Testing ads on iwillteachyoutoberich for 3 months

Ramit Sethi · October 3rd, 2007

In the spirit of my post on experimentation yesterday, I’m running a 3-month test of advertising on iwillteachyoutoberich (www/RSS/newsletter). I’m not sure whether it will work or not, but it’s worth a test.

Here are the metrics that I’m using to measure success/failure:

1. Lack of distraction to me / my writing
2. User feedback
3. Revenue

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I’ve run this site for three years without ever running ads, so this is new for me. If you have any feedback, good or bad, please let me know. I take it really seriously and will reply to every single email. In trying this, my only data points are some other PF bloggers’ feedback and a study I ran in May of 2005, which showed that 82% of iwillteach readers wouldn’t mind unobtrusive ads. As Vanessa Williams eloquently put it, “Oh how the years go by.”

Anyway, this is one of the small, rapid tests I’m running. If you’re curious about what short-term experiments you could do, see yesterday’s post on experimentation and another article I wrote, Think in Weeks, Not Years.

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  1. Deaf Musician

    I seriously don’t see anything being wrong with ads, like you said intrusive ads would bother some people, and you can lose some readership.So, why not have ads that are finance related. You can also try the deck philosophy, where you don’t accept ads unless you trust / use the company. I think you should definitely try out ads on this site, too. Why not generate some extra rev.? Btw, how’s the book coming along?

  2. Andrew M. Kasper


    Lemme just say that distasteful ads — Flash intros, flashing banners or anything that uses JavaScript — are a deal-breaker for me. If you’re curious about what I mean, check out or The Google ads you’ve chosen are definitely acceptable, though.

  3. Bethany

    I’m glad to see that you sprang for the google text ads. They don’t bother me one bit.

  4. I’m all for it. I typically read your posts in Google Reader, so I won’t notice any web only ads, but I generally don’t mind rss ads, if done right. If you can do direct ad sales (instead of whatever an ad service throws your way), you could place ads that are actually relevant to your readers and might be useful to them. Some feeds that I read are setup that way, and I occasionally click an ad for a site/service that might be useful to me.

    Good luck, and keep us posted on how it goes.

  5. Deron Sizemore

    Done the right way, I have no problem with ads. I’d like to eventually display some on my own site to try and make a little extra.

    Your adsense block is fine. Not detrimental to reading at all.

  6. Matt Wolfe

    I don’t see any problems with ads. I especially don’t see a problem with Adsense. They blend fine and are very non-intrusive.

  7. I’m totally fine with the ads you put up, they’re completely non-intrusive and don’t detract from the site at all.

  8. I have no problems with you running ads, Ramit, obviously. 🙂

  9. Hey Ramit,

    I don’t think its a bad idea at all, just don’t use those flashy, in-your-face, give-you-blindness-for-a-week ads. Simple text ones place properly will be great.


  10. I use an RSS reader so I don’t see the ads. Then, when I visit your site, my Adblock Plus extension for Firefox blocks your ads so I didn’t even realize that until I read someone’s comment about how you already have Adsense ads up. Now that I’ve disabled my Adblock Plus just to view your ads (heh), they don’t look too bad to me. Way to make them blend.
    However, some ads I almost would *like* to see, are those ones by major financial companies for opening up a new Roth or some other investment account (even though I have a Roth, but you get my point). Naturally after reading some articles, I do feel like signing up for certain financial services and am very susceptible to the nearest ad that might offer what I’m looking for. As always with ads, relevancy is key and may be more effective when implemented as a *service* to the reader, instead of umm.. an.. in-your-face-hey-click-me… thingy.

  11. I second “deaf musician.” Finance-related ads would be an interesting option. It is definitely more worthwhile and may actually generate more revenue because of the target audience…

  12. Frugal Goose

    Small rss ads wouldnt be a bad idea. I think a lot of people subscribe via rss and dont make it onto the site on a daily basis. GL!

  13. I think ads are fine. Provided they are unobtrusive and fit well in to the layout of the web page. Google adwords would be one option. Small unubtrusive boxes that can be set in to the page format without distrupting the appearance of the page. I think you should be rewarded somehow for the work you have put in to this page. Keep up the good work and I’ll give you the occasional click through as well. 😉

  14. Jonathan B.

    I was curious if you would ever put some ads on the site. You give readers a lot of benefit with your writing, so why not bring in some cash to pay for expenses? This is cool with me.

  15. I had to recheck to see where are your ads as I was reading the post and comments. I have learnt to become ‘blind’ to them, and almost always do it successfully. I know they are not intrusive and with a quick glance I will know if I want to click on them or not, if I do catch them. So I think your idea of placing ad is fine, it does not bother me at all…

  16. I have no problem with them. I won’t ever click on one of your ads, but they don’t bother me.

  17. They’re not bothing me all that much, although I wish they could be as useful as the ads in my inbox when it comes to pointing me towards porn online medicine distributors of dubious legality.

  18. Jason Coleman

    I haven’t been to the site in a while, and I’m really digging the new layout. Very clean.

    I think the ad layout is elegant and should be effective at getting clicks while not too distracting.

  19. I disagree.

    Yes, you have amazing content. Yes, you should use this site to your best advantage. But I like the idea of offering a booklet for five dollars to readers much more. It gives your readers something tangible, something valuable, and something they can continue to learn from. And I like the idea of the iwillteachyoutoberich book, where you make money directly off the sale of all this information and hard work.

    But I think not having ads makes you seem more legitimate.

  20. Ditch the google ads that really aren’t relevant to readers and go with some high quality company specific ads. See the wall street journal online for an example.

    I am sure with a little but of effort you will be able to get some of the bigger companies you support on board, such as ING Direct, HSBC, Sharebuilder, Scottrade, etc.

    Those ads would be much more benificial to me than the currently displayed google ads about countywide home loans, rich media (sharepoint 2007), research data collection and national tv advertising.

    The currently displayed ads aren’t targeted to your audience and may very well contain advice contrary to what you advocate.

    Don’t follow the crowd with adsense, and in the end you will make a lot more money. I must say the lack of adsense is one of the reasons why I loved this blog and it is what made it different from all the others. Sign up the big companies you support and who your readers will benefit from, and we will thank you later (and buy your 2008 guide to kicking ass). Not to mention you will make a lot more money.

  21. Ramit Sethi

    Rob, right on. I’ll get there. For now, this is just a test to get the easiest ads on and to optimize them. Once I’ve got the kinks wrinkled out, going after the larger guys will be easier. But I don’t want to spend tons of time on this and let me distract from writing and sharing more personal-finance info.

  22. Carlos P

    I’ve always wondered how much money can be made if you have a massive amount of traffic like your site gets. The guy over at has built up a nice following even though all he does is compile and organize statistics (I love the site, BTW), but still—what great passive income if you’ve already got a heavily trafficked blog.

    Keep it up Ramit!

  23. On a side note about how the years go by – I think you need to stop introducing yourself as ‘recent graduate’ from 2008 on 🙂

  24. Ramit, it would also be interesting to see what kind of revenue you pull from those ads. I’ve always been curious about how useful adwords are from a revenue generation stand point. If you wouldn’t mind sharing I think it would be a great little article to post.

  25. I have a blog with decent traffic and readership, and these are the principles I follow for ads:

    1. Target the search engine visitors, not the regular readers. This means putting ads on individual archive pages, but not on the main page (or at least not as many). Also don’t put them in your RSS feed.

    2. No intrusive ads.. Google ads are good, but you currently have a flashing white and orange ad right at the top of your blog main page which is simply awful.

    The idea is to be good to your loyal readers, who are your allies and word of mouth evangelists. They are also going to develop ad-blind quickly anyway, and won’t be as likely to click on ads as people coming through from search engines.

  26. They’re pretty unobtrusive, but I’d be worried about having super sketchy ads showing up on my page. For the most part your site is highly reputable, but having skeevy ads can kind of undermine that.
    Luckily I’m using Firefox and can’t even see them.

  27. What dimes said – “I’d be worried about having super sketchy ads.”

    Have you checked out the sites you seem to be promoting? Is this legitimate:

    And the one that claims “No matter how rich you are – or how your portfolio is performing – these 8 hot investments can boost your portfolio’s bottom line with the potential for a whopping 527%, or more!”

    Yes, I’m picking on you. But only because I love you, man.

  28. Ramit Sethi

    Evie, I’m working on getting more relevant ads and less junky ones. Thanks for looking out for me : )

  29. It was a bit odd to see an ad for the church of latter-day saints on your site, but I’m guessing you don’t always have control over the ad packages…