If you've been up in the air about creating a blog, you should totally jump into it! Sharing creative ideas with a like-minded community can be so rewarding at times. But first, I think it's important to mention the research you should do before starting a blog.
Although blogs are fun, they can be a little bothersome to manage if you don't know what you're doing. Here's a little summary of the steps I took before I hit publish on my first post - and a few tips on how to grow with your blog as time goes on.
- Make sure you're serious about your subject. If you're not 100% passionate about what you write and post, readers will know and will likely not continue to read your content. (My house is full of desserts and running shoes.)
- If you are serious about your subject, I'd definitely recommend creating a self-hosted site/blog. If you see yourself doing this for years to come or someday plan to earn an income from your blog, having a domain name of your own (.com/.net) will help your site look credible to affiliates or companies that may want to work with you. I purchased my domain name from godaddy.com. I did a fair amount of research on the pros and cons of self-hosted sites vs. WordPress blogs and decided to take the plunge on a self-hosted site. Had I ever owned a domain name before? Nope. Any prior experience with WordPress content management systems? Zilch. There are so many resources online to help you sort this out on your own if you feel so inclined.
- Have a clever name picked out for your domain name. I feel like I spent weeks trying to come up with something meaningful as a blog name. Although your blog name and tagline (or your "motto") can be different from your domain name, it makes the most sense to keep them almost or exactly the same so people can just enter your blog name into Google or their search bar and immediately be able to find your blog. On the same token, when people search for your blog in search engines, it helps improve your organic traffic (people who are searching for things) and thus gives you a better page ranking (a spot higher up on the pages listed when you search via Google, Bing, etc.) For more info on why I chose my blog name, feel free to pop on by to that link.
- At the very least, have a color scheme you'd like to see throughout your site. When I began my blog, I knew I was too broke to afford hiring a web designer. I didn't even have any content prepared, so I wasn't about to shell out hundreds/thousands of dollars. To jazz up the blog, I looked to see how others managed to get theirs to look so professional and clean-cut. For a basic color scheme generator, my sister told me about coolors.co, a site where you can create or search for a color theme based on what you're looking for. I'm thinking this could also come in handy for designing images and graphics for your blog.
- Pick a theme that fits with the kind of content you want to publish. When it seemed like the WordPress 2014 theme wasn't cutting it, I dove down the rabbit hole that is WordPress blog themes. A quick Google search sent me to StudioPress, where I fell in love with about 3 themes that I wanted for my blog. After hours (literally, hours) of looking through the features of each theme and browsing through the showcases of blogs that used each theme, I chose the Foodie Pro Theme (affiliate link) on top of the Genesis framework. As I was doing blog research, someone likened Genesis to a curtain rod and a child theme to a fancy set of curtains, and I couldn't think of a more fitting metaphor. Without Genesis, Foodie doesn't run. In July of 2014, the package of Foodie+Genesis ran me about $100. The greatest thing about purchasing a theme and Genesis through StudioPress was that it was a one-time purchase. If I ever choose to use a different child theme, I already have Genesis, and StudioPress offers returning customers a discount on future purchases. Seems like a win-win to me. I currently use Foodie Pro, which was created by the designer/developer Shay Bocks and is now run by Feast Design Co. I loved the clean design of the child themes and really love the customization features with Foodie Pro. All of their themes are stunning and mobile-responsive...two thumbs up. I'd choose their themes a thousand times over, even if I wasn't a food blogger.
- If you're design-savvy, whip up a creative logo and matching favicon (favicons are the tiny icons that pop up in browser tabs next to your page title). Since I usually consider myself artistically challenged, I asked a designer to help me create a simple header logo and matching favicon. I'm lucky that the designer is my sister. She's always been so talented when it comes to design - check out her site that showcases some of her work on her personal website or blog! She listened to what I wanted and delivered the perfect logo and most adorable favicon. A well-designed blog will make you smile every time you open a browser with your blog in it.
- Add plugins! These make your blog or website more than just a blank webpage with text on it. Those are cool and all, but they're also very 1999. Plugins are what takes a blog/website from good to great. Plugins range from mildly helpful to absolutely crucial. A few that I use and love:
- Akismet (blocks spam)
- Google analytics dashboard (watered down version of full-featured Google Analytics that shows you how many people visit your site, where they clicked over from, where they're located, etc.)
- A social sharing plugin - so viewers can easily share your content via social media. Find a good "sharing" plugin that allows people to easily share your work. This is important!!
- I used to use Shareaholic but have recently switched to Social Warfare. Summer of 2019 I switched to Social Pug.
- Contact form (so people can contact you without you having to leave your email out to get spammed).
- Genesis plugins that help the Foodie Pro theme work smoothly and seamlessly. See more at feastdesignco.com. Their tutorials are seriously awesome.
- WP Recipe Maker - a very helpful recipe card plugin that makes your recipes look prettier than just typing them in your blog that also allows them to be searched by Google. These are all good things and the developer is very responsive and knows what he's talking about!
- HelloBar (can be used to drive your readers to do something - I used mine to invite readers to pin along with me on Pinterest), but have since stopped using this plugin.
- MailChimp for sending out newsletters and collecting emails.
- Yoast SEO (helps you make sure your posts are good for SEO--search engine optimization.)
- Start publishing content! The reason you began blogging in the first place was to share your ideas, insights, and photographs...whatever moves you is what should drive your posts. Don't worry about having your first post be pristine and perfect; nobody's ever is. My first post was quick and easy chicken francaise. Although it is a fabulously delicious dish, the photos my iPhone 4s took really don't stand up to the work I've been able to do with my DSLR, a Nikon D3200. I've had it since December 2014 and it really is a great camera to grow with.
- Engage in social media! One of the best ways to show the world that you have awesome content is to share it on social media. Make use of the networks you already have established and go from there. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube all have great platforms that allow you to share your content in different ways. You don't have to be a pro at all of them (at least not at first!) but it does help to spread your content across multiple platforms and reach a greater amount of readers/viewers! Find me on my favorite social media sites by clicking on the social icons at the top of my page!
- Always be a work in progress. I'm not sure if it's just my own personal philosophy, but I always like to be a little better than I was yesterday/accomplish something I wasn't able to do the day before. If you work hard, you will eventually succeed. Buy yourself a planner that gets you excited for blogging (or everyday life tasks...I'm not here to judge!) Dig out that pack of mini sticky notes and jot down a bunch of post ideas and move them around on a calendar. Do what works for you, but also make sure that you're actually doing the work. Plan out a blogging schedule, set up a routine, rinse and repeat.
Helpful Related Content for Starting a Blog
Ultimate Guide to Food Blogging - Handle the Heat
Everything You Need to Know About Blogging
How to Start a Food Blog - Sally's Baking Addiction
50 Blog Tips - Hey Love Designs
How to Blog - Amy Lynn Andrews
Do you want to start your own blog? Are there any questions you'd like answered that I didn't cover? As always, feel free to shoot me a message on my contact page or tweet @ me on Twitter or drop a comment in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
This post contains some affiliate links.