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.
What’s worse, is that free hosting plans attract lots of unsavory characters, spammers, and pornographers, often using the same IP address that your site uses. It’s not 100% clear the effect this has on your search engine optimization strategy, but think of it like this: Would you eat at a fancy restaurant that was on the same block as an adult bookstore, a pot dispensary, and a gun shop? Probably not. These are known in Internet slang as “bad neighborhoods,” and you certainly don’t want to start your food blog in one.
What’s the solution? Start your food blog on low-cost, reputable hosting and then, as your server needs become greater due to the hundreds of thousands of new visits you receive each month, you can upgrade to a dedicated host down the road. Here’s the general roadmap we follow, when launching a new site:
1. Launch new food blog (and get free domain name) on shared hosting from Bluehost.
When we’re launching a new site, we almost always start it on Bluehost. There are a couple of key advantages to starting your site here. First is the cost. At just $6.95 per month, the price is perfect to test your new concept and keep your new site under budget while you attract new readers. Second is the free domain name. Host your site with Bluehost, and they’ll register your new domain name (like ProFoodBlogger.com) for nothing. It’s a great way to keep your initial costs down. Cost doesn’t mean anything if the service is lousy, and Bluehost excels in their features, as well. Their base plan includes unlimited storage and bandwidth, and amazing customer service if you ever get stuck or need help with anything. Even better, if your site does see a sudden spike in traffic, Bluehost is able to seamlessly handle the flow, keeping your site online and making sure your new visitors see your site, not an error page. Do I sound enthusiastic? That’s because some of our most successful sites were started right on Bluehost, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
2. Transfer food blog to Media Temple
Even with the amazing shared hosting you get through Bluehost, there’s going to come a point with any successful food blog when you want to move to a dedicated server. Until you get to the point where you need a dedicated server, the very term is going to sound like gibberish. All you need to know is this: On a dedicated server, your site is the only one on it. That means your site can handle as much traffic as you can throw at it. We host From Away on Media Temple’s “(dv) Dedicated-Virtual 4.0 – 1 GB” plan, which is enough to handle our current traffic, as well as to plan for increased traffic in the future. Media Temple has handled every question we’ve thrown at them, quickly, professionally, and with knowledge and courtesy. They’re a great, homegrown company, and we recommend them highly for any food blog that is receiving more than 4,000 – 5,000 visitors per day.
3. Looking for more in-depth WordPress server management? Consider WP Engine.
It’s not the cheapest option, but if your food blog starts getting buried in an avalanche of traffic (what a great problem to have, right?), you might find that managing your own server simply takes up too much of your time. When it’s time to graduate to a host that specializes in the special needs of a WordPress site, there is no better company for this type of hosting than WP Engine. WP Engine hosts some of the biggest blogs on the planet, including the Foursquare and Williams-Sonoma blogs, and their managed hosting plans offer speed and performance tweaks for WordPress site that go well beyond the capability of typical caching plugins. They also offer free backups and a repair service in case your blog is ever hacked. When your food blog starts making you famous, it’s important to consider the managed WordPress hosting from WP Engine.
While it’s possible to start your career as a food blogger with free hosting, that’s not a strategy we recommend. Though it may seem more cost-effective to spend less in the beginning, the aggravation of working with free webhosts, their nonexistent customer service departments, the other shady clients that will be on the same server as you, and their unreliable networks and technology, all make it a bad strategy for your site in the long run. Your new food blog deserves better, and choosing where to host it is one of the first important decisions you will make for your site.