I first came across the idea of “ready, fire, aim” in an internet marketing discussion group I was involved in, some time around 1996 or 1997. Well before the book of the same name from Michael Masterson got into print.
The concept has stuck in my mind ever since.
And it’s one that’s well worth using, especially if it seems like you’ve been stuck for too long in your internet marketing business.
So let’s take a look at what’s involved with using ready, fire, aim…
If you were setting out on a car journey, this would involve finding your car keys, maybe checking the fuel level when you turned on the ignition (or more likely a mix of memory and the little light that comes on to warn you when the fuel is getting low), possibly checking things like tyre pressures and oil levels but probably not, maybe turning on the sat nav if the route was one that you hadn’t done for a while.
That would take maybe 30 seconds to a minute before you pulled off the drive.
But in internet marketing the same kind of preparation takes longer.
Depending on where you are in your internet marketing career, the process would involve some or all of these:
- Deciding on a niche for your business. Too narrow and you run the risk of running out of steam, too broad and you run the risk of never being in the top thousand results let alone anywhere close to the first page. I’d suggest that you err on the side of too narrow – probably the worst that can happen is that the site reaches a peak and you move on to another one. Plus it will have a much higher chance of getting some (very targeted) traffic reasonably fast, which is a good morale boost.
- Picking a domain name for your website. Ultimately, your domain name is your brand on the internet. For big brands like Google, that’s definitely important. For smaller brands it helps but I’m less convinced. The auto-suggest in my browser toolbar seems to work if I even partially remember what the domain was. I have lots of sites in my Bookmarks but could cull almost all of those and still be left with the couple that I actually use more than once in a blue moon. Most domain names are .com so if you’re not building a country specific site then that’s a good choice. But other extensions work fine and are more likely to have something nice available. If you don’t want to spend hours researching a domain name, pay someone on Fiverr to do the work for you.
- Choosing hosting. This is where your website lives on the internet. Your hosting doesn’t need to be particularly expensive (budget around $10 per month to start with) and it helps if the company is reliable (EIG companies have a less than stellar rating in that respect so I’d suggest avoiding them; super-cheap hosting is also worth avoiding as there will be too many corners being cut). Once you’ve chosen your hosting, point your domain nameservers to your web space – your hosting company or domain registrar will help with that if needs be.
- Install WordPress. That’s usually a matter of going to your control panel, finding the appropriate button, clicking it and following any prompts that appear on screen. WordPress is used by around 1 in every 4 new sites, it’s free, well supported and can be tweaked to do an awful lot more than you’re ever likely to use it for. With the right hosting it can also cope with as much traffic as you’re ever likely to get (amongst lots of others, the Rolling Stones use it for their website).
- Adjust WordPress to your needs. Out of the box, WordPress is close to a blank sheet of paper. I’d suggest WordFence, an SEO plugin and Contact Form 7 as a bare minimum. Probably a related posts plugin such as Contextual Related Posts and probably a social media plugin such as AddToAny Share Buttons. All those are free and most of the initial settings are workable. If you’re twitchy about how your blog looks, change the theme and maybe add a header image (Fiverr again) but in reality most site visitors don’t really care what your site looks like so long as it doesn’t look like it’s not been touched this century and near enough any WordPress theme will tick that box.
That’s the ready part sorted.
Closer to a pre-flight checklist than a car journey. But it shouldn’t take you more than a handful of hours if you knuckle down to it.
If you’re still staring at a flashing cursor or idly pressing refresh on Facebook or Twitter or your inbox then stop procrastinating and get on with it.
In the context of internet marketing, this means putting content on your website.
Lots of content.
You can pore over figures in keyword tools as long as you like but that won’t actually do anything for your website.
The search figures in the various keyword planners are a skilled mix of fact and fiction. They’re dressed up to look as though they’re incredibly precise but (as you’ll discover) they’re anything but that. The phrases are often out of date, the figures are the equivalent of a human licking their finger and putting it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing (except that’s probably more accurate) and even if the figures were correct, it doesn’t matter because your content will get found for different search phrases and shown in different positions in the results at different times.
Sometimes (all the time if Google’s wildest dreams were met) there will be a long list of adverts above the results.
Most of the time there will be adjustments to your position in the results according to where the searcher is in the world, whether or not they’ve allowed Google to track their search history, which data centre the results are served from and whether or not Google’s algorithm is testing anything at that precise moment. Plus whether anything else has happened that’s fairly related to the phrase being searched for – a new page that Google is testing or the internet equivalent of that butterfly flapping its wings and causing a hurricane or near enough anything else.
Content needs to be on your website.
Personally, I suggest that it’s written content and it’s long.
If you want to spruce it up with images and videos, do so. I do on some of my sites but most are like this site – lots of text, split into relatively short paragraphs and with quite a few bullet points.
- Use phrases that real people are searching for. Most of the time those aren’t the phrases in the keyword planner. Most of the time I’ll personally use the suggestions that come up as I type a search and then modify them. That’s how I arrived at the title for this post. I knew I wanted it to be about ready, fire, aim. Until I did a search, I didn’t know that would have the word “approach” after it. And I then further modified it to include the words “internet marketing” and “using”. At the time of writing, Google isn’t showing any page titles that include the precise phrase “Using the Ready, Fire, Aim Approach” on the first page of the results so there’s a good chance that this page will eventually show up in the top results.
- Use lots of white space. White space is a graphical designer term for precisely that – blank areas, typically white because when they’re in printed form the page they’re on is white paper. And on screen the background colour of the page is usually white. But even if the background colour isn’t white, it’s convenient to call it white space. Unlike printed work, there’s no extra cost to using lots of blank space on screen. And it makes your content a lot easier to read.
- Write naturally. First and foremost your content should be aimed at humans. Search engines are a secondary consideration and are intelligent enough to figure out whether or not what you’ve written was created with the aim of helping people or trying to fool a search engine. They don’t get that correct 100% of the time but they’re getting better at working out when that happens and adjusting things accordingly. Most of what Google does is based on ultra small, seemingly inconsequential, changes that over time build up to a more accurate set of results. They’re sufficiently better at doing this than Bing, etc. to keep their market share. And they have their eye on the advertising revenue as well, so they do their best to make sure that the adverts are as relevant as possible.
- Get help with writing if necessary. Ideally you should probably be writing all your content yourself – that’s what I do on this site and to a fair extent what I do on the other sites I own. But there comes a time when you may need help. There are lots of places to get help (I go into more detail here) but my first port of call is usually iWriter. It’s not fantastic, even at the higher levels. But I find it’s a good first draft that I can then spend a few minutes tweaking to my personality before hitting the publish button. Typically that means I spend maybe 3 or 5 or 10 minutes on a page rather than several times that. Which makes a big difference in productivity. Spending a handful of dollars to cut down the time needed to create content several fold is a good trade-off in my view. But when you’re starting out it’s fine to take your time and create all your own content.
- Think about using videos. If I make a video, it’s usually a slideshow style – partly because that fits with my mainly-written content style, partly because I can read the slides out loud with no rehearsal (because I’ve just read them “out loud” in my head as I’ve been typing them), partly because I think that being in front of a lens is being the wrong side of a camera. YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the web and YouTube videos (with a good title and a decent description) regularly show up in the normal search results. So creating videos is normally win-win. Include a link back to your site &/or your squeeze page for good measure.
- Publicise your work. That means using social media. When I create a new post or page like this one, I’ll usually Tweet about it, usually notify my list, sometimes post on Facebook or LinkedIn. It doesn’t get masses of extra traffic unless you’ve built up a big list of real followers but it helps.
- Don’t stop at just one piece of content. The best guess at the moment is that there are roughly 2 million new pages of content created on the web each and every day. By any standards that’s a big number. It’s unlikely that you’ll challenge the roughly 76 million pages that Google thinks Wikipedia has published – but that number is a big clue as to why they keep showing up in the search results. They’ve got roughly 200,000 times more pages of content than this site and over a million times more content than most of my other sites. At least some of the “luck” on the internet is created by ourselves and to a fair extent this is a numbers game. More content – that’s useful content, not just garbage written in the vain hope of getting indexed – is a big part of the equation.
Adjusting your aim
This is the last part of the ready, fire, aim approach and with good reason.
As I mentioned earlier, theory is all well and good but it doesn’t necessarily translate to the real world.
When Windows first came out, Microsoft knew that most people wouldn’t have a clue how to use a mouse. So they included a couple of games that taught people – Solitaire being the one I remember most. It took something I knew (a card game) and showed me how the mouse clicks worked.
Without that – and with no YouTube or even an internet connection – I’m not sure how else I’d have learned. Certainly not from a book.
But a few clicks later and I was away and using a mouse. Albeit left handed (even though I’m right handed with most things) which freaks some of my friends.
The same goes for your internet marketing.
Theory is OK but doesn’t always translate into practice.
That’s especially the case on getting traffic to your website and getting people to do whatever it is you’d like them to do once they get there.
We all work slightly differently.
One of the people I follow (Sean Mize) and use for inspiration regularly does hour-long audio training.
He often recommends that as a technique to get more people following you.
I know it works – he uses it and usually charges for access.
But I also know it’s not my style.
I’m not a fan of speaking “live” – with or without a script or notes – in front of an audience. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with.
I prefer written content like this piece or scripted videos where I can hit the pause button if a loud siren passes or (as has just happened as I’m typing this sentence) the phone rings or any other reason. You can’t pause a live if you’re the one who’s live!
So my style is predominantly written.
It’s well within my comfort zone, it fits with the search engine’s comfort zone (they’re much better at figuring out the meaning of words than anything else) and it attracts people who are comfortable reading written content.
If I focussed on videos, I’d attract a different crowd of people.
They may well all have the same ultimate aim – earning money from their internet marketing – but they’d have a slightly different way of getting there.
But you won’t know which approach suits you and your potential target audience best until you do the “fire” work in the previous step.
You might think you’re happy tapping away at a keyboard and writing long content.
And for the first few times the thrill of being “published” on the web may counteract your other feelings if you’re not a natural writer.
Or you may like the idea of uploading videos to YouTube until you’ve watched the slow progress bar while the video is rendering and being processed and shouted at the screen when YouTube decides something hasn’t gone quite right.
It depends on you.
But until you start doing things, you won’t know!
Gradually, you’ll do the aim part of the process and apply the 80/20 rule to what you’re doing.
But it’s the last part of the Ready, Fire, Aim approach because you don’t really know what you’re aiming at until you’ve done the firing part.
OK, it’s time to start
Because that’s really all this page is until you start putting it into practice.
Stop continually pressing refresh on Facebook or emails or Twitter or wherever else is your weak spot that lets you pretend you’re doing things when you’re not.
Go through this page and make a checklist.
Put that checklist somewhere prominent (hint: print it out and put it somewhere you’ll see it regularly and it won’t get smothered or buried).
Every day for at least the next two weeks do something towards that checklist.
Lock your credit card away,
Change your PayPal password to something random and impossible to reliably memorise and don’t save it in your regular browser (obviously do store it safely somewhere).
Stop reading all those tempting “must have” email offers – delete or unsubscribe or leave them in your inbox.
Start working on your checklist and keep working at it.
After 2 weeks you should easily have decided your niche, chosen a domain, bought hosting, installed and tweaked WordPress, and created several pieces of content on your new site.
Depending on where you promote yourself, you might even get a glimmer of traffic.
But the really important part is you’ll have done at least the first two parts of the ready, fire, aim process.
Then you’ll have some results (or at least a gut reaction) that will help you to aim or fine tune what you’re doing.
Good luck and don’t be afraid to get help if you need it.