20 TIPS AND TOOLS TO BE A SUCCESSFUL FOOD BLOGGER
Being a full time food blogger is living the dream. That said, it is a tremendous amount of work and takes persistence to get your brand and website running smoothly with beautiful photography and effective monetization strategies. As a solo entrepreneur the past 2+ years, I have tried many different software programs, services, tools, strategies and programs. Many failed. The purpose of this page is to share with other food bloggers what I have learned that works, and what I use for my business.
One thing I’ve learned for sure – embrace change! Online marketing strategies evolve. Software tools can becomes depreciated and less useful over time. New tools and services are always being invented. It is a constant battle to keep on top of what will work the best for you. Bookmark this page for future reference, as I will keep it updated on the latest and greatest that works for me.
TRIED AND TRUE: TIPS AND TOOLS FOR A FOOD BLOGGER
Whether you’re new to food blogging or a veteran blogger, these recommendations are my current favorites and may be helpful for you. Please note, my background is in marketing, not HTML and coding, so finding the easiest-to-use tools with great customer service is important to me.
These recommendations contain both free resources as well as products for purchase. In some cases I may provide an affiliate link – meaning I may earn a commission if you use the links provided and purchase their product. I recommend only brands I use and trust.
Build your website on a solid foundation. Choose a platform and host that fits your budget, and with great customer service and community support since you will need it. Register your website domain name with your hosting service or a domain service. You will need to do this before starting to build a website. Pick your domain name strategically. I always recommend descriptive names (clear and easy to understand for the customer). It is hard to change a domain name after you build brand equity.
Web Hosting: SiteGround is the best hosting service right now. They win hands down for customer service, site performance, backups and security. I am extremely impressed with, and grateful for, their 24/7 customer support via Chat, Phone, Email or Support Tickets. They offer a wide range of plans for shared hosting – ranging for beginners on a budget to commercial-grade plans for larger sites. They will even migrate an existing site from another host to SiteGround for free. I highly recommend SiteGround. Use this link to join SiteGround .
Website Platform: WordPress.org is an open-source software that is free and trusted. It is easy to use once you learn the basic concepts. The community support and tutorials available are extensive. The best part are the tons of plugins (mostly free) you can add to customize and build a robust and useful website. I originally tried Google Sites and Wix but both are limited in functionality and support. A self-hosted WordPress site is best.
WordPress Theme: The best food blogger theme out there is FoodiePro 3.0 by Feast Design Co. I love its clean, minimalist design, built especially for food bloggers. It is built as a Child Theme on the Genesis Framework. FoodiePro 3.0 is WooCommerce enabled. Coupled with Cookbook, its companion recipe plugin, you can have a professional food blog up and running in no time. Purchase FoodiePro 3.0 from StudioPress. Use this link to get FoodiePro 3.0
WordPress Recipe Plugin: Cookbook is the newest and best recipe plugin on the market. Created in collaboration between WPSiteCare and FeastDesign, it works beautifully with the FoodiePro 3.0 Theme. Each recipe in Cookbook includes schema.org and JSON-LD recipe markup for greatly improved search rankings, and easy-to-use rich formatting in WordPress. Use this link to get Cookbook.
WordPress SEO Plugin: Yoast SEO is the first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more. Over 3 million websites use it to manage their SEO meta tags, copywriting, keywords, descriptions, permalinks, word count, readability and lots more important details for being found on the internet. It is considered an essential plugin. It is free with premium upgrades available.
WordPress ecommerce Plugin: WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin that allows you to sell anything, beautifully. It is built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress and Foodie Pro 3.0. Visit my Shop to see WooCommerce in action. You download WooCommerce from your WordPress Plugin dashboard. Once you are up and running there are numerous other plugins that extend the features of WooCommerce.
WordPress Anti-Spam Plugin: Akismet: If you want to avoid spammers on your site, and you really do, trust me, then you need Akismet. Akismet checks your comments and contact form submissions to prevent your site from publishing malicious content. I was shocked at the “junk” that was coming in before I installed Akismet. API Keys are free for personal blogs; paid subscriptions are available for businesses and commercial sites. You download Akismet from your WordPress Plugin dashboard.
Staying organized and efficient is the key to happy blogging. The more time I can save from doing repetitive, tedious tasks, the happier I am. I want to spend my time playing in the kitchen, cooking, eating and being creative. I am picky about the tools I use and proudly share these as worthy assistants.
Marketing Organizer: Co-Schedule consolidates, organizes and schedules your content and social media in one place resulting in an efficient way to be successful. I love being able to create and schedule all my social media messages using a template at the same time I write my blog posts in WordPress. It even handles Instagram! The unexpected benefit to Co-Schedule is the relentless stream of awesome tips, tools, and webinars provided to subscribers. I feel confident that I am staying on top the latest social media strategies. Use this link to join Co-Schedule.
Email Marketing: Email Marketing is one of the most important strategies for growing subscribers. The best is ConvertKit. I switched from a free program on MailChimp to a paid subscription on ConvertKit because of the outstanding functionality and ease of use. Email marketing has evolved from picture intensive, complex newsletters to simple, clean emails, often with no images and written like you are talking to a friend. ConvertKit was developed with this in mind. Their focus is on automating tasks for subscriber growth. I have grown my mailing 20% since starting to use ConvertKit. Use this link to join ConvertKit.
Task Manager: I use Zapier as a companion product to Convert Kit. I have set up an automated task that sends me an email alert when someone joins my mailing list. Zapier offers a free version for up to 5 automated tasks. Right now I am using only 2 tasks. Upgrade options are available with a monthly subscription if needed.
Cloud Organizer: Evernote is my main notes system. I keep everything in Evernote from to-do lists, grocery lists, blog post ideas, recipe clippings, genealogy research, and lots more. I even created a grocery shopping template based on the layout of the departments in my local grocery store. Yes I am that nuts about it. I love that I always have my “stuff” with me regardless of where I am or which device I have handy at the moment. Evernote is a free program with upgrade options.
GET PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY HELP
When you are just one person doing everything in your company, you will run into areas outside of your expertise and ability to handle. Sometimes you just need to network and connect with like-minded people. Working alone at home has its wonderful benefits, but having a community of co-workers is needed too. These groups are my tribe who keep me sane.
FoodBlogger Pro: The husband and wife team, Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom, run FoodBloggerPro, the best food blogger mentoring program available. I have tried others and found FoodBlogger Pro to be my go-to community. Lindsay is the genius behind Pinch of Yum, one of the best food blogs online, and also known for her amazing photography. I was lucky enough to take a Food Photography workshop with her in her studio. My photography has definitely improved with her guidance. Bjork is the behind-the-scenes mastermind who keeps the operation and tech side running smoothly. Along with their team, they have created an online video library of tutorials for every step of becoming a food blogger. I am grateful for their dedication to help other bloggers. If you can pick just one place to go for food blogging support, this is it. They open enrollment for their subscription service on a limited basis. Use this link to join FoodBloggerPro.
Platform University: If you are a veteran blogger, and struggling to take your business to the next level, Michael Hyatt’s Platform University is the Masters class you need. I love the nuts and bolt, no-nonsense, proven and practical steps he teaches to grow your subscriber base, convert subscribers to customers, and build a successful blogging business. Using an online University approach, you can access an extensive and current library of videos (think Ted talks) and documents from top bloggers and masters-in-their field. Whenever I get stuck or need motivation, I go back and listen to some of the presentations from people who struggle with the same problem. It is a paid subscription. You can catch one of his free webinars to see if you like it or need it.
WebCookingClasses.com: Chef Todd Mohr has become my cooking muse. Through his WebCookingClasses.com platform I have learned as much from him on the science behind cooking as I have learned about traditional recipes from my Mother. Chef Mohr is a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) trained Chef and worked in some of the best restaurants. He has a down-to-earth, approachable style to teaching culinary techniques. I often turn to his extensive online library of cooking tutorials when researching the best way to do something. The WCC private Facebook group is highly engaged and is a great resource of chefs and other home cooks. It is a paid subscription. You can catch one of his free webinars to see if you like it or need it.
Fiverr.com: You can get professional help at Fiverr.com from programmers, graphic designers, video editors, and a whole slew of specialized professionals starting at $5 bucks! Hence the name Fiverr! I love this model. It really works. The rating system of the service providers is key. Use only those with 5 stars. Often you are hiring a freelancer located in another country. You agree on a specific project with the provider, pay Fiverr, and Fiverr pays them. So far I have been extremely happy with my engagements. Recently I hired a programmer in Pakistan (spoke English) who audited my site performance and fixed a bunch of technical issues to make it faster and more secure.
When I was in corporate life, I was blessed with having outstanding graphic designers at my disposal. All I had to do was come up with a concept, and boom! The creative asset appeared. Now as a solo blogger I appreciate how talented they were and how lucky I was. These tools have made a huge difference for me in quickly getting graphic design work done. For the big jobs and when pressed for time, I will outsource graphic design. For instance, trying to rebuild my ebook for Amazon’s Kindle formatting nearly brought me to tears with frustration. Instead I hired a local graphic designer who finished it in hours.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop: Adobe Creative Suite is a must for any blogger where visuals matter. I cannot live without Lightroom. Photoshop is my 2nd most used photography software tool. All my food photos are downloaded from my Canon DSLR to Lightroom, edited, and resized for fast loading on my website. The hi-res original photos and the resized ones are stored in my backup drive on DropBox and an external hard drive. You can purchase the cloud-based Photography Package from Adobe which includes Lightroom and Photoshop on a monthly subscription service. Look for special discounts and offers through resellers.
Creative Market is the best source for budget-friendly and ready-to-use themes, fonts, graphics, photos, templates, and any creative asset you might need for graphic design. They have curated an amazing array of designers with online products available in every file type you might need, and for every aesthetic, mood, color, and style. Just browsing the site for imagery and design ideas always revs me up! Use this link for Creative Market to build something wonderful for your website.
Canva.com: The easiest way to use your creative assets is with Canva. It is an online graphic design tool that includes tons of templates and pre-built designs that can be easily manipulated and customized for your needs. You do not need to know Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop or other hard-to-learn software to create a masterpiece. I use Canva to create quick Ads, social media banners, sell sheets, and lots of other marketing collateral. I have stored my brand guideline (colors, logo, fonts) to make it very quick and easy to whip up something fast.
Some of the primary revenue strategies used by bloggers to make money are:
- Allow ads on your website (which is difficult in the beginning with low traffic)
- Get paid by brands to write sponsored posts and share on social media or be a brand Ambassador/Influencer
- Sell a product of your own such as ebooks, training courses, service or physical item
- Join an affiliate marketing program
I recommend starting with affiliate marketing until you can build your traffic and market reach. An Affiliate Marketing Program is free to join. You need to apply with a valid business Tax ID, set up a direct deposit payment plan, and agree to their rules. Once approved each program will send you instructions on how to set it up.
Amazon Associates Program: Amazon has over a million products to advertise to your customers. Whether you are a large network, content site or blogger, they have simple linking tools to help you monetize your web site. Amazon is the biggest and easiest affiliate marketing program available. I offer only products that I have tried and recommend. Apply to be an Amazon Associate here.
Pepperjam, formerly known as Ebay Enterprise Marketing Solutions, is one the largest affiliate marketing networks in the world. I specifically choose Pepperjam because they are the only affiliate network that offers D’Artagnan, my absolute favorite gourmet meat provider. Once I got that up and running, I discovered that they have lots of food related advertisers to work with. Apply as a publisher on Pepperjam’s affiliate network here.
I’d love to hear from you on any tools you find helpful to being the happiest food blogger you can be me. Leave a comment or drop me a line.