Difference between AdSense and AdWords

While Google’s AdSense and AdWords programs are two of its 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 led to some difficulty in trying to assign meaning to those program names based on their functionality.

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

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

Therefore, this article is presented as simply as possible to give you a concise overview of the two programs.

What is AdWords?

AdWords is a program intended for advertisers. That includes people and businesses who want to create ads as part of their marketing strategies to:

  • create brand awareness
  • expand the exposure of your products and/or services
  • get traffic to your site

In the Google AdWords program, advertisers can create ads focused on the keywords of their choice. The ads you create must 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 network where they can be seen by web users. The most common places for these ads to appear are web pages and/or search results pages.

Advertisers pay a specific amount of money each time their ads are viewed and clicked.

So what is the AdSense program?

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

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

Web publishers can decide where they want to place the ads and the format, sizes and even colors of the ads. The ads that you place on your web pages will be seen by your visitors.

Every time an ad is clicked, advertisers pay Google. And a percentage of that money goes to the web publisher. Therefore, the more traffic a site has, the greater the chance that those ads will be seen and clicked, and the more revenue web publishers can earn through the AdSense program.

AdSense has proven to be one of the easiest ways for a web publisher to earn some form of online income from their web content. Google offers contextual ads without the web publisher having to do anything more than allocate space on their sites.

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

There are certain restrictions placed on web publishers. The 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 fraudulently earn money. They are also not allowed to encourage friends and family to do the same. (Google has ways to detect this kind of behavior.)
  • they can only place a specific number of ads on each page

All of these are best covered in Google’s Ad Placement Policies. I hope this short article will help a newbie understand the basics of AdWords vs. AdSense. And that they are encouraged to try one of the two programs.

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