It has been a whirlwind over the last month when it comes to Income Store! I am going to go over what has happened and how it seems investors have been ripped off. Is it an old fashioned pyramid or ponzi scheme? was the moratorium on payments just a stall tactic?
UPDATE Feb 5, 2020 – With the receiver releasing the full list of sites me and my team did a deep dive reviewing the value of each. You can see the complete list and estimated value along with other interesting stats about the portfolio here. We hope this article will help website partners understand how much my website is worth.
UPDATE JAN 15, 2020 – The SEC has issued a press release alleging that Income Store operated as a PonziScheme with investor funds coming in used to pay off investor returns and personal expenses including mortgage and private school tuition.
UPDATE Jan 10, 2020 – A website for IncomeStore investors has been setup to share up to date information. http://incomestorereceivership.com/ It is not 100% clear who is behind the website but seems to have the most up to date information.
As it stands right now Income Store assets have been seized by the SEC and employees have been told not to come in.
First – If you have been ripped off by this – as I know some of you have, I feel for you! Very sorry to hear!
Second – I am not a lawyer, if you are involved in Income Store, I recommend discussing with one.
If you are new to the industry and trying to make sense of the potential scam with Income Store, here is a buying and selling websites guide covers the industry and process in great detail!
In this post I will go over…
The situation is scary for many and as some write “This is the kind of money that ruins a retirement or changes life plans significantly.”
The best place to go right now for breaking news is the forums and Emilia Garner’s YouTube channel who is a lawyer and a website site owner/operator.
Her combined legal and site experience along with some internet sleuthing is providing really great coverage! Thanks Emilia.
I am going to aim to provide reference links and my thoughts on what this will mean to the industry over the next 1-3 yrs.
Income Store would solicit an investment from a “Site Partner” with a minimum of $100k investment, buy a website and split the proceeds 50/50 with a guaranteed return of 15%.
Their website is now offline but here is a recent video which is still live on their Vimeo page that summarizes their offering and the image below shows some of their stats:
From their Brag Sheet below they were a well established player with a lot of history of operating sites.
In the middle of December an email went out saying that no site partners would receive any money and contractors reported on forums they were not getting paid.
Here is a video from Ken (the founder, CEO) communicating that they needed to seek a moratorium on payments to site partners.
See this video https://vimeo.com/380803495/94b2cf1584
Re: Securities and Exchange Commission v. Today’s Growth Consultant, Inc (dba “The Income Store”) and Kenneth D. Courtright, III, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Civil Action No. 1:19-CV-08454
Date: January 6, 2020
Attached is a Temporary Restraining Order Freezing Assets and Imposing Other Emergency Relief and Order Appointing Receiver that have been entered in the above referenced matter.
The Court has determined that the appointment of a receiver is necessary and appropriate for the purposes of marshaling and preserving the books and records and all assets of Today’s Growth Consultant, Inc.
Within the next few days a website will be established that will provide court documents and other information regarding the case that will answer many of your questions. For additional information, you may contact the office of the Receiver at (305) 542-4410 or [email protected]
Reading between the lines, it seems the business model imploded and attempts to save it failed.
This is all educated speculation but it seems like this was the most likely way that things played out…
It would appear that it all started out well with great profits from the content sites – but doubling down on whatever strategy was working resulted in exposure to Google penalties- which enacted their toll in 2016.
This is a common death nail for portfolio managers when they have one set of strategies that they double down on across their entire portfolio. Leading people think they have diversified their risk but the reality is they have a single point of failure exposure with the same strategy used across all their properties.
In 2017/2018 they went full throttle on ECommerce sites (specifically Shopify) building up 422 of them and at the start of the year Facebook paid traffic changes resulted in a significant negative impact on that business.
It is not clear in the end if they were still buying sites or taking peoples investment and then “building” a site and using that difference to continue the 15% guaranteed payments.
Ultimately as the number of investments where they had to dip into the profits of other recently acquired businesses grew, they needed to keep raising money at a faster rate to bring on more sites/capital. Although based on the number of employees and knowing they were active in buying sites I may not go as far as calling it a ponzi scheme (although I am not convinced)- it had a similar failure mechanism. Once the money flowing in to acquire new sites was not enough to cover operating costs and payback investors their guaranteed 15% the model collapsed.
Again the majority of the section above is pieced together speculation.
Here are other links sourced from Emilia’s YouTube videos (seriously make sure you subscribe to get some really great coverage!)
Income Store is just a single operator in the wider online business world but a failure of this size in the industry is going to cast a long shadow!
The impact will be tough to identify on its own- but there are a couple of predictions to take away…
Although I never endorsed Income Store, I would privately share my reservations about a guaranteed 15%. The business model would look like a graph with the limit converging to zero as it scaled, but I was hesitant to share it more publicly or strongly. I regret this now and apologize to anyone who might have read a post on my thoughts and made a different decision.
To that end I will be sharing a few thoughts I have been sharing with people more privately but not being outspoken enough on them.
First though how will this impact the industry for buying and selling websites.
The current operator model has some similar but smaller risks. Although there aren’t players as big as Income Store there are some risks I have shared privately but will do so here as well.
First let me show you what a typical website operator agreement looks like…
Typical Operator Agreement:
Problems with This Model: (can’t let the losers be losers)
Internet businesses are volatile, some will go down! When an operator has a portfolio of businesses all with different owners they are unable to cut their losses on the losers.
This hurts both the losers and the winning sites.
How does this hurt you if you have a loser?
If you have a site that is down- then the operator is a long way from seeing a return on their upside. So their incentive(whether they act on it or not) is to operate as efficiently as possible, ensuring they do just enough to not get fired. As a result, the squeaky wheel gets the grease analogy becomes applicable and time/resources are allocated to appeasing the site owners who have assets that are down and complain the most.
How does this hurt you if you have a winner?
If you have a winner the operator will be distracted by dealing with the portion of the portfolio that is down which will reduce the total upside you would otherwise be able to capitalize on with your winner.
Either way the operator is limited in their ability to maximize the value of the sites they are managing. This is a problem that will only get worse with both time and the number of sites limiting the total scale that any operator is able to achieve without resorting to tactics that allowed Income Store to grow as big as it did and fail as dramatically as it has.
Taking on debt to finance the purchase of an online business can generate some phenomenal returns! Borrowing at 8% and generating a 30% return works out to some very incredible numbers.
The appeal is very strong! If you have that same $100k mentioned above, you get an SBA loan to cover 80% of the purchase price you can end up buying an asset with earnings of $160k/yr! (before covering the interest costs).
If this works out, the results are amazing, for $100k you can have an income replacing, financial freedom achieving online business!
However, online businesses are volatile and SBA loans are personally guaranteed. This risk is real and the dangers of SBA loans to buy online businesses is only now starting to be felt. With the increase in SBA loans over the last 1-2 years the first people who have bought an online that had a decline are only now getting impacted.
There are already some stories of people who have had a site decline and as a result lost their house/financial security for their family.
I am fiscally conservative- so others will have a different view- but I do not see a scenario where I would take on debt that was personally guaranteed and risk my families financial security in a high risk attempt to achieve financial freedom.
Talking with others in this space who also manage a portfolio or a single successful income producing website they agreed. 100% of the 5 people I asked all making over 10k/month from their portfolio and have been doing so for years(they know what they are doing) would not take on personally secured debt to buy a site if it meant risking their families financial security.
Many people will wonder why I would write this article throwing some shade at the industry I am heavily involved in with MotionInvest.com among other projects like ContentRefined.com etc.
Part of the reason is guilt that I didn’t speak up more publicly about my reservations with Income Store.
But more importantly, is the realization that I will certainly be in this industry for the next decade and ensuring an efficient marketplace with minimal booms/busts by trying to be a voice that brings euphoria or fear back to reality- seems like it won’t be a waste of time.
Hopefully the largest implosion of the decade in this industry is now behind us only 0.19% of the way into it.
If you have any other thoughts on anything I shared please leave a comment below.
When it comes to finding success in our entrepreneurial journey, you will find that there is a lot of trial and error. In order to succeed, you have to fail, and, in those failures, you will learn and grow.
Miles Beckler is a perfect example of this growth. Today we are going to walk through his journey toward success as he is being regarded by some as the most helpful marketer in the world.
In the beginning, Miles worked a regular job like most of us have to. He attended community college in 2003 and worked at the student-run radio station. In the midst of this regular job, Miles also began to dab in affiliate marketing on Myspace.
However, this venture didn’t fail to have its own set of problems as he found links not working and the onslaught of scammers trying to trap everyone interested in making money online.
In 2009, he began a site in the meditation niche with his wife. This was when he began to journey into the world of content marketing. They successfully created an email list and began to amass quite the following. To this day, this site is still one of focus for his family business.
Miles was the behind the scenes guy with this venture. He didn’t care much for content marketing, so he took on the job of keyword research for the site, and his wife wrote the content. The site got its beginning with a simple blog on WordPress.
In 2016, he decided it was time to rebrand and wanted to teach others how they could also successfully grow and scale their own businesses. Instead of forcing himself to learn to love written content, he instead sought other ways he could communicate his message more effectively.
Miles jumped into YouTube and began to create videos to help other entrepreneurial hopefuls find their path to success along their own entrepreneurial journeys.
He made a video every day for 120 days. He grew frustrated by the vast amount of people online claiming to hold the secrets to success on these digital channels. The catch? You had to sing up and pay for their courses in order to learn the secrets of the trade.
After spending his own money on these courses and falling into the laps of some scams and rubbish, he decided he wanted to advertise how to be successful online for free. This was when he leapt into beginning the transition to a full-time position.
As part of his journey, he had to keep his regular day job but wanted to spend time working online to build his business. Miles would wake up every single day around 4:30 in the morning so he could work on this dream for a few hours before going to his job. He would then return home, take care of a few things, and work another few hours. The fear of failing and losing his money and having to move back into his parents’ home definitely played a role in his motivation. During this time, as he was building his business as well as his confidence, Miles also learned the wrong ways of doing things, which ultimately helped him succeed even more.
In just six months, Miles and his wife were able to replace one income. And after four years of juggling his own agency, Miles was able to pay off over $50,000 in student loan debt and credit card debt and proceeded to continue to grow his business.
Choosing a career in online marketing is definitely not an easy feat, and it is something that requires a fair amount of dedication and patience along with hard work and the right motivating factors to keep pushing you forward.
Miles says to avoid any get rich schemes because that is not the way to a successful career in marketing. You can’t take shortcuts when looking for passive income and success.
Using his low points, frustrations, trials, and tribulations, Miles found a new gear and used this focus and the fear of having to move back in with his parents to motivate him to do more to succeed even more.
When you learn to shift your focus from helping yourself to helping others, you may also find that this is even more motivation to continue moving forward. Personal habits may stay the same, but the shift has focused, and the reasons for moving forward may be different.
Lightning in a bottle as he puts it. Miles continues to push forward, knowing that he has over 100,000 people waiting to see his videos and hear how he is doing and what he is doing to succeed. His audience fuels him each and every day. Dominating markets and changing lives is his new focus and motivation.
When it comes to success, energy management is key. As you grow your business, you also have to consider how you are going to structure your team and gain more growth. This requires strategy. However, with this, you will find a wealth of opportunities to make money online. You can get started today, even with no team and a very limited budget.
What is Miles Beckler’s angle as he moves forward in a positive direction in his career? He wants to be considered the most helpful marketer in the world. Not many are willing to share their experience and their success stories for free to help others better their lives. But this is exactly what Miles is working so hard to do.
When asked for advice or what he would say to his past self, Miles said that he would have started sooner. He would have found a way to tap into his stream of consciousness earlier. Instead of trying to force himself to blog, he would have instead focused on finding what was easier. He didn’t like written content but loved making videos. We should all follow his lead.
Remember, you need to spend time falling down in order to learn how to walk. It is all just a part of the learning curve and is to be expected.
For more information on Miles Beckler and his story of entrepreneurial success or to gain access to his free course, then visit milesbeckler.com today and get instant access to helpful tips and advice to start your journey.
You can also search for Miles Beckler on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
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.
Go to POP, login and click create new project
Go into the spreadsheet with the articles you’ll be optimizing, choose one of them and copy and paste URL of webpage/post.
Name the project after the title of the post, hit next
Click on new page
Click on Express Report
Type in the keyword for that article (found on the Google sheet)
copy paste the url of the post/page and name the page after the title
After a few minutes you’ll be redirected to a page that looks something like this. Click on Dashboard.
Take a screenshot of the Optimization Score and Adjusted Score to send to your editor later.
Download the report of the recommendations (should download as an Excel file).
Step 11: Click on Content Editor.
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.
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.
Make all changes/edits directly in the Content Editor
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.
This will download a webpage of the article with all the edits you’ve made. Save this file to send to your editor.
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.
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?
See the results when we compared Surfer SEO vs POP vs MarketMuse and the resulting traffic increase each tool was able to achieve.
Go to Surfer SEO
Click Login and sign in using the provided credentials
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.
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.
Copy and paste the URL of the article in the search bar below the graph and hit Compare.
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.
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.
Once you’ve removed non-relevant sites, go back to the top and click the “Audit” button beside the site we are optimizing.
This will give you all the recommendations that need to be made for optimizing the content.
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.
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.
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.
After you’ve optimized the article, go back to the SurferSEO main page and click on “Content Editor” at the top of the screen.
Type in the keyword of the article/post that you are optimizing and hit “Create!”.
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.
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”:
Then scroll down and in the right hand corner, click “Finalize customization”.
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).
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:
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.
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.
Once you’ve made all the necessary changes (if any were needed), copy and paste the edited content back into the Google doc.
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.
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.
NOTE: Some changes have been made to the appearance of MarketMuse since this procedure was created. The functionality is the same.
Go to MarketMuse
Click to sign in with your unique credentials
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
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.
Read the Article from start to finish
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.