How Much is My Website Worth? The Complete Income Store List and Analysis
The purpose of this article is to provide a quick update on what has happened with the Income Store. Most importantly, I want to provide what I hope are some useful insights into the value of every site in the IncomeStore Portfolio. If you are needing to find out how much your website is worth I hope this article will provide enough information for you to be able to do that.
Hang on because we go deep… exploring the value of each site, looking at the ECommerce portfolio and if there is any value there.
- Everything below is alleged by the SEC and the receiver but not proven in court.
- None of this is legal or financial advice
My team with the help of several tools SpamZilla, ahrefs and SEMRush among others has done an analysis that looks at every income store website and estimated its current value.
The specific sites value and TONS of metrics for each domain is shown in the spreadsheet below…
Access the Spreadsheet: Download Here
With the latest news release from the receiver a lot of new information has come to light.
Background on the Income Store Scam:
- My original post on the Income Store Ponzi Scheme
- Emilia is doing a fantastic job covering this from a legal perspective, hopefully me and my team can help provide some operational clarity on what was happening to the 3012 domains.
- Richard Patey did a great high level analysis of the portfolio value here although the numbers I get are significantly different below.
- Receivers Website – The latest official information – http://incomestorereceivership.com/
- I realize it shouldn’t matter but it is still very nerve wracking that whoever is in charge of that 2000’s era with no https website is currently responsible for the entire IncomeStore portfolio.
- Ken Courtright arrested today Feb 5, 2020
Feb 2020 Income Store Receivership Update:
The Receivers Initial report has provided a lot of very digestible information. If you have not yet read it and are interested in the topic you should!
Claim Your Website or Roll the Dice on Liquidation?
One of the potentially most important items and part of the reason for this post is that the receiver is proposing a solution that will require each site partner to evaluate the value of their website and decide if they want it.
“The Receiver will propose a hybrid claims process that permits investors to make a claim for the domain(s)/website(s) “assigned” to them in the Consulting Performance Agreement in exchange for releasing any claim against the Receivership Estate under certain parameters 5 and those investors who do not want their site could participate in a later distribution process from a pool of liquidated assets and recovered funds. The Receiver will make such proposal by separate motion on or before February 28, 2020. This expedited process will permit the Receiver to transfer and/or liquidate the remaining domains/websites in the next 90 to 120 days, preserving the Receivership assets required to maintain the domains and websites.” Page 8
For site partners faced with this decision I hope this analysis will be of value in both determining the value of their site but from a portfolio / game theory standpoint what others will likely choose ultimately helping you make the most educated decision.
Claim or Don’t Claim Example:
The decision is easy if you have a site worth more than what you invested however thinking through what the final value of the portfolio/recovered assets will be once the winners (and others with decent sites) choose to claim their website gets very tricky. You can’t simply take the recoverable value divided by the total $’s owing investors since some of the recoverable value is going to disappear as people choose to take their websites. You don’t want to be the person that chose to not claim their website but your website ends being the most valuable one left in the pool to be liquidated. I hope the data shared in this post helps make a terrible situation slightly better by having the data to make the decision.
One takeaway from the Receivers Initial Report that is different from previous SEC communication is that it had terms of “Ponzi like” and now the receiver explicitly calls it a Ponzi scheme mentioning it 3 times in the report including the clear description of what happened below.
Quote from the Receiver:
“The Receiver’s review of the books and records of the company confirm the SEC’s allegations that new investor funds and loans were used to pay the investors/”website partners”, not website revenue. For example, in 2018 website revenue was under $2m and website payout to investors was approximately $12.7m and likewise in 2019 website revenue was under $4m and website investor payout was $16.5m. In short, this was a Ponzi scheme.” Page 6
“making the business a classic Ponzi scheme” Page 21
“TGC’s business depended on the use of new investors’ up-front payments (and perhaps loan Case: 1:19-cv-08454 Document #: 45 Filed: 01/30/20 Page 21 of 28 PageID #:678 22 proceeds) to cover its obligations to earlier investors much in the vain of a Ponzi scheme” Page 22
So where did some of the money go? According to the receivers report several luxury items have been seized including the following (stock images)…
IncomeStore Portfolio Value
For the next phase of the IncomeStore journey it is critical to get a sense of the value of each of the websites and the portfolio as a whole.
If you are a site partner what is the value of the site you have the option to take?
There are several ways to approach the portfolio value I will walk through the 2 I think provide the best number and then generate an overall range of value for the portfolio.
- Method 1 Traffic Estimate: (Traffic x CPM – Expenses) x Multiple Range Businesses Sell For (2x-3x range) = $1.5M – $2.25M
- Traffic from ahrefs for all 3000+ domains
- CPM (value per 1,000 visitors) used is $15
- Expenses for each I account for in the multiple at 2x vs a more typical 3x for simplicity sake
- Method 2 Historical Earnings: (Site Revenue from 2019 – Estimated Expenses) x Multiple Range Businesses Sell For (2x-3x range) = 2.3M – $3.5M
- According to the PnL Website Advertising revenue in 2019 is $1.24M
- Bare minimum expenses for maintaining the 562 sites all worth more than 100 is ($10/yr for the domain + $5/month hosting + 40k for 1 full time manager) is ~$80k/yr
Others have generated a higher number for the portfolio value but I struggle to get to those favourable numbers (no offense Richard 🙂 ).
INCOME STORE PORTFOLIO VALUE = $1.5M – $3.5M
Now what would the market tolerate if all ~200 sites with an estimated value of over 1k got dumped on the market in 90 days from Feb 28th as the receiver is suggesting? My assumption would be that despite there being insatiable demand for less expensive content sites (the leader in smaller content sites MotionInvest sells out <$10k sites in minutes with thousands on the waitlist!) the receiver would want to be efficient and move them in bulk at a significant discount.
Typically a fast site sale in the lower end of the market will go for 1x-2x which could bring the valuation down as low as under $1M!
Shopify ECommerce Portfolio Value = $0?
2.5M in E Commerce Revenue in 2019 But the Sites are Completely Worthless? How…
There had been a lot of publicity about IncomeStore shifting to ECommerce launching 400+ Shopify sites. I want to run the list of 3k+ domains through a tool to tell me the tech they are each on and then the organic traffic for the shopify portion of the portfolio (another day). So why do I think they are worthless…
- Inventory – based on the inventory list their ecommerce businesses are either exclusively dropshipping or dead (most have inventory numbers under 10).
- Expenses are more than Revenue – The PnL does have $2.5M in Revenue in 2019 from Product Sales (assume 100% is ecommerce)…however there is also a few expense line items to note such as $3.4M in advertising, $2.7M in ecommerce fees to an ecommerce digital advertising agency and internal ecommerce fees of $1.7M. I don’t blame the digital advertising partner since their mandate was likely given to maximize revenue. If you weren’t keeping track it is AT LEAST $4.4M in confirmed ECommerce expenses which greatly outstrip the $2.5M in ECommerce Revenue!
My Theory – Based on the lengths they went to in order to focus on their priority (new investor money in the door) they used the paid traffic Shopify drop shipping model to generate big revenue numbers fast in order to help entice new money in. If you wanted to scale revenue numbers FAST and didn’t care about profitability then running facebook ads to a dropship shopify site would be the strategy I would recommend.
Destruction of Value Analysis
It would be great to have someone with a forensic accounting background who also has content site experience to comment on the PnL but here are the numbers that jump out to me:
These numbers are primarily pulled from Exhibit D which I have turned into a Google Sheet here if you want to get a copy.
- Total Investor Money In = $134,411,656
- Total Money Paid Out to Investors = $43,070,635
- Amount Owed to Make Investors Whole = $91,342,537
- Cash & Receivables – Receivers Costs to Date = ~$240,000 (page 7)
- Portfolio Value = ~$2,500,000 (see analysis above)
- Destruction of Value by IncomeStore = (investors money in – money sent to investors – cash & receivables – portfolio value) = $88,601,021
Visualization of Value Destruction:
I don’t swear on this blog but I don’t know an appropriate alternative WTF!
66% of every dollar in or $88.6M of value has been destroyed in what must be one of the most inefficient Ponzi schemes ever.
Earlier – I said I doubted it started as a ponzi but Google updates in 2016 (or earlier) must have either forced them to close down or embrace a ponzi scheme and certainly it looks like they fully embraced it taking it a step further and operating not just in a situation to not be able to cover the 15% but running the existing portfolio in a money losing situation!
It also seems that meaningful recovery for site partners will unfortunately not come from the value of the portfolio.
Other Take away From Analysis
- How did they have THAT many people working there?
- Salary & subcontractor expenses of $7.4M to manage a content site portfolio generating $1.24M in advertising revenue and a worthless ecommerce portfolio? This angers the operational geek in me the most, why did they need to burn money on an inefficient head count? Running a ponzi scheme is obviously worse but running a portfolio at these kind of losses just seems needlessly inefficient & unnecessary.
- Year over Year Advertising Revenue declined despite an ever increasing amount of funds being raised! They must have slowed the acquisition engine. It would be interesting to see the % of investor money going into site acquisition vs repaying investors vs burning within an inefficient business vs going to the alleged masterminds year over year.
- 2017 – $2.7M
- 2018 – $1.0M
- 2019 – $1.2M
- Number of Websites = 3000+ with only ~500 worth anything (several in the list are clearly incorrect such as udemy) – why did so many stay active?
- $500k in charitable donations from IncomeStore in 2019 while the business was imploding?? This seems to be part of the Ponzi Scheme playbook that hurts charities as well according to this article at times requiring them to payback the donation even if it had already been spent.
IncomeStore Site by Site Analysis
As promised if you are a website partner with IncomeStore and know which website is yours this table is meant to start providing you some information on the value of your site.
This is of course not a perfect analysis but should give you an idea if there is any value associated with the site.
3012 Domains!!! That is a lot of sites. My team has been cranking away on this analysis.
In addition to the analysis I used the tool at SpamZilla to help pull in a LOT of data for each domain.
List of IncomeStore Domains and Their Value:
Access the Spreadsheet Here
My hope is that this sheet will be the most useful and updated list of sites with relevant information to help website partners.
It is a very unfortunate situation. The loss in value and inefficiency of operation is astounding.
- 3000+ domains
- $134M invested
- ~66% of every dollar invested gone?
It has felt like a slow painful reveal over the last 2 months from the IncomeStore announcing it was postponing website partner payments (temporarily) to then the SEC raid to now seeing the extent of the value destruction.
I hope for site partners sake that the picture is not as bleak as the current data shows and that good news will be the next data point.
If you would like to do any additional analysis on the sites that could be helpful to the website partners I would be happy to include that analysis in the spreadsheet for everyone to benefit from. Please reach out if you have anything to add to help website partners when evaluating their site.
If you are a website partner and have any questions I would be happy to try and help answer anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me and my team.
Great read. Fascinating. I remember looking at Income store after hearing a radio ad and figured they have good operations team and were just improving content sites and conversions like other operators now doing that and taking revsplit. Is it surprising no investor saw how bad the sites were but I guess the investors were ot savvy about websites so they didn’t know any better…really sad and hope the guy serves time.
I think we need to remember the lens most people had was only able to see their site. So if there site was doing poorly but the slick marketing was saying don’t worry the rest of the portfolio is crushing it… it was easy to say ow well at least I have that guaranteed return.
Thanks for creating the estimates! Very interesting. I do wish the official report there would have covered stats and revenue per site. Ahrefs and similar tools often get traffic wrong (as we all know from our own sites) so actual stats on such a large array of sites would have been very interesting to explore.
Agreed… this could be off by a wide margin. I wonder if they even have the stats. There is always the chance that it could be even worse with amazon associate account closed/adsesnse account suspended. I hope not but hard to say now.
The problem is that the Income Store actually ended up devaluing these websites.
I sold a website to The Income Store through a business broker. At the time the site was making around $2,500 per month. I sold the site to The Income Store for about 20X monthly net income (that’s a very reasonable valuation, probably a LOW valuation, but I wanted to sell quickly). The site’s revenue was reliant on doing monthly promotions to our e-mail list (the goal of the website was to use SEO to build the list). So the site spent about $50 per month to net $2,500 per month… a pretty good site that also had growth potential.
The Income Store bought the site (yes, it is listed on your spreadsheet). I gave them a standard operating procedures sheet and offered to do several calls to get them up to speed on site operations. They said, no thanks, we can do it just based on the sheet. As far as I can tell, they never ran the monthly promotions, never emailed the list (arguably the biggest asset of their purchase) and gradually stopped paying for the shopping cart so even the products we sold on the site couldn’t be bought.
In short, they bought the site, and let it sit there, did nothing that was required, and now the site is worth bupkis (on your sheet, you have the site listed as being worth less than $1,000… and yes I want to remain anonymous so I am not mentioning the site).
I wonder how many of the sites they bought WERE good sites, but ended up being worth far less because the Income Store ran them the wrong way (or neglected them all together).
Thanks Peter, it is one part of this whole story that I still can’t get my head around. How were there so many full time employees plus contractors but then the sites that were actually worth something were totally neglected. Really appreciate you sharing your experience.
Interesting. One thing I would contest in your analysis is undervaluation of e-commerce despite a lack of inventory. I’ve been managing, owning, building, investing into e-commerce for years. I’ve largely built some of the most success e-commerce brands, without inventory. You call it dropshipping, but that’s a “dirty” word nowdays. The new model is print on demand, which is a form of dropshipping. However, these e-commerce stores using such a model actually build strong brand loyalty. Some of the most successful brands in the world started using such a model.
E-commerce can still offer a model for investors to enjoy great returns, but the issue is you can’t overpromise, over guarantee, and not be able to execute. You also can’t borrow future money to service those guarantees. Warren Buffet wouldn’t do it in the stock market. We shouldn’t do it here.
Further, I wouldn’t place such a priority on the authority sites. If done right, e-commerce would trump those any day of the week.
Shaun, great comment and thanks for your insight.
I would argue that the ecommerce businesses are worthless not ONLY because they are dropship businesses but because they are phenomenally unprofitable dropship businesses. Ecommerce businesses with no inventory certainly can be great businesses but $2.5M in Revenue and $3.4M in expenses (2.7 to outside paid traffic and 1.7 in internal fees likely fulfillment not counting internal staff) and all data pointing to an operations model that was maximizing the short term not building the next great brand.
Maybe they have some profitable campaigns but because of the scale they were trying to push they pushed all campaigns well past the point of profitability and can actually dial them back and have some profitable sites.
I generally don’t love ecommerce except… because of the often much higher earnings per visitor compared to a content site it can turn a very fringe niche into a stable/profitable cash cow that lasts years. There are not many stable 20 year old content sites but there are many stable 20 year old ecommerce sites in fringe niches.