How I built an online brand and YouTube channel to grow our cooking business

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Hari Ghotra
Hari Ghotra
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In the digital world, it seems like anyone can become famous. If the rise of the YouTube superstar is anything to go by, all you need is a phone camera, an internet connection and a few million views later you could be a media darling. So, with the right strategy, can digital marketing make a star out of anyone?

Back in late 2013, I was stuck in a job that I’d long since lost interest in. What got me through the day was my side business teaching classes on how to cook authentic North Indian food in my local area. Little did I know that two years on I’d have my own recipe site, that I’d be cooking curry with the stars and that I’d be executive chef of a prestigious Indian restaurant.

How did this all happen?

It all started over a lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc with my good friend Rob Pierre. He’d recently been to one of my classes and he’d had a great time learning how simple it can be to make delicious Indian food, so we got chatting about how we could expand the business.

I initially thought about franchising – creating a Hari Ghotra cooking school. But we felt the barrier to entry was just too low and that people would just run off with our idea and start schools of their own. So instead, we decided to bring authentic Indian food to the masses!

Here’s the really handy part. Rob Pierre is the CEO of Jellyfish Online Marketing – one of the UK’s top digital marketing agencies. They specialise in providing a joined up approach to digital marketing, making sure SEO, paid search, display and email marketing all work together.

So, a few glasses of white later and we’d formed our master, curry-based plan. We’d team up to create a Hari Ghotra brand that would showcase both my food and Jellyfish’s digital marketing expertise.

Getting off the ground

The first step was to decide exactly what the offering was and what we wanted the brand to be about. For me, it was always about challenging the British perception of Indian food: out with the chip shop curry sauce and greasy takeaway, and in with delicious, simple, fresh and healthy food you could eat every day.

The creative team at Jellyfish helped build a warm, friendly and inviting brand that reflected my fun and light-hearted approach to cooking, but also a sense of established professionalism. This can be seen in the logo, on our website, across our social media accounts and on our YouTube channel.

Jellyfish research showed that cooking is more popular than ever before and a growing segment are using their mobile, tablet and desktop devices in the kitchen.

Learning this, we knew that our recipe site had to be accessible through all the different ways that people consume digital media. So we built a highly user friendly, fully responsive website and made it flexible enough to allow regular content updates as the site grew.

Finding our audience

Before even considering building content for the site, we had to know who we would be targeting and how to reach them. To do this, we used social media monitoring to develop a set of personas: theoretical audience members whom we thought would be most interested in our brand. To this day, these personas inform everything from what recipes we create, what blogs we write and what updates we share on which social networks.

Along with this persona-led approach, we also conducted a thorough search audit, discovering exactly what terms people were searching for in relation to curry and Indian food. This informed the structure of our site and our recipe choices, and allowed us to optimise our recipe and landing pages for organic search.

Building traffic

The hardest part about launching a new website are those tricky first few months where you’re completely new to the market, no one’s heard of you before, you have no brand trust and you simply don’t know how users will react to the site.

Luckily, we had my friends, family and all the lovely people at Jellyfish on hand to spread the word in the beginning. This put us off to a great start, but to sustain that growth we needed to invest in a solid paid search strategy.

We drove traffic to the site by tactically selecting popular recipes and bidding competitively on surrounding search terms. We also used Google’s DoubleClick platform to optimise our targeting, which helped lower the cost per click (CPC), using our budget more efficiently.

At the same time, we were bidding on brand terms to make sure that anyone searching for Hari Ghotra reached our site first. This was crucial whilst our site still had limited visibility in organic search results.

Once enough traffic was reaching our site, we then started a remarketing campaign on the Google Display Network to target past visitors with ads based on which recipes they were interested in.

Establishing ourselves in the community

Over time our social following grew, our recipe pages began to rank well in organic search and traffic was on a steady increase. The next stage was to really get Hari Ghotra recognised as the go-to brand for authentic Indian cooking.

The best way to do this was to broaden the kind of content we were producing. The Jellyfish video team have had me demonstrating knife skills, running through burning buildings (watch the video below) and cooking with ex-footballers. Meanwhile, I’ve worked with the content marketing team to create tons of blog posts featuring everything from making paleo curry to an interactive map showing how hot each UK county likes its curry.

Where we are today

All our hard work paid off in May 2015 when I was asked by Peter Joseph – Head Chef of Tamarind of Mayfair – to be the face of their new restaurant opening in 2016. He’d spotted me on Twitter, saw my videos and my site and was obviously impressed!

I’m currently off learning the ropes of how to be a proper restaurant chef at Tamarind, learning everything from prep and tandoor cooking to how to manage the pass and front of house.

Meanwhile, the Jellyfish team are still hard at work behind the scenes, and we’re currently focussing on how to develop the Hari Ghotra online shop. We’re currently stocking some lovely spice kits and a variety of kitchenware approved by yours truly!

It’s a very busy and exciting time and, judging by how far we’ve come in how short a time, I can’t wait to see where we’ll be this time next year!

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