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Starting a blog can be overwhelming. It’s like a whole new world out there and you have to find your way around it. Fortunately, it’s possible to create a great blog from scratch without any prior knowledge. As with any new project, the key to success is taking small baby steps.
I worked really hard on making this How to Start a Wellness Blog guide as comprehensive as possible without it becoming too long. I hope it will help you start your very own blog or make your existing blog better.
1. Choosing a Hosting Platform – Blogger, WordPress.com or Self-Hosted?
Before you do anything else for your new blog, you have to decide whether you want your blog to be hosted by a free blogging service such as Blogger or WordPress.com or you want a self-hosted blog.
I started my first blog on Blogger because it is free and very user-friendly. I switched to a self-hosted wordpress blog because I wanted more control over the design and functionality.
Although it’s completely possible to create a great blog using a free blogging platform, in this guide, I will be focusing on building a self-hosted blog using wordpress.org.
2. Choosing a Web Host
If you decided to go ahead with a self-hosted wordpress blog, the first thing you would need to do is to purchase a hosting account from a hosting company.
My blog has been hosted with BlueHost from day one and I have been very happy with their service. They offer several hosting plans, however, as a beginner, you will be just fine with the inexpensive shared hosting plan.
One thing to be aware of: when you are buying the hosting account from BlueHost, they offer you a bunch of add-on services. These services might seem like they might be useful, however, you most likely don’t need them.
The only add-on service I recommend is the domain privacy. Domain privacy means that your home address is not going to be associated with your domain name and won’t be displayed to the whole world to see. That’s important when you are running your business from home and don’t want to share your address with everybody. If you are running a restaurant or a store and are anyways displaying your address on your website, you don’t need the domain privacy service.
BlueHost has really helpful and knowledgeable customer service. They will install wordpress for you if you are not sure how to do it. They will also help you do other geeky things like pointing or transferring your domain name. Never hesitate to contact them.
3. Installing WordPress
Installing wordpress on your BlueHost account is very easy. Below is a short video that explains how to do it. And as I mentioned above, you can also just simply contact BlueHost support and they will do it for you.
4. Choosing a WordPress Theme
Once you have your hosting set up and wordpress installed, you will need to install a wordpress theme. With the wordpress installation, you’ll get a basic wordpress theme, which is not bad, however, most people choose to install a different theme.
When choosing a wordpress theme, make sure it has as many features as you need and is the closest to the design you want. This way you won’t spend a lot of time customizing it.
What exactly is Genesis framework?
It’s a framework that allows for smoother wordpress experience. It works like a buffer (or a parent theme) between the child theme and wordpress. When you buy Genesis, you will also need a child theme developed specifically for Genesis framework.
The advantage of having Genesis and a child theme is that if you decide to change your child theme, you won’t need to buy Genesis again, you will just install another Genesis child theme. I have my child theme # 3 right now on my blog and love the flexibility of having Genesis framework.
If your blog grows and you decide to have it re-designed by a professional web-designer, it will be also easier to do as many web-designers work only with Genesis.
Studiopress is the company that developed Genesis Framework and has a great variety of Genesis child themes. They have an excellent forum and very helpful customer support team. If you have difficulties installing or customizing your theme, try searching the forum first and then contact the help desk.
Here are some popular Genesis themes:
Thesis is another very popular wordpress framework. I know many bloggers and website owners use it and absolutely love it. However, I personally have never used it so I can’t tell you anything about it.
5. Learning How to Use WordPress
I put together a list of short videos on how to use wordpress. You can check them here.
6. Logos, Headers, and Other Graphics
Once you have your child theme installed, you would probably want to have a logo and a nice header to make your brand stand out from the crowd. If you know a bit of graphic design, you can probably make them yourself or you can order them from Logonerds.
These guys are very affordable – they charge only $50 for a logo – and very easy to work with. They also offer unlimited free revisions, which can be helpful sometimes – although, I usually only need 2 to 3 revisions because they are really good.
Before placing the order, do your homework. Find colors, logos, forts etc. that you like. You can make a secret Pinterest board. Choose a color palette for your graphic. Find some graphics and logos that you don’t like. This will help your graphic designer make a better logo for your particular taste and need.
7. Building a List
A big mistake I made in the beginning of my blogging adventure was not setting up an email list. I created my email list 1 year later after starting my first blog. Wrong! Don’t make the same mistake and install a proper email subscription form on your blog from day 1.
You might be thinking that you are so new that nobody would want to subscribe to your blog. Trust me, it’s much better to have it set up. Blogging world is ruled by social media. Someone might share your post on a popular Pinterest board and you might get an unexpected traffic increase and some people would maybe like to sign up for your emails so don’t miss this opportunity. Sign up with an email list management company such as Mailchimp and have your subscription form set up as soon as possible.
Mailchimp service is free up to 2000 subscribers. So no excuses!
8. Food Blogger Pro
Blogging is not only about creating awesome content. I wish I could spend my days creating new recipes, taking photos and writing articles about nutrition. If you want to have a successful blog, you need to learn some technical stuff. Searching on the internet for information takes lots of time. And sometimes you don’t even know what to look for.
If you want to start a blog the right way or take your existing blog to the next level, there is no better resource than FoodBlogger Pro.
FoodBlogger Pro is a membership site that offers over 300 easy-to-understand videos made for beginner to intermediate bloggers. It’s very affordable and you can cancel your membership at any time.
In addition, you will have access to the community forum which will give you an opportunity to connect with like-minded bloggers.
Since I joined FoodBlogger Pro, my traffic has doubled and I also started earning money from my blog. If you are serious about growing your blog, try it at least for one month and see how you like it.
9. Photography Gear
Don’t wait until you have a full collection of fancy equipment to start taking pictures for your blog. If you have a point-and-shoot camera or even a simple camera in your phone, you are ready to practice and learn about photography.
I started taking food photographs with my point-and-shoot camera. Once I learned a little bit about food photography, I upgraded to a DSLR. Here is what I use now:
- Canon EOS Rebel T4i– This is a great camera for beginners. You can start by using Creative Auto Mode that allows you to adjust some of the settings and then gradually switch to the manual mode. I especially love the touch screen option of this camera. It makes it super easy to change settings.
- Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens – This lens came with my camera together with the standard 18-55 mm lens. I find it works really well with food photography.
- DOLICA ZX600B103 Tripod – Really like this tripod. I just got it a few months ago and find it super helpful when taking food photos.
- Lowel EGO Light Unit – I haven’t bought it yet but heard that it works well when you only have time to take the pictures in the evening when it’s already dark.
10. Image Processing
If you want to display your photography on your blog, you should know some basic image processing techniques like cropping and re-sizing images. It can also be extremely useful to learn advanced techniques like adjusting exposure, contrast, clarity, etc.
I started by using PicMonkey. It’s free and available to everybody. Nothing to download. Just open it in your browser and start having fun with your images.
Once I learned a bit more about photography, I got LightRoom. It’s really everything what a blogger needs. I started appreciating LightRoom even more when I had to re-size 55 images for my cookbook. Imagine doing this one by one! With the LightRoom bulk re-size option – 5 minutes and it was done!
11. Learning about Food Photography
Food photography will be a very important part of your blog if you decide to focus on healthy eating. If you want to share recipes with your readers, mouthwatering food photographs will improve the quality of your blog and this will lead to increased traffic. More traffic means more email list subscribers, more leads, more customers.
Food photography didn’t come easily to me. I used to always shoot everything on auto and didn’t even know how to turn off the flash on my point and shoot camera. So, when I bought my first DSLR, I really needed a book that would explain it all in very easy language and give good overview about all aspects of food photography starting from manual control settings to food styling and post processing. I was very happy when I came across Tasty Food Photography. The book is very informative and I still refer to it often.
Another book that really helped me to improve my photography and food styling skills is called Plate to Pixels. The author explains step by step how she styled and shot the images in the book. This is a really great way for beginners to understand the thought process of a professional food photographer.
Internet is a great place to find information and tutorials on using a DSLR camera. However, it takes a lot of time to find helpful videos and articles. If you are new to using a DSLR, I recommend to check out CameraRec Toby YouTube Channel. Here you can find helpful reviews and tutorials.
12. How to Make Money Blogging
If you want to explore different ways to make money from your blog, I highly recommend the e-book called How to Monetize Your Food Blog. It goes in detail over earning money from placing ads on your blog and also mentions some other ways of earning blogging income. This book saved me so much time! All the information I was looking for in one place.
If you are planning to make money from placing ads on your blog, start early. Don’t wait until you have huge traffic. It takes time to figure out which ad networks work for your blog and which don’t. Don’t be afraid to start displaying ads.
Some ad networks will ask you your traffic numbers and if you don’t have enough traffic they won’t accept you. But not all are like that. There are many ad networks that don’t want your traffic numbers and will gladly accept even new bloggers. So, sign up with a few and see how it works for you. Once the big traffic comes to your blog you will be ready.
13. Driving Traffic to Your Blog
Driving traffic to your blog is a very important subject. You want to put your content in front of as many people as possible. Here are a few ways you can spread the word about your fabulous blog:
- Share it on social media.
Facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram are your friends because they will allow you to put your content in front of thousands of people. If you are new to the social media world, pick just one of them, for example, facebook and start there. Once you are comfortable with it, expand to the next one. Eventually, you will figure out which social media platform brings you more views/sales/interactions, so you will be able to concentrate on it.
- Submit your recipes to recipe sharing sites.
If you publish recipes on your blog, submitting your recipes to food sharing sites are a must. Here is the list of recipe sharing sites that I submit my recipes to:
If you are more of a fitness blogger, you can submit your articles to Fitframed.com.
Before submitting to these sites, make sure you read their submission guidelines.
- Improve your SEO
Search Engine Optimization is a huge subject and I can’t possibly cover it in detail here. All I can do is point you again to FoodBlogger Pro because they have a whole SEO video course.
14. Useful WordPress Plugins
Google Analyticator allows you to integrate Google Analytics with your website and allows you to track your stats right in your dashboard.
Disqus Comments is a great comment system for wordpress. Spam comments can be a really big problem if you are using the standard comment system. I have been using Disqus on my website for a few years now and have never got any spam comments.
Easy Recipe Plugin helps you to properly format your recipes for Google search and can also offer you a way to earn some money once your traffic reaches a certain level.
WP-Insert allows you to manage your ads and place them in many different places on your website.
15. Other Important Plugins and Services
W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by increasing server performance, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.
SEO Pugin by Yoast is the most complete SEO plugin for WordPress available and offers you everything you need to optimize your site.
CloudFlair automatically optimizes the delivery of your web pages so your visitors get the fastest page load times and best performance. You can start with a free plan.
Recipage helps you to organize and share your recipes.
16. Important!!! Back up Your Blog and Your Files
Vault Press backs up your site on the regular basis and helps you restore it if anything happens.
CrashPlan backs up the data from your computer. You can back up to the cloud or to another computer (this option is free!).