Who doesn’t know British chef Gordon Ramsay. He is well-known around the world, mostly because of his swearing in the kitchen, but also because he has set up many successful restaurants., His fame is mainly based on his television shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares,” and the swear words he uses in these shows. One show in particular is now running for years with huge success: “Kitchen Nightmares”. In this show he comes into a restaurant, which is usually almost bankrupt and barely attracting any customers, and helps save it. Watching this show can help you a lot when optimizing your website. Think whatever you want about Ramsay and his swearing, but he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to optimizing a business. And optimizing a business, or restaurant in this matter, is not that different from running a restaurant. Let’s take a look at some lessons we can learn from Gordon Ramsay.
Clean up Your Menu
Most restaurants Ramsay visits in his “Kitchen Nightmares” have extended menus. The owners try to put up as much food as possible, with as much variety as possible. They do this to give their guests as much to choose from as they can. That however also means people won’t know what to choose from. Plus the kitchen will need to work a lot harder to get all the different menus out. Ramsay always cleans up the menu and focuses on only a few dishes and making these special. Most websites have the same problem. There are so many sites out there which are so full of information that you can’t find what you’re looking for, even if you try. These sites often also have a hard time ranking because search engines simply can’t place the content. There is just too much on there which is irrelevant to the site. Too much varied content won’t help your site, so start cleaning up your menu. Focus on the really important areas for your potential visitors and create landing pages for those. Make the specials interesting for your guests!
Find your niche
Walk to any town or city near you and you will see that there are many restaurants out there. It sometimes can be hard to choose which place you want to eat in tonight, there is just so much competition. To stand out from all the competition, Ramsay looks for a niche. Is there no fish restaurant? Make a fish restaurant. Is there no “original burger joint”? Create one. He tries to look at a way to make a restaurant ‘different’ from others so that people will choose that restaurant over another one. Ramsay is looking for niches, and so should you as a website owner when optimizing your site. Why try to rank for that one high volume keyword which also has a lot of competition? Aim for the long tail and find keywords that will make your website stand out. Your website might rank with ten other competitors who look just like you. Which result do you think someone will click on when he or she sees 9 almost similar results and one different one?
Most restaurants you see on “Kitchen Nightmares” are horribly decorated. My grandmother wouldn’t even bother to walk in because they look so old fashioned. So Ramsay decides to clean them up and redecorate. Change the way it looks, change the table setting and make it more attractive for people to walk in. Many site owners should consider cleaning up, too. You can optimize a site all you want, but if it doesn’t look appealing to your visitors, you can rank number one forever without converting. There are still many sites out there which look like they were build in 1992 or even on a commodore 64. Make your sites attractive people!
Get your kitchen sorted out
Some of the kitchen you get to see in the show are in a horrific state. You don’t even want to step into one of these, let alone get food out of them. If guests saw how their food was being prepared in these areas, they would instantly walk out or get sick right there at the table. A restaurant that runs well needs a kitchen that runs well. Without the right material, no good food will come out of the kitchen. The same goes for a profitable website. If you have not thought well of your materials you will run into trouble sooner or later. Choosing the right technique (no flash site for example), the right CMS and a proper grid is hugely important. If the technical part of the site is failing, you won’t rank. So make sure your “kitchen” is in order: check and optimize your site speed, make sure there are no frames, and have a technical SEO look at your CMS.
Cook what your guests want to eat
They say restaurant owners are stubborn, and that they tend to think they know what’s best for their customers. You often see those restaurant owners ignoring the things the visitors are actually asking for, which leads to customers not returning to the restaurant. The strangest thing is always that they don’t seem to be seeing what is going wrong here. They just don’t want to listen and think they will ‘force’ the customers to like what they serve. Wrong. If restaurant owners are stubborn, most website owners are even more so. As I explained before in my presentation recently at A4U, I’ve dealt with many clients pushing elements on the site they liked very much, without listening to the (potential) visitors. I’ve heard the phrase “it’s my site, I’ll put on it whatever I want” way too many times. My answer has always been: “it’s not your site, it’s your visitors’ site“. This goes for design elements, but also for SEO elements. Using keywords that nobody is searching for is still a huge issue on most websites. Stop selling your things and start answering the questions your clients have. Listen to Gordon Ramsay here: focus on what your visitor wants, not what you think is best.
Get the right people in the kitchen and stay out yourself
Have you seen the shows in which the restaurant owner was also the chef, the head waiter, and the host all at once, but he really couldn’t cook or wait at all? These restaurants are usually doomed. Ramsay tries to get the owner out of the kitchen as soon as he can and tries to find a real chef to run the kitchen. That usually is a big battle because the restaurant owners want to have a say in everything what is going on. In the end Ramsay usually succeeds. Things aren’t much different with websites. There are way too many site owners out there who think they can run both the technical, content, and search marketing part of the site, when they actually don’t know what they’re talking about. Site owners must make sure to get the right people to do the right jobs. A professional SEO or a professional technician can make all the difference when it comes to ranking.
Give your potential visitors a taste of what they can expect
On every show, Ramsay tries to find new visitors for the restaurant. He goes out and talks to people, but he also takes the “improved” employees from the restaurant out on the street to spread the word on the “new and improved” restaurant. They usually give the people on the street a taste of what they can expect: something small, but delicious. A website owner should also go out and give potential visitors a taste of what they can expect. This is easier for a site owner than a restaurant owner — after all, he can get his titles and descriptions right and he can use social media to go out to where his potential customers are and give them a little taste of what to expect. If you have well optimized titles and descriptions you will find out that your conversion will be higher. After all, a click on your link in the search engine result pages is useless when they click away immediately because they are not getting what they expected.
Aim for high quality
One thing makes Ramsay (and all great chefs for that matter) so much better than most others: quality. Ramsay always aims for the high standards. Trying to stand out is what makes a restaurant successful. Site owners must be that chef who aims for high quality. Half a site won’t attract many visitors, it won’t rank and it certainly won’t convert. You have to give it all the attention it deserves. What you put into your website will come out of it. So aim for high standards and high quality and you can be the successful chef of your website. Don’t go for the quick and dirty solution but really make an effort. To give you a smile when clicking away from this post watch what I’m talking about below ; – ). This article was originally written for and posted on Searchenginewatch in May of 2010 and posted here October 2010. It has been adjusted slightly.