Difference Between AdSense and AdWords

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While Google’s AdSense and AdWords programs are two of their most well known and popular programs, they still tend to cause some confusion. Especially for newbies.

I remember when I first came across these two programs. Their names are too similar. Which gave rise to some difficulty in trying to attach meaning to those program names based on their functionality.

Eventually I just memorised them and as soon as I started using the AdSense and AdWords programs, it became much easier.

Not long ago I had occasion to teach one of brothers about the two programs. I was trying to explain their differences. By the way his eyes glazed over, I knew he was facing the same difficulties of comprehension I originally faced.

So this article is laid out as simply as possible to give you a concise overview of the two programs.

What is AdWords?

AdWords is a program meant for advertisers. That includes individuals and companies who would like to create ads as part of their marketing strategies to:

  • create brand awareness
  • expand exposure for their products and/or services
  • get traffic to their site

In the Google’s AdWords program, advertisers can create ads centered around keywords of their choice. The ads that they create will have to comply with the dimensions, formats, and policies within the AdWords program.

These ads that they create will be placed by Google in various places on the net where they can be seen by web users. The most common places for these ads to appear are on web pages and/or in search result pages.

The advertisers pay a specific amount of money each time their ads are seen and clicked.

What then is the AdSense program?

AdSense is the flip-side of the AdWords program. While AdWords are for advertisers, AdSense are for people who own web sites. Essentially these people are content providers: they publish content on the web.

For convenience I will just call them “web publishers”. Web publishers can join the AdSense program for free. They may own their own web sites or blogs or publish content on pages where they are allowed to place Google (AdSense) ads.

The web publishers can decide where they want to place the ads and the format, sizes, and even colours of the ads. Ads that they place on their web pages will be seen by their visitors.

Each time an ad is clicked, Google gets paid by the advertisers. And a percentage of that money goes to the web publisher. Hence the more traffic that a site has, the more chances those ads will be seen and clicked, the higher the income web publishers can earn via the AdSense program.

AdSense has proven to be one of the easiest ways for a web publisher to make some form of online income from their web content. Google serves up contextual ads without the web publisher having to do anything apart from allocating space on their sites.

Contextual ads means that Google tries to serve up ads that are contextually relevant to the contents of the page on which they appear.

There are certain constraints placed on the web publishers. Most notable of them are:

  • they are not allowed to click on ads placed on their own pages in an attempt to cheat the system and fradulently earn money. Nor are they allowed to encourage friends and family to do likewise. (Google has ways of detecting these types of behaviour.)
  • they can only place a specific number of ads on each page

All these are best covered in Google’s Ad Placement Policies. I hope that this short article will go towards helping a newbie understand the basic concepts of AdWords vs AdSense. And that they might be encouraged to give one of both of the programs a go.

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