best practices + transparent advice for content creators

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog for Beginners! From hosting, securing a domain, choosing an SEO-friendly theme, and more.

When I first started food blogging, there was no information out there on the best host, theme, plugins, or tools. Now that I’ve been blogging for over 5 years, I’m happy to share my experiences and what I’ve learned.

My main mission behind bloggerbytes is to share blogging best practices and the honest, transparent advice I wish I had when I was first starting out.

I want to help fellow micro-influencers (or any content creators or bloggers) establish their brand, understand how to best serve their audience, and ultimately monetize their influence.

Before You Start

Step one is determining what your blog’s niche is going to be.

Food? Travel? Fashion? From there, can you narrow it down even more? For example, I’m a dairy-free blogger who shares quick and easy recipes.

Once you establish your niche, consider who your ideal reader is. Some people call this dreaming up your avatar.

My food blog avatar is a young female adult, in the 25-34 age range. She’s probably working her first job out of college, may or may not be married or have children BUT she’s navigating dairy-free living. It may be her or someone close to her who deals with food allergies, intolerances, or is cutting out dairy for other health-related reasons.

That means, I better be sure to include all the information she’s going to need to make my butternut squash mac n cheese recipe! I should include answers to all the frequently asked questions and talk through key points I know now but was clueless to before.

Doing this research and planning up front, will help you always stay on track, and serve your target audience. It will also help you create meaningful, educational, and valuable blog posts to rank high in search results.

Getting Set Up

Now that you have your niche and target audience in mind, it’s time to decide on a blog host and grab your website domain.

Hosting

When I first started, I used the free wordpress dot com platform. From there, I upgraded to their business plan, then eventually made the switch to self-hosting with wordpress dot org. If I had to do it all over again, I would go straight to self-hosting with wordpress.

If you’re just getting started, I highly recommend wordpress over wix or squarespace.

Why is wordpress is best? WP is so highly recommended and popular because it’s framework makes it easy for search engines to crawl, generally helping to rank websites higher. It also has several integrations with 3rd party platforms, powerful plugins, and things of that nature.

What’s the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org? The biggest difference is wordpress.com takes care of hosting vs wordpress.org, you host your own site.

Who do you host with? I started off self-hosting with HostGator but now I use WPopt (affiliate) and I love the support. It’s better communication, optimization, and all that good stuff.

Blog Theme

Another piece of the puzzle you have to figure out is your blog’s theme.

For my food blog, I’ve been using Foodie Pro (affiliate) ever since I switched to self-hosted. It’s built with SEO and mobile-users in mind, and is especially great for food bloggers!

The developer recently released the Feast Plugin (affiliate), which includes all the themes (Foodie Pro and a few others) along with other SEO-focused features.

Free WordPress Plugins

Once your ready to customize your website and install some plugins, the fun really starts! Here are a few of my favorite tools and plugins, especially for food bloggers.

  • Yoast for SEO
  • Akismet Anti-Spam
  • jQuery Pin it Button
  • WP Recipe Maker
  • Google Analytics
  • Simple Social Icons

Starting Your New Blog

Now that everything is set up just how you like it and configured according to best practices, now it’s time to actually write your blog posts!

Keeping track of who your audience is, what’s trending or seasonally relevant, and what your blog users are searching on your site can all help determine future posts and plan ahead. Use these free tools to help:

  • Google Trends
  • Pinterest Trends
  • Google Search Console

The Anatomy of a Recipe Blog Post

Use this checklist as a guide as you begin writing for your new blog!

  • Keyword heavy intro
  • Hero featured image
  • The meat of the blog post
    • Explaining ingredients
    • Substitutions
    • Notes from past experiences making the recipe
    • FAQ section with common questions a reader might have
    • List of related posts
  • Process pictures throughout
  • Helpful links embedded, as needed
  • CTA to share on Pinterest or Instagram 
  • Recipe card
  • Suggested products: Use affiliate links
  • Pinterest pin to entice sharing

3 Basic SEO Tips

  • Intentionally link to helpful blog posts
  • Use targeted keywords thoughtfully and naturally
  • Include keywords in the image description, as you explain what the photo is of

After You Click Publish

Once you click publish, you want to share your post in as many places possible! It’s key to promote your post once it’s published and continue to share it, as it fits into your content calendar. Here’s where you should share immediately after you press publish:

  • Facebook Page
  • Relevant Facebook Groups
  • Instagram*
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Email Subscriber List

*I’ve done audience research and testing between my different followers across blog and social and found that they don’t always overlap and that shouldn’t be the goal. It’s okay to have different audiences. You just have to understand how to provide the most value to each of them!

For example, on Instagram, instead of saying “link in bio” and hoping my audience clicks on my profile, then taps the link in my bio, then navigates to the recipe post… I simply include the full recipe or key pieces of information in the caption. It’s more user-friendly on the app and helps cultivate a community there.

Another way I promote my blog on Instagram is by sharing images on stories and promoting viewers to swipe up to send me a message for the direct link. If you have 10K followers, you can of course use the swipe up feature!

Setting Your Blog Up For Success

Here are a few key sections I think all bloggers should include:

  • About page: For readers to form a connection with you
  • Contact page: For your audience to contact you with questions or private comments
  • Work With Me page: For brands to pitch partnership proposals
  • Subscriber List forms: For users to sign up for email updates in the form of an opt-in form or landing page

PS: Here’s why I finally made the switch to Flodesk from Mailchimp!

Conclusion

I hope this overview was helpful and you feel encouraged to start your own blog! I know we touched on a lot, so here are the main takeaways:

  • Host
  • Theme
  • Plugins
  • Customize and configure
  • Write blog posts
  • Promote posts continuously

Please leave a comment with any questions you may have. I would love to chat!

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