I’ve been working on food blogs for about three years ago, in addition to the recipes I do here around Suburban Starter I had two previous blogs – one solely dedicated to sweets and another on European food recipes. Starting food blogs can be difficult, and it can feel like a constant uphill battle. When I first started, I was intimidated by the entire process. Everywhere I turned someone had a different recommendation for a plugin or a tactic I should be trying. Which ended in me throwing up my hands and not trying anything.
Can you guess how that went?
Yeah, massive failure. I struck out constantly. I was rejected from food submission sites, got zero traction on Pinterest, and had no traffic to my site. While I feel like a food blog always needs to be based in enjoyment of the work, lets be honest, I didn’t put it on the internet so no one could read it. I put it there to share with people. When no one comes? That’s discouraging.
So, I caved and started sorting through all the resources, recommendations, and clutter out there. And there is a lot of clutter. Everyone wants to sell you their product or their solution, and there are massive amounts of noise or too-good-to-be-true guarantees attached to everything. Trying to find the genuine help in all of that? Challenging to say the least!
But three years later, I have some tried and true favorites. I’m only listing the things here that I tried and gave me ACTUAL results. In full disclosure, there are some affiliate links below but that hasn’t colored my opinion on them. There are tons of others that I scratched off the list because they didn’t give me real results or helpful tips.
I hope these help you sort through some of the noise and get you on your way to your own success!
Food Blogger Pro
Food Blogger Resource for Learning the Basics and Having a Fellow Food Blogger Community
Food Blogger Pro was my number one food blogging tool when I was starting out. Food Blogger Pro is run by Bjork and Lindsay of Pinch of Yum. I tried it for two major reasons: Pinch of Yum is wildly successful and they are very transparent about their success and how they make their money. Each month they publish traffic and income reports detailing their success. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly Bjork and Lindsay are also very honest and transparent people. It shows in everything they do both on Pinch of Yum and on Food Blogger Pro. You can also find a blog on the Food Blogger Pro site where you’ll find lots of great extra content like their podcast. The podcast alone has a ton of actionable tips on how to take better photos, get more traffic and make more money through your food blog. Think of it as a tiny glimpse into the content that’s behind the scenes.
- They have a massive archive of video lessons on everything from photography to social media to working with brands to getting accepted on submission sites.
- The latest lessons teach you how to make amazing videos – like the kind you always see in your Facebook feed with a million views!
- They have a host of discounts you can receive from other companies just by being a Food Blogger Pro member. Even some from companies like ConvertKit that generally don’t offer them.
- The forums. Imagine a community of other food bloggers where you can get advice, help, and genuinely share tips with (and, yes occasionally complain – the struggle is real some days, even in the food blogging world!) The forums are also a place to coordinate campaigns and posts with other food bloggers – create Buzzfeed list posts or roundups for more exposure, find other bloggers like you, get access to group boards and tailwind tribes of other bloggers who are excited to collaborate – the community is amazing. There are also a host of experts that post on the forums, including Food Blogger Pro staff and staff from the companies that Bjork and Lindsay recommend. You can get in depth step by step help on how to debug a problem on your site or learn how to get more conversions from an opt-in.
- Regular behind-the-scenes live hangouts. Bjork and Lindsay also regularly announce and host live check ins with the community, giving everyone a behind the scenes look on what they’re doing on their own blog, what they see working and trending, and allow people to ask questions.
- The price: $29/month. Not much beats that. Similar blogging courses and communities charge multiples of that – sometimes 10x’s as much for the same thing. I couldn’t afford that starting out. Not even a little bit. The $29 a month though? I could definitely budget that in, especially when it gave such huge rewards.
Food Blogger Pro was wildly helpful in my early days when I had ZERO clue what I was doing, but I’ve also reupped my membership on more than one occasion since. It seems like every time I decide to quit, I remember why I signed up in the first place: the forums. It’s honestly the best place to find other food bloggers to collaborate and commiserate with, and that’s one of the best things that can keep you motivated in this process.
So, what direct results did I get from Food Blogger Pro? Here’s a bunch
- Got help debugging my recipe plug in
- Learned about the beauty that is Pinterest scheduling
- Was a part of several successful seasonal round up posts that drove traffic to my blog via buzzfeed and other bloggers with larger followings than me
- Was able to find out when food submission sites were down for others too. Seems silly, but they were for a long while one of my biggest traffic drivers. It was good to know when others weren’t getting responses either rather than sitting out in lonely blogosphere wondering
- Made other food blogger friends. Again, your friends and family will happily listen to you, but if they don’t have their own food blog, their ability to commiserate or help you work through the problems is limited.
They even offer a free cheat sheet e-book that helps you tackle the ten biggest mistakes you could be making: 10 Mistakes that Bloggers Make – Free eBook!
The one catch with Food Blogger Pro is that they only open up a few times a year for a limited period. They do this in order to make sure that each new community of bloggers that joins up gets the attention they deserve in starting their journey. That’s the kind of attention to detail that I love Bjork and Lindsay for that you don’t see with a lot of other products out there like this.
Join the Food Blogger Pro Waiting List! And you’ll be notified when they are getting ready to open up and when you can sign up!
I honestly can’t recommend this enough!
Tasty Food Photography
Food Blogger Resource for Taking Better Photos
Tasty Food Photography was my second most important food blogging tool when I started. If you’re not ready to commit to the $29/month or if you simply can’t wait until the doors open up, this is another immensely helpful book that Lindsay of Pinch of Yum put out. If you’ve seen their photography, you know how amazing it is. Lindsay is a pro at food photography, and is also an excellent teacher (before starting the blog full time she was a teacher, so that might account for it!) In this book, she walks you through step-by-step her best tips and tricks for creating better food photography photos. Before Food Blogger Pro, this book helped me improve my photography. Instead of rambling on and on, I’m just going to put a photo comparison here:
Yeah. The difference is crazy. I remember thinking those earlier ones were amazing. I could not comprehend why people were not repinning my content or why it was getting rejected from food submission sites. In retrospect, I cringe at those photos. Its not that they were bad exactly, but its obvious I had no idea what I was doing. And I had pretty much zero idea how to make food look good. I’m still working on getting as good as some of the other bloggers out there, but I can definitely see vast improvement.
If you want more information: Click here to view more details
Food Blogger Resource for Scheduling
Remember when I mentioned the beauty of Pinterest schedulers up above? Well, they are amazing and I can’t believe I ever thought I could do this without them.
Tailwind works by letting you schedule your pins. It gives you a “smart schedule” tailored to the times when people are pinning the most often from your profile, and allows you to accumulate a back log of pins which it schedules out into the future at the best possible time for them to be re-pinned.
It also gives you a host of analytic information that’s much more helpful and actionable than the generic ones that come with a Pinterest business account. Everything from your most recently pinned pin, to board insights and your reach.
The latest and greatest right now from Tailwind is a feature that’s even better than group boards: Tailwind Tribes. Its in alpha testing right now, but you just need an invite to get in the door. Once you have one and accept, you’re put in a group with other bloggers pinning the same kind of content as you are. They are typically a 1-for-1 repin group, and are managed closely by their owners. These days I get anywhere from about 3 to 10 times as many pins and repins from Tailwind Tribes as I do from group boards. Many of my tribes have bloggers with much larger followings than I have, extending my reach into the millions despite the fact I still only have a few hundred followers. Tailwind Tribes is huge.
Tailwind has two primary ways to sign up that I recommend. You can get the $15/month plan to start out. You get up to 400 pins a month and all the same analytics. The other option is to get the $99/year plan. It’s a bigger chunk of money up front, but in return you get a discount and you also get an unlimited number of pins – particularly helpful if you post a lot, have a lot of group boards, or just really love pinning content. I know some bloggers say that there is a high correlation between success and a higher number of pins per day, up to a certain point. Personally, I just went ahead and invested in the $99/year plan. If you’re still not sure you can start free!
Social Warfare Plugin
Food Blogger Resource for Better Social Media
I had never heard of this plugin for the longest time, until I heard about it on a webinar. Social Warfare is amazing as it offers social proof on your website – showing the number of shares and likes you’ve gotten on various kinds of social media.
The most important thing it does though, is control how your social media posts appear to others when they are shared. Want to make your Facebook posts look stellar and have the titles, pictures and summaries you want? Done. Want people to pin the Pinterest image of your choice? Done. Want people to tweet out quotes from your page? You can set that up, too! You can also set the bars to appear almost anywhere you want on your website: before or after blog posts, on the side, or you can set it to follow the page as the user reads. And its mobile friendly.
I plan to put a little tutorial out on this plugin sometime soon because its honestly the best one I’ve found out there, far better than the free version of the Sumo Me plug in and a much much cheaper price than the paid for version of Sumo Me.
For $29, you get an entire year of the Social Warfare Plugin. That is a massive bargain for the amount of value it gives.
Food Blogger Resource for Better SEO and Google Ranking
Social media can take you a long way, and Pinterest can give you MASSIVE growth, but you can’t forget about Google or organic search either. You want to make sure that your delicious recipe starts ranking and the best way to do that is with Yoast SEO.
Another benefit of Yoast SEO? It’s also an incredibly easy way to get Rich Pins working for you if you’re not super tech savvy, and rich pins make your pins that much more successful.
I’ve already had a few recipes start to rank in Google even though this blog is less than a year old thanks to Yoast SEO. The basic version is free and has been all I’ve needed to improve my SEO.
Food Blogger Resource for the Best Food Photography
I saved this one for last because I know this one won’t be realistic for everyone, and I wanted you to have tools that you could easily access and implement quickly.
A DSLR camera might not be one of those. First: The price tag. Yikes. I know. I doubt this is the first time you’ve heard someone recommend a DSLR camera. It’s pretty much a constant echo in the blogging world, and in food photography in particular where the success of a recipe (food site submission, Pinterest pin, etc.) relies almost exclusively on your ability to photograph it well. Your recipe could be the best ever invented, but if it doesn’t look good, no one is going to click.
I ignored this advice. I had a decent enough camera and also had my phone. And these are not terrible by any means, it’s always better to get started blogging than to not take any action at all. I have also heard and see
But, I’m being honest about my experience here, and my experience was that until I got the DSLR, I had ZERO traction. I only had maybe 20 visitors a month, and couldn’t get accepted to food submission sites.
The reason? People are really attracted to photos that have amazing resolution and that focus/fade effect – you know the ones, where the background is blurred out and the food is in focus? Where you can see every little detail of the crumb that’s getting ready to fall off the cake? You can fake it to some extent with a lot of talent, time and Photoshop, but a DSLR makes these kinds of photos easy.
Combine a DSLR camera with other food blogger resources like Food Blogger pro and Tasty Food Photography, this pretty much skyrocketed my ability. I was suddenly being repined by other bloggers with massive followings and my food submission success rate became 95% acceptance. It was unbelievable the difference it made and how much more confident I became in my ability to make this work as a business.
For my first DSLR camera, I bought a very basic model. I wanted something that had great reviews and was easy to use, so I bought a Nikon D3300.
It’s still what I use to this day. I plan to upgrade in the near future to either a Nikon D750 or a Canon EOS Rebel T5i but if you’re just getting started, getting one of these is more than enough to get you on your way.
So there you go. All my favorite food blogging resources that have helped me get traction in this crowded food blogging world. I hope this helps you on your journey. I know how frustrating it can be when you’re just starting. I hope this helps you pick the right food blogging tools for you and helps you feel a little less overwhelmed!