Have you ever seen “Kitchen Nightmares” with Chef Gordon Ramsay? If not, here’s a brief summary: Gordon finds struggling restaurants, and then he helps the owners to improve their businesses. The funny thing is that the more I watched this show, the more I realized that Gordon Ramsay’s advice was not just about restaurants. Ramsay’s no-nonsense approach to consulting can (and should) be applied to blogging, which all businesses should be doing. When you break his advice and process down, you can discover new insights that can improve any kind of business. Both online and brick and mortar businesses that are struggling to route traffic to their websites can benefit from such an evaluation.
1. Observe and Analyze
When Ramsay shows up to a new restaurant that needs work, his first matter of business is observation. He shows up unannounced, places an order, and checks out the restaurant (including the dining area and the kitchen). Then, without any hesitation, he tells the owner what he really thought of his experience. With your blog, you can do the same!
This approach requires a slight imagination, and a major desire to reinvent your online presence. Ask a friend, family member or colleague to visit your site, and tell you what they think. Or, if you’d prefer, do it yourself. Then, analyze your experience from the perspective of your target audience.
What is your blog doing well? Where does it fall short. Be honest with yourself, and pay attention to a few factors:
- Look and feel– What are the aesthetics of your blog? Is the page designed in a way that is inviting, especially for newcomers? Is it cluttered with information? Is your blog inviting, uncluttered, and eye-catching?
- Can people figure out what your blog is all about? – Is the topic of your blog clear? Some businesses have razor-specific blog topics, which they regularly write about. Others cover topics that run the gamut of their industry. Be sure to make it clear to your customers which of these two strategies you’re pursuing. If your site doesn’t pass the header removal test (can readers discover the blog topic without looking at the header or logo), then it’s time to reevaluate.
- Are you highlighting positive social proof? – Like high comment counts, Twitter and Facebook shares, and high subscriber numbers? If not, find other bloggers and see if you can start sharing and interacting with each others’ content.
- Is your content good enough? – Does your content offer value to users? It should provide new information, or at least a new perspective. Be sure that the content is written to give users information, while still promoting your company’s expertise. If this is not the case, then it may be time to begin editing older content.
- Can people navigate your blog easily? – When written correctly, blog posts should not be a one-stop experience. Sure, readers should be able to glean all of the information they need from the one page. But, inspiring interest in other topics by creating an elaborate link structure is also important.
2. Identify the Bottlenecks
The next thing Ramsay does is identify the problems. Why is it that this restaurant is failing? Why aren’t the customers coming? Is it the food? Is it the atmosphere? Is it the staff? Again, as a blogger, you can ask yourself similar questions.
If you followed step one, and you were honest with yourself, you’ll already know the questions and answers. But if you’re looking for some help, here’s a short list of reasons why your site might not be getting traffic:
- Does your design look amateur-looking?
- Is your content useful and easy-to-read?
- Do you overwhelm people with advertisements?
- Are you being yourself…authentic, if you will?
- Do you treat your readers and customers with respect?
Once you run through that list, you’ll also need to know what’s the primary action you want people to take on your site, besides the the obvious one “reading your blog.” If your traffic isn’t performing that specific action, find out why. High bounce rates might mean that your content is not informative enough, or that the page is too confusing. You can ask friends, other bloggers, or maybe you can run a survey.
For example, over at my site, I wanted more subscribers on my email list. I was doing OK using all the regular methods like placing my opt-in forms in the right places, and giving calls to action subscribe. But it wasn’t until it occurred to me to start giving relevant and useful content in my blog posts that I started seeing MUCH better results.
3. Don’t Work on Too Many Projects
The first thing Gordon Ramsay does with a struggling restaurant is reduce the number of items on their menu. Instead of 20 mediocre dishes, he’ll come up with 10 incredible ones. In the same vein, make sure your blog output is worth your readers’ time.
If you’re posting daily, but rushing to get the posts out, reduce your output so you can focus on creating 3 or 4 articles that are amazing. If you have several blogs, and you don’t have the time for all of them, maybe you should cut down to your core 2 or 3 blogs and make them outstanding.
If you’re focused on several traffic generation methods, and you’re not seeing solid results, you may be overextending yourself. Take one technique, MASTER it, and put it on autopilot. Then, you can move on to the next one.
If you’re selling products, maybe you can focus on your most profitable, best-selling products. With a hardened technique and dedication, your eCommerce store can compete with Amazon. It will take time to develop a few key features on your eCommerce website, but the results will show. Building an When Steve Jobs took the helm at Apple for the second time, the first thing he started doing was cutting product lines… and you know how Apple turned out.
4. Revamp Your Niche and Design
The next step Chef Ramsay takes is market research. He takes a survey of the surrounding restaurants to see what kind of food they are serving, what they are doing well, where they are falling short, and where the gaps in market are, much like Derek Halpern did with his Social Triggers. Then he puts together the menu and redesigns the restaurant itself around the theme he came up with during his market research. If your website is more than two or three years old, then you should consider a redesign to avoid a dated, obsolete look.
Don’t tell me you have another “internet marketing” blog. “Internet marketing” is a broad niche, and it’s no wonder your blog is getting lost in the sea of others. The solution is to make your blog about a specific niche within internet marketing, say list building, or SEO, or personal development, or reviews.
You might be worried about narrowing down your niche too much, but you can always broaden it later. In the beginning, you want to stand for something, or else you risk standing for nothing.
5. Market the Heck Out of It
Now comes the fun part: reaching out to the potential food lovers. Gordon Ramsay spares nothing for this step: anything from as simple as giving out flyers for the opening night to organizing farmers markets and doing food tastings.
Online, you need to do the same exact thing. Your blog marketing stage is only limited by your imagination and the ability to outthink and outdo your competition. No one can teach you to think outside the box, yet let me tell you—it’s a skill, not a gift. It can be developed just like any other skill.
How can you get people to view your site? If you’re just using Twitter and Facebook to share your content, is there anything else you can do that might yield better results? Is your competition getting press? If so, why? Where are they getting it? Can you get press from the same places?
6. Deliver on Your Promises
“I maintain standards and I strive for perfection. That level of pressure is conveyed in a very bullish way and that’s what cooking (blogging) is all about.” ~ Gordon Ramsay
Once Gordon Ramsay markets the heck out of the restaurant reopening, he knows it’s time to deliver. It’s time to show off the newly redesigned restaurant, and be ready to run like a well-oiled machine, pumping out those scrumptious, profitable dishes off the simple menu. It’s time to turn those first-time foodies into raving, word-spreading, soon-returning restaurant fans. And again, in the blog world, nothing else matters if you can’t deliver some incredible content.
The kind of content your readers won’t find anywhere else. The kind of content that focuses on them and leaves them hungry for more. And it goes beyond just your blog content, of course. If you market affiliate products, make sure you stand behind them 100%, which usually means you tried them and benefited from them. If you are building an email list, make sure you deliver quality and value and not a bunch of affiliate offers.
Remember, your reputation is the key to opening a lot of doors for your business…and also closing them for good. It’s entirely up to you.
7. Rinse and Repeat
Despite the initial success, many restaurants, even with Ramsay’s help, still fail within a few months.
Acquiring new business and traffic and sustaining traffic are two different things and anyone with a successful business knows that. That’s why you need to keep working on your business / blog. You need to keep marketing it, communicating with your readers, and networking with other bloggers all the time! There are a few major SEO ranking factors that you should pay attention to. But, doing so will have myriad benefits, and reflect in your bottom line.
Final Thoughts: Buckle Down, and Write for Your Audience
Does it get easier?
Yes. It becomes second nature, and you learn to do it more efficiently. But it never ends.
“We’re fragile, fragmented souls who are very sensitive to criticism.” ~ Gordon Ramsay
Indeed we are, Gordon. Yet there’s no growth without identifying the areas that need to be worked on. As painful as it is to realize that even with all the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into our blogs, they are still and probably never will be perfect. But that’s OK. That’s what running your own business is all about.
Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!