I have been chronicling my recipes for over a year now, but I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of my husband Max. He’s been working relentlessly on my blog and helped improve many aspects, from food photography and traffic acquisition to fighting WordPress hackers and increasing site speed and reliability. On this page I’m showcasing a few of our favorite tools and resources for food bloggers that have helped me build a better blog.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links that earn me a small commission should you decide to buy those products. Please note, however, that I stand fully behind each and every one of the recommended products and have used them extensively.
Believe it or not, Wishful Chef is on its third hosting company. We started out with 1and1, then moved to Dreamhost and now have finally made the switch to Bluehost. While I don’t want to go into detail of why I wasn’t satisfied with the first two companies, I can tell you that our experience with Bluehost has been excellent so far.
Bluehost – We’re really happy with our current hosting provider:
- Low monthly fee – Hosting with Bluehost starts at $4.95/month. Our previous host charged $8.95/month for an inferior product.
- 1-Click WordPress Installation – This is incredibly helpful if you are starting a new blog. With a simple click of a button, Bluehost will install the latest version of WordPress for you.
- Free US-Based Customer Service - I was pleasantly surprised to find out Bluehost offers live chat and free phone support, even at the lowest level plans. In the past, dealing with other hosting companies’ support staff was painful to say the least. Dreamhost only offers live support to customers paying a higher monthly fee.
- Faster - We have also noticed an uptick in site speed, especially when working in the WordPress back-end writing new posts.
- Automatic virus protection - Another very nice surprise. In the past, we had several spam attacks that came in through an outdated WordPress plugin/script (in our case it was timthumb). After only two days with Bluehost, we got an email that they had automatically updated this plugin for us since it’s known to cause problems and can be a serious security risk if not updated.
- A few other benefits include unlimited email accounts, unlimited bandwidth and even a free domain when signing up.
Blogging and Plugins
- WordPress.com – Not much to say here, I think WordPress is by far the best blogging platform for food bloggers out there.
- BackupBuddy – One of my favorite premium plugins. I can’t recommend BackupBuddy enough, it has been a life saver many times. This plugin makes backing up and restoring your blog quick and easy. And if you ever need to migrate to a new domain or web host, BackupBuddy is an invaluable tool to get this process done quickly and safely.
- Securi SiteCheck – We’ve been hit by bots hacking into our WordPress installation several times and scanning WishfulChef.com using Securi SiteCheck proved to be the best way to understand which parts of our website were affected. You can sign up for their premium plan, but to check your site for malware and whether it is blacklisted by Google is a free service.
Increase Your Site Traffic
- Food Porn Sites- Most people know the top two sites Foodgawker and Tastespotting by now. The amount of traffic they can drive back to your blog is enormous. Depending on the recipe, some of my posts got a few thousand visitors within a day or two of being accepted. I think especially for new blogs, these “food porn sites” are an excellent way to get exposure to a new audience. To get blog posts accepted to these sites, it is worth investing into a digital SLR camera with a decent lens (see below for my recommendations).
A few other sites have popped up lately and getting accepted to those is a lot easier. The big caveat, however, is that they are also much smaller than Foodgawker and Tastespotting, so you won’t get as much traffic in return. Here’s a list of sites you can submit your recipes to:
- Organic Search – Search engine traffic is another major source of visitors for most food blog. While I would never recommend to write blog posts specifically for search engines, observing a few best practices to make sure Google, Bing and Yahoo! find your site’s content is a worthwhile investment. I suggest Google Webmaster to monitor the top search phrases for your web site, but also take advantage of plugins like Yoast’s excellent SEO plugin to ensure your site follows SEO best practices.
- Pinterest – By now everyone knows about this highly addictive social media site. Specifically for food bloggers, Pinterest can drive tons of traffic. Make sure to showcase your best images and and consider including Pinterest buttons on each post. Many themes have these buttons built in, but you can also use plugins like Pin It Button to add a Pinterest button below your images.
- Google Analytics – Another must have for anyone who takes their blog seriously. Track and analyze where your traffic comes from and what your most popular pages are. And earlier this year, Google Analytics released a new feature allowing you to monitor your site traffic in real time (Be careful though, this feature is highly addictive).
- Outbrain – Although this plugin is not driving external traffic to your site, it helps increase site engagement and overall page views by recommending additional posts below full blog posts.
Camera and Equipment
- I use a Canon EOS Rebel T3 digital SLR camera. While it is quite an investment for most bloggers who are just starting out, it made a big difference for me and I’m very happy with my camera.
- As an inexpensive entry-level lens for food photography, I highly recommend the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Many experts agree that this is by far the best lens you can buy in the $100 range.