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Google Ads vs. AdSense: What’s the Difference?

March 19, 2020

Ali Soudi - Head of Digital Marketing

Ali Soudi

Head of Digital Marketing
Google Ads

Article Overview

10min read

Ever hear the term ‘Apples and Oranges’? Well now here’s one more context you can use it in, Google Ads and AdSense. At first look, to the casual observer or a layman, they might seem similar sounding. They might even appear to be doing similar things. 

Through Google Ads, advertisers are able to promote their business on, the Google Search Network, and the Google Display Network. This helps businesses in driving targeted traffic to their website which in turn leads to sales conversion. For this, advertisers pay an amount to Google that is based on per ad click.

AdSense on the other hand, gives publishers the freedom to earn through their websites or blogs by placing Google Ads. Whenever one of these ads gets clicked, the publisher receives a certain amount of payment. Based on the regular readership of a site, this is a simple and guaranteed income stream based on your content.

In a nutshell, Google Ads is preferred by advertisers whereas AdSense is used by publishers. But the devil, as they say, lies in the details. Here are some other differences between the two:

  • The chicken and the egg debate: There is no controversy here. Google Ads definitely came first. Launched as AdWords in 2000, Google Ads holds bragging rights over AdSense which started in 2003.
  • Easy does it:  When it comes to ease of setting up an account, Google Ads again comes up trumps. All you need is your Google account and voila! You can use you Google account email and password to sign in to Google Ads. Once you set your currency and time zone preference, you’re good to go. 

AdSense on the other hand is more circumspect. Before you can set up an account, you need to submit the following:

    • Website URL
    • Website language
    • Account type (individual or business)
    • Name
    • Address
    • Phone number

In addition to the above, you need to agree to AdSense policies such as:

  • No ads that incentivise clicking
  • No ads on sites with pornographic content
  • No clicking on the Google ads you’re serving through AdSense
  • Certifying that you’ve read and agree to the AdSense Program Policies
  • You can only have  one existing approved AdSense account
  • You must be at least 18
  • Your name must match the name on your bank account

Once all these are submitted, just sit back and relax and wait while your application is being reviewed. If approved, you should receive an email in the next one to two days.

Design flexibility: When it comes to designing your ads, Google Ads advertisers have more leeway in terms of ad text as compared to AdSense publishers who aren’t allowed to modify the text within ads that appear on their site. 

However, AdSense publishers are able to control the formats and size of the ads that appear on their site. This option is not matched for most Google Ads advertisers. The only exception are those who are advertising on the Google Display Network. They have more options including choice of font, template, and logo.

Ads allowed per page:   Publishers using AdSense are allowed to only place three link ads, two search boxes that are used to deliver targeted text based ads and three content ads. 

On the flip side, Google Ads advertisers can have only one ad delivered at a time on Google Display Network, the Google Search Network and Google.

Clicking Options: For advertisers on Google Ads, the Google Display Network provides choices with regards to clicking pricing system. These include cost per conversion, cost per impression, target ROAS and the cost per click. However, for publishers using AdSense, they have no say in the pay model behind the ads appearing on their site.

What to expect in payment: When using Google Ads, you have a general idea of how much they will end up spending as per the maximum bid amounts for their keyword phrases. 

AdSense publishers on the other hand, hold all the cards. They earn whatever they earn. What this means is that while they do not control the cost per impression or per click of the ads placed on their site, they still can hope to earn more revenue based on the specific niche that their site is targeting. And by working on improving their content so that it helps in bringing in more traffic.

Ali Soudi

Ali Soudi

Head of Digital Marketing

Ali Soudi is a Google Certified Digital Marketer with 10+ years of industry experience. He is a prolific writer on business-related topics, regularly contributing articles to leading digital marketing and business websites.

Ali Soudi

Ali Soudi

Head of Digital Marketing
Google Ads
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