links, then a plugin like Tasty Links is handy (yes, same people as Tasty Recipes). This lets you create links on keywords and the link will appeal throughout the whole website as a clickable affiliate link. I use this for longer phrases 3-4 words so that it doesn’t overlink in a post. So, I link to 7-in-1 Instant Pot rather than just Instant Pot.
Also in their recent update, you can now add the image HTML code from Amazon so that images of products appear in places like your recipe cards – and images always seem to get more clicks!
Extra Gutenberg blocks
Gutenberg is the name for WordPress’ block editor which came into being in the last year or so. It has lots of standard blocks but to add a few more features, I use something called Atomic Blocks. This is a free plugin and lets me create things like related posts blocks (you can see one at the bottom).
Email marketing software plugin
No matter what your plans, you will want to start with email marketing early in your food blogging career. Many email marketing software companies have their own plugin that adds extra features and connectivity when you use them. MailerLite does and so does ConvertKit.
Promoting your food blog
The final component you need to consider when starting a food blog is promoting it. You can pop up posts and hope that people find you, which they might. But realistically, you need to promote your blog to get traffic.
Being a Pinterest manager, I’m a little biased in favour of Pinterest but that’s because I’ve seen the results. It is usually well ahead of other traffic sources for my food blog because people use it to find recipes, food information and research products. So, it is definitely one of the main ways you will want to promote your blog.
The other main way is with search engine optimisation or SEO. This is a complex area, but you can learn it over time. The aim is to rank on search engines for queries known as keywords and have search engines like Google send people to your website. There are lots of SEO fundamentals to learn and it is definitely worth doing this.
Food sharing sites like FoodGawker
I don’t use this much myself, but others have had a lot of success. FoodGawker and other sharing sites let you add a recipe to it and people can see it in searches and click through to your website. Just be careful to avoid ones that copy your whole recipe onto the site as there’s no reason for people to click and less benefit for you.
If you want to go down the route of sponsored posts as a source of income, you will want to start building an Instagram account. This is less about traffic and more about building an audience, having people know your blog and follow you.
Facebook is a cross between Pinterest and Instagram – it can be a source of traffic but also a good place to build relationships, a following and can help with sponsored posts. You can have a Page or even a Group depending on your aims.
7 top food blogs for inspiration
To finish, I thought I would include some food blogs for inspiration. It often helps to see what people are doing and to get inspiration or sometimes see how you don’t want to it.
Pesto and Margaritas
My food blog is anything but a ‘top’ food blog but I’ve talked about it here so I thought I would include a link. We blog about recipes, food ideas, kitchen equipment, drinks and cocktails and also a bit about food and health – why stuff is good for you.
Pinch of Yum
Pinch of Yum is one of the top food blogs and the people behind it also created some of the plugins I’ve mentioned such as Tasty Recipes. It is a recipe blog with easy to follow recipes as well as guides on healthy eating and digital products such as cookbooks.
Cookie and Kate
Cookie and Kate is a food journal by a chef and her dog about their experiences with food. There’s a range of recipes by course, cuisine or diet with a big emphasis on vegetarian recipes.
As the name suggests, Serious Eats is a serious food blog that uses some serious and unique recipes and techniques. They are definitely something different and aren’t always the kind of recipe you might try but shows you a different approach to food blogging.
Add a Pinch
Add a Pinch is an example of a cuisine specific blog, in this case Southern Recipes, that also has some lifestyle elements to it. There are sections on travel and lifestyle alongside the recipes.
Budget Bytes focuses on how to make budget-conscious recipes by a self-taught cook working to a budget. There are a range of recipes as well as kitchen skills to help the reader achieve their aim.
The Pioneer Woman
The Pioneer Woman is another example of a food and lifestyle blog that includes family updates, anecdotes and recipes on a journal from a city girl to a domestic country wife.
Start your own food blog
There’s nothing to stop you from going out and creating your own blog, as these top food blogs show. You can find a corner of the internet that is just what you love and there will always be others that visit it. You do need to learn the basics of running a blog, some tech and some marketing but there’s no reason you can’t be the next big food blogging thing!