Food blogging has its different challenges from other blogging niches. Food bloggers tend to go a little overboard with the plugins (as well as categories and tags). When setting up a food blog, I always include the plugins the customer will need (but no more than what is necessary). Because of ads and the number of images, food bloggers have to choose what is essential for their design.
Essential Plugins for Any Blog
As I mentioned in this post, I always install a select group of plugins. These have evolved over the years, but some of them are core components to any WordPress blog. Akismet and Jetpack are setup and connected to all of my sites. Jetpack has multiple functionalities and settings; therefore, you don’t have to install numerous plugins, when one can get the job done. If the client has no backup plugin installed, I recommend that they use Vaultpress. It’s not a free backup plugin, but
If the customer has no backup plugin installed, I recommend that they use Vaultpress. It’s not a free backup plugin, but it’s one of my favorite. As for SEO, I always setup Google Analytics and Yoast SEO.
How recipes are displayed and how users can search for recipes are two key factors for food blog designs. For recipe presentations, my default go-to is Easy Recipe Plus, though the update process is a bore. It’s a clunky plugin, but it’s effective. Alternatives don’t have the same type of functionality as it does. I will always override the CSS of the recipe card to align with the brand.
As for searching recipes, the category and tag templates present the posts. When themes have a poor presentation, it is usually is the result of them using inconsistent featured images and not categorizing their posts correctly. Once there content is cleaned up, I prefer to use Ultimate WP Query Search Filter. I’ve used it with Fig & Thyme as well as Scaling Back.
Email Notifications | RSS Campaigns
Most food bloggers share blog posts every few days, and not on a consistent schedule. Plus, their audience often comes from Pinterest, Yummly, FoodGawker, or Search Engines. If you get a reader to subscribe, you can notify them when you have a new post. I use exclusively two plugins for this functionality. First, my favorite popup plugin is Boxzilla. It’s free, and it allows you to manage the style and settings (cookies, frequency, location). You can embed the Mailchimp code into the box, or you can use another plugin.
To send email notifications out, you need to setup a Newsletter RSS Feed. Most themes do not include the image in the RSS Feed, so Featured Image in RSS Feed allows you to send a snippet of your new post to your subscribers. Depending on the customer, I will add features to the newsletter like branded images for Instagram/Pinterest following or particular category call outs. You also want to send a truncated view of your posts to subscribers, so that they will click to your website.
Don’t forget to brand your sign-up and email template with your blog design!
Spread the Joy: Social Sharing
Here’s where I’ve seen people get a little crazy, and it can end up slowing down their site or ruining the site experience. You don’t need to spam readers with opportunities to share your posts. In fact, most browsers come with that functionality built in. I will avoid using a social sharing plugin if that functionality is already built into your theme. As long as you include an opportunity for readers to share, no need to spam them.
I would add a Pinterest button, preferably Jquery Pin It Button. Using Pinterest (and sharing your posts on Pinterest) is going to get you farther than anything you do on Facebook or Twitter.
Sidebar: Dynamic Secondary Information
Since food bloggers blog less frequently than other lifestyle niches, it is important that the content on your website be fresh and dynamic. Instead of opting for static images to provide links to categories, posts, or pages, I prefer to use dynamic plugins that will update as your site grows.
- Category Widget: Displays a select number of posts from a particular category. You can define the category, number of posts, and content. Each time you add a new post in that category, it will update it. See it here: Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
- Top Posts via Jetpack: Jetpack will show your popular posts as one of their sidebar extras. No need to install an additional plugin.
- Instagram Plugin: Alpine PhotoTile for Instagram or Light Widget are my two favorite plugins for Instagram posts. It’s important to grow your Instagram account, and including it on your sidebar is a great way.
My other two favorite plugins are Comment Email Reply Notification and Broken Link Checker. Reply Notification notifies a comment author when you leave a comment; hopefully, that commenter will return to your site. Since commenting has gotten really out of hand lately, I also recommend using Broken Link Checker. People tend to spam comments with links to their site, but they’ve created the link incorrectly (not including HTTP://). Broken link checker will help you fix any broken links.
Plugins I Avoid
There are a few plugins that I avoid using for different reasons. Either they slow down the site, ruin the images, or create more work for the customer. I’ve deemed these as detrimental to my clients.
- Reduce Bounce Rate: Bloggers frequently use this plugin because it helps increase your bounce rate time and percent. Honestly, bounce rate is not something brands consider. A good bounce rate is not that significant in the bigger scheme of things. Moreover, this plugin can interfere with your Google Analytics pageview count. Especially if you are on a site with lots of affiliate widgets, links, and ads. There’s no point in including it.
- WPSmush and Any Image Reducing Plugins: If you are running your blog like a professional, you should be uploading images correctly to your website. Image size reducing plugins are not image editors like Photoshop or Lightroom, and as a result, you could end up with pixelated images. Save images correctly, and avoid using these plugins altogether.
- Pinterest Plugins: Often we share other people’s content on our Pinterest profiles. This content might not align with our brand, and it also encourages people to leave our site. I also hate when I see duplicate content on someone’s Instagram or Blog on the Pinterest feed. Including opportunities for readers to pin your content and follow your Pinterest profile (via social links), will more effectively help you grow your Pinterest account.
Looking for a New Blog Design?
View former food blog design clients here. Check out my blog design packages. Packages take approximately 5-7 business days to fill and include a theme, installation, email integration and logo suite!