A Decision on Ads

After recently getting rid of many of the ads on The Simple Dollar website because I was bothered by their content, I received an utter tidal wave of responses from readers encouraging me to put the ads back because they created a strong revenue stream for the site and enabled me to move ever closer to doing this full time, which would in turn enable me to go a lot further in promoting the messages that this site is actually about. That’s a catch-22 if there ever was one.

I’ve been struggling about what to do with regards to those ads and I’ve come to what I think is a healthy balance for the site. I’m going to bring back the ads as before, but with a bit of a twist. Below each ad, I put an email link that says “Report an unethical ad.” If you happen to spot an ad that is for a payday loan site or something that’s obviously far outside the message of this site, just click that link and let me know about it. I will specifically block that ad.

This is the ad policy I’m going to try on for size for a while. Please let me know what you think about it.

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  1. Kacie says:

    Good for you! You need ads to make money.

    When I see an ad on a site, I don’t think, “Oh, this blogger wants me to rush out and buy this product.”

    I think, “This blogger is trying to make a little money off of his hard work.”

    Nothing wrong with that!

  2. Mrs. Micah says:

    Interesting decision. I think your ads weren’t tacky or overwhelming, so that’s fine with me as a reader. One way I see it—if you are making money on ads, you can spend more time on content. Not bad for your blog as a whole.

  3. I think that’s a smart plan. The faster you get to a point where you can work on spreading your message full-time, the more people you can help. I think this strikes a good balance.

    If you find that there are a number of unethical ads of the same type, perhaps you can include a prominent link near the ad highlighting your viewpoint. I’m not saying it’s the right plan, just throwing one out there.

  4. Trent says:

    I think that putting them back can put me over the top of being able to do this full time.

  5. Ryan S. says:


    I’m sure it’s a tough decision one way or another, but I give you a lot of credit to try and figure out the most practical yet ethical way to deal with this. Good luck to you! You have a fantastic blog.

  6. Patrick says:

    I think this is a very fair way to place ads and run the middle ground. Good luck with this, Trent. I hope you can do this full-time. :)

  7. JB says:

    That’s a great idea, Trent. It’s nice to see someone who practices what they preach.

  8. I hope the link at the bottom of the ads is really effective in alerting you to the ads you don’t want to run, so you can block them. It seems like you’ve found a nice middle ground between giving up the ads all together and running ads that you don’t agree with. I hope it works well for you!

  9. Drew Blas says:

    Terrific idea. Best of luck

  10. Four Pillars says:

    I think you made the correct decision. Ads are part of the medium.


  11. Brca1 says:

    Completely understandable, this blog takes considerable time and effort, you should be compensated for that. As others have said this seems like an equitable solution.

  12. Simple Tam says:

    I think bringing back the ads is a bold decision after having decided to remove them. But then again, the attraction of transforming this into a full time job that you actually love is worth going for. Good for you Trent.

  13. My Two Cents says:

    Good decision, Trent – I personally don’t have ads on my very-newly-formed blog (My Two Cents) but I don’t have nearly the expenses you have.

    Ads are a good way to help support The Simple Dollar and I don’t feel it’s much of an inconvenience to readers.

  14. another Ryan S. says:

    Big ethical questions. I’m training to be a pastor myself and trying to generate some income to compensate for anything I put online seems dubious any other tips? (Trent, I post on this would be great!)

  15. Ed says:

    I have never clicked on the ads on this site or any site. Is that how you make money, or do you get paid just for having them on your site?

    So for me to support your site, I should click on a few, even if I have no intention of going further? Do you get paid for the click? Or do I have to stay on the site for so many seconds?

    If Trent can’t answer these questions due to some kind of restriction, someone else please let me know.

  16. NiJaal says:

    I can honestly say that i almost never pay attention to any of the ads on any blogs or sites.

    I think this is a great idea, though, for those who may get tempted by some ads.

  17. Shawn says:


    This is a wise way to approach this challenge. I am working to make my blog efforts full-time also. It can make you laugh, cry, jump for joy, and sit in the corner and worry.

    I wish you luck in your efforts. Remember that Google AdSense can pull the rug out from under you. I had my account suspended before without ever knowing the reason. Getting it turned back on was tough. Please be sure you are 100% adhering to their rules, and have a backup plan / savings in case you get suspended and have a hassle restarting or finding something else.

    Best of luck to you.

  18. partgypsy says:

    Sounds like a wise decision.

  19. KC says:

    I watch a lot of CNBC, Fox Business Channel, etc. And I listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio, and I read Kiplinger’s, Money, and Smart Money. The one thing all of these have in common is ads that are counter-intuitive to what they are trying to do. There are some downright scams being sold on their pages/airwaves. I’m quite amazed at the paid programming on the business channels, too – pure snake oil. So I’ve learned to block out ads on any money/financial site. I’m sure I’ll have no problem blocking yours out either. I say keep them if it helps you attain your goal.

  20. !wanda says:

    This is a good idea. I hope people will read the link and deduce that you don’t personally choose or approve of the ads.

  21. Ryan says:

    I’m not sure if the following is completely accurate, but it’s the way I believe Adsense works.

    Ed, don’t click on the ads if you know you aren’t going to actually purchase the product. Doing so is against Google Adsense’s TOS. If a lot of people started doing this, Google can kick The Simple Dollar out. Trent also can’t tell us “Click these ads to make me money” (not that he ever would).

    I’m not sure if those are the specifics, but there’s no point in clicking unless you’re genuinely interested.

  22. Bill says:


    To piggy-back on KC’s post above, which I agree with, good on ya for making the decision to compromise on providing the links for your income generation, yet giving folks the ability to highlight the offensive ones.

    Personally, I still won’t see any of them since I use Adblock Plus, but that’s a decision I’ve made.

    I wish you well,

  23. nina says:

    Good idea. I saw a porno ad on another PF site a few day ago!

  24. Fianna says:

    Bravo! I was impressed when you removed the ads for ethical reasons, despite the loss of income.

    I wholly support you bringing them back, and even more, with a good means of ensuring the ads do not disrupt the message you are sending with this website.

    Thank you for continuing with such a great site.

  25. Josh in California says:

    This is a great idea!

    The only problem is that “unethical” can be difficult to determine. What about this one?

    Pay Off Your Mortgage
    Payoff Mortgage 70% Faster Without Any Change In Your Spending

    That’s probably a load of bull, but you can’t be expected to evaluate every single ad served by a service like AdWords.

    If the ads will put you over the top for taking your writing full-time, then keep ‘em. The only thing better would be to completely replace them with targeted ads from hand-picked sponsors.

  26. Susan says:

    That’s a great idea. I’d actually been thinking about your dilemma, wishing you could still make money without compromising. This sounds like a smart way to start.

  27. Trent says:

    Don’t ever click on an ad to “contribute” to a site. Only click if you genuinely have interest in the product.

  28. Jane says:

    Your original gut decision was right about this – listen to your heart and your ethics. When starting something, it’s best to be impeccable with your values and ethics. It’s only going to be harder to do this as your company grows. People who have a message they want to spread are most successful when they are consistent and don’t seem hypocritical. You will have more influence over people in the long-run and therefore more success, if you don’t compromise making some money in exchange for your ethics and values and reputation. Part of the reason that Dave Ramsey is so successful is that he is consistent – he does not accept credit cards for his sales (even though he might earn more if he did) and he does not sell ads to companies that he would not attach his name to or want his sister to use. There are many other business leaders who operate like this and who are more successful in the end for doing so.

  29. Trent says:

    Josh in California: that ad actually isn’t BS. It’s basically pitching for a money merge account, where your entire paycheck effectively goes against your mortgage and then your daily spending comes out of your mortgage. I wrote about them a while back (don’t bother with the comments on this post – there are more than 1,000 and it’s a never-ending circular debate between advocates and detractors of the program).

  30. Trent says:

    Jane: Dave uses a lot of questionable ads. Like this one, for instance. He just doesn’t have the courage to openly discuss the ethics of these ads with visitors, so they don’t think about it.

  31. Jane says:

    Trent: I have no idea how the ad you linked to disproves my point. I assume that Dave really does use and believe in the Bee Alive products. I’ve never used them, but I have no reason to think that they aren’t good products. He doesn’t endorse a single financial product that he disagrees with or that conflicts with his ethics or the messages on his show. And, based on listening to his show, I personally believe that he stands behind the non-financial products he endorses and that they are generally quality items that his staff and his family use.

    Regardless, this isn’t the point. The point is that making money now isn’t worth sacrificing your long-term ethics, values and reputation. You know this in your gut, which is why you made your original decision.

  32. M. says:


    The ads aren’t conspicuous or flashy, and allowing readers to report unethical ads seems like a great decision. Props to you.

  33. paidtwice says:

    Good luck figuring out the right balance between advertisements and what is displayed on your site. There may be other options you want to explore if you end up spending all day blocking adsense.

  34. fathersez says:

    We are living in a world where we are bombarded by advertisements where ever we turn. Even some big billboards send messages that we would not want our children to see.

    And in this world, you are going through all this trouble to filter the ads.

    This is being “good” beyond the normal extra mile.

  35. Lisa Spinelli says:

    I have been pondering this question myself. My blog is only about one month old. At first, I thought having ads would be cool. When I realized I didn’t get to pick the ads themselves, I was (and still am) irritated.


  36. Kai Schaller says:

    Right on, Trent. If it helps you keep this site going, you have my full support.

  37. LolitasBox says:

    I used to run a website for stepmoms a couple years back. I started on a free server and worked my rear off to get it going. I was not working at the time so when I was forced to move to a pay server, the ads were my lifesaver! Not all of them pertained directly to the site(Some came in a little “racey”) but my readers were great about letting me know so that I could block them. Definitely keep your ads, you won’t be sorry and neither will we :)

  38. Lisa B says:

    I think this could be a workable middle ground. Let us know how it works out, Trent.

  39. Matt says:

    I don’t think very many people would have any issues with ads on a site, it helps pay for the hosting and can even help free the blogger from the constraints of every day work to be able to write more.

    I like the twist – this will hopefully give you the peace of mind you need and want while still making some extra money.

  40. imelda says:

    Well, at first I was a bit disappointed to see this–it seemed like you couldn’t stand by your decision to do without the revenue provided by the ads.

    OTOH, if this really pushes you over the edge to be able to afford doing this full-time…then kudos. The ads are not intrusive, and you clearly are still concerned with keeping the “unethical” ones off your site.

    I don’t have any sense of how much money ads bring in. But couldn’t you go with your previous idea, which was to only put up ads that you pre-approved? For example, set up an arrangement with ING Direct, and other products and services you actually support. Does that lower your bottom line too much? It just seems more consistent with your original moral standpoint, to me.

  41. MS says:

    Good call. This will be a good approach for you and the readers.

  42. Molly says:

    Good for you, Trent. I respect your rationale for taking the ads off in the first place, and I respect your honesty throughout the whole decision making process. I think that allowing some ads back on the site will generate revenue for you (which you certainly deserve!), and it shows that you have faith in your readers that they will make decisions that are right for them, regardless of marketing ploys,etc.

  43. Ro says:

    It does seem as if you’ve found a workable middle ground. Good luck.

  44. Shannon says:

    I think this is a good, workable compromise :-) I hope this works out for you and you can do TSD full time.

  45. Matt W says:

    I would rather see ads on your site & have you be able to dedicate more time to it, then the other way around. I have found your blog to be super-helpful in helping me to get my financial life in order & make it possible for me to save more, reduce debt & buy a house. I know I have done all of these things, but having your site is a good safety valve for when I want to spend instead of save.

    Thank you & good luck with the ads!

  46. ScottW says:

    I think this is a nice compromise and enlisting readers to help patrol your advertisers is a good approach. Good luck on doing TSD full time.

  47. Devon says:

    Good for you, you deserve the compensation for all your hard work put into the site.

  48. Aliaksandr says:

    You can use ads as an education. That is explain why this particular kind of deal (from ad) will harm you financial future.

  49. Ben says:

    GOOD. You deserve the ad revenue for such an awesome site. I think this is a great solution. Best of luck to you.

  50. Garan says:

    Don’t forget to add ads on the RSS feed.

  51. Ashley says:

    Just wanted to say thanks. I stumbled on to your site a few months ago when I began my own financial turnaround, and signed up for daily e-mails. I think the reminder each morning to watch the way I spend the pennies has been a big part of our success. No more yo-yo budgeting for us.

    As a writer, I appreciate the thoughtfulness, clarity and creativity in your daily writing. You have challenged us to look at our discipline in a lot of areas, and I like how open you are. Thanks for all your hard work- I’m sure it’s made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.

    So, all that being said, I fully support your decision to make money off the ads. Your time is worth it, and your family should feel the benefit!

  52. erbe says:

    Having a predominantly placed link for people to complain about ads on the page sounds like a good compromise. You could put a disclaimer of sorts explaining your policy so new visitors to the site will know how you feel. I love your blog, it provides frequent quality postings, and I find it helpful and encouraging as I strive to improve my financial situation.

  53. rkt88edmo says:

    I think this is a very good solution. And I like that you have asked your users to participate since it would be burdensome to check them repeatedly yourself.

  54. Ari says:

    Good solution! The ads are not distracting to all readers. Your message is strong and comes across loud and clear.

  55. Cory says:

    I think you should keep the ads =)

  56. Misty says:

    Good for you, I feel sure that you spend a good deal of time on it, you should be able to make money off of your endevours. Thanks for all the tips and advice!
    I also appreciate your loyalty to your cause in allowing ads to be blocked that specifically go against your message.

  57. Louise says:

    Am I your only reader who uses Firefox with Ad Blocker and so does not even SEE the ads? It is one of the ways I reduce the temptation to spend money.

    Regardless, I think this is a good compromise.

  58. Mark B. says:

    Good decision Trent. Now that you have brought back the ads they seem to be very respectible. K & M air filters and ING Direct are the main ones. So far so good.

  59. craig says:

    good decision! i thought it was dumb to take down a huge money maker especially when you wanted to go fulltime!! glad to see you found a compromise.

  60. Clever Dude says:

    Eventually the money rules out over ethics every time. Just like I’d like to save the world, I’m stuck in an office working on a computer because that’s where the money is. I’ll just give others the money to do their dreams instead.

  61. Keep the ads! It would also be wonderful if your worked out a donate link with Paypal so that we can directly donate if we want to. *nudge nudge*

    What you do with this site is valuable – Your feed is the first email I read every day. Imo, it’s better to have the ads, make the revenue and keep the content coming!

    Thanks for making this site a wonderful, thoughtful resource!

  62. That’s a great way to deal with the financial and ethical issues. Very smart!

  63. I think this is a great way to continue making money from ads and at the same time maintain your standards. I hope it works for you!

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