I am messing around with a number of new methods of advertising. Please excuse the dust as it has not yet settled.
Here are a few lessons from my experiments:
1. Don't Let Ads Take Over Your Site
Nothing is more annoying than a wall full of advertisements when you visit a site. It says: "My content isn't important. I'm just tying to get you to give me money."
Your content has to take up at least half the page. Regardless of how much you want people to see your ads, you want them to see your content first.
2. Hide Ads in Plain Sight
We all want to achieve the plain look of a site like Seth Godin's. It looks like he has no advertisements on his blog, but that's not exactly true.
Seth advertises his books on the sidebar of his page. They don't scream "advertisements" because they don't look like the familiar product blocks that you get from those random ads by Google and Amazon.
This is a good lesson for how to get your advertisements in plain sight, without making them look like ads.
I have an icon on my sidebar called "Gift Guide". The simple and fixed format looks like it belongs, not like an ad. Actually, it isn't only an ad; it's a helpful guide with good content. Which is the best type of ad.
3. Configure Your Ads
Most advertisers let you configure the colors of the text, borders, links, and so on in your ads. Take advantage of this.
I like to choose a text color that matches the text color of my content's text, and a link color that matches the link color of my content's text. For a border, I either remove it altogether or choose the same as my text color.
Too many colors looks like confetti.
Google's Ad-words aren't doing a very good job on my text right now. I've tried using their code to specify relevant text, to no avail.
On the other hand, Amazon's context ads are extremely good for my site; well, I don't know if they're good for making me money, but they advertise exactly the products that I want to advertise. This is because they let me specify keywords in the advertisement configuration.
4. Try More Than One Ad Technique
Don't just stick Ad-words on your page in three places. There are all sorts of ad services, some more appropriate to your site than others.
In my case, since I talk about games and books and so on, Amazon seems like a good idea. I also have affiliate programs for links to specific products that aren't on Amazon. I am still experimenting with others, of course.
5. Replace Lagging Ads With Something Else
Some advertisers tend, more than others, to have problems with their servers. When this happens, your entire site might not load fast enough to pass the boredom threshold of a reader.
You really need to check your site once in a while, from different browsers and without cookies. If there is lag, check the status bar to see what's causing it. If this site continues to cause errors, take the code out of your template and replace that space with something else: a different ad product, or some content that was further down on your page.
Write to the delaying party and ask what's going on. You'll usually get an answer.
6. Bonus: You Don't See the Ads Your Readers See
Apparently, you can reload your site all day long and not really know what your reader's see on your site. That's because the load time, language, and products advertised vary depending on the location of the reader.
Disclaimer: But what do I know? I still only make about 50 cents a day from advertising. I welcome further suggestions!