Start a Food Blog

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started a Food Blog

How to start a blog - 12 tips I wish I knew

Being a food blogger means so much more than just sharing your favorite recipes. Before I decided to start a food blog, I thought it was just about typing up my favorite bakes, snapping a few photos, and everyone would come and read my blog.

Not so fast! And not so easy! Here is a list of 12 things that I wish I knew before I started my food blog.

Before you decide to start a food blog, your first step should be to find your WHY. This seems like a simple question but, I assure you, it is not! So I will dive into Finding Your Why in a separate post.

Food Blogging is hard work

There is a misconception that food bloggers just throw together a recipe, probably something they just dreamed up last night, and is typed up in no time to be shared.

Ummm, no. That is not at all how food blogging works. At least not for me!

If there are food bloggers out there who have figured out how to make it that easy, please let me know how you do it!

Food blogging requires time, planning, patience, and determination.

Having a passion for food is a must as well!

To build a successful blog, you have to put in TIME, and a lot of it!

Working late at night on your food blog will happen often!

Recipe development

A good portion of the time is spent on coming up with ideas for recipes, researching techniques, ingredients, and ideas to make it uniquely yours, shopping for ingredients, trying a recipe, figuring out what you like and don’t like about it, making it again, and sometimes making it several more times.

Then there is the plating and photography of your dish. (More on this below.)

After all of that, there are dishes. Constant, never-ending dishes!

Now for the actual blogging

Wordpress is the best platform for your food blog.

Once you have a recipe that you like and want to share, the recipe needs to be typed up meticulously. It is best to write a recipe so that an absolute beginner can follow it. Don’t assume that a reader knows a certain technique just because you do! Add the details to make the recipe easy to follow.

After typing up the recipe, it’s time to write the blog post. Now, this is a point of contention among most people. Some readers says that they are coming to your site for a free recipe and they don’t want to read the write.

Others enjoy the stories and the personal connection to the blogger.

Either way, the write up is necessary if you want your blog to be successful. It has been shown that google likes long posts. Google also likes posts that answer questions.

When I started blogging, I had a difficult time figuring out the right balance to engage readers, inspire people to get in the kitchen and also satisfy the list of qualities google wants to see in a post before they rank it.

I have found that the write up is crucial and a good one takes time. If people don’t want to read it, they can just skip to the recipe. But I really try to put useful info in my posts so hopefully some of my readers take the time to read it!

You would think that the work would stop there but it doesn’t!

After the post is written, it should be edited. You can, of course, just hit publish, but I have found that every post, especially the recipes should be proofed a couple of times and edited. You will find steps that you left out, mispellings, and unclear information.


Promoting your posts

The next job in your journdy to start a food blog is to promote your post. To gain a following and actually have people read your posts, you need to share on social media. Most of my actual traffic comes from pinterest and google but my followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are an invaluable source of support and inspiration! (More on this below.)

Promoting your post on social media will help your food blog grow

Choosing a niche for your Food Blog

I knew my blog would be food blog. Creating recipes and inspiring people to bake and cook is my end goal.

I chose the domain name ‘Global Bakes’ because I genuinely love exploring cultures and one way to do that is through traditional food.

Hopefully this niche is narrow enough but the verdict is still out.

If you want to start a food blog, I say go for it! But I recommend really thinking about who your perfect audience is and niche down to be successful!

When I say niche down, what I mean is to pick a specific part of food that you want to target.

Maybe you are passionate about living a vegan lifestyle. Perhaps you have mastered the art of making meals in less than 30 minutes on weeknights. If bread is your passion, start a blog about all things bread making. If you are known as the cookie queen/king, maybe starting a cookie blog is the answer to your niche search!

While I think it is possible to succeed with an overall food blog, it is tough. There are sites that have done it but the food blog industry is so saturated that you really need to find a way to stand out!

So if you want to start a food blog, think about smaller niches!

Box of cookies for a cookie blog post

It takes time to grow a following for your Food Blog

I thought that if I wrote a blog and shared a lot of recipes, people would magically find my blog. Sharing on Instagram and Pinterest after writing a post should bring people in, right?

I mean, write it and they will come.

If only it were that easy!

There are millions of blogs in the blog-o-sphere. Literally millions! And there are thousands of food blogs. Everyone has recipes and the rise of the Instagram Foodie has made the food blog space beyond saturated.

The chances of you creating a completely unique recipe are slim and it is not likely to happen week after week, post after post.

There a million chocolate chip cookie recipes, and cakes, and tart and pies and breads. So how can someone stand out when they decide to start a food blog? And how will you get people to the blog in the first place?

The answer is TIME and HARD WORK (read #1 item in this post!).

Consistently writing quality recipes and quality posts to go along with them is the single most important thing to focus on when you start a food blog. Then learning SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the second beast to tackle!

Pinterest for promotion

Pinterest has become one of the biggest generators of traffic for me. As much as I love to scroll through Pinterest, I just can’t do it every day to share my own content. I will quickly get lost in a whole and find that several hours have passed and I have accomplished nothing.

So I use Tailwind to schedule my posts for several weeks at a time. I only spend about an hour a week in Tailwind and I can tell you that it is time that is very well spent!

I can also schedule Instagram posts in Tailwind and join Tribes where bloggers share each others’ content. Tailwind also provides the ‘smartbio’ feature for Instagram. This allows me to add links to individual posts and recipes directly from Instagram without changing the link in my profile every time I post and without having 10,000 followers!

Once you have conquered quality posts and SEO, over time, your audience will grow and so will your blog. But we are talking a year or two to really see results.

A year or two or longer of constantly working and producing content is tough to do. You will want to quit. You will wonder what it is all for. This is when you have to decide how much you want it and how important it is to you. This takes you back to your WHY for having a blog in the first place.

As a blogger, you will wear many hats

When I decided to start a food blog, I knew that I would be doing the recipe development, the cooking/baking, the photography and the writing myself.

These are the things that I love to do and that I thought I could spend all of my time on.

Blogging requires so many other tasks and I honestly didn’t realize how many other things would need to be done.

A few of the required tasks for bloggers:

  • Maintenance on the blog and the plugins
  • Configuration and design that is attractive and user-friendly
  • Marketing
  • Logo creation
  • Branding
  • Networking with other bloggers
  • Managing a content calendar
  • Learning google analytics
  • Keyword research
  • Video production
  • Video Editing
  • Replying to comments and connecting with your readers
  • Pinterest scheduling
  • Continuing education
  • SEO
  • Photography and Photo editing

I’m sure that I am missing something in that list. But with so many tasks, sometimes I wonder when I can fit in some time to bake!

Plan your posts for your food blog

If you decide to start a food blog, be ready to be all of these things and more! You can hire people to do a lot of these tasks for you if you are in the position to do so. I am not so I try to do it all!

Planning your food blog is key

When I started Global Bakes, my goal was not to build an empire or even make money. I simply wanted to consolidate all of my favorite recipes into one place.

Some people use Pinterest for this and some people have notebooks or binders to organize recipes. I had all of the above and it was not working.

When I wanted to find a recipe, it would take longer to find it than it did to make it.

So I started a blog to have everything in one place. This also helped when people would ask, ‘Can I have your recipe?’

Instead of me having to write it out or email it, I could just say ‘It’s on my blog!’

The problem with that method was that I would get distracted. I would have an idea for a recipe and then would have to run to the grocery store.

Then I would have another idea and run to the store again. Then I would make five or ten recipes that I intended to add to the blog. Some of them would be made but never written down or typed up.

Some would be photographed and forgotten.

And others would never be made at all because something would come up and I would forget the idea completely.

This was so frustrating to me! I’m a lover of organization but my food blogging was not organized!

I have tried keeping notes and ideas in notebooks. But I would inevitably move on to a new notebook and the pages and pages of ideas would be left behind.

My Project Management Tool

Then I found Asana.

First, let me say that this post is not sponsored and it is not an affiliate post. I will not make a dime for telling you about Asana.

But it has become a lifesaver for me!

I am able to organize ideas and projects and see them in a way that helps to keep me on track. Calendar views, grid views and lists are all available. I can move items based on what stage they are in so that projects are not left in a notebook on a shelf, half finished.

There are paid plans but I use the free one for now. I don’t have a team to share the workload and every task is assigned to me, worked by me and updated by me. As my blogs and other projects like Patreon, YouTube and classes grow, I may upgrade to a paid plan but for now the free plan has every thing that I need.

I will be doing a video very soon on how I use the free Asana plan to help me manage my blog.

Using a calendar to plan your blog is critical!

Making money is not as easy as you think

Start a blog, be a millionaire! Quit your day job and travel full-time as a blogger! Work 20 minutes a day in your pajamas from home!

That’s the dream, isn’t it?

I would love to tell you that I was able to replace my full-time income with my blog.

The truth is, I left my career and a stable income in July 2019 for many reasons. (I won’t bore you with the sob story.)

I have not had an income since.

That is hard and scary and not everyone is in the position to do that. I was lucky to have a husband who supported me and believed that my mental well-being was more important than a paycheck.

But that comes with trade-offs.

We are now living on one income while I try to find a way to navigate the world of making an income online.

A part-time freelance opportunity as a culinary instructor was sidelined after only teaching two classes due to COVID-19.

I am determined to find a way to make it work. But I do NOT recommend leaving your day job to be a blogger until you have a consistent income.

The trade-offs of giving up the job that made me miserable has been replaced by less money going into savings, less expendable income for fun purchases and vacations, worry over our financial future, and an overall feeling of not inadequacy because I am not contributing to my families finances like I always have.

There are numerous ways to monetize a blog and some of them are seen as controversial.

Should you put Ads on your blog?

Displaying ads using Google Adsense, Ezoic and many other ad networks on a site is a practice that is disliked by many. I display ads on Global Bakes using Google Adsense and it provides a very small amount of income, so small that I still have never received a payout from them.

The threshold to get a check is $100 and I have not hit it yet.

To make money with ads, you have to have A LOT of traffic. I am building and am seeing a definite trend upwards. So I eventually hope to see some income from ads on my site.

When my numbers are high enough, I intend to apply for some of the ad networks that are more geared toward my niche. That will take time and hard work – taking us back to #1 and #3 items on this list!

Other income avenues include affiliate marketing and selling your products.

Growing an income from your blog takes time and hard work

What is affiliate marketing?

I have only dabbled with affiliate marketing but I think that this could be a good avenue to an income with the right products and network.

Affiliate marketing is when a blogger enters into an arrangement with a seller and makes a commission for recommending a product to their readers. The commission is paid about a month after the reader purchases the item so it is not an immediate source of income.

I do have an Amazon Affiliate account but have seen no return on it so far. The few purchases that have been made through my site were seen by amazon as ‘friends and family’ so I didn’t get the commission (they were not friends and family, just readers who clicked my links.) The truth is that I never used any of the illegal tactics that some bloggers use to get sales and was still told they were not legitimate sales.

Capped with the fact that amazon recently slashed the commissions to about 1% (down from 8%), I don’t think that amazon affiliate’s is a program that I will continue to pursue.

I have joined a few other programs through ShareASale . (Just a note, this link IS an affiliate link.) I love the ease of use on the ShareASale site. You don’t have to be a big blog to be approved to be an affiliate and there is a program for every niche under the sun!

My personal philosophy is that I have to use and love a product before I will recommend it. I don’t want people to spend their money on something just so I can make a buck if the item is not worth it.

For that reason, I don’t have very many affiliate links on my site. I will add them as I am able to use products and recommend them wholeheartedly!

Selling your own products

Bloggers who sell their own products generally sell courses, ebooks and other digital items. Sometimes physical items are sold and shipped but not as often.

The beauty of selling digital products is that you do the work once and reap the benefits (income) over and over.

But the quality of your product should be high and it should provide a service that people need!

To create a product, think about what people want. Why do they come to your blog instead of someone else’s? What do you have to offer that puts you above the competition?

And trust me, there will be a lot of competition!

I have not begun to sell my own products but I have so many ideas and I am working on several projects now for the future.

The most important thing about selling products through your website is to build trust with your audience. If they don’t trust you, why would they spend their hard-earned money on your site?

The answer is that they won’t.

Check out my review of Food Blogger Pro in THIS POST. Food Blogger Pro has a lot of info on how to make money from a food blog and I highly recommend them to help you gain an understanding on food blogging!

Quality over quantity

Some people believe that pushing out a new post every day or every other day is the way to build a successful blog. I disagree.

While you do need to have a collection of material for readers to peruse, the quality is so much more important than the quantity!

As a food blogger, I don’t want my readers to waste their time, money and ingredients on a recipe that doesn’t work!

So in order to publish quality recipes, I spend more time in the development and testing phase.

I also spend more time researching and writing for my knowledge posts than I probably should.

This takes us back to the point in the last section – building trust.

If my recipes don’t work or taste terrible and if my posts on techniques is just wrong and not helpful, people won’t return to my blog!

And I really want you guys to stick around a while!

Good Photography is so important

Ginger, Honey & Orange Mini Bundt Cakes - Learning Food Photography
Ginger, Honey & Orange Mini Bundt Cakes and mini loaves make perfect gifts! Great for dessert or afternoon tea!

You’ve heard it said that people eat with their eyes first and it’s true. If your photos are flat, shot from awkward angles and will awful lighting, they are not as appealing to people and are therefore less likely to get clicks.

So you really should take the time to learn about food photography when you start your food blog! I shot portraits and weddings for years (mostly for friends and family) so I thought I could shoot food just fine.

Food photography would be easier, right? I mean, it doesn’t move and I can play with it as much as I want to get the look I’m after.

That is true. But there is so much to food photography that you need to learn to make your photos stand out and get the clicks!

I love photography. I have a collection of DSLR camera bodies and lenses (Thanks Dad!).

My Dad is an amateur photographer that should probably be a pro. When he buys new camera gear, he passes his older stuff on to me.

This is the only reason that I have the equipment that I do and I am so thankful!

I shoot with Sony cameras because that is what my Dad uses but honestly, I think Sony has the best cameras on the market.

I have bought other equipment for photo and video production and I will cover those in another post.

I prefer to buy from B&H Photo. Their selection, prices and customer services are stellar. I can’t recommend them enough!

The single best source to learn food photography is The Bite Shot, run by Joanie Simon. Check out her YouTube Channel!

The recipes that you think will be the most popular, won’t be

The challenge of an elaborately decorated cake or 12 layer entrement just speak to my soul. I love a challenge and sometimes get lost in making them a reality for days!

But, if I’m being real, those are not the recipes on Global Bakes that get the most traffic.

The homemade, gooey brownies and a fruit pie in all it’s glory are the winners every time, as far as traffic.

I still haven’t figured out what recipe will be the biggest driver of traffic or get the most likes on Instagram.

So my advice is to share what you love and you will eventually become known for it.

You can share a range of recipes and difficulties. But, going back to the discussion of choosing a niche, to get consistent traffic, it is important find your audience and share the things they want.

What do they want? It will take trial and error to figure that out. I am constantly surprise by what posts resonate with my readers.

But once I see a popular trend, I try to create more content along those lines. It really is different for every blogger.

Give credit where credit is due

Don’t steal other peoples’ recipes. Plain and simple.

You can be inspired by someone’s recipe. You can use a flavor profile and make something new with it. You can adapt a recipe with multiple changes.

But please do not copy someone’s work and post it on your blog and claim the credit. It is just wrong and unethical.

If I make a recipe from a cookbook that I want to share on Global Bakes, I email or message the author and ask for permission. If I don’t hear back (which does happen) or if they say no (only happened once) then I may still blog about it but I will not share the recipe!

When you are inspired by a recipe or adapt a recipe, link back to the author. This is the ethical thing to do and it also helps your site!

You see, Google assigned a ‘score’ to website’s called domain authority. If you link to other sites in your blog posts, that is good for SEO.

And if you link to a site with a high ‘score’ or Domain Authority, it gives your site authority as well. Google will see that you are referencing a site with authority and will give some authority as well!

We enough of these links, plus quality content and SEO, your site will build authority and rank higher on google. This will lead to more traffic!

So, it’s a win/win for everyone!

If you really want to grow your food blog, add video

Video camera with microphone for recipe videos

I don’t like to see myself in photos or in video’s.

Strange to hear from someone that was on a TV show, right??

Well, this is something that I am trying to get over, for multiple reasons.

One reason is that I truly think that video is what brings people back to your site. So many people are visual learners, myself included.

If I just say ‘fold the batter until it looks like lava’, about half of the people following the recipe will either over or under fold the batter.

And I don’t blame them. Honestly, how many of us have actually SEEN real lava to compare our batter to???

But if I can SHOW YOU the consistency of the batter at the right stage, you will have a better chance of success.

I am working to add videos to as many of my posts as possible. Where I can’t add video, I plan to add step-by-step photos.

Please bare with me while all of these posts are updated! (As I pull out the videographer and editor hat!)

The second reason for adding video is because I believe that it is direction that most content will be going. With COVID-19 in the world, I can’t go to a classroom to teach.

As a severe asthmatic, I will likely be isolating for a long time. So I can give up the goal of teaching people to bake or I can pivot with the times and teach with videos online!

I choose to pivot!

Be authentically you and don’t try to please everyone

I’m a people-pleaser. I want everyone to like me and I think most people want to be liked as much as I do.

One important lesson that I learned on the Great American Baking Show was that not everyone will like you or understand you.

And that is OK.

There will be people who don’t like your writing style. There will also be people that don’t like your recipes or your site layout or your color scheme.

Generally, these people will just leave your site and not come back.

But there will also be haters. Sometimes you will get a bad review on something that has had 1000 positive reviews. There will be people who say things about you personally that are not true.

Ignore them.

You don’t need their negativity. Just move on and continue being you.

Share the things that are important to you in a real and authentic way and your tribe, or audience, will follow you!

There are the 12 Things that I wish I had known before I started my food blog! After all of the hard work and effort to figure things, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Global Bakes is a labor of love for me and I hope you love it too!

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