This is a continuation of the series So You Want to Start a Food Blog. This week we’re going to talk about some of your different blogging platform options, and the pros and cons of each.
What platform you choose depends a lot on your current level of computer literacy, as well as what your goals are for your food blog. If you’re just looking for a place to share recipes with friends and family, with no plans to monetize, then a simpler platform that you can get for free is probably for you. If, however, you have plans to earn an income off of your food blog at some point, then you are going to want to think seriously about functionality and ease of monetization, which probably puts you in self hosted WordPress territory. If you just want to see how it all goes, you can certainly start on a freebie and migrate over later, like I did. There will be some headaches in the process (SO MANY), but lots of people start that way, and there are plenty of resources online to help you make the switch when the time comes!
The following are some platforms I have personal experience with:
When I started IBIH I had no idea what I was doing – sometimes I think I still don’t! I went with Google’s Blogger platform because it was free, and seemed easy to use. It was, but there were several drawbacks that I discovered within the first few months – the design options were limited, and there was no print recipe or recipe indexing functionality. For me, those ended up being the biggest cons for using Blogger as a food blog platform – and were the reason I eventually moved to a self-hosted blog on WordPress. The Blogger platform works great for some things, but if you want a financially successful food blog, it’s going to be important to people that they can print and search your recipes easily.
One major consideration on the pro side though, is that Blogger is very easy to use – helpful if you are not very computer savvy . It was also almost never down – even when my traffic spiked to over 30,000 visits per day a few times, there was never any hiccup in the server. Once I switched from Blogger to self-hosted, I had all kinds of issues with servers being down until I upgraded, significantly increasing my costs of running the blog. It’s definitely something to consider when making your decision.
It can’t be overemphasized that you can be blogging through Blogger within half an hour (or less!) of signing up! I created this sample blog in about five minutes using one of their existing templates (Watermark Pink).
Blogger Pros: Free, newbie friendly design templates, easy to learn and use, reliable servers, some claim SEO advantages given by Google to Blogger blogs.
Blogger Cons: Limited functionality, no print recipe feature, no recipe indexing feature, Blogger owns the space and can shut you down at any time, meaning you could lose everything and there is nothing you can do about it. Scary.
Another blogging platform that is perfect for the newbie is Tumblr. It’s super easy to set up and post to – I even set up my own within just a few minutes. It’s functionality is very limited though, and there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, unless you are computer savvy and can figure out some hacks. The popular Nom Nom Paleo blog is set up on Tumblr and is a great example of what it can do. One of the major cons of Tumblr if you plan to monetize your blog though, is that it’s not conducive to typical banner ads. There are hacks for that as well, but if you’re looking to make a living off of your food blog at some point, you may want to look elsewhere.
A little less newbie friendly than Blogger, it’s still relatively easy – putting this sample together only took about 10 minutes using their free “Rubber Cement” theme.
Tumblr Pros: Free, newbie friendly design templates, easy to learn and use
Tumblr Cons: Difficult to monetize, very limited design options, lack of functionality unless you are very computer savvy.
When I finally bit the bullet and moved IBIH from Blogger to a self hosted blog on WordPress, it was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. I loved the functionality I got from WordPress (SO MANY plugins!) but it was much more difficult to get started. To be fair I purchased a custom theme and further customized it myself, but even the basics of operating WordPress took a little getting used to. If you aren’t very computer savvy, you may have some difficulty getting started which can be discouraging. There are lots of designers and consultants out there that you can hire very reasonably though, and that can help A LOT with the process until you get used to it.
If you are starting a food blog with the intent to grow it into a potential income source, you should do yourself a favor and start with WordPress. You should also know that there are two forms of WordPress available. There is WordPress.org which is “self hosted” meaning you pay for a hosting company and domain name, and install WordPress on it. Then there is WordPress.com where you actually host on WordPress which is free.
Before you make a decision you should also know that while WordPress.com is free, you can’t upload custom themes or plugins which will severely limit your design and functionality options. It is a lot easier to set up and manage than the self hosted WordPress.org though, and all of the spam filtering, backups, and other technical issues are handled by them so you never have to worry about it. Self-hosted WordPress.org is much more stressful because you have to do pretty much everything yourself, unless you pay for assistance. It’s not for the faint of heart or computer illiterate – I found that out the hard way.
That being said, now that I’ve gotten over the learning curve, I wouldn’t go back for anything! A self hosted WordPress blog will be your best option for functionality, monetization, and design customization.
Here is a sample blog on WordPress.com that took less than 10 minutes to put together and uses their free Ever After theme.
Pros: Free, relatively easy to set up, automatic backups
Cons: Limited themes, limited plugins, can’t upload custom themes or plugins, limited monetization options (many publishers won’t work with you if you’re on WP.com)
Self hosted WordPress.org
Pros: Total control over your theme, plugins, databases, etc., unlimited customization potential, unlimited monetization potential, great SEO management options
Cons: Harder to set up, must pay for a domain name and hosting, responsible for your own backups and maintenance
So there you have it – 3 potential choices for your food blog platform. There are more of them out there, but these are the three I’ve worked with and feel qualified to comment on. For some others, as well as more information on these three, I’m including a list of helpful links that you might find useful in making your decision. Keep in mind, these articles are written about blogging in general, and don’t necessarily apply specifically to food blogging and it’s unique requirements.
Next week I’ll be posting about what to include, and possibly more importantly, what not to include when designing/building your food blog.
Until then, more great recipes coming up next week, including a new Meatball Mondays recipe that you guys are going to love! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to IBIH so you don’t miss out! Have a great weekend!