How to Start a Successful Food Blog that Makes Money (8 Steps)

photo collage of many food dishes

For a lot of people, food is very important to them.  Whether it’s cooking, baking, a diet lifestyle it is a big part of some people’s life.

If you’re one of those people, a food-based niche site is a great fit and a good option.

As with all niches, there are pros and cons to a food blog.

Pros

  • Absolute mountains of traffic potential:  There are so many keywords, including long tail, with decent traffic potential that it’s mindboggling.
  • Fun: if food is your thing, you can blog about what you do anyway, whether it’s making great dishes, experiment with recipes or live a particular diet lifestyle.

Cons

  • Low RPM: Revenue per 1,000 visitors isn’t terribly high.
  • Competitive:  there are a lot of established, very good food blogs out there that crank out content like crazy.

Step 1: Hone in on a specific food niche

While I’m all for broad niche sites, I believe for a food blog you should niche it down somewhat especially when starting.

The following is a list of niche angles you can consider for your food blog.

Curation

This is the easiest, but it’s definitely not the angle I would take.  A curation food blog puts lists of original recipes together into posts – akin to a roundup.

An example would be “25 best chicken parmesan dishes”.  The post would list 25 different chicken parmesan recipes that link out to the original.

This is okay if you actually don’t cook and want to go for some long tail keywords.  It’s also easy content to outsource.

However, I’m not so sure how successful this type of food blog could be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for publishing some curated content and round ups.  I do on my all my niches sites – it’s just that it’s not the focus of my sites.

You must be very careful with copyright with this approach because you end up using other people’s images.  It’s best to ask permission first.  Most food bloggers would be happy that you want to feature it in a blog post and get a link.

Original recipes

In my view, this is the best approach if you have a knack for coming up with good recipes.  You’re adding unique content to the Web.  You can photograph everything and make videos.  It’s a lot of work, but if you’re good at it, you can build up a great audience fairly quickly.

Baking blog

There’s a big difference between cooking and baking.  If baking is your thing, you have the makings of a monster website.  Baking is really popular.  You can focus on specific baked goods or baking for specific lifestyle diets, etc.

Nutrition

If you have the education and experience, you could enter the nutrition realm.  Since the Google medic update, I would only go this route if you have extensive food nutrition credentials so that you can blog about this authoritatively.

Trade rag

A trade rag blog is one that serves the business side. An example would be a marketing blog for restraurants.  I love trade rag niches.  I’m in 4 of them (actually I add a trade rag component to larger blogs for 3 of them).

Travel and Food

If you love to travel and like food, the two make for a great blog niche.  You can showcase foods of the world as well as how food fits in cultures, food that grows in different regions, etc.

Anthony Bourdain did this brilliantly.  It’s a shame he ended his life because he was a real joy to watch as he traveled and learned about food and cultures all over the world.

Niching down further:

  • specific diets/lifestyle (Atkins)
  • quick meals
  • specific dishes (chicken)
  • specific meals (breakfast)
  • specific methods of preparation (sous vide, BBQ)
  • dinner parties/hosting
  • specific appliances (Vitamix)
  • specific ethnic/region
  • food photography

Step 2: Keyword research

Once you’ve pinned down a niche or two, it’s time to do keyword research.

FYI, these guys don’t do keyword research at all and get very good results.  I prefer to use Ahrefs or SEMRush for keyword research to get ideas of what topics I should focus on.

You should spend a day or two coming through all kinds of keyword searches to get a good starting batch to kick off your blog.  I find keyword research helps narrow down which topics to cover, especially in niches with so many keywords available.

Keyword research is something you’ll likely do in the long run as you grow your site.

Step 3: Choosing a blog/domain name for your food blog

I suggest something that stands out or using your name.  I prefer corporate names that I can brand separate from my personal name, but using a personal name can be very good for long term branding.  Look at Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay and so many other celebrity chefs who branded themselves.

If you go the corporate route, don’t do something boring like foodhq.com.  Spend a bit of time considering something clever and catchy.

Also, don’t choose a name that restricts your blog’s growth.  For instance, don’t do “chickendishes.com” which would restrict you to chicken dishes.

Step 4: Setting up your food blog

Don’t pay some expensive graphic designer a fortune for a logo unless you have lots of money.  Instead, go to Fiverr, look for gigs that have done some nice logos and pick one.  I’ve used Fiverr for logos and have been perfectly happy.

Hosting

I would use WordPress.org.  It’ the platform I and millions of bloggers use.

Once you register your domain name, get a hosting account.  Start with inexpensive hosting and follow the hosting account’s instructions for getting your WordPress site installed and live on your domain name.  Every decent hosting service has detailed tutorials on how to do this.  It’s really simple and if you still can’t do it, just contact your host’s support.

If your site grows to lots of traffic, it’s fairly easy to switch to better hosting.  But in the beginning, Bluehost is perfectly good.  I used Bluehost for my sites for years and was very happy with it.  These days, I use Kinsta for all my sites.

WordPress theme and design

Do not pay for a custom, expensive design.  Instead, look for a decent WordPress theme with a design you like.  I use MyThemeShop for all my niche sites because they are well coded, aren’t loaded with bells and whistles and look good.  They have many theme designs to choose from.

However, StudioPress is a very good platform as well.

There are many other themes (literally thousands), but I’m not familiar with them as I’ve stuck with StudioPress and MyThemeShop over the years.

I’ll say it again, at this stage don’t get too wrapped up with design.  It really doesn’t matter.

Instead, get wrapped up with publishing content and getting traffic.

Step 5: Publish your articles

Once you complete keyword research and get your blog live, it’s time to publish articles.

The types of articles you publish will depend on the niche and angle you chose.

Here are a few tips about publishing articles on a blog:

  • Don’t use page builders for the reasons I set out here.
  • Be detailed in everything you write and publish.
  • Write interesting and attention-grabbing introductions.
  • Include lots of photos (it’s a visual blog).
  • Come up with a universal format because this makes placing display ads sitewide much easier.  Of course this will vary somewhat, but if possible have a similar format so that when you inject ads, for example, after paragraph 4, it’ll look fine on all posts.

Here are some article concept ideas (not an exhaustive list:

  • Recipes (no-brainer)
  • How-to: teach cooking/baking techniques
  • Food nutrition info
  • Round-ups: collection of different recipes for a specific dish
  • Cooking gadgets and appliance articles.

Step 6: Get website traffic to your food blog

Once you start publishing posts, you might get obsessed about traffic.  Traffic is money.  You will need to learn how to get traffic if you want to make money from your flood blog.  Here are your best options (as I see them).

Google traffic (SEO):

Books have been written on SEO.  There is a lot to it, but the key is starting off with good topics followed by good content.

From there you will need to be patient, especially if you’re starting with a new site.  It will take 6 to 12 months to get any significant traffic from Google (sorry to burst your bubble…but social media can make things happen faster).

While social media traffic can be fast, you definitely want to be mindful of SEO because in the long run it pays off big time.  In other words, ensure all your content is optimized for search, but definitely promote it and leverage it on social media.

Social media:

There are 4 good social media platforms for food blogs.  They are Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.

  • For Facebook, you want to publish unique videos such as recipe/how-to videos.  These do really well.  Video is about the only thing that’s worth doing on FB these days.
  • For Pinterest, you want to pin images of your dishes.  Experiment with image collages and individual images.
  • For Instagram, just share examples of your original photos of your dishes.  It’s an easy way to ramp up your exposure.  Because you can’t put links in the posts, don’t expect much traffic.  However, the brand exposure makes it worthwhile.  IG is also good for videos.
  • For YouTube, if you make videos, you definitely want to put them on YouTube for brand exposure and traffic.

Email

I think food niches are ideal for building an email newsletter with thousands and millions of subscribers.  People are always on the hunt for new recipes and dishes.

Come up with a good report that incentivizes people to join your newsletter.  The actual report you use may require some testing.

An example (untested) would be 20 chicken dishes you can make in less than 45 minutes.

Videos

Video is ideal for food blogs.  You can show how to make certain recipes or how to use various kitchen gadgets or do various cooking techniques.  After all, there are TV shows and networks dedicated to food, so clearly it’s a format that people like.

You may not want to start with video because it’s expensive and time-consuming to do.  But it’s definitely a medium you need to consider for your blog’s growth.

Is video necessary?  No, not at all.  It’s a good opportunity, but you don’t need to do videos to grow a successful food blog.

Step 7: Making money from your food blog

If your food blog is for fun or hobby, you may not care about how to make money off of it. However, this article focuses on “how to start and grow a food blog that makes money” so I’m including this section.

There aren’t a lot of options for monetizing a food blog.  But that’s okay.  That’s the case with many niches.  Here are your options as I see them.

AdSense and display ads:

I would focus on AdSense and other display ad networks.  Get tons of traffic and then make money from display ads.  You will want to test various placements and types of ads.  As your blog grows, you may gain access to premium ad networks like AdThrive and Mediavine which I believe monetizes food blogs.  I use AdSense and Monumetric for my niche sites.

Affiliate offers

Unless your sites publish kitchen gadget and appliance content, I don’t see that you’d make a lot of money from affiliate offers.  Of course try some, but I think it’s not going to be a huge earner.  Again, if you do some appliance/gadget content, those could perform well.

Sell a recipe book

Once you have an audience, you can self-publish recipe books and sell them as a Kindle or a PDF.

Cross-over into teaching “how to start a successful food blog”

A lot of people want to lern how to earn a living with a food blog.  If you manage to achieve it, you can add this component to your site… which is then becoming a marketing blog as well.

Use as a platform to land a book/TV deal

This is swinging for the fences.  But if your blog becomes massively popular, traditional publishers may approach you to publish a book because you have a built-in audience.  This happened with SmittenKitchen.com.  If you’re really lucky, you might end up with a TV show.

Step 8: Stick with it

Every big food blog took a while to get there.  You can’t publish 10 original recipes and expect floods of traffic.  That’s why it helps to be passionate and to consistently add content.

If you do choose to make good videos, it can speed up traffic tremendiously via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

 



What do you think? Leave a comment!

  • Mike Gillispie says:

    Good luck….be prepared to pour huge amounts of time, effort, energy, and potentially cash to get a food/recipe site off the ground. Dick pills and payday loans may be harder niches, but just slightly. Uber competition levels from big media companies to well established bloggers to newbies. Thousands of sites exist…many of them have been around for a decade. You need a hell of an angle or a BUNCH of perseverance.

    • Jon says:

      Hey Mike,

      You think it’s that hard? I agree many keywords are brutal, but there are so many keywords with decent volume it’s crazy. Plus new trends come out all the time. I agree, you should be into food to wade into a food blog, but if you are, I can’t imagine it’s all that hard if you are a good cook.

      • Mike Gillispie says:

        Oh yeah. Imagine entrenched user created content sites (Allrecipes), entrenched magazine sites, entrenched TV network sites, entrenched Food Bloogers from the golden age of of blogging (some of these folks are DR70s and 80s) and then sprinkle on a bit of Dotdash (thespruce and spruceeats) and their ilk using shit stock images and still ranking for every keyword imaginable. And then add 1000s of older mediocre sites with DRs in the 40s and 50s. And then 1000s of newer sites.

        I have another site in a different (but just as wide) home niche…so, so, so much easier.

        After dealing with Food, I think I could take on anything. “Best Locksmith New York City”? Easy. “Best DUI Lawyer LA”? No worries. “Erectile dysfunction pills”? Piece of cake.

        “Best gluten-free egg-free vegan chicken noodle soup for shepherds with zinc deficiency”? Not a chance.

  • Tom says:

    I completely agree with Mike. The competition is insane. It’s hoards of sites competing over pennies. I’ve got a food related niche site that has been around for 10 years now, which is fighting tooth & nail for even the low volume keywords. The “big guys” are even targeting these…like I said, people competing over pennies.

    In the early years traffic ramped up quick with seo, now everyone has a food blog. Traffic has been down year after year, even though I’ve been publishing more than I ever have. Been at it with this site so long, that it would be tough to walk away, so I persevere.

    My recommendation if you’re set on building a food blog would be to go very niche and find a unique angle, and hammer away at pinterest. The majority of my traffic now comes from there.

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