Technology

Choosing a Blogging Platform

Okay, so you’ve made the decision to set the world on fire with your new food blog. One of your first important decisions (after choosing a hosting company, in most cases) will be to choose which blogging software, or platform, you are going to get set up on. While there are many options for self-publishing a blog on the Internet, in my mind there are only three major options: WordPress (either hosted or self-hosted), Typepad, and Blogger. Let’s take a look at each of these options, and consider their pros and cons

WordPress

If you want to start your new food blog with as much potential for forward-compatibility as possible (that is, to make sure that your blog will be able to continue growing and changing, without the need for a major technology overhaul), there’s really only one choice: WordPress. There’s a reason WordPress is the most popular blogging software in the world, with more than 55 million WordPress-powered websites currently on the web. What began as just another method for publishing an online journal has evolved into one of the best content management systems available, with people making whole careers out of developing new features, providing support, and extending the software’s core features to make it possible to build almost any kind of website you can think of. Food blogs are just the beginning. WordPress can be used to power Yahoo Answers-style websites, online classified ad boards, real estate websites, online portfolios, and much more. WordPress does it all, using an easy-to-use interface that makes administering your new site easy. The software can be customized into infinity, and you’ll never be limited by the software when it comes to adding custom functions to your site.

There are two main options for getting WordPress up and running on your site. You can choose the hosted version of WordPress, or you can download it for use on your own site, with your own hosting and domain name. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry: it’s not. Installing WordPress yourself on your own server is only a little trickier than using the hosted version (the software prides itself on how few clicks it takes to get installed), and offers the maximum opportunity for customization as your site’s needs begin to change. The investment in learning to get the software running on your own server is worth it; with more of the web continuing to be powered by WordPress, learning the basics now is vital to your continued ability to publish online. Having an understand of WordPress means that as the needs of your site change, you will never be left behind. Almost without exception, I believe that the self-hosted version of WordPress is the best possible choice for anyone starting a new food blog.

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Part of food blogging is sharing and showcasing your recipes in a way that makes itĀ convenientĀ for the reader to view them, with simple formatting and the ease of accessing them at home. Step by step pictures are nice, but when you are ready to print a recipe, clearly written directions in a clean area that is easy to select and print is a great thing to offer your readers.

Another important reason for having your recipes properly formatted is the ever evolving need for good SEO. With Google offering a “recipe” search, and hundreds of thousands of sites competing for the same key words, any advantage you can have over the competition and to drive people to your site is welcome.

The good news is, you no longer have to be a website engineer or hire a SEO consultant to figure out things that may help your site grow. Many WordPress developers are already out there doing the work for you and making it easier than ever to get your site and its recipes up to date.

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Choosing a Host for Your Food Blog

You’ve been collecting recipes. You’ve got a decent camera, and a great idea for a domain name. Most importantly, you are convinced you have a food blog percolating in your imagination that people will be dying to read. The first step to getting your website going, to turning your dream into a reality, is to choose a hosting plan.

“But Malcolm,” you may be thinking, “Hosting plans are essentially free! What’s left to talk about?”

I’ll tell you.

While it’s true that low cost or free hosting plans are available for your new website, they’re usually not a good idea for a food blog. Why? Most free hosts toss your website onto a pile of thousands and thousands of other sites, who all share the same server resources, including CPU cycles and memory. The result? Your website responds slowly, and is prone to timeouts when people try to come see the hot new recipe you’ve posted.

There’s another reason. Because of the way we promote our food blogs, that is, with submissions to photo sharing sites, and through social bookmarks, food blogs (perhaps moreso than other websites) are more prone to sudden surges in traffic when a particularly tasty post goes viral. Your webhost, even your inexpensive shared webhost, needs to have systems in place to handle these kinds of traffic spikes. Otherwise, you can suddenly find your shiny new site crippled by a sudden influx of visitors from Tastespotting or Foodgawker, sending your thousands of new visitors to a “Not Found” page.

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