Blogger Resources is a free list of tools to help you build an efficient, well-designed, successful food blog.
We’ve been fortunate enough to run a food blog business for 8+ years fully employing two people. Even if self-employment isn’t your dream, we’ve learned a lot through our journey and think we can offer some killer advice to help you along the way, too.
Quick Guide: The order of these resources is intuitive to how you would build a blog from start to finish, starting with website hosts, and onto themes, plugins, and tools. Work your way through this list as you see fit – either from start to finish, or choose where to jump in according to your present needs.
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To setup your site, you’ll need a place for it to “live” on the internet. While there are many options, a self-hosted WordPress site is easily my top recommendation. It is the new blogging standard, allows you access to an amazing amount of free add-ons (called plugins), and will be able to grow with you as your blog grows. These are the the hosts I recommend for a self-hosted WordPress site.
Bluehost: This was our first host and is a great budget host. I include a setup video in my 5 Minutes to an Awesome WordPress Site tutorial and my How to Create a $5,000 Website for $500 tutorial. (note: I’ve negotiated a lower rate for new customers that join using our signup link – as low as $2.95/month!)
If a friend asked which host I’d recommend, I’d suggest Bluehost.
WPEngine (this link has a 20% discount automatically applied!): We switched to WPEngine when this site started receiving around 100K/visits a month. Although we’re on a custom server now, using WPEngine during our transition from a budget host to higher traffic needs was key in helping us grow without slow load times or website downtime.
Next, you need to make your site look good. Thankfully, adding a theme makes this a snap. A framework + child theme setup is ideal (for reasons of security, seo, efficiency, etc.) and how we have our site currently setup.
Foodie Pro: This is an amazing food blog theme that sits on top of Genesis with its uniquely powerful recipe grid index. I was so impressed with it, I created a detailed review and 17 video tutorials on setting it up and customizing it.
The availability of third-party plugins is one of the biggest benefits of using a WordPress site. Here are my top recommendations:
WP Recipe Maker: Allows you to format your recipes for your site and search engines. This shouldn’t be overlooked, as it helps your recipes become more searchable to sites like Google (one of our biggest traffic drivers).
Akismet Anti-Spam: The front-line defense for stopping spammers leaving crummy comments on your site. Licenses are free or you can donate to support the plugin.
EWWW Image Optimizer: This is a tool that will reduce your image sizes upon upload to minimize server resources when serving images to your visitors.
jQuery Pin It Button for Images: Simple tool to add a “Pin It” button on your images.
Search WP: The default WordPress search is terrible for recipes for some unknown reason. Free search alternatives took up way too much database space, so we switched to Search WP and have had great success.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded: Allows commenters to subscribe and manage how/if they receive comment replies.
WP Rocket: This is a tool that allows you to speed up your site load times and enhance overall performance by doing a bunch of fancy, behind-the-scenes computer work – one function being “caching”. I use MaxCDN and Cloudflare (resources I mention below), and WP Rocket makes it a breeze to install these, and other functions, to your site.
WordPress SEO: This plugin does two powerful things: 1. It creates a sitemap (a list of everything on your site) that google likes; and 2. It gives you the power to improve SEO data. SEO doesn’t matter at all if your content isn’t good (sorry, but you’re not smart enough to trick google), but it can be helpful if you can more accurately describe your content for readers that might find your site via search.
We use a variety of tools aimed to make our website run fast, keep it online, and keep things running smoothly. Out of all of these options, hosting your mailing list offsite (not directly in your WordPress blog) would be my top recommendation.
ConvertKit: One of the newest services but easily the best for getting started with minimal hassle. Much easier to use and faster to setup than Mailchimp.
Mailchimp: For a long time, this has been considered the standard of email marketing. However, they haven’t been great at adding helpful tools in the past few years without charging extra for them. They have an easy RSS-to-email feature, which is what we previously used to send readers updates of blog posts as they are posted.
ManageWP – This tool is significantly cheaper than other similar services and boasts relatively big offerings – primarily uptime monitoring, security, and backup. Although it’s mostly built for firms that manage lots of websites, I’ve found it’s still helpful for managing our site.
Codeable: This service offers single project jobs based on your needs (theme customizations, fixing something broken, etc.). All the freelancers are vetted and do solid work (something that can be really hit and miss on other freelance sites). It’s been very helpful to get some small jobs done quickly (i.e. – add a new rss feed, fix a plugin conflict, etc.) that are otherwise outside of my comfort zone.
Cloudflare: This is another tool that was helpful as our site started to grow. It helps save server bandwidth by using a unique technology (which ultimately helps maximize our site uptime), but more importantly blocks malicious traffic and has tools in place if your site were to go under attack so you can fight back (hi-ya!). The free plan is likely sufficient for most sites, but we currently use the pro plan.
Google Analytics: The free and pretty much industry standard tool for tracking website traffic and stats.
Google Webmaster: Another free resource from Google to help you watch out for broken links and give you insight into how people are ending up on your site via search results. This also allows you to manually submit a sitemap, which is a helpful tool for getting indexed fast.
Design and Photography Tools
Adobe CC: We primarily use photoshop, but others really like to use lightroom for photos. We also use InDesign (working on ebooks and PDFs) and Illustrator (for logos, etc.). The monthly subscription is an amazing deal and ensures you’re always up-to-date with the latest software.
We try to keep our camera equipment simple and have only upgraded when we’ve been able to afford to do so.
For food photography, we’d suggest getting a Canon DSLR & 50mm lens (lots of options to adjust to your budget). The extension tube is a minimal investment that adds great flexibility to this setup (namely that tight-in zoom shot).
Our Current Setup:
If you’re curious which brand to go for, find out why we switched to Canon from Nikon for Food Photography.
Wave: This free online software is a decent option for accounting and expense tracking.