Valuing Non-Revenue Niche Sites: Framework, Calculator, Case Studies

mushfiq sarker

If you are actively looking for websites to buy, you will find a class of websites that are termed “starter niche sites”, “non-revenue niche sites”, or variations thereof.

These sites can be found through open website marketplaces like Flippa, Facebook groups, and newsletters like ours. You won’t find these through typical brokerages (e.g., Empire Flippers).

Expert website flippers can acquire such sites for a fraction of the startup costs. The sites can then be used to get an edge in the growth phase of a website flip, or even merged into an existing site.

In this write-up, I will be covering the following:

  • Characteristics of such sites
  • Valuation framework
  • Case studies
  • Valuation calculator

Let’s get into it!

👉 Major Characteristics of a Starter Niche Site

These types of sites have the following characteristics:

  1. Created by first-time niche site creators where everything was DIYed
  2. Created by niche site creators with their own in-house team of writers
  3. Created by DFY agencies and sold to the current seller
  4. Purposefully built to grow into a high-revenue site to keep in a portfolio or to be sold, but failed
  5. Aged at least 6+ months; typically around 1-2 years
  6. Includes bulk published content, site build-out, images, etc.
  7. May include quality backlinks

You will find these sites for sale because they (1) were not getting traction, (2) had a lack of time, and/or (3) lack of interest.

For seasoned website flippers, these sites can be acquired at a fraction of the cost to build-out. The purpose of this article is to develop a framework for evaluating non-revenue niche sites.

👉 The Profit Multiple: Typical Valuation Methodology

Content sites are valued based on a multiple of their profits. Read this detailed guide on how to value a profitable website.

Example: a website earning an average of $1,000/mo over the last 6 months would be valued at a multiple of 30-35 (or 2.5 to 3 times annual). This equates to a valuation of $30,000 to $35,000.

However, this methodology is not viable for non-revenue niche sites that come up for sale since they do not have profit to show. It’s the wild west when evaluating such sites.

The following framework lays down a methodology that can be used for valuations.

👉 5-Step Framework for Valuating Non-Revenue Niche Sites

In this framework, we will value each individual component of a typical content site. They are:

  1. Domain
  2. Backlinks
  3. Content
  4. Content Formatting
  5. Website build-out (theme, plugins, etc.)

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Domain Value

To make this simple, let’s assume the domain is nothing special. Such that, it’s not a one-word domain or any such domain that would have speculative value.

To value the domain, we will only consider the renewal costs of around $10 per year.

Metric: Value the domain on its annual renewal price ($10) multiplied by the number of years.

The next aspect to value is existing backlinks. Using AHREFs, SEMRush, or Google Search Console, look at the backlink profile.

We want to value each backlink that requires effort to obtain. For example, backlinks that are from guest posts, niche edits, or naturally obtained can be valued.

Backlinks that are easy to obtain like forum profile links, blog comments, and trust links (e.g., TrustPilot) should not be counted.

Here is a rubric to follow for each backlink:

  1. DR0-DR20: $30 per referring domain
  2. DR20-DR30: $50 per referring domain
  3. DR30-DR50: $100 per referring domain
  4. DR50+: depends on the site but can be anywhere from $200-$1,000

These numbers were estimated based on the cost to pay the site owner their admin fees.

Public marketplaces like and can be used to obtain rough pricing but remember that they markup about 50% and also add-on the cost of the article which is around $30.

Most starter niche sites will have DR0 to DR30 so on average we can assume about $40 per link if outreach is done manually.

Metric: Analyze each referring domain and categorized them within the DR tranches. Assign a price per domain and back calculate.

3. Content Value

The highest value is the pre-existing content.

There are three tiers of content in the open marketplace for affiliate sites:

  • Non-native English writers: 1-2 cents/word
  • Native English writers, inexperienced: 3-4 cents/word
  • Top-tier writers: 5+ cents/word

For example, Niche Website Builders charges 6 cents/word for content written by their in-house writers based out of the UK.

However, with pre-existing content, there are no guarantees that all of the content is useful and/or needed. You also did not choose the keywords for the content. With that said, I value pre-existing content at 2 cents/word maximum.

Use tools like Screaming Frog to crawl the site and obtain an exact word count breakdown per article.

Metric: Multiply the number of words on the site by $0.02 for the content value.

4. Content Formatting Value

Content needs to be uploaded and formatted onto the site.

The estimated time for a virtual assistant to format an article is 30 minutes (0.5 hours). The max going rate for an assistant is 6 to 10 $/hour.

Note: I pay my VAs $6/hour based out of India or Vietnam.

Metric: Take the number of articles on the site (use the sitemap or Screaming Frog) and multiply by $3 per article.

5. Website Build Out Value

The website itself includes the following:

  • Wordpress installation
  • Theme installation and customization
  • Plugin installation and setup

To value the website build-out, we have to assume that plugins and theme licenses are separate. Even if you are acquiring a site from someone else, you will need to switch out their licenses for yours. Themes and plugins are subsidized across many sites so can be ignored here.

The cost of website build-out will be the labor required to replicate the base structure of the site.

I value this at a fixed $300 for a virtual assistant to install Wordpress, a theme (e.g., GeneratePress), and plugins (e.g., AAWP, WP Rocket).

Metric: The cost of a basic site build-out outsourced to an assistant is $300.

👉 3 Case Studies: Valuation of Starter Site Sales

The Website Flip brokerage has transacted on several non-revenue generating sites. For the case studies, I will reverse calculate the valuation on these sites and compare it with the final sales price.

Note: The valuation is only a rough estimate. At the end of the day, the seller’s desire to sell quickly and your ability to negotiate will dictate the final price.

Summary of Niche Sites

Here’s a breakdown of the key information about each niche site that were starter sites with no revenue:

1. Family/Parenting2. Pet3. Home
# of articles6910656
Total word count39,394105,66452,975
Domain Age (yrs)424
Backlinks5 DR 20-30 links9 DR0-DR20 links6 DR0-30 links

Site #1: Family/Parenting Niche

The calculation for this is as follows:

  • Content cost: $788
  • Content format cost: $204
  • Domain cost: $40
  • Backlinks: $250
  • Site buildout: $300

Total valuation is $1,582. This site sold for $1,600 via Escrow.

Site #2: Pet Niche

The calculation for this is as follows:

  • Content cost: $2,113
  • Content format cost: $318
  • Domain cost: $20
  • Backlinks: $270
  • Site buildout: $300

Total valuation is $3,021. This site sold for $1,500 via Escrow. The buyer received a great deal on this site.

Site #3: Home Niche

The calculation for this is as follows:

  • Content cost: $1,059
  • Content format cost: $168
  • Domain cost: $40
  • Backlinks: $180
  • Site buildout: $300

Total valuation is $1,847. This site sold for $1,700 via Escrow.

🔢 Valuation Calculator

You can plug in your numbers in the calculator below to evaluate such a website. If you are a buyer or seller, you can use this to understand the bare minimum value of the asset.

👉 Are Starter Niche Sites Part Of Your Strategy?

Over the years, I’ve acquired many such sites that were then built out and flipped. My primary driver for acquiring such sites was twofold:

  1. they are aged thus are passed the notorious Google sandbox phase, and
  2. can be purchased at a fraction of the cost to build from scratch.

With this strategy, you are capitalizing on someone else’s hard work and investment.

When acquiring though, you will still need to do due diligence to ensure the websites pass your investment criteria.

Good luck deal hunting!

mushfiq sarker

Analyzed by Mushfiq Sarker

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 218+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. He is the founder of The Website Flip. Check out all Mushfiq's articles, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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