An Experiment with Blog Moneymaking

Looking around at the other personal finance blogs, I notice that virtually all of them have some sort of advertising slipped into the page somewhere.  Do these people actually earn money just for wiggling their fingers atop a computer keyboard a little bit each day? Even though it’s just a website they created themselves to have some fun writing out their opinions and conversing with other people out in the world? That sounds too good to be true!

So I did a bit of research on the matter. It turns out that earning money for blogging is a very hot, yet very mysterious topic. Some popular writers claim to earn an entire opulent living simply with blog advertising. There is one highly popular blog called Problogger that writes mostly about how to have a highly popular blog. I even read a recent guest-posting on Problogger from a guy who became disabled in a car crash, losing all limb functions, and yet built up an amazingly popular blog of his own, and now earns a great living, including paying for all of his special medical needs and living on the coast of Mexico, doing all of his writing only by speaking into a microphone.  Quite entertaining and amazing, all the new things I get to learn as side benefits of becoming Mr. Money Mustache.

But yet there is absolutely no good general information about how much these ads pay on a per-impression or a per-click basis. The few actual people I could find to ask, claim it makes them between fifty cents and five bucks per month. That doesn’t sound very worthwhile. So what is the true answer?

As an old computer engineer, however, I must say I am intrigued by the way the system works. Because the blogger just writes articles and has fun with his readers, and meanwhile Google Adsense reads the content of your site and tries to pick ads that are relevant to them.

Advertisers in turn compete for advertising space on this worldwide pool of hosting websites, bidding up the price of keywords and clicks according to what the market will bear. They only pay for actual results – people who come and visit their website – unlike traditional advertising. Google just sits back and maintains the code that automatically hosts this bidding and content-matching. And they collect massive profits from it. Everyone wins due to yet another advancement in technology.

So, unable to find real knowledge about how well it works, I decided to just try it out down in the bottom corner of Mr. Money Mustache*. I fully expect it to not earn any money, but as a person who claims to watch every dollar bill carefully, I have to at least test it out, don’t I?

I have already learned that it is quite fun from an administrative perspective. I get to log into my AdSense account and check/uncheck the boxes for the advertising categories that are acceptable to me. Payday loans? Money transfers? BZZZZT. Get rich Quick? Sounds amusing, but BZZZZT. Mortgage rates from actual reputable banks? Cloth diapers? I guess those can stay.

Apparently, just having the ad appear pays very little, but if the ads are interesting enough to have people actually Click on them, the payment is much higher. So it’s up to the blogger to filter out annoying or useless results and try to pick categories that people will actually occasionally want to click for their own benefit. For me, I claim to be immune to most online advertising, but I notice as soon as somebody starts talking about Woodworking tools or techniques, I lose my immunity and immediately check out their online store. I’m a sucker for anything in Fine Homebuilding.

One thing I enjoyed during this morning’s testing was the fact that Dave Ramsey ads appear on almost every page that mentions his name. I found it ironic that Dave Ramsey might inadvertently be paying me for making fun of him.

So there you have it – my explanation for the ad box that is down in the corner. I promise to keep you updated on any results, and if it does earn any money, I will spend it solely on helping the Earth.. since it would be inappropriate for a man who rails on his countrymen for destroying the Earth with excessive consumption, to profit from that ranting and turn around and use it to buy more unnecessary manufactured luxury products.

If you see any ads that seem annoying or inappropriate, let me know and I may be able to block further categories. Or just ignore them and read on as you were before.



*Actually, Mrs. Money Mustache gets full credit for figuring it out and setting it up… I just get to type stuff while she practices amazing online wizardry to make the technological side all work perfectly.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque June 1, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Another option would be to leave the most disreputable ads in place and allow your visitors to slowly bankrupt them, one click at a time.

    The money could then be siphoned away to that volunteer organization you were suggesting earlier (where we punch people in the face when they want a loan with 15% weekly interest).

  • herbert salisbury June 1, 2011, 2:27 pm

    Hey MMM-
    I experimented with google ads on a webpage that was getting around 2000 unique views a month and provided some popular but specialized software that I was giving away for free. After 6 months, I didn’t have enough money in my google account to cross the threshhold where they would actually pay me. I removed the ads as I pretty much despise advertising- and they were really ugly to look at. as an experiment, I replaced them with a paypal donate button. Within a few months, I had made over $200 from the donate button, which also lead to some interesting email conversations with people who were truly passionate about my project.

  • Steve June 1, 2011, 2:48 pm

    The #1 rule of Google Adsense is that you don’t talk about Google Adsense.

    • MMM June 1, 2011, 2:55 pm

      Ahh, that would explain why it was so hard to find information on it. And by continuing the MMM tradition of breaking all the rules, we might get more readers just by continuing to write about it!

      • Steve June 1, 2011, 3:08 pm

        It’s interesting that after mentioning Adsense, there are ads for Adsense competitors. I’m curious what would happen if someone mentioned boobies and breasts. Or if a post seemed to think that boobs were awesome. Save the ta-tas and mammaries and all that. What sort of ads would that generate?

        • MMM June 1, 2011, 3:14 pm

          Steve, you do realize that even mentioning those topics in your comment will influence the ad selection. Are you hoping that I will enable image-based advertising so your MMM viewing experience will thus have much nicer “background scenery?” ;-)

  • Lucky June 1, 2011, 2:56 pm

    I just clicked on all the ads.

    I was hoping to make an impulse purchase. These links lead to some very suspect sites.

  • Chris June 1, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Yeah google doesn’t like it when you talk about google ads. Careful if you like google ads, because google ads might not like you anymore! If you read the policy, it’s pretty clear.

    • MMM June 1, 2011, 8:10 pm

      Yeah, I did read the whole policy and all of the more detailed pages linked from it. It all sounded pretty fair to me. I’m not allowed to ask people to click on the ads, which I will not do!

      In fact, Google uses statistical tools to analyze the clicks from websites that use Adsense. If an excessive number of clicks are detected from a single user, like someone who was trying to give me a gift by clicking all day on the ads, that payment would be sucked back out from any Adsense earnings.

      But, you ARE allowed to talk about the program. Probably because this promotes awareness of it to other website operators. There are all sorts of blogs and YouTube channels that talk about maximizing Adsense revenue, and they are very popular – some successful advertisers even get used by Google in their own advertising for Adsense!

  • Sarah June 1, 2011, 7:44 pm

    I think, in order to be paid the reader needs to acutally click into your blog. I read your blog on my Igoogle page. It comes up fully and I only go into your blog to comment. Some blogs I read only come up with half the content, then I have to click into their blog to read the rest, and they get paid. Also, given your colorful language at times what does offend you?

    • MMM June 1, 2011, 8:15 pm

      Haha.. good question Sarah!

      I only get offended by people or companies trying to mislead other people and trick them out of their money. Stuff like how Comcast publishes the totally fake $19/month introductory rate for their internet service, but completely hides the fact that it actually costs $60/month until after you’re signed up. Many advertisers do the same thing with their little text ads, promising easy money or other false promises – it will be a pleasure to block these ads as they come up, as I have more time to fiddle with the interface.

      • jlcollinsnh January 5, 2012, 4:01 pm

        do you have an alternative to Comcast? I’d love to dump ’em but it seems Fairpoint is the only option ’round here and their rep is even worse….

        • Bakari January 6, 2012, 12:30 pm

          I found there are actually a lot of alternatives, although you really have to look for them. First, don’t be committed to one form or another. Unless you r family regularly streams multiple hi-def movies at once, you won’t notice any difference between the speed of cable vs the highest speed dsl. Some places also have satellite or even city-wide wi-fi options.

          I found an alternative to AT&T DSL by searching for “Alternative to AT&T DSL” on Yelp (because Google didn’t return local results, and most weren’t available to me, but everything on Yelp was local and relevant.)

          It took AT&T a full month to move my service to my new address – and they billed me for the month I had no service! Sonic.net had my signal up in 2 days after signing up, when they told me to expect 3 days. And they are half the price, for the same speed (as long as a renew a 1 year contract, I can keep the “introductory rate” indefinitely)

  • Rainbow Rivers June 1, 2011, 8:37 pm

    Do not ignore the option of writing paid reviews either, the more popular the blog, the more you can charge. I got paid 15 just for a quick review I wrote up on a coupon site, after they approached me in email, it was fun, simple and hardly any of my time taken for looking at their website and writing up a review,It also relative to my blog. I preferred this way more than google adsense. I figured 15 was my fair asking price since my frugal blog is fairly new and not many followers yet. Most likely due to me using blogspot rather than getting a domain name so I really do not ever expect my blog to be that popular or any of my others for that fact, I write first and foremost because I love to write and if it helps or inspires along the way that is a nice bonus

  • Logicalnot June 2, 2011, 12:14 am

    I use adblock plus on firefox and I am not able to see any. Many rss feed I am following are pointing to related eBay or amazon items at the end of their post. I do click to those links and I believe the blogger receive a commission if a purchase is made.
    Does google adsense detect ad blockers?

    • Bakari Kafele June 7, 2011, 8:21 pm

      disable adblock for MMM, it will keep it on for other sites, and you will be able to see the ads

  • Bakari Kafele June 7, 2011, 8:20 pm

    If I understand you correctly, someone only need click on the ad link, not actually buy anything, in order for you ta make money?

    Dude! I would totally click on an ad for a payday advance if you let them come up. Repeatedly. I would clear out my browser cache and cookies and click it again. Then I would log in under internet explorer and again under chrome and click it twice more.

    This would accomplish two things – it would allow me to partially compensate you for the invaluable advice and entertainment, and at the same time it would waste a little bit of a payday advance businesses money.
    I call that win-win

    • No Acute Distress April 26, 2012, 12:54 pm

      I had to reply to this post, simply because your reply both made perfect sense and caused a fit of maniacal giggling in my cubicle at work, regarding sticking it to the payday advance companies.

      I’ve been a reader for several months now and I’ve made quite a few life changes based on my reading, most recently selling my Volkswagen and adopting a bike, paying down 1/3 of mine and my spouse’s collective student loans, and spending several hours pouring over paperwork for a cash-back credit card (never had a card before) and haggling over student loan interest rates.

      Much fun and very useful. We’re saving tons of money and learning to enjoy oatmeal. Thanks to Fuckin’ MMM and also to Bakari for the laugh!

  • logicalnot June 7, 2011, 9:09 pm

  • Sam June 24, 2011, 10:34 am

    I don’t have any Adsense. They are all privately negotiated. Say youget 5 banners to pay you $200/month, that’s a good chunk of beer money!

    You just need good traffic and good rank, and advertisers will literally flock Yo you.

    You should check out and join the Yakezie Challenge if you plan to blog for the log term.

    Cheer, Sam

  • Will May 27, 2012, 9:33 am

    ” I promise to keep you updated on any results…”

    I’m new here and looking for the update.

  • Allex Crumbley May 12, 2014, 10:59 pm

    Since you mentioned the ads, I had to scroll down and look. “The 2014 Jeep Cherokee”–I wonder how much that is per month?

  • bahri October 10, 2014, 1:09 am

    I guess it’s time for another BZZZT. I see a non mustachian DODGE advertisement with a 0% 72 months right now.

  • Lunatic Zombie December 31, 2014, 7:23 am

    MMM, Any updates on the results?
    It would be really interesting to know your findings and analysis

  • David March 5, 2015, 9:04 am

    Can we get an update on if this has been earning any money?

  • Justin Woodall March 12, 2015, 9:28 am


    I have begun reading through all of your posts since the beginning of time (Good stuff, good stuff), and recently stumbled upon this one.

    Have you posted an update to the experiment?

  • Eugene_Fish November 9, 2015, 12:17 pm

    Unfortunately, I cannot see the ad on your site (or any other site for that matter) since I AdBlock is installed in my browser. As far as I understand, MANY people use AdBlocker, so I’m not sure how the ads actually work.

  • STBJ January 1, 2016, 12:02 pm

    I don’t see ads when I am on MMM. Actually I don’t want to see the ads.

  • IsraeliMM April 21, 2020, 5:55 am

    Hi MMM, just saw harmful ad on this post:

    “MMM recommends spring 2020: CREDIBLE interest rates WAY down…”

    FYI i been a fan for 2 years and recently i started to read all the posts in chronological order since the first one.
    every day with every post i’m learning something new! keep up the good work :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 21, 2020, 2:08 pm

      Thanks IMM – but no problem, that is a real ad from me – just because refinancing any existing mortgages right now is a good bet (the sudden recession has resulted in a sudden drop in rates)


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