There are three basic steps to starting a food blog.
- Hosting ( who you will pay to keep all of your content “out there” on the Internet )
- Domain name ( the thing after the www. in a web address )
- Content ( hopefully, the reason you want to start a blog in the first place! )
To help us get through the technical junk of why you need what, I’m going to use the metaphor of a neighborhood. Bear with me.
So, the Internet is one, big neighborhood, and you’re looking to find your spot in it. You are probably wondering, “What is hosting, and why do I need it?” Hosting is what keeps your content “out there” on the Internet. In our neighborhood, hosting is the land you live on. Just like a real-life neighborhood, you can rent or own your little spot on the Internet. Each has its benefits, but for the purposes of this short tutorial, let’s assume you want to rent because you are just starting out.
There are two main types of hosting you can “rent”: Shared and Dedicated. Each of these types refers to the way your website is kept on a server*.
In the case of Shared Hosting, your website is essentially a town home. You get your own “footprint” for your content ( or home ), but you share walls. The upside of this, is that it is very inexpensive, because everyone sharing the same server essentially is splitting the cost of the server. Much like a town home, you may occasionally get noise from your neighbors, but for the most part, you will be unaffected by their presence. What does “noise” mean for your site? It means that if one of your neighbors has a huge rush of traffic, it might affect the availability and speed of your website. If your neighbor usually gets around 1,000 visitors a day, and then all of a sudden gets 15,000 visitors one day, all of the sites on that server may either slow down, or be completely unavailable until your hosting company can fix the issue. If this happens often, you should contact your hosting company ( provider ) about the issue.
If you are the one who is routinely having this influx of traffic and causing the servers to have issue, it means you should move on to a Dedicated Server Hosting plan. In other words, it’s time for you to move out of the town home that is too small for you, and get a freestanding house ( your very own server!) Your hosting provider may not give you a choice in the matter, if it happens often enough, and may drop you as a customer if you refuse to upgrade.
I highly recommend that you start out with a Shared Hosting plan. You can always upgrade later if you need the extra “space”! I use HostGator for my hosting ( both for my food blog and for the webpages I create for my customers ), and I have been really happy with them. I actually have a coupon code with them, that will give you $9.94 off, if you decide to buy your hosting from them. Just enter: BASILANDBUBBLY in the spot for coupon codes at checkout. I also get an itty bitty kickback from them if you buy their hosting. You can see their pricing, etc by clicking this image:
*If you are wondering what a server is, read this paragraph! A server is very much like your computer at home — with a file system, an operating system ( however primitive ), and an internet connection. Just like your computer, it has a finite amount of space and resources available to it. Your blog is nothing more than files that are kept on a computer that is not your own. That computer ( or server ), “serves” those files to the internet. That is to say, unlike your personal computer, which keeps your files locked away for your use only, a server lets anyone with the proper credentials access its files through an internet connection, which brings us to the next section!
You probably already have an idea of what you want to call your blog. It is in your best interest ( both for promoting your blog and helping others to find it ), to use the name of your blog as your domain name. What’s a domain name?
In the neighborhood and the Internet, it’s your address. You might buy hosting ( or land ), but if you don’t have an address, people will never find you. I also buy my domains from HostGator. Their website has a place where you can search for domain names, and see if yours is available. If it is not, it also suggests other domain names that are similar that you may wish to use instead!
This one is hard for me. I am a food blogger by night, but a software developer by day ( I know, right?! ). I’m going to assume that you know that you will need to create brilliant, unique content for your blog in order to get visitors, so I’m going to focus on the more technical aspects. As it turns out, creating a webpage to host massive amounts of content ( pages, posts, comments, users, ads, search features, etc ) and then managing it yourself is a huge pain. I quickly realized that even though I could do this on my own, I didn’t want to.
It’s like you’ve moved into your new house, and now you need to figure out where to put all your stuff. Sure, you could just put it in neat stacks, but it looks so much better and is so much easier if you have shelves, built-ins, chests, and closets. Cue WordPress.
WordPress is software that builds all of the organizational stuff for you. Think of it as your own personal home organizer and assistant. It helps to abstract a lot of the weird technical stuff that goes on under the hood of a website, allowing you to focus on creating your content. HostGator has a super easy guided installation process for WordPress, and if by chance something does go wrong ( it happened to me, once ), they will resolve your issue quickly. The problem I had was taken care of in less than 2 hours. Installing WordPress is only the beginning, though. I have a whole page dedicated to telling you how to make WordPress work for you, including all the handy plugins I use to make my life that much easier.