If you’ve come and gone a few times over the past couple weeks or taken a look at my changelog, you may have noticed various ads popping up in random spots across the site. I’ve been trying out some of the more popular affiliate programs from the likes of Google and Amazon. If you take a look around now, you won’t see any of them. I simply cannot live with advertising on my site. I worked for a company whose soul purpose was to sell advertising. The ads out-weighed the content visually, there was every kind of intrusive/annoying ad you could think of and even ads disguised as content. Worst!

I was thinking it would be nice to get some sort of financial return for all the time and effort I put into this site and thought some simple ads would do the trick. I sold myself on the idea by deciding to only display targeted ads specific to the content or subject matter.

Somewhere along my travels, I ended up on the Split Reason site – a gaming/geek merchandise company that sells some hilariously awesome shit. This was my first test. I dumped some images in the sidebar of gaming and geek posts along with both category pages. They only stayed up for 3 days.

I thought a sure bet would be selling games/products I’ve reviewed. A simple ‘buy this from Amazon’ with an image of the product along side. I tried out the default Amazon template, which was ugly as balls. I then made my own images and enclosed them in a nice, dirty box with my referral link. Looked a lot better, but still wasn’t comfortable selling products. I review games that I like and to be frank, I couldn’t care less if you bought it because of my review. Personally, I wouldn’t order a game from Amazon. I’d go and pick it up at one of many stores in my neighbourhood and I’m sure most of you would rather do the same.

Next came Google AdSense. Originally, I was completely opposed to using AdSense. You see them on every other site you visit these days and I think people are becoming immune to them. Not to mention, some rather silly things can be displayed by them. I don’t really want to sell you plane tickets to visit Normandy simply because I mentioned the word in my Call of Duty 2 review. They were up for less than 2 weeks in which time I made just over $4.

My last attempt at making a little coin on the side was the new Firefox referral buttons from AdSense. They look like shit, but you make $1 for each successful installation of Firefox with the Google toolbar. I’m all about promoting Firefox, but those buttons are just too ugly. They’re also gone, but I’ve put a Firefox 1.5 bigbox ad in it’s place in the sidebar of subpages. It’s only displayed for IE users (and Opera for some reason – apparently, Opera identifies itself as MSIE) and I’m going to keep it. I don’t make any money off clicks or downloads, but I’m more than happy to sport it on my site and help spread the word for one of the most important products to hit the net, period.

So there you have it. My site will remain ad free. I’d like to apologize to those that were exposed to them over the past couple weeks. Hopefully, I didn’t scare anyone off. Bottom line – I don’t want to sell you anything. It would be nice to see some return for the work I put in here, which is why I’ve added a donation link to the About page. If you like what I’m doing and would like to help out, feel free to donate whatever you see fit. Any money that’s donated will go towards hosting costs and game purchases for review purposes. Basically, just to help cover some of the costs of running this site. Speaking of which, I have a couple game reviews on the back-burner. I had to order some new RAM and am waiting for it to come in before capturing the gameplay video. Hence the lack of reviews lately. I should have it within a couple weeks and will roll out the reviews as soon as I can. I’ve still been playing lots of Battlefront 2, Need For Speed Most Wanted and finally getting close to wrapping up F.E.A.R. Man, it’s getting good! I hear the ending’s just awesome and can’t wait to get to it!


I respect that. Been trying the same thing, the actual return on GoogleAds is the kicker. It’s not horrible, probably enough to pay for hosting but hosting really isn’t that expensive. I found that the results were mostly the same, whether I displayed the ads just to search referers or the whole site. It’d be nice to have some return, but I can’t see too many people donating to my site.

Matt, I’ve been contemplating all of that too, but have not decided on anything yet. It would be nice to get some return for the money I myself invest(ed), but I don’t want to scare people off.

Right now I’m thinking of redesigning at some point in order to get ads in there clearly separated but unobtrusively integrated … no idea how that is supposed to work.

Hence, "Dilemma" in your title is the appropriate word.

dave: I totally meant to mention your script in my write-up. I had given it some thought and figured if I was making such minuscule amounts from all users, chances are it wouldn’t get much better if I restricted ads to search engine referrals. But then again, it’s all how you place them. I could have built them more into the content and disguised them… but I’m not sure I could have lived with myself for doing that. 😉

deus62: I think you’ll be better off if you’ve got ads in mind during the design stage. Trying to fit them in after the fact is no fun. One thing I didn’t want to do was fuck with the placement of existing elements, so I had little room to play with.

Saw your mock on the 9rules forum – looks sharp! I’m looking forward to it.

new to the site here matt and im diggin it. great design, content, flavor. i’ll be joining you on the 9rules page as soon as scrivs announces it..

and just like everyone ive been thinking the same as far as these ads go.

i’ve just found that no good options exist. i think what 37s has done with their Deck program is interesting. I’d personally only like to advertise businesses and products i personally enjoy and use, like Coudal started with. i dont have a problem making money off my site, but i dont like adsense, amazon, or anything else. i would, tho, like to put some ads for mint or campaign monitor or textdrive and get a little return. unfortunately those companies dont have anything to offer along those lines..

on the other hand, a site sponsorship is interesting. one of my clients, mommycast.com, just signed a nice 1-3 year deal with Dixie Paper. what do you think about a sponsorship? does it still feel dirty? does it sell your site out? what if a decent company sponsored you, like DC shoes or EA or Def Jux?


all the mocks I’ve come up with so far suck. I’m not happy with any of them. What I’m trying to do this time is go totally white. No horizontal rules, no drop shadows, no boxes, no dividers of any kind. I also want to stay away from those greens, oranges and blues popping up every where, etc.

The only thing I’m allowing myself to do is add small icons and use different font sizes (maybe colors).

Damn, that’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted. I think I have an eye for design once in a while, but to totally reduce it all has thrown about 20 designs so far. I’ve never started over so many times. I keep going back to print stuff I did over the years, but none of the rules apply to the limited screen space I have. So, eventually I go back to the mock(s) you’ve seen … and can them the same day.

And, to get back to the topic, to work ads into a basically white design with just white space so people can actually tell what they are is even more difficult.

I don’t think this redesign is going to be done within the next months/years, but I’ll keep trying …

Jason: Nice, another 9rules member! This little network is turning into an empire very quickly! There’s a couple ‘big names’ that are going to be announced as part of round 3 some time soon as well.

Anyway, I’ve read a bit on Deck and think it’s a great idea. I could see a similar model working, where software developers, design resources, etc. got together and created ad packages that were open for X amount of sites per month. Giving bloggers decent ads to run on their sites, while ensuring their target audience is seeing them. I’d definitely go for something like that. And actually, dave had mentioned something along these lines to me in an email. Hmmm…

Sponsorship is something I’ve thought of, but again, lots of requirements for that as well. Would have to relate to content, be non-intrusive and since I do reviews, game publishers/developers would be out of the question. I would however, go with a retailer or someone that caters to gaming in general.

deus62: That sucks dude. I went through quite a few mocks before settling down on this layout as well. I don’t think I went through quite as many as you’ve implied, but was still a frustrating experience. Glad I stuck it out, though. 😉

Hi Matt, glad to hear you’re not an "adsense-whore".

I’ve recently read about google making money on those bloggers who will never reach the 100$ to get paid… scary.

You’ll be rewarded for all the efforts you put into this site. You might not get cash out of this, but remember that working hard always pay.

@deus62: I went (almost) all white ! and I’m quite satisfied 😉

Meh, the results of the script were mostly inconclusive. I made about the same amount no matter who I showed the ads to. Not worth it. Conceivably, you could make a lot of money off text-ads but I think you have to design the site around them.

And you’re in need of the grey smiley’s, i’ll send them your way.

Big names for 9rules? I’m guessing Matt Good, it’s a musical Matt invasion. The guy’s got some design chops.

Have a seperate web site for ad’s 🙂 I have a buddy who generates 9k a month in a psp hacks blog. It did have some help with businessweek.com magazine though because of its target audience and successful psp hacking but moreover has made more than enough money for advertisements that hes buying a condo!

Very smart move they did, now he has about 7 web sites with hundreds of ad campaigns a month in the near future.

Opera only identifies as MSIE when selected to do so from the menu (tools / quick preferences).

Mucho respect for remaining ad-free. It seems those of us who’ve made that choice are few and far between recently.. or maybe I’m just browsing the same sites over and over?

Opera only identifies as MSIE when selected to do so from the menu (tools / quick preferences).

Oh wow, that’s so weird! Why would the default be "Identify as Internet Explorer"? Sucks that that’s the case. Aw well, I prefer Firefox over Opera, so in my opinion, it wouldn’t hurt to convert some Opera users as well. 😛

I hear what you are saying about not using ads on your site. I hate seeing them everywhere but I have actually just thrown them on my site with no due care and attention just to see what the big deal is about and also so I have an understanding of how they all work. Another reason being that they tie in with my silky Google Analytics account so I wanted to get the lowdown on the integration…

I fully intend on ripping them out shortly as I am in the process of building my own theme from scratch (with a little help from yourself) and will have no place for them.

Props on the site btw… very nice work and I like your subject matters too…

Cheers 😀

Hi Matt my ideas about ads : you see actually what’s wrong is that people just see ads as a source of revenue but not like content itself. Ad is something that should be given structure and much thinking must be put just like the content of a site itself. I think that ad is one of those things that’s actually making the web survive but actually people don’t really know how to integrate it to their sites. I give you some examples :

#1 for your site itself

Seeing your design, I know that spacing is actually not something to be kidding with, so you could just place a Google adsense searchbox there on your sidebar and allowing people to search on the net. The ads will therefore be displayed on the search results page and not on your site itself. This adds functionality to your site.


You see depending on your site and its content, the ads must follow. If your site is just one with only only plain text and no images : you could place out some image ads there just to relax the eyes from all those text. Selecting the right images also is the game.

And so on : you see ads itself is content in itself : people should know how to give it a meaning, a structure and a sense. But the most important of it all is just like what you did testing and seeing whether the ads cope with your site : that the fundamental basic because I myself have a Frenchy site and I have also opted for no ads (just being a Firefox referral and the search box that I have been talking about). Hey I came here from Paulstamatiou.com : you know there’s a great contest frying out there you could checked it out. Thanks bye and see you !

@Hans: Great comment! Thanks for your perspective on this topic. I agree that it doesn’t benefit anyone to just plop ads all over the place wherever there seems to be room. It not only looks cluttered and tacky, but it’s obvious that you didn’t put much effort into placing them and your users will immediately be turned off.

I been through exactly the same while trying to make some money from my blog. It’s just crap. Maybe there are ways to place ads nicley but also long loading times and stuff are just way too messy. I love my site validated and without any warnings codewise. And adsense or other affilate javascripts just kill all the coolness.

I removed nearly everything what didn’t validate and now i am mostly back to normal. I agree on the immune-to-adsense theory. i ran it for two weeks and made 30 cents.. also i had hiphop links in all my ads for some reason.. lol

good choice in taking the ads off. nothing beats a cool clean website.

FYI, the default Opera User-Agent string contains both "MSIE 6.0" and "Opera x.xx". You have to manually change it from "Identify as MSIE" to "Identify as Opera" to get a User-Agent that actually starts with "Opera/x.xx". The regexp I use for XHTML-related browser-sniffing is "/Opera(?:/|sd)/", which means "starting at a word boundary, match text that begins with Opera followed by either a slash or a space and a number".

man I know what you mean.

usually for me though, advertising is a way of reassuring myself that the content actually means something to someone, needless to say that can be quite a downer when it doesn’t generate revenue.

I came across your site from the widescreen gaming article. good stuff.