Find my blogging tips and tools here. I use (or have used) most of these services and products to keep My Korean Kitchen running. I also included few of the products and services that are widely used by other food bloggers.
Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I only link to products I trust and recommend. Thank you for your support.
Build your blog
Website Domains and Hosting
I recommend you keep your domain registration with a separate company than your host company, that way you keep more control and can switch hosts easier when necessary. For domain registration, I have always used Namecheap and have been very happy with it.
WP Engine is a premium web hosting option for websites with high(er) traffic or for those of you who don’t want to worry about security and loading speed. While it is pricier, they do provide excellent support (e.g. free daily back up of your website and access to 24/7 customer service). Their plans start at $29 for 1 website or $99 for 10 sites, and once you consider all the hassles it removes, it is definitely worth it.
I used to use Hostgator before I switched to WP Engine. It’s cheap and allows you to host lots of web sites under the one plan. It is a good starting point to keep costs down, and it has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. If you start getting lots of traffic it will start to slow down though. If I was just starting out I would now use WP Engine, just for the benefit of saving time and worry.
My Korean Kitchen is built on the Genesis Framework.
Lots of web designers and developers prefer to develop websites using this framework. It is a great basis for designing a website. However it is not for beginners, it needs either a child theme applied to it or a new child theme created for it (usually by a web developer).
My Korean Kitchen currently uses a customised version of the Foodie Pro Theme. This theme is used by many food bloggers as it is made specifically for food blogs. If you are familiar with changing the settings on themes then you can use this child theme to make a great looking website without any coding. And with just a little bit of customisation you can make it look unique.
Another source of great themes and some plugins is Elegant Themes. This is where I get the plugin called Bloom which does the newsletter sign-up pop-up for My Korean Kitchen. It also has the Monarch plugin for social media sharing. Elegant Themes also has the theme called “Divi” which is growing in popularity as it allows you to build the layout of your site without any coding experience.
Essential WordPress Plugins
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – This plugin makes search engine optimisation easy for non-techie people like me. It helps you to structure your blog post so that it is search engine friendly hence potentially bringing more traffic to your website. It has been downloaded over 1 million times. That should tell you something!
- Akismet – Akismet is a must use plugin every website should install (it is preloaded with new WordPresss installations anyway, but you will have to activate it). It catches spammy comments and it allows you to review them so that you have an option of trashing or approving them.
- Pinterest “Pin It” Button – Pinterest is a very important social media channel, particularly for visually centric food blogs. One way to optimise this social media is installing a ‘Pin It’ button. With this button, a visitor of your blog can easily pin an image by simply clicking the button. The button automatically appears on every image when your mouse hovers over it.
- Easy Recipes Plugins Pro – This plugin allows me to format my recipe in easy to read format for your benefit (e.g. print function, time display and recipe review function etc.) You can also custom design the template to suit your blog’s brand colour. One of main benefits of using this plugin is that Google can identify your recipe easily, which means it will rank better and this should result in more traffic to your website.
Grow your traffic
Food Blogger Pro is a central hub for people who want to learn how to start and grow their own food blog. Its monthly subscription service offers instant access to video tutorials related to food blogging, from how to set up a food blog, to growing traffic, monetisation and food photography and so much more! You also gain access to its community forum where your questions can get answered by fellow food bloggers. Forum members are really active and helpful, so you can connect with them and learn from each other.
CoSchedule – I use CoSchedule mainly to send out status updates of my blog posts to social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). You can easily plan this on a drag and drop editorial calendar. You can also use this calendar to plan your upcoming blog posts. They will send you a reminder that a deadline is approaching if you drafted something for the near future. You install the app within WordPress as a plugin and this is very easy to do. They have 7 master class videos, which show how to maximise their app for your benefit (i.e. building more traffic and increase social sharing). I really love using CoSchedule! You can try it for free for 14 days.
Tailwind – I use Tailwind app to schedule pins to my Pinterest account. This service allows me to spread out the pins over a day and week period so I don’t need to stay up all day and night to pin to keep my content feed active! It is such a time saver! They recommend the best time to share your pins based on your past pins performance. Also it is very easy to use and their support team is one of the best I have worked with – very approachable and they really do try to help with your problem. One other thing I really like about them is their analytic tools. It is very easy to see and understand how I am performing with growing my audience and also building traffic to my blog. I highly recommend it! (You can try it for free for up to 100 pins but I signed up after only using it for 3 days.)
Convertkit is the email marketing system I use to distribute My Korean Kitchen newsletter (you can see the sign up form at the top or bottom of most pages on My Korean Kitchen). I can easily create “Welcome” and “Follow up” emails, which allows me to create a queue of emails that are delivered to subscribers at certain internals. I can also schedule the time I send out my newsletter and it also provides analytic tools – click-through rate, conversion rate etc. You can also customise your email template. But the thing I like most about it is that Convertkit allows me to automatically send different emails to different subscribers depending on what they signed up for, where they came from etc. It also only counts each email address once, even if that person subscribes to different lists I have on My Korean Kitchen, so it costs less than many other email marketing systems. Convertkit has had the biggest positive impact on My Korean Kitchen of all the systems I use.
Optinmonster is the lead generation system I use to convert visitors into subscribers. It has lots of templates to change the look of lead capture forms and lots of options to segment visitors. I can create a conversion form in just a few minutes, and it links with most email providers, including Convertkit. One of the main things I like about it is its easy to use A/B testing system.
Photo submission websites – There are several photo submission websites, where you can submit your best food photography photos. Editor’s of these websites are fairly selective in which photos they will accept, but once your photo gets accepted, you can expect some free exposure and some increase in your traffic. Foodgawker, Tastespotting and HealthyApeture are the most well-known ones.
Monetise your blog
How to Monetize Your Food Blog – This is a must read book if you want to maximise your blog’s earning potential. It covers topics including what are banner ads and how to structure them well so that you can maximise your earnings opportunity from your blog traffic. It also covers other topics like sponsored posts and how to work with brands etc. It has loads of great information particularly suitable for beginner to intermediate level bloggers.
Monthly Income Report – You can always learn from others. Here are two power bloggers (Pinch of Yum and Just a Girl and Her Blog) who generate amazing income through their blogs. Each month, they provide their insights on how they are progressing and what they have learnt. It’s really an interesting read. I always look forward to reading them and learning from them.
Food Photography Tools
Canon EOS 5D Mark III – I’ve been using my Canon 5D for almost 2 years now and I love it! (You can make a video with it as well.) It creates beautiful photos even though my skill lacks a bit. When it detects an inferior shooting environment it automatically compensates for it well (e.g. auto responsive ISO setting). Before this, I used a Canon 400D (also known as Rebel XTi). When you choose a camera, read lots of reviews and choose the one that suits your needs and budget.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM – At present this is the only food photography lens I’m using. You can’t zoom in or zoom out with this. But it doesn’t matter as your food won’t be going anywhere. I love this lens as it makes the image standout. This is also a good portrait lens. A cheaper but nearly as good alternative would be the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8.
Lowel EGO Tabletop Light Unit – Photos looks best when they are taken under natural light environment. However you can’t always have this condition for whatever reasons. This is when this Lowel EGO light comes in handy. With this you can create artificial but soft natural light environment. A lot of food bloggers rave about it.
Tasty Food Photography – This e-Book is written for a food blogger who wants to take their food photography skills to the next level. It contains helpful tips and tricks that will make your food photos stand out. Over 6,000 people bought this book. That just sums it up. It comes with video tutorials.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop – Post processing is just as important as taking a photograph. I used to use Picasa (free) to do the editing and photograph management but now I use Adobe Lightroom (99% of the time) and Photoshop (1% of the time) for all my photos. Lightroom is very easy to use and organising photographs is much easier with this. With the monthly subscription option, you get access to the latest version of Lightroom and Photoshop.
PicMonkey – I use PicMonkey when making a collage and to add my copyright watermark. This is free (though they do offer a paid premium service) and easy to use.