Call me old school, but it took me a long time to put ads on any of my blogs. I’m not anti-monetization, but a huge small business website mistake is having blatant, loud and over-the-top ads that do nothing except diminish website traffic.

Part of my disgust with ugly ads comes from my design background (you can call me a design snob!). The other part is that some advertising just offends my professional sensibilities. It’s not professional to have flashing, glow-in-the-dark ads plastered all over your site.

Inevitably, though, I came around and started allowing ads on my sites to offset the cost of keeping them up and running. If you’re reading this right on the Small Business Bonfire blog, you can see that I do have ads in the right sidebar. But it’s not anything goes. Over the years, I’ve created some of my own best practices for ads. Here are three rules that work for me.

Do Not Replace Content with Ads

If you are using ads as fillers on your website or blog because you have “holes,” I would urge you to reconsider. Content is what will engage site visitors, make them click your links, want to hire you, etc. Not ads.

Before you even consider adding ads to your site, take time to develop well-written and useful content and use that as the primary feature of your site. If you still have gaping holes and feel like there’s something missing, consider tweaking your design before you fill every empty space with an ad.

Make Relevancy a Priority

I know there are some entrepreneurs who do business online and make a living from selling ad space for just about anything on their blogs. If this is you — good for you! If that’s your business model and it works, more power to you.

But the majority of small business owners are not in this position. If I see ads on a small business website or blog, I expect them to be relevant to the target audience. The goal of your ads should, of course, be to create another revenue stream, but they should also provide added value to your visitors.

Plus, if you want to get those ads clicked, you stand a better chance if you have ads that interest your target audience.

Keep It Consistent

I could spout off 50 reasons to focus on consistency on your website and blog, from the placement of your navigation, to the frequency of posting, to comment moderation. I also believe consistency is key with it comes to usage and placement of ads.

Ads on your site should appear in the same place on every page, not jump around to different areas with every click. If your site or blog is created in WordPress, this is easily accomplished with standard widgets. But even if you use another platform or have a custom design, make sure your ads are consistent in terms of where they are placed.

It’s also a good idea to stick with standard ad sizes across the board, not only to make it easier to fill ad slots, but because you will be doing the integrity of your design and layout a huge favor.

What are some of your policies for allowing ads on your site?