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Income School Project 24 Review

33 Things You Should Know About Project 24

Income School Project 24 – Jim and RickyThis is the definitive Project 24 review for 2020.

I spent 20+ hours reviewing all the free and premium training materials for the popular Income School course known as Project 24.

If you want to know:

  • How Project 24 compares to other affiliate marketing courses
  • How Jim and Ricky got rich
  • If it’s possible to get a discount for Project 24
  • What are the common criticisms of Income School
  • If the whole thing is legit or a scam

Then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s get started.

Income School’s Project 24 – Key Points
  About

A packed course that teaches you how to build niche websites and earn passive income.

💰  Price

$449 for one year, $199 per year thereafter (discount info, join now)

😍  Pros

Created by successful niche site builders. Several courses in one. Great community.

😩  Cons

Students tend to struggle with the workload. Late focus on monetization.

  Verdict

An unusual approach to building niche sites, but one that clearly works for many people.

Overall Rating
4.0/5

About the Author

Niall DohertyHey, I’m Niall Doherty.

I quit my last 9-to-5 job back in 2010.

Since then, I’ve earned my living online doing a variety of things:

  • Blogging
  • Web design
  • Advertising
  • Online courses
  • Ebooks

At the end of 2018, I decided to focus on affiliate marketing.

Several months later, I was already earning more than $1000/month in affiliate commissions.

Affiliate Payments may oct
Total affiliate payments received in six months (May-Oct 2019). See my finance reports for latest earnings.

All that to say: I already knew a thing or two about making money online and affiliate marketing when I signed up for Project 24.

Table Of Contents

This review is a joint effort between Niall Doherty of eBiz Facts and freelance writer Matt McIntyre.

Our process:

  1. We joined Income School in September 2019.
  2. We went through the course materials and took almost 300 pages of notes (seriously)
  3. We both looked through the P24 community, and Matt participated in a discussion.
  4. We discussed our impressions of the course, what we liked, what we didn’t like, etc.
  5. We agreed we were happy with Project 24 overall and would recommend it to others.
  6. Niall searched online for other reviews of the course to see if there were any key points we missed.
  7. Niall wrote a first draft of this review.
  8. We sent the draft to our Freedom Business Builder community and asked for feedback.
  9. We sent the draft to Income School and asked if they had any comments or corrections.
  10. We made our final edits and published the review.

Note: We earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase through referral links in this review. Read our full disclosure here.

The Best Affiliate Marketing Course?

Project 24 teaches an unusual approach to building affiliate websites, and students appear to be getting good results. However, it doesn’t top my list of best affiliate marketing courses.

I’m on a mission to review all the top affiliate marketing courses.

Project 24 is a solid course, but not the best I’ve seen so far…

Course Rating Review
Authority Hacker’s TASS 4.6/5 Authority Hacker review
Income School’s Project 24 4/5 Project 24 review
Commission Hero 2.6/5 Commission Hero review
Udemy affiliate marketing courses 2/5 Udemy affiliate marketing courses review
Affiliate Marketing Mastery 1.5/5 Affiliate Marketing Mastery review
Affilorama 1.5/5 Affilorama review
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing 1.5/5 Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing review
Wealthy Affiliate 1/5 Wealthy Affiliate review
Six Figure Mentors 0.7/5 Six Figure Mentors review
ClickBank University 0.5/5 ClickBank University review
Super Affiliate System 0.5/5 Super Affiliate System review
See all the affiliate marketing courses we’ve reviewed »

That said, you can’t really go wrong with Project 24.

Not when students are getting results like this…

Income School Project 24 digital nomad success
Above: success story from the private Project 24 community.

It’s also a good sign when you see a six-figure blogger affirming that the P24 training works…

Income School Project 24 six figure blogger
Above: another post from within the private Project 24 community, this one from someone who sold their blog “for six figures.”

What is Income School?

Launched in 2015, Income School is primarily a website and YouTube channel about building passive income websites.

Here’s how Income School describes itself:

About Income School
Source: incomeschool.com/about

The niche sites they build – and teach others how to build – are mostly monetized with affiliate marketing and display ads.

Income School homepage
Above: the incomeschool.com homepage

Apparently Income School makes big money:

Income School seven figure business
Above: screenshot from incomeschool.com/about

That 7-figure business is owned by these two guys…

Jim Harmer and Ricky Kesler

Jim Harmer and Ricky Kesler are both from Idaho in the United States. They started building niche sites in 2010 and launched Income School in 2015.

You may already be familiar with Jim and Ricky from the popular Income School YouTube channel.

Here’s one of their most-watched videos, with Ricky on the left and Jim on the right:

A few things about Jim:

  • Back in 2010, he moved to Florida for law school with his wife and 2-week-old son.
  • He was flat broke at the time:
Income School Jim Harmer broke
Above: screenshot from an email written by Jim, sent to the Income School mailing list.
  • Jim started ImprovePhotography.com soon after, which became massively successful:
Jim Harmer Improve Photography growth
Above: screenshot from an email written by Jim, sent to the Income School mailing list. You can read his 2014 income report here.
  • In another email, Jim casually mentions that his niche sites made him a millionaire:

Jim Harmer millionaire

A few things about Ricky:

  • He has an engineering degree and an MBA.
  • He’s a father of four.
  • As per his LinkedIn profile, Ricky worked as a project and category manager at Hewlett-Packard for a couple of years before going full-time with Income School.

Both Jim and Ricky have been invited to speak at conferences such as FinCon and WordCamp, alongside the likes of Ramit Sethi, Sharon Epperson, Nathan Barry, and JD Roth.

FinCon Jim Harmer Ricky Kesler
Above: screenshot from the FinCon website

The Other Guys

Income School has grown into a sizeable company with dozens of employees. You’ll see two of those employees showing up frequently inside Project 24: Nathan Aydelotte and Freddy Betzold.

Both Freddy and Nathan are also from Idaho.

Freddy is listed as a manager at Income School.

He teaches a few lessons in Project 24 and occasionally appears on the Income School YouTube channel.

Here he is interviewing a personal finance vlogger at FinCon:

Nathan is the customer success manager at Income School.

You’ll see him active in the Project 24 community and occasionally teaching course material.

Income School Nathan Aydelotte
Above: screenshot from the “No Nonsense SEO” course inside Project 24

How is Income School different?

Income School practice and preach an unusual approach to building niche sites, one which sometimes proves controversial. Regardless, Jim and Rick have clearly achieved big success with their own sites, and their students seem to be following suit.

You know Income School is controversial when a post about removing mention of them from a subreddit gets a bunch of upvotes:

Income School Reddit controversy
Click here to see the post on Reddit

Perhaps the two biggest things Income School do differently:

  • No keyword tools
    According to Jim and Ricky, premium keyword tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush are so inaccurate that they’re effectively useless.
  • No link building
    Jim and Ricky also seem to consider any kind of “active link building” to be a spammy practice that increases the risk of your site being penalized by Google.

We’ll tackle those two points in-depth later on in this review.

For now, here are three more things about Income School that tend to raise eyebrows:

  • They’ve built several successful sites
    Some folks might criticize Income School’s approach, but they can’t deny their results. Jim and Ricky have clearly built many profitable niche sites over the years.
  • They reveal their sites
    Most affiliate marketers prefer to keep their sites secret, for fear of creating competition. In contrast, Income School have revealed many of the sites they own and operate.
  • Popular on YouTube
    Jim and Ricky have grown a sizeable audience on YouTube, amassing millions of views and becoming one of the most popular affiliate marketing channels on the platform.
Income School YouTube
Above: Income School’s YouTube channel

INCOME SCHOOL PROJECT 24 REVIEW

What is Project 24?

Project 24 is an online course by Income School that promises to teach you how to build passive income websites.

It’s called Project 24 because it’s expected to take students about two years before they’re earning job replacement income.

Income School Project 24 description
Above: screenshot from the Income School homepage

As with any honest course, results aren’t guaranteed:

Income School Project 24 guarantee
Above: screenshot from the Project 24 sales page

Who is Project 24 for?

Project 24 is intended for beginners, people who have tried and failed, and advanced internet marketers.

At least, that’s what’s listed on the course sales page.

I’d add that Project 24 is aimed at moms and dads looking to create an additional source of income. Jim and Ricky have seven kids between them and often speak and write as if directly addressing people with families.

Income School Project 24 families
Above: screenshot from the Income School homepage

Who is Project 24 NOT for?

I would advise the following types of people to steer clear of Project 24: anyone expecting to “get rich quick”; people short on time; anyone who dislikes an “intuitive” approach to building niche sites.

Absent from the Project 24 sales page is an explicit description of who the course is NOT for.

Having spent 20+ hours researching and reviewing the course materials, I’d say this is a fair assessment of the type of people who would NOT benefit from Project 24:

  • Anyone expecting to “get rich quick”
    As the name implies, the goal of Project 24 is to help you build up your niche site income over a two-year period, to the point where it matches or exceeds your regular income.
  • People short on time
    Income School say you can build a niche site in only an hour a day, but I’d recommend you have at least 10 hours per week available (unless you’re planning to outsource a lot of the work).
  • Anyone who dislikes an “intuitive” approach to building a business
    If you’re someone who prefers using hard data to make decisions, Project 24 will likely frustrate you at times. (More on this later.)

How does Project 24 work?

The “60 Steps to a Successful Site” are the core of the Project 24 training, and where newbies are advised to start. The steps aim to take you from no website, no experience, and no expertize… to earning $1000’s per month within two years.

Once signed up, you can access the 60 Steps from the Project 24 courses page:

Project 24 60 steps

Those steps walk you through:

  • Picking a niche
  • Setting up your website
  • Learning SEO
  • Writing 30 articles
  • Creating 10 videos
  • Monetizing your site

On the Income School website you’ll find the Project 24 timeline, which “should be used only as a way to benchmark and set goals rather than an expectation of success.”

Income School Project 24 timeline
Above: screenshot from The Project 24 Timeline

A few things to note about that timeline:

  • It calls for you to complete the aforementioned 60 steps in the first two months, and create an average of 7 pieces of content per month for your site thereafter.
  • Earnings from your site are expected to be very low in the beginning, only reaching “pizza day” after month six, with an estimated total income of $5.94.
  • Expected income for Month 24 is $7,875, bringing your total site earnings for the two-year period to $42,828.94.

Confusingly, when you sign up for Project 24 you’ll see another timeline on the welcome page:

Income School project 24 four phases

This timeline also spans 24 months, but suggests that you’ll be building TWO websites during that time.

However, Jim’s response to this post in the P24 community advises students to build only one site:

Income School Project 24 second site

How is Project 24 structured?

Project 24 is actually several courses in one, covering many aspects of digital marketing. You get access to all the courses when you sign up.

The courses homepage looks like this:

Income School Project 24 courses

Click into a course and you’ll see a list of lessons, like this:

Income School Project 24 Pinterest course

Click into a lesson and you’ll usually see a video (or several videos):

Income School Project 24 lesson

There are many parts to Project 24 aside from the courses.

You can access them all via a drop-down menu at the top of the page:

Income School Project 24 navigation

One aspect of Project 24 deserves special mention…

The Private Community

Project 24 has a members-only community, where you can ask questions and get feedback from Jim, Ricky, and other niche site builders.

The community homepage looks like this:

Income School Project 24 community

As you can see, it’s pretty active – I took the above screenshot at 10pm EST on a Wednesday and there were 23 people online and 10+ active topics in the previous hour.

How much does Project 24 cost?

Project 24 is Income School’s course to help you build your first successful niche site. The regular price is listed as $449 for the first year and $199 per year thereafter.

So if you stay in the course for a full 24 months, you’ll spend a total of $648 for the training.

Additional info related to the price of the course: 

  • Minimal Additional Expense
    To follow the 60 steps, you’ll also have to spend money on a domain and hosting. But that’s essentially it, as the P24 method doesn’t require you to buy any additional tools (eg for keyword research or link building).
  • Project 24 Discount?
    I’ve searched high and low for a discount or coupon code but have yet to find mention of one anywhere, and there’s no place to enter a discount code on the P24 checkout. Sorry guys: it’s full-price or nothing.
  • Subscription Payment
    Again, I want to emphasize that Project 24 is NOT a one-time payment. They make it easy to cancel your subscription, but be aware that, after the first year, you will be billed $199 annually to retain access to the community and all the training materials.

Project 24 Refund Policy

Project 24 does not give refunds, unless there was a technical issue with your payment.

As per their Refund Policy page:

Income School Project 24 refund policy

They go on to explain on that page that they used to give refunds, but felt too many people were taking advantage – eg by downloading all the training material and then requesting a refund – so they changed their policy.

(Worth noting that The Authority Site System is a similar course that DOES have a 30-day refund policy.)

PRAISE FOR INCOME SCHOOL’S PROJECT 24

Proven Results

Income School have clearly had lots of success building and running their own profitable niche websites, one of which “has produced millions of dollars of income”

This page on the Income School website lists a number of their sites and how much money they earn:

Income School sites

In an email to the Income School mailing list, Jim shared details about another niche site he built:

Income School Pontoon Guide niche site

I’ve done some digging and checking on those sites using tools like Ahrefs, and the traffic estimates line up with Income School’s claims.

No good reason to doubt them.

Very Transparent

Most niche site owners prefer to keep their sites secret, worried that they’ll invite competition if they reveal too much. In contrast, Income School have revealed many of the sites they own and operate.

In this video, Jim and Ricky share their earnings and analytics from a few of the sites mentioned above:

But not only do they share their successes.

They also share their failures.

Like this one:

Income School DIY House Security niche site
Above: screenshot from incomeschool.com/sites

In The Trenches

Perhaps more than anyone else teaching digital marketing today, the guys at Income School regularly start new projects in unfamiliar niches to battle-test their own processes and recommendations.

In episode 43 of the Project 24 members-only podcast, Jim and Ricky talked about how they aim to launch a new website or YouTube channel every six months.

Why?

So they’re regularly starting from scratch and seeing if their process still works.

Accordingly, despite having a whole fleet of successful sites already, and no shortage of income, Jim and Ricky recently launched a brand new YouTube channel in a brand new niche:

Income School Backfire YouTube channel
Above: Backfire – Jim and Ricky’s new channel on YouTube. I took this screenshot in September 2019. The channel has seen impressive growth since.

In that same podcast episode, Jim and Ricky talked about how they created their own Pinterest course within Project 24.

Project 24 Pinterest course

Not having much experience with Pinterest themselves initially, they basically bought and reviewed a bunch of other courses about Pinterest marketing, interviewed several experts, and spent a few months experimenting with different tactics and strategies on their own sites.

Only then did they feel they knew enough about what worked – and what didn’t – to go ahead and create their own Pinterest course.

Respect.

Tons Of Content

Project 24 is much more than an affiliate marketing course. Inside you’ll find an abundance of digital marketing training.

Here again is what the courses homepage looks like inside P24:

Income School Project 24 courses

I haven’t even shown all the courses on that page, and apparently more are in the pipeline.

Personally, I find having so much training on so many different topics quite overwhelming, and worry that it would lead to “shiny object syndrome.”

But I haven’t heard the same complaint from ANY other members of Project 24.

In fact, I’ve heard the opposite from several of them: they ❤️ that there is so much content inside P24, and that you get access to it all for one price.

The Guys Next Door

Jim and Ricky come across as a couple of hard-working, down-to-earth family guys from Idaho who just happen to be really good at building niche sites.

Not everyone would agree with that assessment, I’m sure.

But I find Jim and Ricky very likable and easy to watch. They give off a casual-yet-professional vibe in their videos, and are as entertaining as they are informative.

Judging by the comments and ratings on their YouTube channel, many other people feel the same…

Income School YouTube comments
Above: typical comments on an Income School video

I’ve also yet to see Jim or Ricky showing off a fleet of sports cars, or giving a tour of their leased mansion with hired models frolicking in the background.

*cough* Tai Lopez *cough*

No Hype

In contrast to many other people selling internet marketing courses, Income School DON’T promise that you’ll earn quick or easy money by following their training.

Exhibit A is the name of the course itself: Project 24.

As in 24 months.

That’s how long Jim and Ricky say it will likely take to replace your regular income with income from the niche site you build.

In fact, they’re so the-opposite-of-hype, that they tell you to expect only $5.94 in earnings through your first six months of following and applying the P24 training.

Project 24 timeline month 6 earnings
Above: screenshot from The Project 24 Timeline

Setting realistic expectations like this is key.

Income School would probably get more people signed up to Project 24 if they painted a more optimistic picture, but many of those people would surely find themselves frustrated before too long.

Case in point is the following P24 member, sharing an update on his progress after 9 months. At the 14:00 mark he notes that he never would have been able to make it through the “ghost town” phase of building a niche site without a course like Project 24 guiding him.

They also make it clear on the P24 sales page that there are no guarantees when it comes to building a business:

Income School Project 24 guarantee

Compare that to another affiliate marketing course called Wealthy Affiliate (reviewed here), which makes the ridiculous “promise” that “you will not fail” 🙄

Not Salesy

You won’t see any desperate or shady sales tactics from Income School.

Jim and Ricky share lots of advice for building a niche site in their free YouTube videos, without constantly trying to sell you on Project 24.

And when they do try to sell you, they’re very upfront about it…

Income School Jim and Ricky pitch Project 24
Jim’s words from this video: “we want to pitch you on something…”

Furthermore…

No Upsells

When you sign up for Project 24, there’s nothing else to buy. No upsell offers, no upgrades. You get access to everything inside the course for the one price.

As Jim puts it at the 40:15 mark of that last video, referring to Project 24:

“Most internet marketers want to sell you on a zillion different courses, and that was one of our manifestos when we decided we were going to do this: no upgrade fest. We want to give you what you need to be successful online. And so it’s all in there.”

Regular Updates

Project 24 is a constantly evolving course, with updates and improvements being made on a regular basis.

You’ll see a list of recent updates at the bottom of the courses homepage inside Project 24:

Project 24 updates

There’s also a weekly email sent out to members that notes the latest updates:

Project 24 updates by email

(By the way, the weekly email also lets you know about interesting posts you might have missed in the P24 community, recent success stories, and any upcoming changes you need to be aware of. I wish more courses kept their members in the loop like this.)

Great Community

The Project 24 community is one of the best I’ve seen for an affiliate marketing course.

At the 12:45 mark of this video review of Project 24, a student shows and comments on the community:

Two things to note there:

  • The P24 community was originally on a different platform, but Jim and Ricky changed it based on member feedback. (And I have to say, the platform they’re using now is excellent. Much better than a Facebook group, IMO.)
  • While Jim and Ricky don’t promise to read and reply to every post in the community, they are pretty active in there. As are Freddy and Nathan.

Here’s a post that received a handful of replies, including one from Jim within 12 hours:

Project 24 community Jim response

Here’s another post in the P24 community that got a ton of replies in a short space of time:

Project 24 community responses

Or course, more important than the QUANTITY of replies is the QUALITY of replies.

And for the most part, I’ve been impressed with the feedback and recommendations I’ve seen in the P24 community.

Free Premium Theme (Acabado)

Income School created their own premium WordPress theme which sells for $50 per year. Project 24 members get it for free.

You can read more about Acabado here.

It’s the same theme Jim and Ricky use on successful niche sites like Camper Report ($8000/month) and Dirt Bike Planet ($2500/month).

It’s built for speed, without a lot of bells and whistles.

P24 members seem to be getting good results with it:

Project 24 community Acabado

I am however a bit skeptical about Acabado, for a couple of reasons:

  • Jim and Ricky aren’t known for creating WordPress themes or plugins. It’s not their main thing, and it’s unclear how often they update Acabado.
  • They say within P24 that an SEO plugin like All In One SEO “isn’t at all necessary if you are using Acabado.” That strikes me as a bold statement, given that All In One SEO is a super-popular and feature-rich plugin that’s been around for years.

Still, I’m listing the free Acabado download as a plus for Project 24 since it seems to be working well on successful sites, it saves members from having to buy another premium WordPress theme, and the support for Acabado in the P24 community looks pretty good.

Members-Only Podcast

Sign up for Project 24 and you get access to a weekly, members-only podcast.

Here’s how the podcast is described on the P24 sales page:

Project 24 members-only podcast

The podcast is a little fiddly to get set up on your phone – it’s private, so you can’t just subscribe and download the usual way – but once you get that sorted it’s pretty good.

(You can also listen to the podcast direct from the members-only website, no phone needed.)

I listened to several episodes from Season 6.

Project 24 podcast episodes

An average episode is about 30 minutes long, and it’s usually Jim and Ricky riffing on a certain topic and sharing what’s worked for them.

If you like watching the Income School videos on YouTube, you’ll probably enjoy the podcast.

CRITICISMS OF INCOME SCHOOL’S PROJECT 24

One Hour Per Day? No Way.

Income School say it only takes an hour a day to build a successful niche site, but not even Jim Harmer himself seems to have accomplished that.

One glaring omission from the Project 24 sales page is how much time is required for you to actually go through the training and build your site.

I’ve seen Jim and Ricky mention in a few YouTube videos that an hour per day is all it takes.

Sign up to the Income School email list, and Jim will tell you so explicitly:

Income School one hour a day niche site

But that doesn’t quite fit with the Project 24 Timeline:

Project 24 timeline month 2

Whoa.

That’s a helluva lot to get done in only an hour per day for 60 days!

Especially when you consider the time estimates Jim and Ricky provide for writing said blog posts:

Income School response staple pillar posts
Above: different post types as described within Project 24 (Action 8—Search Analysis and the Article Hit List)

According to those estimates, writing 10 of each post type will take you more like 100 hours.

Then you’d need another 20-30 hours for stuff like niche selection, building your site, producing the ten YouTube videos, etc.

Oh, and time doesn’t exactly stand still when you’re going through all the P24 lessons either. (I spent 20+ hours going through not even half of the training material so I could write this review.)

To make matters worse, Ricky admits in the P24 community that it takes more like 2 hours to write a solid Response Post:

Project 24 community Ricky response post

Then you have Jim saying the following on episode 38 of the members-only podcast (19-minute mark, emphasis mine):

“We also had another question from [a P24 member], where he’s basically looking for a kick in the behind. He says… about falling behind. So let’s talk about that.

I think, if you were to survey Project 24 members, I bet 90% of them feel like they are behind. Behind in terms of content creation, is what I mean. So… how much do you want it? That’s really all I can say.

Anytime anybody’s trying to accomplish anything, that’s really what it’s going to come down to. All of us probably are capable of giving one hour of our day to creating an online business, if we really do believe in ourselves that we can create our own business and provide for our families.”

Hmm.

“How much do you want it?”

I’m not sure anyone can want it bad enough to manipulate time and somehow squeeze 120+ hours of work into less than 60 hours.

Not even Jim Harmer himself:

Income School Jim Pontoon Guide 100 hours
Above: screenshot from the Income School mailing list, where Jim explains that it took him ~100 hours to create 32 pieces of content and build PontoonGuide.com.
Income School Project 24 Jim timeline
Above: screenshot from a lesson inside P24 (Action 8—Search Analysis and the Article Hit List), where Jim showed how much time he planned for content creation on a new site.

Personally, I believe you need a minimum of 10 hours per week to build any kind of online business, particularly if you’ve never built one before.

(If you’re struggling to free up that time, this article will help)

Monetization Last

The Project 24 approach to building a niche site doesn’t give much consideration to monetization early on, with the justification that the money will come so long as you can get traffic.

To quote Jim:

“If you can get the traffic, you can get the money.”

Income School Jim and Ricky traffic = money

While this is generally true, Income School takes the concept to such an extreme that “monetization potential” barely factors into their niche selection or content creation processes.

Tellingly, the very last step in their two-month 60-step process is to finally start monetizing your site:

Income School Project 24 step 60

This seems to result in many P24 members seeing steady traffic growth, then scrambling to figure out how to monetize that traffic.

Inevitably, some of them end up realizing – after several months of work – that the niche they’ve chosen ain’t all that monetizable.

Like the P24 member in the following video, who says at about the 9-minute mark:

“I was more passionate by far on the first niche. Didn’t really think about monetization too much. Now I’m stuck trying to figure it out. Now I have to figure out the monetization. As you’ll see, it’s not very good.”

In contrast, the affiliate marketing course I reviewed prior to this one – The Authority Site System by Authority Hacker – focuses on monetization right from the start.

In the very first lesson of the Niche Research & Site Planning module in the Authority Hacker course, you’ll hear them say:

“When people start websites they usually start with keyword research and SEO and analytics, and I think this is wrong because I don’t pay my bills in rankings. I pay my bills with money, and so that’s where I think you need to start your business. You need to start with the end, and think about, what can I sell? How am I going to make money?”

To me, this makes far more sense than the P24 approach of getting traffic first and worrying about monetization later.

(One way you could compensate for this “weakness” of Project 24: ask the community for feedback on the monetization potential of your chosen niche before you start building out your site and creating content.)

Income School “don’t do active link building,” and say “you absolutely positively have to stop building links to your blog.” But their reasoning for this doesn’t make much sense.

This is perhaps Income School’s most infamous and controversial video:

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term “link building,” here’s how one of the world’s leading SEO websites defines it:

Moz link building definition
Source: The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building (Moz.com)

But Income School don’t practice or advocate building links.

Jim’s words from the above video (4:14 mark):

“We know backlinks are important, and we definitely have seen lots of people that have had success by working on building a nice solid backlink profile. We get that. What we have found though are there are two main reasons to just stop building links.”

The first reason they give is that link building takes time, time which they argue would be better spent creating great content that people are likely to link to naturally.

In the “No Nonsense SEO” video course inside Project 24, Ricky elaborates:

“Let’s look at the trade-off here. I could spend 10 hours writing guest posts and begging, just begging, hundreds of websites to include a link to my website. I could spend 10 hours on that and I could get one or two links.

Or, I could spend those 10 hours creating an awesome blog post that actually deserves to get links, and I will organically, over some time, get fifty links to that blog post for the work that I did.”

Hmm.

I don’t know a lot about link building, but I do know that if you spend 10 hours at it and only end up with one or two links… you’re definitely doing it wrong!

Also, saying you have to choose between creating great content and building links is kind of like saying you have to choose between lifting weights and doing cardio.

 🏋️‍♀️ 🏃‍♂️

Sure, if you can only choose one, cardio is the way to go.

But ideally you’d be doing a decent amount of both.

The second reason the Income School guys say you shouldn’t build links is “the worry factor.”

Ricky’s words from the 5:20 mark of the YouTube video above (emphasis mine):

The more stuff you try to do to trick Google, the more potential worry you have. Because every so often Google will update their algorithm, and every time that happens, so many people that are doing web marketing, that have these affiliate and niche websites, they just start sweating bullets. Because they don’t know, “How is this going to impact my traffic?”

We don’t worry about that, we don’t sweat about it. You know why? Because Google’s job is to help people that are searching for content find what they’re looking for. If you create the content they’re looking for, and don’t try to trick Google into thinking that your content is something that it’s not, you won’t have to worry about it.

So according to Income School:

  • Link building = trying to trick Google into thinking that your content is something it’s not 😈

Which is kind of like saying:

  • Used car salesmen = always trying to sell you a lemon 🍋

Silly, right?

Not all used car salesmen are trying to cheat you, the same way not all link building is an attempt to trick Google.

Here’s Moz again describing some non-tricky link building strategies:

Moz white hat link building
Source: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Link Building

Pretty sure it was the combination of the two strategies highlighted in the above image that proved effective for building lots of high-quality backlinks to one of Authority Hacker’s niche sites:

Authority Hacker link building campaign

Which no doubt contributed to their big payday after only 18 months:

Authority Hacker success case study
Above: screenshot of the case study detailing how Authority Hacker sold an 18-month-old site for mid 6 figures

All that to say:

  • Your website can become successful without doing any link building, as the Income School guys have proven and recommend. That’s totally fine.
  • What’s also totally fine is using white-hat link building strategies to boost your already awesome content. You’ll probably achieve success even faster that way.

In the words of a renowned SEO expert:

You can shout “Just write quality content” all day long, but those of us who rank sites in Google are more often than not actively trying to do so. You can still focus on writing great content and add smart link building to your mix. – Glen Allsopp (source)

Oh, and it’s not like avoiding all kinds of link building somehow makes you immune to Google algorithm updates.

Here’s a member of Project 24 reporting a 30% traffic drop after an update, and Jim replying that one of his own sites got hit twice in one year:

Project 24 community Jim Google updates

So there’s that.

No Keyword Tools

Project 24 students are advised NOT to use keyword tools, with the reasoning that such tools are inaccurate. But Income School’s alternative approach to keyword research ultimately relies on guesswork and intuition.

Cue another controversial video from Jim and Ricky:

Income School’s main complaint about keyword tools is that the data you get from them simply isn’t accurate.

Which is true.

But that doesn’t mean they’re useless.

Ahrefs – my keyword tool of choice – are clear about the limitations of their data:

Ahrefs limitations
Source: Why don’t the organic traffic numbers reported by Ahrefs match those I see in Google Analytics? (Ahrefs.com)

I’ll repeat what I wrote in my Authority Hacker review:

The way I see it, the value of a keyword research tool like Ahrefs isn’t in any single estimate, but in how the estimates compare to each other.

For example, let’s say you’re building an authority site in the fishing niche 🐟

Here’s some data you might come across on Ahrefs:

Ahrefs keyword research: fishing niche

Taken in isolation, the volume, keyword difficulty (KD) and traffic estimates for any of those keywords are fairly useless.

But compare them to each other and it’s clear that you should prioritize creating “fishing pole” content before “fishing gear” or “fishing tackle” content.

Here’s what I was really curious about when I signed up for Project 24:

How the hell do Jim and Ricky do keyword research if they don’t use any keyword tools?

Well, it turns out they don’t do keyword research.

They do “search analysis” instead.

(Their words, not mine.)

Here’s how search analysis works:

  • You start with the “alphabet soup” technique, which involves typing a bunch of keywords related to your topic into Google and seeing what autocomplete suggestions you get back.
Income School Project 24 alphabet soup
Next you’d try extreme sports b, then extreme sports c, etc.
  • You also take note of what keywords show up under the “people also ask” and “related searches” when you google your topic.
  • You check AnswerThePublic.com for more keyword suggestions.
  • You go to DuckDuckGo.com and do the “alphabet soup” technique there.
  • You put all those keywords you’ve found so far into a big list.
  • You use Jim’s “inverted pyramid” technique to determine which keywords on your list should be turned into blog posts.

That last technique basically involves making an educated guess as to how many people are likely to be searching for each keyword. The more searches you think a keyword gets, the higher it goes on your list.

As Jim explains in one of the search analysis training videos:

“You are just using your intuition a bit. You are just guessing a little bit. Sometimes you’re going to be a little bit wrong and you’ll write one and ah, that just didn’t bring as much traffic as I’d hoped. Sometimes you’re gonna strike gold with them. But because we’re not married to tools that are just giving us wrong data across the board, we’re going to find a lot of gold that other people skip over.”

Now I’m definitely not doing “search analysis” justice with that quick explanation – it’s actually a fairly thoughtful approach and way better than just writing about whatever tickles your fancy.

But it strikes me as odd that Income School ridicule keyword tools for being inaccurate, while at the same time recommending an alternative that ultimately relies on guesswork.

Personally, I’d rather trust a good keyword tool – ie the best data available – than trust my intuition, especially when I’m researching a niche or topic I’m not familiar with.

But hey, that’s just me.

Jim and Ricky’s approach seems to be working just fine for them, and for many of their students.

Missing Video, Missing Text

Almost all the lessons inside Project 24 are video only, making it hard to scan or refer back to the material. Meanwhile, some of the text-only lessons would be better presented in video format.

For each lesson in Project 24, you either get a video (or several) with no accompanying text…

Income School Project 24 video lesson
Like this

Or you get a bunch of text with no videos…

Income School Project 24 text lesson
Like this

Video-only lessons are hard to refer back to: you end up having to watch long stretches of video to find that one piece of info or advice you needed.

Text-only lessons are fine for the most part, but there are places where a video would have been way more helpful than a few thousand words of text.

Especially for topics like:

  • How to install and configure WordPress plugins
  • How to set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console

BOTTOM LINE

Are students actually getting results with Project 24?

Yes, a significant number of students appear to be getting good results by following the Project 24 training.

As you can tell from the list of criticisms above, there are elements of the Project 24 approach to building niche sites that I find questionable.

But I’ve gone ahead and given the course a 4-star rating anyway.

For two main reasons:

  • Jim and Ricky have a track record of building successful niche sites, so clearly their approach works well for them.

More importantly:

  • The same approach seems to work well for many of their students.

For example:

Project 24 success story
Above: a member reporting his first $1000 month, only 7 months after joining Project 24.
Project 24 success story
Above: another P24 member hitting the $1000/month mark.
Project 24 success story
Above: a P24 member showing steady growth for affiliate and ad earnings
Project 24 success story
Above: nine months in and up to $484
Project 24 success story
Above: another member reporting impressive results after a year of following the P24 method
Project 24 success story
Above: An atypical P24 success story
Project 24 success story
Above: $392 from the Amazon affiliate program in only her seventh month

As part of my research for this review, I also watched a bunch of videos about Project 24 on YouTube.

This one really stuck with me:

Key points from the video

  • The guy isn’t very tech savvy (related: neither were these famous founders).
  • He had a website for 10+ years and never made much money from it.
  • Following the P24 method, he 8xed his traffic within a year and got his earnings to $4900/month.

Key quote:

“I’m beating out the companies that I’m selling the leads to, for their own product.”

Hard to argue with results like that.

Who should take this course?

Project 24 is a solid affiliate marketing course for productive, family-oriented people who enjoy Jim and Ricky’s free content on YouTube.

On the Project 24 sales page you’ll see noted that the course is for:

  • Beginners
  • Advanced Internet Marketers
  • Those Who Have Tried And Failed

And I’d agree that there is something in there for everyone.

Just make sure you have at least 10 hours available each week to go through the training and work on your site.

Income School Alternatives

I’m on a mission to review all the top affiliate marketing courses.

Here’s my progress so far:

Course Rating Review
Authority Hacker’s TASS 4.6/5 Authority Hacker review
Income School’s Project 24 4/5 Project 24 review
Commission Hero 2.6/5 Commission Hero review
Udemy affiliate marketing courses 2/5 Udemy affiliate marketing courses review
Affiliate Marketing Mastery 1.5/5 Affiliate Marketing Mastery review
Affilorama 1.5/5 Affilorama review
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing 1.5/5 Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing review
Wealthy Affiliate 1/5 Wealthy Affiliate review
Six Figure Mentors 0.7/5 Six Figure Mentors review
ClickBank University 0.5/5 ClickBank University review
Super Affiliate System 0.5/5 Super Affiliate System review
See all the affiliate marketing courses we’ve reviewed »

If you can’t afford to invest in a premium affiliate marketing course, here are some free resources from Income School you can check out:

Your Project 24 review

Are you a member of Income School’s Project 24 course?

Please consider leaving a review below – good or bad – doesn’t matter so long as it’s helpful to other readers.

Thanks for your support!

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31 Comments

  1. The two things you highlighted as link building are actually what Jim and Ricky simply consider to be marketing your brand. Also, I’m not sure how comparing keywords based upon search volume is any better than taking the search volume at face value from a keyword tool.

    1. Hey David, thanks for the comment.

      The two things you highlighted as link building are actually what Jim and Ricky simply consider to be marketing your brand

      Not sure I follow. Jim and Ricky have explicitly said that people should stop building links, and implied that building links is an attempt to “trick Google.” Sounds though like you’re saying that Jim and Ricky do advocate link building but call it something different?

      I’m not sure how comparing keywords based upon search volume is any better than taking the search volume at face value from a keyword tool.

      It’s relativity.

      Knowing that “fishing pole” has an estimated 18k monthly search volume isn’t useful in isolation. But knowing that “fishing pole” has about 30% more monthly search volume than “fishing gear” is useful because now you know which term gets searched more. Even if the estimates are wrong across the board, they should all be wrong by roughly the same amount, so you can tell how keywords compare to each other and which you’d (most likely) be better off targeting.

      The same can’t be said for Jim and Ricky’s alphabet soup method, whereby all keywords that show up in Google’s autosuggest are given the same weight, and there’s no way to determine which of them get searched more than others. In Jim’s words, you have to resort to “using your intuition a bit.”

      1. Hey Niall, thanks for the reply! Just now seeing your comment, since I never got an email that you had replied (just happened to come back to your site a couple of weeks later).
        I can see where you’re coming from, but the search volume statistics are incorrect in the sense that they aren’t even relative to each other. You could easily go after a keyword with say 15 search volume instead of a keyword with 1,000 search volume and get way more traffic. The search volume statistic is simply inaccurate both in quantity and relativity based upon my own experience.
        For the link building, I personally feel that creating a YouTube audience and using H.A.R.O. will drive backlinks and build your brand more long-term. Jim and Ricky teach both of these as viable “link-building” methods along with other ways to build E.A.T. for a site.

  2. Excellent review, Niall. Really well structured, formatted, and comprehensive. In itself, food for thought on how to write a winning blog. Just wanted to say, having looked recently around for advice on blogging, I have found income school to be the most convincing and authentic authority on the subject I’ve come across (though in a sea swimming with sharks, that may not mean as much as it should 🙂 ). One thing I totally agree with you as being a weak point in their system though is the unrealistic time commitment for writing blogs. I presume they don’t want to scare busy people off, so they figure massaging the figures is justifiable. But considering the emphasis they put on content, you’re going to need quality blogs to succeed. And that takes time and energy. As does making videos. A decent blog of one or two thousand words takes me a day or two (including research and a video version). And though my field (academic writing/editing) might be a bit more involved than some, I don’t think I’m untypical. Anyhow, apart from that and some sweeping statements you’ve also highlighted re tools and backlinks, they seem like decent dudes who know their stuff and share quite a lot gratis. Personally, I’m happy to harvest the free resources for now for my existing site. But I can see the potential value in their course for complete newbies. Anyway, thanks again for this very solid review. I’ll be reading more of your stuff for sure.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul.

      A decent blog of one or two thousand words takes me a day or two (including research and a video version).

      Yeah, about the same for me. If a niche isn’t competitive at all I think you can get away with cranking out an acceptable piece of content in a couple of hours, but those days are long gone for most niches.

    2. Hey Niall,

      I am a member of Authority Hacker and I signed up frm your review. It is great but their lessons on content creation is average at best. Do you think Project 24 is a good complement to AH in terms of content creation. By marrying them tgt will we potentially get better results?

      1. Hi Albert,

        Thanks for the comment.

        I’m surprised to hear you thought the content creation training in TASS wasn’t great. That was my favorite part of the training. I attribute a lot of my own content creation process to what I learned from TASS. There’s nothing sexy about it, but it works. Was there something in particular that you expected to be different there?

        Do you think Project 24 is a good complement to AH in terms of content creation. By marrying them tgt will we potentially get better results?

        I personally think TASS is much better in this regard. If you can’t get good results creating content the way TASS show you, another affiliate marketing course isn’t going to help.

  3. One reason other training sites don’t like Income School is they openly rule out spending money on things the other guys make a big chunk of profit off of, keyword tools. Another is they advocate no link building which is heresy to most SEO guys.

    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, I addressed Income School’s stance on keyword tools and link building in the review. Did you miss that part? I explained why their reasoning on those topics doesn’t make much sense to me.

      on things the other guys make a big chunk of profit off of, keyword tools.

      Some of them surely do make good money as affiliates for keyword tools. But I know that Ahrefs doesn’t have an open affiliate program, so most people recommending that tool aren’t doing so due to a financial incentive.

      And I’d bet most SEOs would advocate using a free keyword tool like Ubersuggest – even though its data wouldn’t be as good as a premium tool like Ahrefs – rather than relying on “guesswork” and “intuition” like Jim and Ricky recommend.

  4. Santiago Ramirez

    what you do is amazing!! REALLY thank you for all your content, I am learning a lot through your course, I am in a situation where I cannot afford to pay anything yet. Therefore, your blog has helped me to learn where to put all my effort.

    Again thank you!
    Greetings from Colombia,
    Hope to have you here again,
    if not, hope to meet you somewhere in the world.

  5. Loving your approach with these reviews Niall.

    On the lack of link-building strategy within the course, the Income School guys are clearly very smart. I’m pretty sure it’s because they don’t want their members and followers going out in droves adding to the vast quantity of link outreach emails (spam?!) sent out every day 🙂 Or doing it the wrong way (even with expert guidance), and risking the ire of Google.

    Neither do they want them all using the same outreach templates, similar to what happens with the Authority Hacker programme I believe.

    But good luck trying to rank for the more competitive niches without links!

    No such risks with an approach that just suggests writing great content, doing some YouTube videos and a bit of Pinterest marketing.

    My guess on the lack of monetisation focus upfront is because they don’t want people to get stuck on niche selection, which is VERY common. They want those who are eager to get started to just get started, and I think this is a good approach in some ways. If you’re motivated and get the traffic, you will find a way to monetise.

    You could argue that products that have lower commissions are purchased frequently, while those with higher ones are less frequently purchased – so maybe it all evens out in the end!

    I really like these guys I have to say – the community and the free content they put out there is probably worth the price of the course alone.

    1. Hey Anton,

      Yeah, they do a great job with their YouTube and all that free content. Jim and Ricky seem like genuine guys who are in this for the right reasons. Refreshing for me to see after reviewing the likes of Tai Lopez and Wealthy Affiliate!

      You might be right about Income School not wanting their students to get caught up in link building initially. I barely do any link building myself because it takes me away from creating content, and creating content has to be #1. But at some point I’d like to hire some more help here at eBiz Facts and increase our link building efforts. Because, like you say, it’s tough to rank for more competitive niches without links.

      If you’re motivated and get the traffic, you will find a way to monetise.

      You can monetize pretty much anything, but some niches are easier to monetize than others. Which is why I think it’s smart to put some good thought into monetization up front. Too many people spend months/years building sites that they hope will earn them good money, when in reality the best case scenario for them is probably a few hundred dollars a month.

      Many times they could have known that in advance, but didn’t take the time to look into it.

      There is value in just getting started, sure. But it really bugs me to put tons of time and effort into a business that stands little chance of earning me a living.

      1. “There is value in just getting started, sure. But it really bugs me to put tons of time and effort into a business that stands little chance of earning me a living”.

        Yeah for sure, I hear ya! There’s always an element of rolling the dice though, it seems with all the data that we have that we should be able to identify a niche that will fly, but there are just so many variables at play, that some sites just don’t do as well as we’d think or hope.

        I will say though, nothing replaces hard work, consistency and just sheer investment in something you CAN see is working.

  6. Great review — I have to say though, while I don’t fully agree with their ‘no link building’ stance, they aren’t wrong. Google has effectively said any active attempt to get links to your site is a way to try to game the algorithm and game PageRank — so from a pure “this is what the rules say” perspective they are correct:

    Link schemes
    **Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines** This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
    The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
    *Buying or selling links that pass PageRank.
    *Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
    *Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
    https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en
    ————
    That said, I believe it’s very difficult to gain traction without some form of link building, but they seem to be making it work (if they’re honest about their no link building mantra).

    1. Hey Brian, thanks for the comment.

      It’s hard to know where Google draws the line with link building, but the 3 examples you quoted above are all grey or black hat, and not something I’d try or advise. Moz give a few examples of white hat link building here:

      Moz white hat link building

      The last one there is what the Income School guys do to promote their YouTube channel. Here are exact words from Ricky in episode 40 of the P24 podcast (from the 2:30 mark, emphasis mine):

      “In the blogging space, we don’t talk about link building, we don’t really do that. We DON’T do that at all. And even in the blogging space, almost any outreach is… we just don’t do very much of it. But it is a good way to gain traction especially on YouTube, is to do a fair amount of outreach. And the purpose of outreach is not to build a link, right? It’s not to try to manipulate some sort of SEO algorithm. It’s to take an audience of people that would be interested in your content and to help make them aware that your content exists. That’s what outreach is about. It’s traditional marketing.”

      Take an audience of people that would be interested in your content and help make them aware that your content exists… that’s exactly how I’d describe white hat link building. And I’m really confused as to why Income School think it’s perfectly fine to do that for YouTube, but not for blogging.

      Regardless, as you say, Income School seem to be doing just fine blogging without link building. I just find their view a bit too extreme, and their reasoning flawed. Part of me wonders if they took an extreme stance on link building more for the controversy/publicity than anything else.

  7. Just read through this. I still don’t fully understand what’s their method haha.

    If you don’t do keyword research, how do you know what keywords to rank for and essentially get traffic organically? If you don’t build backlinks, how do you drive traffic to your website?

    From what I see, it looks like they don’t just ask you to make content for your website, but you should also produce content on YouTube, Pinterest etc to drive traffic to your website? I mean, there should be some kind of “traffic approaches” to replace backlinks other than just let time does it work right?

    1. Their method is essentially this:

      1. Do some basic keyword research with their “search analysis” technique.

      2. Make an educated guess as to which keywords you’ve found get the most traffic.

      3. Decide how much to write for your top keywords by looking at how tough the competition is.

      4. Create and publish the content.

      5. Wait for Google to figure out that your content is really good and start sending you traffic. (This might take a long time.)

      They do recommend people create YouTube videos as well, but it’s still optional. Seems many people in P24 choose to focus on written content only. That works fine on its own.

    2. I don’t think it’s that you’re not seeing their method, it’s really that they don’t have a specific strategy. Their approach is just post the 30 articles and hope for the best. If it works great, if not then it’s kind of a waste of 2 years.

      They also recommend that you make a youtube channel and promote your content but honestly, if you’re doing all that, do you really need to pay $450 for someone to tell you that.

      As a member, you’re really just setting yourself up to be another one of their customers to push affiliate products to because a lot of the products and services they recommend aren’t the best but usually pay the highest affiliate commissions.

      On a final note, I notice a lot of comments saying that their theme isn’t really as fast as they claim. I have personally ran speed tests on their sites using their in house theme, some sites are fast while others are very slow. People should not be misled to think that their theme is some lightening fast product out of the box. All themes need to be optimized to perform better and theirs is no different.

      All in all, I think their initial vision is tainted and they’re not as trustworthy as they try to present themselves to be.

      1. Thanks for the comment, Todd.

        As a member, you’re really just setting yourself up to be another one of their customers to push affiliate products to because a lot of the products and services they recommend aren’t the best but usually pay the highest affiliate commissions.

        Hmm, I didn’t get that impression at all, especially since they advise students NOT to buy keyword tools or link building tools and they give them a theme for free. Compared to other AM courses, I’d actually say P24 requires students to spend LESS money on products/services after joining.

        Can you give some examples of products and services you’ve seen them recommending that you didn’t think were good?

  8. Interesting approach these guys have! Guess just by scanning the autosuggestions for keywords fills their head with enough of them, so that their posts are organically full of good keywords. Plus they probably spend enough time writing and researching articles, so good keywords just happen.

    But I’m with you on the fact that sites like Ahrefs can give you a boost by helping to choose the better converting keywords, or lower competition keywords for example.

    What caught my attention is their Acabado theme – I checked some other websites that use it (not the ones they suggest) and it’s really fast on those too. Getting anywhere above 70 on Google Pagespeed Insights for mobile is really hard if you don’t want to have a stripped down site with only text and images or don’t want to dive into the code and turn of CSS and js libraries.

    I don’t really like how it looks (the Acabado theme) – it’s basically mobile first (AMP like), but I like the stats they show – that very good Pagespeed rating can provide quite a boost. Inspired me to strip down my websites a bit, less bells and whistles on mobile 🙂

    Plus they claim “Unique homepage customisation” options, yet every page I looked at looked exactly the same. Do they mean colours perhaps? 😀

    Oh, and the theme isn’t such a star for GTmetrix (https://gtmetrix.com/reports/emborapets.com/GuFMx7UE) or Pingdom. And that’s including CDN they use.

    Guess you get a win on mobile, but you will get a hit on PC with the Acabado theme.

    1. Hey Lukas,

      Thanks for that.

      Plus they claim “Unique homepage customisation” options, yet every page I looked at looked exactly the same. Do they mean colours perhaps?

      I found this video on YouTube which shows the Acabado customization options.

      The options are fairly limited, but I believe that was intentional on Jim and Ricky’s part. They wanted to give P24 students a simple theme that they can’t modify too much, so they won’t get caught up in design and can instead focus on creating content.

      I think that’s a good thing for someone just starting out. Messing around with something like Divi or Elementor could be a very deep rabbit hole.

      Regarding speed, I also found this video where the guy tests the speed with one theme, then switches to Acabado and tests again.

      Big improvement there.

      Like you said though, speed tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom measure things differently, but I guess Google’s tool is the most important one, since the result from that probably factors into their search rankings.

      1. Hey Niall,
        just checked your top list of affiliate websites and thought – how do they perform on Google PagespeedInsights? Real world test to decide, whether you need to rank very high (60+) to achieve success.

        Starting with Succulents And Sunshine, it only scores 1/100
        (using a high number of heavy plugins – Woocommerce, Thrive Leads, and I couldn’t see any optimisation plugins).

        Ryrob.com – 49/100
        (using Autooptimize plugin)

        Only swimuniversity.com ranks 97/100
        (They seem to have a very mobile-first custom theme, and no fancy landing page, just lazy load blog posts + WP Rocket plugin, so they obviously focus on speed optimisation).

        My guess would be that Google Pagespeed doesn’t play SUCH a strong role as Acabado authors make it seem. But I wouldn’t recommend ignoring site speed completely – my assumption is that Succulents And Sunshine was content-focused and fast first, then it grew, acquired a good Google rank and only then added Woocommerce and other bells and whistles to monetize the traffic.

        This also adds a big +1 to WP Rocket on my list of speed optimisation plugins 🙂

        Lukas

        1. Wow, that is fascinating!

          Especially Succulents and Sunshine… crazy that they’re getting so much traffic with that low a score. But then when I go to the site myself it doesn’t seem to be THAT bad in terms of load speed. I would have guessed it was actually a bit better than average.

          Ah Google… so mysterious!

        2. Hi Niall,
          I was doing some unrelated site optimisation, installed a different free theme, out of the box and got 97/100 on a blog. So I thought – “hey, this one is free and 97/100 is as good as 100/100. A good alternative to Acabado.”
          I summed up my findings in a quick and dirty blog post that might help someone deciding whether or not to get Acabado and whether there’s a free alternative.
          You can check it out here, I made sure I link back to this post too 🙂
          Acabado theme quick review & free alternative

      2. “so they won’t get caught up in design” ….that is a big issue when you are starting new. I have one blog (which I started as an experiment) and got one of the best free themes available (OceanWP) which has a lot of configuration options. And guess what, I have spent (wasted !!) a lot of time just trying to make the look and feel exactly as I wanted, even resorting to JS and CSS modifications to get it right to the last millimeter !! Eventually, I lost interest and gave up. Looking back, I realize the time could have been invested in researching and writing more posts.
        Once you have a blog that is earning a regular income, then maybe you can spare some time to ‘improve’ the design. But before that, spending too much time on the design is exactly what you said … “very deep rabbit hole” !!
        There is so much available in the WordPress world in terms of page design that if you start looking at all the different options you have with the premium themes with their advanced page builders, then you can easily spend months just evaluating/learning them.