The hardest part of starting a food blog is the technical set up. There’s a lot to learn for the non-tech savvy (what’s a hosting provider?) You start researching and one hour later you’re just more confused after having read heaps of reviews and gotten distracted, when really all you wanted was a quick to the point guide on how to start a food blog. This whole blog thing is too hard, you think, I’ll leave it til I have more time. I’ll do it tomorrow.
I’m here to tell you that the tech stuff is definitely the hardest part of starting a food blog. It’s all the good stuff after that – taking photos, writing posts and getting to share your favourite recipes with family and friends. The great part of doing the set up yourself is that it saves you money and it’s a great foundation of knowledge for when you need to tweak little settings later on – a bit like setting up a house – it’s easier to find stuff later on because you know where everything is.
Let me start by saying that I am technologically challenged. If I can do this, you definitely can. No really, I’m pretty sure that everything that went wrong in this process did go wrong for me, so I am about 85% certain that the steps below are foolproof. They are laid out in a lot of detail and cover the extras like SSL certificates (Google will mark your site not secure if you don’t have one) so that you can start blogging ASAP.
The longer, who-what-why version of this post is here.
A note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to sign up to SiteGround using my affiliate link I would really appreciate it. Using my affiliate link is at no cost to you and I receive a flat fee commission that helps with the running costs of this blog.
There are two essentials you need to build your website – a domain name and a hosting provider. Everything else is extra.
A domain name is your website’s name – what people type to get to your page. It can end in .com, .com.au, .co just to name a few.
A hosting provider is a company that hosts all the files that make up your website on their servers. These servers are where the content of your blog lives. The quality of your hosting can determine how quickly your website loads, reliability of website access i.e. if their servers go down, your website does too.
If you are starting a new website, I recommend StartUp.
If you are moving an existing website, I recommend GrowBig, mostly because SiteGround technical support will migrate your website for you, but SuperCacher is also a nice little perk.
A quick note that the prices displayed are not inclusive of the 10% GST but the conversion is exactly the same as the USD price (i.e. GST is included/ it doesn’t cost more to buy a hosting account from Australia).
Type in your domain name and select .com or otherwise from the drop down menu.
A quick note that it is way cheaper to register domain names (especially .com and .com.au – plus they have free ID protection) on VentraIP so I recommend doing that and then coming back and clicking ‘I already have a domain’.
That and it is not considered best practice, for security reasons, to have your domain and hosting with the same provider. If you go this route, you’ll have to update your DNS settings later on (I’ll show you how) – basically, it’s a longer process but more secure and should save you a bit of money. If you can’t be bothered, the short way is fine too – I’ve always considered the chances of my little blog being hacked quite minimal.
Fill in your details, hit Pay Now and give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve just got yourself both the elements that you need to build your blog.
You just need to install WordPress to your hosting account.
When you log in to your Customer Area for the first time, you’ll see a pop-up asking you if you want to Start a new website on your account. Select that option and click on the WordPress button.
Complete the setup – it’s pretty straightforward and should take less than 5 minutes- if in doubt, here’s the SiteGround tutorial to help you through the process.
Update your DNS settings
As soon as you complete the sign up process, you’ll get an email from SiteGround titled ‘Important Information About Your New Hosting Account’ which will contain your DNS settings.
If you purchased your domain name from a different provider, it’s now time to update the DNS settings. If you purchased it from SiteGround, you’re good to go.
Log into your domain name provider (in my case Ventra IP). Select Domain Names > Manage > click on your domain name > Manage DNS
You then need to copy the DNS from the email and paste in the name server field. Make sure that you copy and paste it exactly (i.e. no http:// if you click right click ‘Copy Link’ instead of Copy it will paste it as http:// and the DNS records are not able to be updated).
DNS records can take up to 24 hours for these to be propagated (i.e. for the changes to be updated across the Internet), though in actual practice, this should only take a max of about 4-8 hours. But that’s it – that’s the hard part done. Give yourself a pat on the back, you’re not that technologically challenged after all – you’ve successfully set up your blog!
Log in to your admin panel
Before you try to log in to your WordPress admin panel, it’s a good idea to clear your browser cache. Your browser tends to hold onto information so what this does is make sure that it’s loading the most up to date version of a page.
You can now log in using the details that were sent to you by SiteGround in an email titled ‘Hosting account setup confirmation’. (If you still don’t see a WordPress log in panel, try flushing your DNS cache).
A quick look around the WordPress dashboard
A big part of why I love WordPress is that it’s just so easy to use. Before you get into any serious content writing, have a quick look for a theme that fits your brand. There are some great free ones out there. You might want to write a few posts before sharing your blog on social media to all your contacts – that way there’s a bit of content for new readers to look through. Plus, it gives you a bit of time to both get your head around writing content for online and also mess around in with themes and customisations – to get a better sense of what you want your blog to look like. It’s best to have a play with the look and feel of your blog before you lead a bunch of readers to it.
A few years into blogging, I installed the Genesis Framework from StudioPress and Foodie Pro from Feast Design Co. I remember thinking that it was hugely expensive at the time (US$135 total) but in reality it saved me more than the equivalent hours of work to get my site running and looking like how I wanted.
Essential housekeeping that’s better done sooner rather than later
There has been a big emphasis on security and privacy in the last few years, so here are some (rather boring) but important things to get out of the way. If it makes you feel any better (probably not) it doesn’t have to be done all at once, but it is very much worth working your way through this list, even if you only take on one of these things per week.
- Install an SSL certificate – without an SSL certificate, Google will mark your site ‘Not Secure’
- Set up your email accounts – it’s much more professional to have your emails come from an email address linked to your website
- You can always arrange to have an email forwarding alias (i.e. forward firstname.lastname@example.org to (email@example.com) if that’s more convenient – that way all emails come through to your phone, and you can pick which ones you want to reply to from your ‘business’ account
While you’re in this establishment phase, it’s a good idea to install some basic plugins:
- Akismet – free plugin to check for spam – most popular WordPress plugin and a must have
- YoastSEO – free plugin to help you write better content and rank higher in search results. I strongly recommend following the steps laid out in their handy beginner guide and this definitive guide (pay attention to 1.1 even if you skip the rest) as they are what I consider to be essential housekeeping.
- Smush – free plugin to compress images – there is a paid version also but I am currently using the free one
- Google Analytics – for readership stats and more (sign up here, install using this free plugin)
Aaaand I think that’s all the boring stuff done! Are you still with me? You’ll thank me later. Pinky promise.
Here’s a great guide to writing your first food post. I’ll be adding to this post with more suggestions and links as I think of them.
As a thank you for sticking through all that fairly tedious stuff, here are some photos of cats dressed as sushi. Thank you Japan.