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I started blogging in November 2013 as an outgrowth of my cooking hobby. In actuality, I wanted to get into horse training and photography and thought that food blogging would get me an audience for the rest of my business pursuits. Hence why I started out with the moniker “Capall Equine Photography and Training.” That was a mouthful. When I was just starting out in the food blogging world, I wanted a free blog service, so I went with Google Blogger. I was doing this whole blogging thing for fun, as a creative outlet, and I had no idea if it would grow into anything. I certainly didn’t see myself making any money off of it.
Somehow people started knowing my name as I kept posting my recipes to the Trim Healthy Mama Facebook group. People were actually making and liking my recipes (much to the astonishment of my family…just kidding, just kidding). I never expected my blog to become as popular as it did so quickly, but hey-it was cool! I got more and more into the whole blogging thing and started cooking with blog-friendly recipes in mind. I still did horse training and photography, but food blogging was starting to become bigger than my previous hobbies. In fact, it was almost becoming a part-time job. The only problem was that I wasn’t making much money off of it. I had set up Google AdSense on my Blogger page, but that was it.
While creating new recipes and improving my photography, I started doing research on how to go about setting up a website-the real deal. I felt that I was growing out of Blogger. It was starting to look kind of tacky and I was missing some key features like printable recipes. I saw a lot of cool food blogs with clean designs-exactly what I wanted, but how would I get it? I had no experience whatsoever in website designing. I am not the most computer-literate person in the world, and everything you see on this site was born of trial and error (and YouTube tutorials). I was quite proud of myself when I managed to set up Blogger, and it has a very user-friendly interface.
It was right about this time that one of my favorite food bloggers, Kelly over at Foodie Fiasco, started a series of posts about food blogging. In the posts, she talked about the wonders of self-hosted WordPress and gave suggestions for good website hosts. The thought of creating my own website and having to coordinate domains and hosting and themes and all that stuff made my skin crawl as I wondered how my OCD would handle it, but being the perfectionist that I am, I knew I had to make the break sometime and all the advice I found said that switching sooner rather than later is imperative.
Much sooner than I expected, I signed up for WordPress.org (the self-hosted version of WordPress.com) after doing quite a lot of research. Every spare scrap of time was spent on reading articles about all kinds of aspects of setting up a website, especially through WordPress (since a lot of people I knew were working off of WordPress and I liked the look of their websites), and I found myself becoming more familiar with the jargon. However, it was still pretty Greek to me, and I knew that the only way I was going to learn was trial by fire. So one Monday when I knew it was now or never and my week didn’t look too busy, I sat down and signed up for WordPress.org. I had done research on frameworks and themes, and found a lot of good reviews for the Genesis framework. I was at a loss for what theme to choose since I didn’t want to spend money on a whole suite of themes and I wanted something easy to use. Thankfully I came across Minimalist Baker, a wonderful food blog run off of the Foodie theme…with a very comprehensive review and tutorial of the Foodie theme! It looked like something I could fairly easily customize to my needs, so Foodie I chose. I bought a year’s worth of Bluehost hosting (which I later extended to 3 years through a great deal), and I was all set. One great thing about Bluehost is that the domain name comes with the hosting for free! The uncool thing was that some guy named Brian A. Thomas had stolen my domain name. Hence why there is a dash in my web address.
So now I had the site, the framework, the theme, and the hosting. I was all set! Or was I? I had no idea how to use this stuff. The WordPress dashboard looked so complicated compared to what I was used to with Blogger. With the help of Minimalist Baker, I painstakingly set up Genesis and Foodie. Then the real work began. I had decided I was going to totally rewrite my posts in WordPress instead of using a handy plugin that redirects all your Blogger posts to your new site. This is where my OCD came into play. I wanted to totally delete the old site, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I just redirected the old posts instead of rewriting them. Plus, I wanted to go through and do some editing on some of my old posts (as well as totally get rid of some posts), add affiliate links, and put all my posts into nice neat categories. To me, totally redoing everything sounded easier than funneling posts and having to worry about something screwing up. I tend to do things the hard way, and this switch from Blogger to WordPress was no exception.
So here’s a step-by-step list of how I switched from Blogger to WordPress.org and upped my blogging game:
1) I realized I was growing out of Blogger’s free services and needed a real website.
2) I researched and found that I wanted to start a self-hosted WordPress.org site hosted by Bluehost (thanks, Kelly!).
3) I created a WordPress.org account and bought Bluehost hosting (which came with a domain name so I didn’t need to purchase that).
4) I bought and installed the Genesis framework and Foodie theme with the help of this tutorial from Minimalist Baker.
5) I customized my theme with the help of many plug-ins (here’s a post of all the plug-ins I use as of November 2014), lots of snooping on other sites to see what features they had that I liked…and every step of the way I was searching Google for tutorials. To those of you tech-savvy people who make video tutorials, bless you.
6) I signed up for Amazon Affiliates and some other affiliate programs for products I believe in (therein lies the key). I used the awesome plug-in Thirsty Affiliates to organize all my affiliate links. The basic plug-in is free, and you can get additional upgrades for a fee. The creator of the plug-in, Josh, was very helpful when I ran into some snags (due to my total ineptitude in the realm of HTML).
7) I was dead to the world for about 3 days while I rewrote/reformatted all my old Blogger posts (just copying and pasting the material into WordPress and then making whatever changes and adding whatever links I wanted)-the ones I wanted to keep, that is. I edited for style, typed up all the recipes into an easy-print format (another helpful plug-in called Easy Recipe) and categorized and tagged all the posts.
8) When I had all my pages, posts, recipes (Foodie has a great automatic Recipe widget), and such up and running, I was ready to go public. I added AdSense ads to my sidebar (I already had an account set up through my old Blogger account), edited my Pinterest links and the links I had made on my Facebook page, changed my Facebook name to more accurately reflect the content I was posting…and then I posted my site! Well, it had already been posted, but I hadn’t let many people know about it.
Let’s take a break for a second while I tell you about something I wish I would’ve known about from the beginning. SEO. That stands for Search Engine Optimization. That’s how people find you in a search engine. My theme has good SEO built into it; in every post editor there’s a place for me to write an SEO title, description, and add search keywords to help people find my post. I didn’t know that when I was writing all my posts, so I had to go back later and fill in that info. It would’ve been much easier to just do that as I was rewriting the posts from the beginning.
I would like to introduce you to this amazing blog called “Pinch of Yum”. Its creators, Bjork and Lindsey, are some of the most generous people I know. They have graciously made their monthly income reports available for the public’s perusal…along with helpful tips. Click here for a their list of monthly income reports, and be sure to check out Lindsey’s food photography e-book.
One thing that became extremely clear to me through reading Pinch of Yum’s monthly income reports was that the real key to making any money off of a blog is to have good traffic. How do you get good traffic? By producing good content consistently. Good pictures are a big part of attracting attention, too. Getting accepted to places like Foodgawker is a good way to get your name out there, and of course Pinterest brings a lot of traffic if you have eye-catching material.
Why did I choose WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress)?
-It was recommended by several sources, and several bloggers I really like use it.
-It’s easy to set up.
-I can set up ads on it to try to get some remuneration for my work (not possible on WordPress.com).
-I own my own content.
-It was available, so I took it. And it’s free.
I chose Bluehost for my web host mostly because Kelly over at Foodie Fiasco recommended it. I take her pretty seriously. 😉 So far I have been very happy with Bluehost and its pricing, options, and customer service. The people who work there are great and will answer all your questions no problem, either over the phone or on a live chat (I’ve used both).
A couple great things about Bluehost:
-it’s very compatible with WordPress.org
-it comes with a free domain name
-you can get automatic site back-up services (for a fee, but it’s reasonable)
-you are under no contract and the system is pro-rated, meaning that if you decide to leave at any time you can get your money back for the amount of hosting time you paid for but did not use
-the pro-rated system applies if you need to upgrade to a bigger hosting plan through Bluehost
Update as of 3/9/16 – Bluehost’s services are no longer as great as they used to be. I’ve had some problems with them over the past several months, and customer service has gone downhill. I recently found a tech guy who’s going to be personally managing my web hosting, and I’ll be switching to his services within the next few weeks.
I chose the Genesis framework because it just seemed logical. Lots of people use it. It supported the theme I wanted (see below). It looked like it would work and be fairly simple to use. It supposedly had good SEO already built in (which I have found to be true).
Why did I choose Foodie as my theme for this blog/website? Because a) I had come across a great tutorial on it, b) a lot of food bloggers recommended it, c) it worked off of the framework that came highly recommended (see above), and d) it had a great recipe page widget in place already.
I got the Genesis framework and Foodie theme through Studiopress. Studiopress offers all kinds of themes that build off of the Genesis framework; click on the banner and check them out! There’s definitely something for everyone. There are even packages available with many themes so you can switch out if you decide you don’t like the one you have.
Here are lots of links that I came across in my switch from Blogger to WordPress.org that were very helpful:
Doing the Switcheroo (or just plain getting started):
Moving from Blogger to WordPress (a 3 part series)
How to Blog About Food (includes a huge list of links)
5 WordPress Plugins I Like (includes a link to a Blogger to WordPress importer that the author used)
Reverse IP Domain Check (this is a cool tool that lets you find out what other sites are operating on your shared server, if you’re using one)
So there you have it: my journey from Blogger to a real live website. Questions? Comments? Either post below or feel free to contact me at brintraveler (at) gmail (dot) com. Oh, and be sure to check out my Blogging Resources Page for other posts I’ve done on blogging!
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