Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How to Start a Food Blog... Or What I Wished I Knew When I Started a Food Blog

Banh Mi Xiu Mai 1

When I started Wandering Chopsticks a little over two years ago, I had a clever name and not much idea of what I was going to do. My initial posts were not terribly interesting, neither written with much personality nor photographed with much flair. Gradually I became more comfortable with being online and allowed more of my personality to show through my posts. As for the photos, I learned to use the macro button (that's the little flower symbol if you have a Canon), increase my ISO for low light situations, and turn off the flash. In between, I learned a whole lot more than I expected about blog rankings, bounce rates, SEO (search engine optimization), and how to conduct myself online.

There's plenty of advice already out there such as "Top Five Tips for Building Blog Traffic" by Christine.net who interviewed Elise of Simply Recipes, "How to Make Your Food Blog Popular" by The Amateur Gourmet, and "Foodblogging Do's and Don'ts" by Delicious Days.

Some blogs and bloggers are big on design, others photography, and others recipes. Personally, I'm a fan of good writing, useful information, and simple layouts. The one unifying aspect of all of the above is content. If you don't have content that someone else wants, your blog is not going to be successful. Since I've received several requests for advice on how to start a food blog, or blogging in general, I thought it would be useful to do a series on what I think is important in creating a blog, conducting yourself online, and navigation tips to measure your "success."

Obviously, success is relative. So at the risk of sounding immodest, I declare my blog moderately successful. Otherwise known as, why should you care what I have to say and how am I qualified to say it?

You want numbers? OK, we can talk numbers. In February 2007 (the first full month I tracked my statistics), I had a whopping 5,907 hits. In comparison, in February 2008 (adding in one extra day for leap year), I had 49,029 hits. Since February is a short month, let's look at July for a more recent comparison of a regular month's traffic. July 2007, there were 19,694 hits. By July 2008, I had 72,819 hits. My hits increase at an average of several thousand every month. You can easily fudge your stats to show a higher number of visitors, so those hits are simply the number of pageviews I got for those months.

Let's talk popularity for a bit. As of this post, Wandering Chopsticks' Alexa ranking is 206,189. Technorati, which only rates blogs, ranks Wandering Chopsticks at 32,417. Sometimes it drops down to 52,485. I'm not sure why it jumps around and frankly, I don't really care too much. Wikio Food and Wine doesn't count me in their top 100 at all. The only ranking I'm concerned about though is Alexa, which is owned by Amazon and measures total website traffic. I'll explain details later about why I consider this the most important ranking.

Or if you gauge success by press mentions, online and in print, you can take a gander at my 15 Seconds of Fame.

I built up my traffic through nothing else but virtue of my content. No sleek design. No gimmicky mass giveaways. No fancy schmancy camera. No comment-whoring.

So this is it folks. How to start a food blog according to Wandering Chopsticks. I've split up this series into topics with lots of random photos. I'll add and link up each section in the series once I've posted it.

Since blogs are highly personal, the following are merely suggestions or guidelines that worked for me. They may not necessarily work for you. Take my advice, for what it's worth, with a huge grain (bin) of salt.

Please let me know if you find this useful, or if you have any suggestions.
  1. How to Start a Food Blog
  2. On Blogging and Food Blogging
  3. Choosing a Blog Host
  4. Picking a Name: Be Clever, Original, and Memorable
  5. Posting: Frequency, Topics, and Accuracy
  6. Giving Credit: The Right Way to Link, Copyright, and "By," "Inspired," and "Adapted"
  7. Your Online Identity: Blogging Interactions and Comment Policies
  8. Photos: Photography Tips, Storage, and Watermarking
  9. Design: Layout, Navigation, and "Above the Fold"
  10. Blogrolling: Will You Be My Friend?
  11. Building Traffic: Participate in the Community and Respond to Your Stats
  12. Measuring Success: Cheerleader or Nerd?
  13. Public Relations: Handling the Freebies and the People
  14. Monetizing Your Hobby: To Ad or Not to Ad
  15. Bottomline: Have Fun, but Protect Your Work
Did you find this series useful? I'd appreciate credit if you use any of the information. Thanks!

1 year ago today, Fried Green Tomatoes.


  1. Oh, this series is interesting... sort of a "history of..." so far. =)

  2. Interesting fact on the macro button thing- I just learned how to use that only a few months ago! Now my close ups look better :). The flower symbol is on the Sony cameras too.

    I like the info about your hits- very impressive!!!

  3. i was yelping something--i forget what--and one of the reviewers said "i read about this place on wanderingchopsticks."

    i was like, hey!!

    i think u could call it a "moderately successful" blog.

  4. TS,
    I'm trying to do it in the order of knowledge. I don't know if that makes sense. But if you're interested, there's what to know and how to go about it.

    That flower function is great! Took me a while to figure it out because I was too lazy to read the manual. :)

    Yelpers and Chowhounders use my info all the time. Sometimes they link to me, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they pretend they discovered it on their own, when I know they're one of my readers and got it from my blog.

  5. This has been amazingly helpful. Thanks so much for putting all of these resources into one place. Much appreciated!

  6. This series on how to start a food blog was enormously helpful to me. I just started one myself and will refer back to your suggestions often. Thanks for documenting in such great detail!

  7. Morta Di Fame,
    Thanks. I'm glad it was of help.

    Thanks. I wrote it because I wished I had something like this to refer to when I started blogging.

  8. Hi there! I wanted to thank you so much for your informative posts in this series. I read through this and it was so helpful. It answered the questions I had and it also drew my awareness to things that I hadn't even considered. Also, I love your blog! Your food always looks delicious and I just made your Bo Kho on Tuesday and it was fabulous! Just wanted to say thanks for the helpful series!

  9. This is very informative. I like it when you said "I built up my traffic through nothing else but virtue of my content." I have learned something new like taking pictures and rankings from this post. Thank you again for sharing!

  10. Kitchen Slave,
    Thanks! I'm glad my series was helpful. What new things did you learn that you hadn't considered before?

    Thanks for trying out my bo kho recipe. I'm glad you liked it.

    Oh, dear, that sounds like I was tooting my own horn. I just meant that a lot of bloggers these days think they need to put themselves out there to become popular or to get their blog read by others. And I think too many times people have forgotten that creating quality content will do that for you. Naturally.

  11. Very nice set of guidelines, thank you. I just started a food blog and am constantly referencing this step by step.

  12. 14,15,16 are not linked so I can read them. It has been an interesting series. Thanks but I'd like to see the last three chapters if they are available.

  13. Dishing Gourmet,
    You're welcome.

    Deep Thoughts,
    They're not linked because I haven't written them yet. :P


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