Are you new to food blogging? Overwhelmed and trying to figure it all out? Keep reading to learn My Top 20 Food Blogging Tips For Beginners!
I’m often asked if I have any tips for new food bloggers. I know it can be extremely overwhelming at first! So I’ve come up with a list of my top 20 tips. I wish someone had told me these things when I was first starting out. I’m no expert, and there are many out there who have been doing this a lot longer than I have. In the grand scheme of food blogging, I’m small potatoes. So these are just tips from my experiences over the past several years and you can take them for whatever they’re worth. What has worked for me might not work for you.
My Top 20 Food Blogging Tips For Beginners
1. Be Patient and Persistent
When I began this blog in 2009, Julie and Julia was out in theaters. I had read the book a year earlier. Food blogging was becoming more mainstream, but it was NOTHING like it is today. People were blogging primarily for fun, not money. Last I checked, there was some ridiculous statistic like 160,000 new food blogs starting every day. If your your goal is to turn a profit, you are entering a FLOODED market. Buckle up and get ready to work harder than you think. It will be frustrating, and success will not happen overnight. Burnout happens to all of us. This requires patience and persistence.
2. Do Research
I strongly suggest researching the following before you start: blogging platforms (I recommend self-hosted WordPress), hosting companies, types of food blogs, food photography, editing software, how to shoot videos, best social media practices, SEO, and copyright infringement. You don’t need to be an expert in these things, but you should have at least a novice understanding of them.
3. Have a Plan
Have a vision for your blog that feels representative of you. Come up with a name, design, and photography style that embodies what you love. Make sure your site name isn’t under trademark, and that the domain and all relevant social media platforms are available (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter). If you really want to plan ahead, have numerous posts ready when your site goes live.
4. Know Your Elevator Pitch & Intended Audience
Listen, I hate the term elevator pitch. However, it serves a purpose here. You don’t need to robotically state the same thing every time someone asks what your blog is about, but you need to be able to express your vision clearly. If you’re not clear, no one will care. Know exactly who you’re trying to reach in your posts. Write like you’re talking to that person.
5. Have a Clean, Easy-To-Navigate Website
Have an easy-to-navigate menu bar and recipe index. Make your recipes searchable and easy to find. Get rid of any unnecessary banners and junk in the sidebar. Stop linking to places that aren’t on your blog; why would you want people to visit your Foodgawker gallery? Keep readers on your site! Make sure to use clean, easy-to-read fonts.
6. You Need To Spend Money To Make Money
I understand how difficult it is to invest money in something that’s not yet turning a profit. However, there are many instances where cutting corners will harm your ability to earn revenue, so it’s worth investing up front. Example: hosting companies. Do not use a $10 per month hosting company like BlueHost. Why? You get what you pay for, and they are going to kill your site load time. That, in turn, will kill your Google SEO ranking, which will negatively impact your traffic and ad revenue (once you have ads). Invest in a solid hosting company that doesn’t throttle your bandwidth. (PS- Are you on a food blog that’s recommending BlueHost? Is it an affiliate link? Think about that for a moment before trusting their recommendation.) I’m not saying you have to go nuts. But don’t be cheap, either.
7. Build Your Fan Base
Once your blog is live, you need to work on building a foundation of solid content and an audience. This takes time. Post regularly to your social media platforms, even if it feels like you’re shouting into a black hole, and engage with whoever is listening. Everyone starts somewhere. People say Twitter is a dying platform, but I still say it’s the easiest one to consistently grow. Follow people. Most of them follow back. They even talk to you! Everyone has to start somewhere.
8. Rewrite Adapted Recipes
If you’re going to adapt a recipe, you MUST take the time to re-write the instructions. You should also reorganize the ingredient list a bit if possible. This is a common rookie mistake. It doesn’t take long to do. Not only does it upset recipe developers who spend time coming up with their own wording, but it will harm the page ranking of their website AND YOUR WEBSITE in Google’s search results. This is a big part of SEO. Google hates duplicate content. Everyone loses if you don’t re-write, including you.
9. Credit And Link Your Sources
If you adapt a recipe, you need to credit and link to the original author. Adapting doesn’t make it yours. The same goes for photography; don’t post a photo from someone else without crediting and linking. Don’t crop it or add an overlay without permission, either. Your mother taught you not to steal. Don’t steal.
10. Post Quality Content
Be consistent with your recipe formatting. Write clear instructions and don’t abbreviate. Consistency will make people feel comfortable. Proofread! Mistakes happen to the best of us. If a recipe is bad or just ok, don’t post it. Rework it. If someone tries one of your recipes and they don’t like it, chances are they’re not going to trust you again. They might spread the word.
11. Make It Easy To Share
You want people to share your content, right? Make it easy. Offer ways for people to share within your posts, such as Pinterest buttons and various other social media icons. Embed a hidden Pinterest collage in your post. Share new content across all of your social media platforms.
12. Link Within Your Own Site
This is another way to encourage people to stick around. Link to older posts! Did you know I have a Pinterest-like gallery of all my recipes? You should check it out. See what I did there?
13. Network With Other Bloggers
Networking can be an extremely helpful part of growth. Reach out to other bloggers whose work you admire or who share your niche. Make friends. Comment on blogs. Attend a conference if that sounds interesting to you. I highly recommend starting with a smaller conference that has less attendees so you have a chance of getting to know more people. There are a ton of Facebook groups devoted to brainstorming ideas and sharing new content on social media. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
14. Food Photography (and Editing) Matters
You need to make your recipes look appetizing. Having mediocre food photography isn’t an option anymore, not when there’s so much competition. Learn to use your camera and ditch the “auto” setting. Learn to use Adobe CC or something similar. There are tons of free tutorials online. For beginners, I’m a fan of the book Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin. If you are more of a visual learner, Lynda.com has fantastic video tutorials. If you live in the MD/DC/VA area, I teach lessons! I’m planning on adding tutorials to the blog soon as well. Stay tuned.
15. Let People Get To Know You
People want to know you. I’m a bit shy and introverted in real life; it took me a long time to post a photo of myself on the blog. For years I was still hiding half of my face behind large sunglasses. Readers want to know who you are. They also like responses to comments and questions. Make sure you have a plugin set up where they get an email response to their comment.
16. Don’t Be a Sell Out
It’s a rush when you first start hearing from PR companies and brands who want to work with you. Do not sell out yourself or your readers for a free pound of sugar. Don’t even do it for money. You are worth so much more. Figure out what type of brands align with your content, how much you want to charge and on what conditions. Always keep the copyright, never give away the RAW images. If the brand is not authentic to who you are, you will lose your audience (or fail to build one). Do not blog about how you don’t eat carbs and then write a sponsored post for Hot Pockets. People will see through that.
17. Ads Are Fine, But Remember The Reader
I have ads. They’re a great way to earn passive income from traffic. However, I have less than many food blogs because I don’t currently have a sidebar. This was a choice. When I visit a website that floods me with ads, I usually leave. It negatively impacts the user experience. It also drastically slows down the load time. If I added back the sidebar, I could probably double my advertising revenue. I’m choosing to make up the revenue elsewhere.
18. Try New Things
I think that when you’re starting out, it’s a smart idea to check out what other bloggers are doing. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try something completely new and unique! Be bold and daring. Think you have a new idea? Be a trendsetter and let others follow you.
19. Comparison Is The Thief of Joy
Much easier said than done, right? Every creative person is guilty of comparing their work to others. I struggle with this constantly. That doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Go ahead, check in on what others are doing and try to feel inspired. But you’re not them and they’re not you. No one will ever have your exact creative vision or be able to bring your personal life experiences into the puzzle. You do you and try not to worry about what others are doing. Simply be inspired.
20. Love What You Do
When I’m excited about my recipes, my photos, and my work, it shines through everything I do. When I’m feeling burnt out, it shows. Don’t be afraid to slow down when you need to, and be willing to reevaluate if your current strategy isn’t working (after you’ve tried that whole patience thing I discussed earlier).
(Note: These are NOT affiliate links. I was not paid to promote these companies. )