Website Income

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How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP – Our Procedure

This step by step procedure is how we use Page Optimizer Pro or (POP) to achieve a 60% increase in organic traffic within 2 weeks.

This procedure was created by the team at ContentRefined who are always pushing the science of content marketing, testing new tools and finding ways to help ensure their clients win in Google.  

Step 1:

Go to POP, login and click create new project

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

Step 2:

Go into the spreadsheet with the articles you’ll be optimizing, choose one of them and copy and paste URL of webpage/post.

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

Step 3: 

Name the project after the title of the post, hit next 

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

Step 4: 

Click on new page

Step 5:

Click on Express Report

Step 6:

Type in the keyword for that article (found on the Google sheet)

Hit Next

Step 7: 

copy paste the url of the post/page and name the page after the title

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

Step 8: 

After a few minutes you’ll be redirected to a page that looks something like this. Click on Dashboard.

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

Step 9: 

Take a screenshot of the Optimization Score and Adjusted Score to send to your editor later. 

Step 10: 

Download the report of the recommendations (should download as an Excel file). 

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

Step 11: Click on Content Editor. 

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

You’ll be taken to a page where the content of the article will be uploaded and available to be edited. You can make all edits/changes directly here. 

Step 12: 

Open the report you downloaded in Step 10. In the report, you’ll be given a number of changes/edits to be made to the post. They’ll be listed under different categories in each tab in the Excel sheet. The only tabs you’ll need to focus on are: Recommendations, Variations & LSI, Focus Recommendations, Max Recommendations, Adjusted Recommendations, and Page Structure. 

  • Recommendations/Focus Recommendations/Max Recommendations/Adjusted Recommendation: read through each of these tabs and the recommendations listed. Make as many changes as possible based on the recommendations without affecting the overall quality of the article. 
  • Variations & LSI. Add as many keywords as possible that are recommended without keyword stuffing and/or affecting the overall quality of the article. Adding sentences/paragraphs as needed is fine. 
  • Page Structure. If there are changes needed to the page structure, make the necessary changes/additions. 

Make all changes/edits directly in the Content Editor

Step 13: 

After you’ve made all the changes/edit/content additions that you can, click the Download Edited Code button in the bottom right corner of the screen. 

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro POP

This will download a webpage of the article with all the edits you’ve made. Save this file to send to your editor. 

Step 14: 

Now that you’ve made the edits and downloaded the new file, click Rerun with Edited Source. This will run another report with the new/edited/upgraded content. Hit “Leave everything as is” and run the new report. 

Take a screenshot of the new content score to send to your editor. 

Step 15: 

You’re finished!

Email the Content score screenshots, the recommendations report, and the file with all the changes made to it to your editor.

Page Optimizer Pro Review & Alternatives:

See the results when we compared Surfer SEO vs POP vs MarketMuse. Which tool resulted in the largest traffic increase?

How to Use Surfer SEO – Our Procedure

This step-by-step how to guide will show and explain how to use Surfer SEO to create better, more valuable and in-depth content for clients at

See the results when we compared Surfer SEO vs POP vs MarketMuse and the resulting traffic increase each tool was able to achieve. 

Step 1: 

Go to Surfer SEO

Click Login and sign in using the provided credentials

Step 2: 

Go to SERP analyzer at the top of the screen. Type in the keyword of the article/post that you are optimizing and hit “Create!”. The keyword will be provided by your editor in the Google Sheet.

Step 3: 

SurferSEO will take a couple of minutes to process the information for that keyword. After it has done so, you will see it pop up underneath the search bar. 

Click on the keyword below the search bar. 

Step 4: 

Copy and paste the URL of the article in the search bar below the graph and hit Compare. 

How to Use Surfer SEO

Step 5: 

This next part takes a bit of research and a judgment call on your end. The task is to go through the list of competitor sites below and weed out any sites/articles that are not direct competitors with our article. To remove these sites from the SERP analysis, click the eyeball icon beside each one so it’s greyed out. We want sites that are the most similar to your site selected.

How to Use Surfer SEO

Sites you’re looking to keep: articles, reviews, posts that talk about the same topic as our topic.

Sites that you’re looking to eliminate: Wikipedia, government sites, online store sites (amazon), news websites, etc. 

Our article is about an online degree program, so we’re definitely going to get some searches for Universities/colleges and government sites. We want to eliminate those and stick to reviews. You can see that I eliminated the #2 site which was a government site, the #4 site which was a college board website, and a few more below (which you can’t see in the screenshot). Some of the other ones I removed were college and university sites for application pages. These aren’t competitors to our articles informational intent. 

The ones I kept were articles that are third party sites reviewing the schools and programs for the keyword. 

To give you another quick example, if we were comparing an article we wrote on best dishwasher safe pans, the top 3 searches might be from Amazon, Home Depot, and Walmart. We would want to remove these, but then keep any sites that are third party review sites (if that is what your site is). The opposite recommendation is true if you are a HomeDepot competitor. 

Go through the top ~25 sites listed in the analysis and remove ones that don’t fit. 

Step 6: 

Once you’ve removed non-relevant sites, go back to the top and click the “Audit” button beside the site we are optimizing. 

How to Use Surfer SEO

This will give you all the recommendations that need to be made for optimizing the content. 

Step 7: 

Don’t worry about: backlinks, time to first byte, or Load time. But go through all of the other recommendations and without affecting the overall quality of the article, make the recommended changes to the article. 

For example, here it tells us we should add between 13-80 of the word “air” to the article. If it’s possible to do so (without keyword stuffing), add this word 13-80 times. 

How to Use Surfer SEO

Add content, keywords, paragraphs, headings, etc as recommended by the audit.

TIP – if you want to open this in a new page, click the “Share audit with anyone” button at the top and you’ll get a shareable link, which you can open in a new page. 

Step 8:

In order to make the edits, copy/paste the content of the article into a Google doc (share in folder with your editor), and make necessary changes in there. 

Step 9:

After you’ve optimized the article, go back to the SurferSEO main page and click on “Content Editor” at the top of the screen. 

How to Use Surfer SEO

Step 10: 

Type in the keyword of the article/post that you are optimizing and hit “Create!”.

How to Use Surfer SEO

Step 11: 

SurferSEO will take a couple of minutes to process the information for that keyword. After it has done so, you will see it pop up underneath the search bar. 

Click on the keyword below the search bar. 

How to Use Surfer SEO

Step 12: 

You’ll be sent to a page where you can alter the settings for the KW optimization. 

Be sure to select all the sites that are similar to you in the top 10 sites and hit “Save changes”:

Step 13:

Then scroll down and in the right hand corner, click “Finalize customization”.

Step 14: 

On the next page you’ll be able to input the content of the article/post (this should be the content you’ve already optimized). Simply copy and paste the content of the article into the space provided (make sure to remove any words that are in the space already). 

How to Use Surfer SEO

Step 15: 

Once the content is in there, you’ll be able to see the improvements that can be made to the article on the right-hand side of the page. 

NOTE: Please take a screenshot of this page to send to your editor at the end of this SOP. 

Here you’ll have a number of things to optimize:

  • The number of words
  • Number of headings
  • Number of paragraphs
  • Number of bold words
  • Number of images
  • Important terms to use and how many
  • Topics and questions to answer
  • Other relevant terms

If something has a checkmark beside it, it does not need to be changed. If it has an “x” beside it, then it needs to be changed based on the recommendations set out in SurferSEO. 

In this example we need to increase the word count and include a variety of keywords and terms. 

How to Use Surfer SEO

Step 16: 

This is going to be a judgment call on your end. Look at the suggested changes on the right side of the page and see if any of the recommended changes are needed. If for example, all of the changes are not highlighted in red and for the most part, the article seems up to par with SurferSEO, then don’t make any changes. 

If you see some minor changes that are easy to make, then go ahead. 

This is an additional step that will help you see how effective the first set of changes was. However, because this step does not remove the irrelevant sites (like you did in Step 5), it may give you inaccurate data. 

For example, you may have added 30 keywords for one of the suggested keywords, and then after you run it through the content editor, it asks you to add another 50 of that word. In this case, it’s probably not pulling accurate data and you should ignore this suggestion. 

Step 17: 

Once you’ve made all the necessary changes (if any were needed), copy and paste the edited content back into the Google doc. 

Step 18: 

Deliver the edited article back to your editor.

Surfer SEO Review and Alternatives:

There are several alternatives to SurferSEO. See our deep dive comparing SurferSEO alternatives in terms of performance, cost and ease of use.

How to Use MarketMuse – Our Procedure

This step by step guide will show and explain how to use the tool MarketMuse to create better, more valuable and in depth content for our content marketing clients.

See our MarketMuse review and our comparison of Market Muse alternatives such as PageOptimizerPro or SurferSEO in terms of which tool produces the largest increase in traffic.

This procedure was created by the team at who use MarketMuse heavily to optimize content for clients resulting in the ability to predictably rank in Google. 

NOTE: Some changes have been made to the appearance of MarketMuse since this procedure was created.  The functionality is the same.

Step 1: 

Go to MarketMuse

Click to sign in with your unique credentials 

Step 2: 

Once you sign in, you will see your dashboard.  On the left hand column, go down to the ‘Optimize’ function.

The screen that opens will look something like this.

Step 3: Take the article that you will be editing and simply copy and paste the focus Topic, the Title and the article in the correct areas. The click the “analyze” button

Hint: The focus topic will be the Keyword which is always in the title of the article  

Step 4:

It might take a minute or two to analyze, but at the Final analysis should look like this. I’ve circled the Content Depth Score, the Average Content Score Target and the Best Content Score. 

NOTE: take a screenshot of this page to record the improvement achieved. 

We generally want our articles to be above the content score target. So for this one, we can clearly see that it needs some work. 

Step 5: 

Read the Article from start to finish

Step 6: 

If you feel like the article is well written and written by a Native English Speaker, then please edit the basic/normal grammar and spelling errors in the article. If it needs more work (ie a complete rewrite please contact your editor). 

Step 7: 

After you’ve read the article and corrected the errors in the articles, you’re going to look on the right side of the page and look at some of the keywords + topics listed.

Step 8: 

Without “ Keyword Stuffing” or inserting Keywords that are unrelated, start going through the article and adding suggested keywords where they fit or adding sections. You will see that it is really easy to get the article up to well above average by just using strategic Keyword placement.

In this screenshot, I simply replaced words like “new windshield” to “Replacement windshield” or “windshield crack” to “windshield damage” and it booted my score to 17, which is above average.

NOTE: It is best to add words to your DOCUMENT instead of right in the MarketMuse box.  Then re-copy and re-paste the entire text. This will ensure that you don’t lose your formatting.

Step 9: 

Now that we’ve got our content up to a reasonable standard by just using different words, take a look at the missing words on the list of keywords. They will generally identify a missing subject from the article. Here you can see that the writer didn’t think to include anything about insurance, which is clearly an important thing to mention if the keyword is the “second most important” on the list. 

Step 10: 

This is where your chance to do some content writing fits in. Simply add in a small paragraph that talks about windshield insurance. It doesn’t have to be extensive. I simply added 4 sentences talking about insurance with your windshield and it bumped it up to 24.

If MarketMuse’s analysis tells you to add more content (i.e. it does not hit the suggested word count), this is also a good strategy to use to add more words. Please try and hit the suggested word count that MarketMuse suggests. 

Step 12: 

You’re done! Please take a screenshot of the final content score and page.

Please try and boost the score as much as you can while ensuring that the article are still fluid. 

We will only deliver articles to a client if they are above the average content score

Step 13: 

Deliver the edited article back to your editor, along with a screenshot of the MarketMuse page from before the edits were made and a screenshot of the MarketMuse page from after the edits were made. 

MarketMuse Review and Alternatives:

Here is a post reviewing the performance of MarketMuse and comparing it to alternatives.

Surfer SEO vs POP vs MarketMuse – Correlation SEO Tool Review (With DATA)

Geeking out on SEO tools that help us predictably rank in Google is a lot of fun… so much so that a few years ago, we started a business centered around that as a core competency –

Today we dig in deep and review the explosion of amazing tools over the last couple of years that help give us an unfair advantage to rank in Google.

In this post, we have signed up for, used, reviewed, and analyzed the performance of the most popular content marketing SEO tools. Plus, what would be a post at AuthorityWebsiteIncome if I didn’t share the SOPs we used for each tool (keep reading to get access to the SOPs – free of course). 

Here is what we are going to look at for each tool…

  • Performance – Which tool, if used correctly, will result in the largest increase in traffic/rankings
  • Value – What is the pricing model and cost for each. What tool provides the best value. 
  • Usability – Which tool is the most user-friendly

The 3 tools we will be testing are…

Other tools that are similar that we didn’t test…

These tools primarily fall into 2 buckets using one of 2 core strategies to provide actionable insights to improve an article and help it rank better in the search engines…

  • Correlation SEO
  • Semantic AI

What is Correlation SEO?

With correlation SEO, you identify what Google is already ranking on the first page and emulate that content. You can emulate the keywords, length, features, and headings. Find out what Google wants to rank and mimic those factors. 

CORA, SurferSEO, and POP all fall into correlation SEO with Surfer rolling out a Natural Language Processing (NLP) tool covering both correlated and predictive content ranking factors. 

What is Semantic SEO? 

Semantic SEO involves producing content that is semantically relevant (includes other relevant keywords) that helps show Google that your content best matches the searcher’s intent and covers the topic in more depth than competitors pages. With semantic SEO tools, they predict all related keywords/questions that should be covered for a given topic. 

ClearScope and MarketMuse tools use this often AI-enabled technology.

Semantic content marketing tools look at all keywords around the given topic and use AI to generate a map of what keywords and questions an article that best matches the searcher’s intent would include. 

Ready to see which tool recommendation provides the biggest traffic lift?

How We Tested these 3 Content Marketing Tools:

The only way to do a review of these awesome data-crunching tools justice is to crunch some data ourselves! A light touch review where we signup and give some general thoughts would be an insult to all of these epic tools. 

A larger sample size would have been ideal, but here is how we approached the test in a reasonably efficient way. 

We identified 3 different pages at 3 different sites and updated them using the 3 tools all at the same time trying to control for as many other variables as possible. After modifying the content, we monitored the initial results (2 weeks after publishing).

The tool whose pages have the largest % increase in traffic and ranking keywords/position is what we want to identify.

Steps to Compare SEO Tools:

  1. Identified 3 similar articles (traffic/rankings/trajectory) on 3 different sites of mine (eCommerce, affiliate, service) 
  2. Use a standard SOP for each tool (link to each SOP below) and update each article based on the tools recommendation
  3. Publish the updated articles all at the same time
  4. Compare results 2 weeks after publishing
  5. Update our content marketing procedures at ContentRefined or test further

See how we set up the test below where the “x” represents the tool we will use on which article.

See how we set up the test below where the “x” represents the tool we will use on which article. 

Site & Page SurferSEO POP MarketMuse
Site 1 – Page 1X

Site 2 – Page 1X

Site 3 – Page 1X

Site 1 – Page 2
Site 2 – Page 2
Site 3 – Page 2
Site 1 – Page 3

Site 2 – Page 2

Site 3 – Page 3


Let’s dig into how each one performed…

Performance – Search Traffic and Ranking Changes:

This is what matters! 

Which content marketing SEO tool provided the largest increase in traffic? 

The results were impressive across the board with all articles showing a meaningful lift in traffic. 

We will dig through the data here, but if you are looking for a summary on which tool performed the best, look at the graph at the bottom of this section comparing the traffic increase generated by SurferSEO, POP, and MarketMuse.

Traffic Change:

Every article had an increase in traffic. With an average across the entire study of a 71% increase in traffic! 

To be honest, I am very impressed with the traffic lift! To achieve an average of 71% lift in 2 weeks, it is very exciting!

To have every page see a lift in traffic and an average increase of 71%… very impressed! We have been seeing the benefit of updating content for years at Content Refined leveraging the Pareto content upgrade strategy, but seeing it continue to work is great validation!

In the graph below, the blue column is the traffic before the upgrade for each page, and the green bar is the traffic after the content was updated based on the tools instructions. The orange line shows the % improvement on the second y-axis. 


Ranking Change:

Traffic is what matters, but it is interesting to see the ranking change in order to confirm the lift in traffic isn’t seasonal or from another reason but is, in fact, due to ranking higher in Google. 

The graph below shows the ranking for each article’s main keyword before the update, and the green is the ranking after. Looking at the target keyword instead of total number of keywords was chosen because a couple of the tools POP and Surfer are built with that as the main objective… telling you what to do to get a page to rank higher.


Tool Performance Comparison:

Now the important question… what tool performed the best? 

The graph below shows the weighted average traffic increase by tool. 

In the end, Surfer and POP achieved similar results while MarketMuse outperformed both. 

  • Surfer SEO – 61% traffic increase
  • POP – 63% traffic increase
  • MarketMuse – 78% traffic increase

These results are not entirely surprising as POP and Surfer use a similar correlation SEO approach while MarketMuse uses the semantic AI engine to identify opportunities to improve a piece of content. 

With this sample size of only 9 articles (3 articles per tool), I would say that a similar study could certainly result in a different outcome. However, in the online world where we need to act on correlation without the ability to confirm causation, these results certainly point us in the right direction! 


The performance of all these tools were in the same ball-park… the price point is not! 

MarketMuse Price

Annual contracts in the 5 figure range but provides functionality that goes well beyond optimizer, which is what was used for this study. They are testing less expensive, metered usage options. So, if your hang-up is with your budget with MarketMuse, then it might be worth still reaching out to them. 

SurferSEO Price

Starting at $59/month, it is a much more budget-friendly option. There are limits placed on the number of times you can use Content Editor per month, which will likely trigger the need for upgrading.  

PageOptimizerPro Price

Starting at $10/month with significant limitations in terms of the number of reports you can get. We would likely be using the $79/month solution if it was used for my portfolio.  

If you are an active user, both POP and Surfer will end up around $100/month with POP a little less expensive with MarketMuse far more expensive. 


This section is completed by the lead editor at who used each of the tools to execute these updates using these procedures:

How to Use Market Muse

See our in depth MarketMuse Review and Tutorial

See our video review of MarketMuse below:

When it comes to usability, MarketMuse definitely tops the list. It is an incredibly easy to use and straightforward program that helps take a lot of the guesswork out of optimizing content. Again, it is very similar to SurferSEO but has its own perks. To get started with this program, you simply enter the keyword phrase you are focusing on and then paste the content into the window and hit run.

All the information you can use to help you optimize the content is going to generate and can be found on the right-hand side. It offers a list of competitor pages as well as their ranks, provides you with a list of suggested keywords and keyword variants that should be used, along with the number of times they should appear within the content.

They also provide you with the current word count and score alongside the target word count and score that you want to achieve for higher ranking on Google. You can edit and work right within the window on the program, or you can work in a separate document and then copy and paste your changes into the program to run everything again. You can also use the questions tab on the left-hand side for more guidance on subheadings and additional topics you can use to add and optimize the content.

This program is helpful for those who may be new to SEO keyword research because it lays everything out simply. While it may not offer as in-depth results as you can find with the other two programs, it gives you a basic idea on how to pursue those higher Google rankings without taking much time to learn.

How to Use SurferSEO

Get our in depth Surfer SEO review and Tutorial

View our Surfer SEO Video Review below…

When logging into this program, you will see the dashboard. This is where you can input your keyword or keyword phrase. The guidelines here are based on the main keyword as well as localization. Once you have entered the keyword you want to rank for, press create. 

The guidelines will take a little time to generate because SurferSEO analyzes up to ten competitors and their content. When complete, you will have access to tips and information to help with the length, structure, and the words you use in your content so as to get the content to rank higher. 

It also allows you the chance to customize and adjust the guidelines, which is helpful when you try to rank for more difficult phrases. You can download a spreadsheet containing all of the keyword suggestions including the number of times the keyword appears and if you should add or cut specific keywords and phrases.

This program is very similar to MarketMuse. They offer a list of suggested subheadings that can be used in the content to help with the keywords and ranking of the article. You are also not limited to one window. You can work in a different window and then paste your revised work in to run everything through.

SurferSEO fills you in on some other vital information you need to pay attention to, including how many bold words you should be using and if the content length is too long. This program helps you find the balance between the content, finding enough valuable information to include, and avoiding keyword stuffing. It is straightforward and not hard to navigate.

How to Use Page Optimizer Pro

See our Page Optimizer Pro Review and Tutorial

When it comes to usability and being user-friendly, this program is definitely not at the top of the list. They provide you with a fair amount of valuable information to help your content rank, but it is given to you in a crowded spreadsheet that isn’t always easy to read and follow. However, it does offer suggestions on headings, which words should be eliminated because they are overused, provides keyword variations, and offers tips on changing the subheadings. 

To get started with POP, you simply insert the URL of the page you want to optimize. When doing this, you must make sure that the domain for the URL matches the domain you are using for the project. It then prompts you to name your page. When inserting keywords, you need to type them in exactly as a searcher would type it into a Google search. It only considers what you type into the field. You can then choose your region and then fetch variations. Once done, you can then review those variations, enter the competitors, and edit your content according to the suggestions in the spreadsheet that you had downloaded.

All of the changes and edits you make using this program need to be done within their editing window. As we were working with the program, we realized it would not allow you to copy and paste content from another document. 

This program takes a bit longer to get used to and can prove difficult to navigate at times, but it still provides you with valuable information to get your articles ranking better on Google. 


Below is a summary of the results based on the 3 dimensions we were testing with each of these tools.

Ability to Increase TrafficEase of UseCost
MarketMuse1st 1st3rd
Surfer SEO2nd1st2nd

MarketMuse Review:

Right Choice For You If… you have one or a few significant sites that are your main livelihood and have the budget, MarketMuse produces the largest traffic increase. Plus, MarketMuse has other tools like inventory that help provide additional unfair advantages for content marketing a website. 

SurferSEO Review

Right Choice For You If… you are value-conscious and want an easy to use tool that will deliver solid traffic and ranking improvement. If you are a portfolio owner looking to systematize the upgrade process Surfer and its ease of use is a great tool that can be handled with minimal training. 

PageOptimizerPro Review

Right Choice For You If… you are very cost-conscious and don’t mind using a tool that isn’t super refined. Or if you want to be able to turn the dials a little more yourself to customize.

How Much is My Website Worth? The Complete Income Store List and Analysis

The purpose of this article is to provide a quick update on what has happened with the Income Store. Most importantly, I want to provide what I hope are some useful insights into the value of every site in the IncomeStore Portfolio. If you are needing to find out how much your website is worth I hope this article will provide enough information for you to be able to do that.

Hang on because we go deep… exploring the value of each site, looking at the ECommerce portfolio and if there is any value there.


  • Everything below is alleged by the SEC and the receiver but not proven in court.
  • None of this is legal or financial advice

My team with the help of several tools SpamZilla, ahrefs and SEMRush among others has done an analysis that looks at every income store website and estimated its current value.

The specific sites value and TONS of metrics for each domain is shown in the spreadsheet below…

Access the Spreadsheet: Download Here

With the latest news release from the receiver a lot of new information has come to light.

Background on the Income Store Scam:

  • Emilia is doing a fantastic job covering this from a legal perspective, hopefully me and my team can help provide some operational clarity on what was happening to the 3012 domains.
  • Richard Patey did a great high level analysis of the portfolio value here although the numbers I get are significantly different below.
  • Receivers Website – The latest official information –
    • I realize it shouldn’t matter but it is still very nerve wracking that whoever is in charge of that 2000’s era with no https website is currently responsible for the entire IncomeStore portfolio.

Feb 2020 Income Store Receivership Update:

The Receivers Initial report has provided a lot of very digestible information. If you have not yet read it and are interested in the topic you should!

Claim Your Website or Roll the Dice on Liquidation?

One of the potentially most important items and part of the reason for this post is that the receiver is proposing a solution that will require each site partner to evaluate the value of their website and decide if they want it.

The Receiver will propose a hybrid claims process that permits investors to make a claim for the domain(s)/website(s) “assigned” to them in the Consulting Performance Agreement in exchange for releasing any claim against the Receivership Estate under certain parameters 5 and those investors who do not want their site could participate in a later distribution process from a pool of liquidated assets and recovered funds. The Receiver will make such proposal by separate motion on or before February 28, 2020. This expedited process will permit the Receiver to transfer and/or liquidate the remaining domains/websites in the next 90 to 120 days, preserving the Receivership assets required to maintain the domains and websites.” Page 8

For site partners faced with this decision I hope this analysis will be of value in both determining the value of their site but from a portfolio / game theory standpoint what others will likely choose ultimately helping you make the most educated decision.

Claim or Don’t Claim Example:

The decision is easy if you have a site worth more than what you invested however thinking through what the final value of the portfolio/recovered assets will be once the winners (and others with decent sites) choose to claim their website gets very tricky. You can’t simply take the recoverable value divided by the total $’s owing investors since some of the recoverable value is going to disappear as people choose to take their websites. You don’t want to be the person that chose to not claim their website but your website ends being the most valuable one left in the pool to be liquidated. I hope the data shared in this post helps make a terrible situation slightly better by having the data to make the decision. 

Ponzi Scheme?

One takeaway from the Receivers Initial Report that is different from previous SEC communication is that it had terms of “Ponzi like” and now the receiver explicitly calls it a Ponzi scheme mentioning it 3 times in the report including the clear description of what happened below.

Quote from the Receiver:

“The Receiver’s review of the books and records of the company confirm the SEC’s allegations that new investor funds and loans were used to pay the investors/”website partners”, not website revenue. For example, in 2018 website revenue was under $2m and website payout to investors was approximately $12.7m and likewise in 2019 website revenue was under $4m and website investor payout was $16.5m. In short, this was a Ponzi scheme.” Page 6

“making the business a classic Ponzi scheme” Page 21

“TGC’s business depended on the use of new investors’ up-front payments (and perhaps loan Case: 1:19-cv-08454 Document #: 45 Filed: 01/30/20 Page 21 of 28 PageID #:678 22 proceeds) to cover its obligations to earlier investors much in the vain of a Ponzi scheme” Page 22

So where did some of the money go? According to the receivers report several luxury items have been seized including the following (stock images)…

1972 Chevrolet C3 Corvette Convertible

1972 Corvette

2014 Moomba Outback

2019 Mercedes GLE

IncomeStore Portfolio Value

For the next phase of the IncomeStore journey it is critical to get a sense of the value of each of the websites and the portfolio as a whole.

If you are a site partner what is the value of the site you have the option to take?

There are several ways to approach the portfolio value I will walk through the 2 I think provide the best number and then generate an overall range of value for the portfolio.

  • Method 1 Traffic Estimate: (Traffic x CPM – Expenses) x Multiple Range Businesses Sell For (2x-3x range) = $1.5M – $2.25M
    • Traffic from ahrefs for all 3000+ domains
    • CPM (value per 1,000 visitors) used is $15
    • Expenses for each I account for in the multiple at 2x vs a more typical 3x for simplicity sake
  • Method 2 Historical Earnings: (Site Revenue from 2019 – Estimated Expenses) x Multiple Range Businesses Sell For (2x-3x range) = 2.3M – $3.5M
    • According to the PnL Website Advertising revenue in 2019 is $1.24M
    • Bare minimum expenses for maintaining the 562 sites all worth more than 100 is ($10/yr for the domain + $5/month hosting + 40k for 1 full time manager) is ~$80k/yr

Others have generated a higher number for the portfolio value but I struggle to get to those favourable numbers (no offense Richard 🙂 ).


Now what would the market tolerate if all ~200 sites with an estimated value of over 1k got dumped on the market in 90 days from Feb 28th as the receiver is suggesting? My assumption would be that despite there being insatiable demand for less expensive content sites (the leader in smaller content sites MotionInvest sells out <$10k sites in minutes with thousands on the waitlist!) the receiver would want to be efficient and move them in bulk at a significant discount.

Typically a fast site sale in the lower end of the market will go for 1x-2x which could bring the valuation down as low as under $1M!

Shopify ECommerce Portfolio Value = $0?

2.5M in E Commerce Revenue in 2019 But the Sites are Completely Worthless? How…

There had been a lot of publicity about IncomeStore shifting to ECommerce launching 400+ Shopify sites. I want to run the list of 3k+ domains through a tool to tell me the tech they are each on and then the organic traffic for the shopify portion of the portfolio (another day). So why do I think they are worthless…

  • Inventory – based on the inventory list their ecommerce businesses are either exclusively dropshipping or dead (most have inventory numbers under 10).
  • Expenses are more than Revenue – The PnL does have $2.5M in Revenue in 2019 from Product Sales (assume 100% is ecommerce)…however there is also a few expense line items to note such as $3.4M in advertising, $2.7M in ecommerce fees to an ecommerce digital advertising agency and internal ecommerce fees of $1.7M. I don’t blame the digital advertising partner since their mandate was likely given to maximize revenue. If you weren’t keeping track it is AT LEAST $4.4M in confirmed ECommerce expenses which greatly outstrip the $2.5M in ECommerce Revenue!

My Theory – Based on the lengths they went to in order to focus on their priority (new investor money in the door) they used the paid traffic Shopify drop shipping model to generate big revenue numbers fast in order to help entice new money in. If you wanted to scale revenue numbers FAST and didn’t care about profitability then running facebook ads to a dropship shopify site would be the strategy I would recommend.

Destruction of Value Analysis

It would be great to have someone with a forensic accounting background who also has content site experience to comment on the PnL but here are the numbers that jump out to me:

These numbers are primarily pulled from Exhibit D which I have turned into a Google Sheet here if you want to get a copy.

  • Total Investor Money In = $134,411,656
  • Total Money Paid Out to Investors = $43,070,635
  • Amount Owed to Make Investors Whole = $91,342,537
  • Cash & Receivables – Receivers Costs to Date = ~$240,000 (page 7)
  • Portfolio Value = ~$2,500,000 (see analysis above)
  • Destruction of Value by IncomeStore = (investors money in – money sent to investors – cash & receivables – portfolio value) = $88,601,021

Visualization of Value Destruction:


I don’t swear on this blog but I don’t know an appropriate alternative WTF!

66% of every dollar in or $88.6M of value has been destroyed in what must be one of the most inefficient Ponzi schemes ever.

Earlier – I said I doubted it started as a ponzi but Google updates in 2016 (or earlier) must have either forced them to close down or embrace a ponzi scheme and certainly it looks like they fully embraced it taking it a step further and operating not just in a situation to not be able to cover the 15% but running the existing portfolio in a money losing situation!

It also seems that meaningful recovery for site partners will unfortunately not come from the value of the portfolio.

Other Take away From Analysis

  • How did they have THAT many people working there?
    • Salary & subcontractor expenses of $7.4M to manage a content site portfolio generating $1.24M in advertising revenue and a worthless ecommerce portfolio? This angers the operational geek in me the most, why did they need to burn money on an inefficient head count? Running a ponzi scheme is obviously worse but running a portfolio at these kind of losses just seems needlessly inefficient & unnecessary.
  • Year over Year Advertising Revenue declined despite an ever increasing amount of funds being raised! They must have slowed the acquisition engine. It would be interesting to see the % of investor money going into site acquisition vs repaying investors vs burning within an inefficient business vs going to the alleged masterminds year over year.
    • 2017 – $2.7M
    • 2018 – $1.0M
    • 2019 –  $1.2M
  • Number of Websites = 3000+ with only ~500 worth anything (several in the list are clearly incorrect such as udemy) – why did so many stay active?
  • $500k in charitable donations from IncomeStore in 2019 while the business was imploding?? This seems to be part of the Ponzi Scheme playbook that hurts charities as well according to this article at times requiring them to payback the donation even if it had already been spent.

IncomeStore Site by Site Analysis

As promised if you are a website partner with IncomeStore and know which website is yours this table is meant to start providing you some information on the value of your site.

This is of course not a perfect analysis but should give you an idea if there is any value associated with the site.

3012 Domains!!! That is a lot of sites. My team has been cranking away on this analysis.

In addition to the analysis I used the tool at SpamZilla to help pull in a LOT of data for each domain.

List of IncomeStore Domains and Their Value:

Access the Spreadsheet Here

My hope is that this sheet will be the most useful and updated list of sites with relevant information to help website partners.


It is a very unfortunate situation. The loss in value and inefficiency of operation is astounding.

  • 3000+ domains
  • $134M invested
  • ~66% of every dollar invested gone?

It has felt like a slow painful reveal over the last 2 months from the IncomeStore announcing it was postponing website partner payments (temporarily) to then the SEC raid to now seeing the extent of the value destruction.

I hope for site partners sake that the picture is not as bleak as the current data shows and that good news will be the next data point.

If you would like to do any additional analysis on the sites that could be helpful to the website partners I would be happy to include that analysis in the spreadsheet for everyone to benefit from. Please reach out if you have anything to add to help website partners when evaluating their site.

If you are a website partner and have any questions I would be happy to try and help answer anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me and my team.

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