When I started this in 2011, there was very little to it. Italy Food Project (formerly Italy Project 365) was simply a pet project — my own personal way of staying connected to Italy and continuing my Italian studies after university. Believe me when I tell you it looked something like a MySpace page. I had been using a basic, free blogging platform called Blogger (great for first time bloggers) which essentially did all the website set up for you. All I had to do was sign in, write my post, upload a few photos and publish it. My only means of marketing were via Facebook and word of mouth. I had one follower – my dear Mom – who has always been my biggest fan in everything I do. I had very little direction, little consistency and knew absolutely nothing about growing a blog and blog following.
A year passed of my Italy blogging hobby before I moved to Italy, at which point I really started following lots of other Italy and travel bloggers. I began to see the possibilities of the blogging world and started to interact more within the blogger community. I also started noticing an increase in my blog following, even though I hadn’t done very much marketing.
What was going on here? Several things. First, I was creating useful content. I was no longer just writing a personal diary on my love for Italy (some of my first posts were really sad), but I was sharing more about my moving to Italy experience – something that people were interested in particularly if they too were going through the same process. This stimulated me to move more and so I started to look into investing in a few blogging tools.
The Blogging Tools of Italy Food Project
Below is a list of tools this blog runs on.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are companies that I have found useful and trustworthy. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything listed below!
BlueHost – I use BlueHost to host this blog. If you are new to blogging, purchasing a web hosting service might not be necessary in the beginning (you can use free hosting services such as WordPress.org and Blogger), but once your blog starts to grow you will probably want to invest in in a good hosting service. Having a trustworthy hosting service ensures that your site runs smoothly and professionally. With BlueHost you can register multiple domain names, create personalized email addresses with your blog’s domain name (like firstname.lastname@example.org) and store all your site’s important files. Another thing I like about BlueHost is their 24/7 customer service chat feature – I know that if I ever have a question, I can always contact them even though I’m in a different time zone.
WordPress.com – In addition to webhosting service, you also need a blog platform. This blog is powered by one of the most popular blogging platforms, WordPress.com. For me there are three great things about WordPress. For one, it’s incredibly dynamic. You can use WordPress even if you are a super beginner and know absolutely nothing about blogging. Second, as your blog gets bigger and fancier, you can begin to take advantage of WordPress’s full range of capabilities. Essentially, WordPress grows with you. Finally, it’s compatible with pretty much everything. It has tons of plugins that help integrate WordPress with other programs such as Facebook, AWeber, Google Analytics, etc. – a huge stress savor for those whose coding knowledge is limited.
Genesis Framework Theme – To control how your blog looks and feels, you need to choose a theme. Themes are like blog templates, applying a preset framework and design to your site. After you choose a theme, you can make small edits and modifications but you should always choose a theme closest to the way you want your blog to look and feel. WordPress offers many free themes, which is great for those just starting out. I recently switched Italy Food Project from one of WordPress’s free themes to a paid theme called Genesis Framework. This theme has a “cleaner” design and is a much more customizable theme than many of the free themes.
AWeber – AWeber is an subscription service that allows you to manage blog subscribers and send personalized newsletters and other updates to blog subscribers. It’s a great way to stay in contact with subscribers, particularly those that don’t use social media, but it’s also how Italy Project 365 is able to deliver resources to readers, like the printable Permesso di Soggiorno checklist!
Canva – Canva, a free online graphic design tool, is an absolute godsend! With Canva I can easily create professional looking logos, blog images and social media graphics. Canva offers a wide range of free and paid designs you can choose from, as well as some really cool fonts. It all runs online, so I don’t even have to download an app – meaning less space is running on my computer and all my designs are automatically backed up on my Canva account.
Canon EOS 700D 18MP Having good quality photos is key for any blog to run successfully, but it’s especially important when you’re writing about food. Readers are attracted by good photos, whether it’s on the blog or through social media. It’s what gives color to my blog and to the food I want to share, and often my photos say a lot more than I ever could in a words. I use a Canon EOS 700D 18MP . It’s a great camera for beginner photographers because you have the option of using the automatic or manual settings and the price quite very affordable. I bought this DSLR camera in 2016 as an update from my old Nikon and I have to say that I LOVE IT!
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens – One of the things I learned about photography is that half the time it’s not so much the camera that counts, but the lens. Once you have a decent DSLR camera with manual options, it’s worth investing in the right kind of lens. The Canon EF 50mm lens seriously does WONDERS. I call it the “magic lens” because it gives this blurry background effect, while focusing on the object in the foreground that you want your viewers to pay close attention to. I use this lens for close ups of food when I really want to focus in on the food but don’t want the background of my house to be in focus. I have many friends that use this lens and all of them tell me that they can’t stop using it!
iPhone 6 – Of course, carrying a giant Nikon camera around everywhere is just not practical and that’s where my iPhone 6 comes into play. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit obsessed with the camera on the iPhone 6 – the photos are really good quality and I can often use them for blog posts. Of course, the iPhone is also wonderful for all the social media apps this blog runs on – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – as well as keeping myself organized when I’m away from my computer with the use of Google apps or taking quick notes of new blog post ideas that suddenly come into mind.
Hootsuite – I use Hootsuite to program my Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus posts. I love this application because it allows me to program lots of posts/tweets all at once so that I don’t have to constantly stay on Twitter or Facebook all day long. Hootsuite also allows you to see your social media activity without actually logging into Twitter or Facebook – it’s a huge personalized dashboard that allows you to be the master of your social media! You can interact with others, and easily see who has mentioned you in their tweets, as well as keep track of the posts/tweets you’ve already sent out.
Lots of Social Media – I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, BlogLovin to share new blog posts and to interact with readers and others in the blogging community. We live in a world of social media these days and as I’m sure every blogger and/or business will tell you, it is very rare to be successful in today’s world without dedicating some of your time to the use of social media.
The Most Important Blogging Tool of All – The most important blogging tool of all? GRIT. Even the most powerful webhosting platform social media service couldn’t have helped me as much as grit has. What exactly do I mean by grit? According to Wikipedia, “Grit ….is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.” Research, experience, practice, trial-and-error, perseverance, the will to write a blog post or respond to a reader’s questions no matter what (even when I’m not in the creative mood or when I’m down about an unsuccessful blog post) are all aspects of grit and are all essential tools for running a successful blog.