Hey, guys. I decided to put together “The Tools of the Trade” list I use to run iFOODreal. Why? Just in case you are wondering what it takes to create a blog like this one. It’s very simple and an initial investment is around $70.
Me and Alex always do a thorough research on any product we use at iFOODreal. Therefore, the blogging resources below have been thoroughly checked and approved by a diligent web designer a.k.a programmer a.k.a my husband a.k.a Alex.
I update this page regularly as my blog evolves and I “grow up” with it.:)
Disclaimer: Some of the links are affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you click on the link and purchase from one of the affiliates. Below listed are products that I use myself and highly recommend because I think they are great. All opinions and experiences are of my own.
The Tools to Start Your Food Blog
InMotion Hosting – THE company I chose to host iFOODreal after trying 2 other companies. These guys offer specific web hosting for WordPress – 1 click easy install, 99.9% uptime, regular backups and security against WordPress attacks. And on top of that, 24 hour US based customer service, free domain/transfer & 90 days money back guarantee. And it’s cheap, only $4.89 per month for a limited time. I love InMotion so much I wrote a review for them.
ThemeForest – A reseller for thousands of WordPress themes. In short, you can pick a template you like for as low as $45 & install on your food blog right away. No HTML, CSS or any technical knowledge required. My biggest advice – choose responsive template – the one that adapts your blog to the size of various mobile devices and desktops. 50% of iFOODreal’s audience is on mobile devices. That’s huge! Go to ThemeForest > WordPress > Mobile, browse and make sure it says “in WordPress” besides the theme. Look for the ones with higher star rating and bigger # of sales. Themeforest also offers support & forum discussions.
Elegant Themes – Just another great place to buy a WordPress template. 1st iFOODreal design was running on a framework from Elegant Themes that Alex has customized. But if you don’t have technical knowledge, no worries. For $39 you get access to all 85 themes and can download a few or all of them! I recommend to pick clean and different from other food blogs theme. And as always, responsive. Elegant Themes also offers great support.
WordPress Plugins – Plugins add different functionalities to your food blog and sky is the limit. That’s what so cool about WordPress. BUT be careful! Get only what you need look at the reviews, last update date and functionalities before downloading the plugin. Plugins slow down the website, so this is when less is more.
Below are FREE plugins that I’m using with iFOODreal:
WP Super Cache – Static caching plugin for WordPress that will speed up your food blog significantly.
BackWPup – Can you imagine if you woke up one morning and your website was gone?! That’s why you need to back it up.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox – Because Alex likes to play safe, I also back up iFOODreal to Dropbox.
Akismet – Catches spam comments and trust me you will need it. Spam comments are flooding the net and this plugin catches I would say 95% of them.
WordPress SEO by Yoast – Makes every post on your blog SEO friendly and searchable by search engines. You can create unique title, description and keywords for each blog post. Without proper on-page SEO it is hard for your posts to get high ranking in search engines.
Comment Reply Notification – I visit so many blogs often I don’t remember where and when I left a comment. Comment Reply Notification provides readers with an option to subscribe and receive a reply to their comment by email. How cool?! This will allow more conversations to happen on your blog and engage the audience.
Link Within – Add up to 5 thumbnails of related blog posts at the bottom of each post. This feature engages the readers to dig deeper into the content of your blog, increases pages/visit and decreases the bounce rate. I used this “plugin” with my 1st theme until Alex made this feature customized for a 2nd theme.
WordPress Social Ring – A plugin that adds social media sharing options for each post and/or page. Highly customizable – top and/or bottom of the page, Pin It button, Facebook share/like/email buttons, Tweet button etc. Also offers Google +, Stumble Upon etc. I used this “plugin” with my 1st theme until Alex customized “Pin It” and “Share” buttons for a 2nd theme.
Ziplist Recipe Plugin – Start using this plugin from the 1st recipe. If you haven’t, not a big deal. You can add it to the recipe at any time. And trust me, Ziplist is big. Martha Stewart big cause they are partners. It has so many advantages:
1. Save & Print – registered Ziplist users can save or print recipes > convenience for users, more traffic for you.
2. Ads – make extra money from the ads appearing on your Ziplist custom Recipe Box and Shopping List pages.
3. Recipe View – adds a photo next to your recipe in Google like here. Once you get 100 recipes under your belt, email Ziplist and ask for a Recipe Box. Add it to the top menu on your blog.
Traffic & Making Money
Feedburner – You know those new recipes you sign up to receive by email or RSS? That’s the one. Every time you publish a new blog post, subscribers will receive it in their inbox or RSS reader. You can set up time, frequency and colours of the email.
Google Analytics – Track how many people visit your website every day. Also their demographics, most popular blog posts, how long they spend time on your blog etc.
Social Media – create Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for your blog.
Pinterest – One of the biggest traffic sources for food bloggers because it’s visual. Vertical photos seem to get the most attention.
Facebook – Just share recipes, news and tips. When one of your recipes goes viral, the traffic will skyrocket.
Twitter – Use for status updates and thoughts besides the recipes. It’s more of a “what you’re thinking right now” tool.
Instagram – Connect with your audience on a personal level and let them get to know you more as a person. Share iPhone photos and install a SnapWidget. Share your lunch/dinner/breakfast, workout gear, shopping cart full of groceries, a new recipe post in the works and a screenshot of just posted recipe. It really tells your audience who is the person behind the blog.
Google AdSense – Place ads throughout your blog but don’t over flood it. You will be making money instantly as soon as someone clicks on the ad. Why not?!
BlogHer – As soon as you have been blogging for more than 90 days and at least 3 times a week, apply to become a part of BlogHer advertising network. Apparently,it’s possible to make good money working with these guys.
Foodgawker – Submit photos of your recipes. Out of all food submission sites, I found Foodgawker to be the one worth the time and effort. The admission criteria is high but once your photo gets accepted, the traffic will rise. Plus you will learn so much about food photography while trying to get accepted.:)
Income Reports – Just because there are so many wonderful food blogs today and I always wonder how do they make it. In case you want to know the same about iFOODreal, every month I publish Income, Blogging Tips and Life reports. No secrets, just tips and a plain old truth.
Nikon D50 – My 8 year old DSLR Camera. That’s what I had and it does the job. It is more important to invest in a good lens.
Tokina AF 100 mm F 2.8 D AT-X PRO – A macro lens that I use 90% of the time. It makes beautiful closeup shots like this one. It is not cheap but see if you can find used one. I bought a second hand one from my friend for only $200. Worth every penny!
Velbon Tripod – I recently started using a tripod because my kitchen is dark. That means the shutter speed has to be lowered and as minimum shaking of the camera as possible to capture those crispy shots. I had this tripod for years. It is adjustable so many ways in height and can make horizontal and vertical shots.
Food Bloggers Veterans’ Advice
And finally, below is the list of various food blogger’s pages from whom I learnt a thing or two about food blogging: