The Comprehensive Guide to Google Adsense: Google AdSense is an ad network for web publishers to monetize their online content. It is a closed platform that takes ads from Google Display Network (like Google Ads) and shows them on the publisher’s website.
- Supported format: Text, image, native, video, and interactive media ads
- Targeting: Contextual, placement, personalization, and Run of Network
- Revenue model: Both per-impressions and per-click
AdSense was released in 2003 and since then it has become the most popular advertising platform for web publishers. The ease-of-use — without knowing the technical know-how of ad tech — makes it one of a kind. Over 10 million websites use AdSense and this number is increasing with every passing year.
Getting Started with AdSense
Here are quick steps to sign up with AdSense:
- Go to Google AdSense’s main page and click on the Sign Up button.
- Fill in the details such as your domain name and email address.
- Once you are done submitting the details, AdSense will ask you to put a piece of code inside the head section of your website HTML.
- Once done, AdSense will start with the approval process. If your website is a fit according to AdSense terms and conditions, then you will get the approval within a week.
- Once approved, you can access the dashboard, create ad units, and place them on your website.
How Does AdSense Work?
AdSense is easier to use if a publisher knows the basics of HTML and CSS. As mentioned before, AdSense asks you to place a header code on your website. This code is very important as it is responsible for checking your website for issues, generating reports, allocating ad units, and everything important for monetization.
The next step for publishers is to create ad units and placements. This is where ad tags are required. Using ad tags, publishers can customize the ad units including size, preferable colors, and targeting options. Then these ad tags can be placed on webpages at suitable placements and start showing ads.
In short, publishers place two types of codes to their website for AdSense to work:
- Head code: This is a site-wide placement that continuously monitors the website to required collect details. This is also required for other AdSense codes on the website to work.
- Ad tags: These are customized ad units that can vary for different webpages. These codes are responsible to fetch the type of ad creative customized by publishers.
What happens when a user lands on a webpage with AdSense enabled?
When a user appears on a webpage with AdSense enabled, the header code fires up the ad tags on that page. If ad tags are available, AdSense quickly passes this request to Google Display Network (GDN) to find appropriate ad creatives. GDN returns the request with an ad creative and the ad is placed on the webpage — all this happens within fractions of a second.
How does AdSense find relevant ads?
It takes the web page’s keyword and keyphrases into consideration which can be different from what the publisher has set the focus keyword for the page. AdSense method is to use keyword analysis, check word frequency, font size, and the overall link structure of the web, in order to determine what a web page is about and precisely match Google ads to each page.
On the advertiser-side, Google Ads asks advertisers to set keywords, ad sizes, and placement to customize their campaigns. At Google Display Network, inputs from advertisers and publishers are compared to find the ideal match.
Here are the targeting options available for AdSense publishers:
- Contextual targeting: Finding the right ads based on keywords used on the webpage and matching it with the advertiser’s campaign.
- Placement targeting: This is when advertisers look for a specific ad size and placement that could be above the page, below the page, sidebar, or more.
- Personalized targeting: AdSense tries to reach users based on their interests such as sports or traveling. Users have the option to opt-out from personalized ads to make this feature privacy compliant.
- Run of Network: Run of Network lets advertisers target all sites in the AdSense network, except explicitly excluded sites, according to available inventory.
Advantages of AdSense
Free to get started: AdSense works on a revenue share model, which means AdSense doesn’t make money unless you (publisher) make money.
Easy to use and manage: Simple dashboard to check monthly earnings, create and optimize ad units, and run experiments.
Straight-forward eligibility standards: If publisher content is original and doesn’t fall under any unsafe category with a decent design and architecture, AdSense pretty much approves even 3 months old websites.
Add multiple websites, Blogger, and YouTube: Publishers with multiple properties (website, Blogger, YouTube channel) can link all of them to a common AdSense account. This helps in managing and optimizing all properties in one place.
Supports almost all web ad formats: Text, display, native, video, and rich media ads are supported. Especially the native ads by AdSense are designed to blend well with site content to offer a seamless ad experience to users.
Google-approved secure ads: Google safe checks all ad creatives from advertisers to avoid offensive ads and malicious JS appearing on the publisher’s web page.
Disadvantages of AdSense
Unforgiving towards policy violation: Instant termination of account if Google policies are hindered. Depending on the violation, Google takes months to get back to normal or never allows to use AdSense ever again.
Transparency issues: AdSense’s revenue share for publishers is not clear and never revealed by Google. This creates a blackbox for publishers when it comes to understanding the true earning potential of their inventory.
Can’t bring your own demand: AdSense operates in a closed network — Google Display Network. It doesn’t allow outside advertisers or demand to purchase impressions, limiting opportunities for publishers.
Do not have trending features: Many publishers are in awe of technologies like ad refresh and a customizable price floor for their inventory. AdSense, in efforts to keep its platform simple, does not offer these complex features that are really important for ad revenue optimization.
Works on second-price auction model: While the rest of Google products (like GAM) are now using a unified first-price auction model, AdSense is still conducting second-price auctions. For publishers earning, second-price auctions take away the CPM that an advertiser agreed to pay and replace it with second-highest + one cent — a clear loss of monetization opportunity.
No direct or dedicated support by Google: AdSense is pretty straightforward, you place AdSense code and it pays you. Publishers are often advised to focus on their content by AdSense. However, if a publisher is stuck with an issue — like a decrease in revenue, ad units not appearing, a two-click penalty, and more — AdSense is unable to offer direct/dedicated support to help publishers with the issue.
Adsense Payment: Explained
- Supported model: CPM and CPC
- Payment method: Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), Check, and Wire Transfer
- Minimum payment threshold: $100
- Payment terms: Net-30
AdSense has a monthly payment cycle. A publisher receives the payment from AdSense between 21st to 26th of a month if the revenue exceeds a $100 threshold.
For Instance, if we talk about the month of June. By July 3rd, you will start seeing the revenue you generated for the month of June. If it is above $100, then AdSense will start processing your payment and you will receive it between 21st to 26th July. In any case, you are unable to reach the $100 threshold, then the amount will be added to your next monthly revenue.
You can choose from various payment options like Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), Check, Wire Transfer, and more, depending on your geography.
Being a walled garden, Google is not very transparent with the revenue share it takes from publishers for each ad. On a broad level, it offers 68% of the CPM (came in from advertisers) to publishers.
Meaning, if an advertiser paid $1 for an ad unit, the publisher would receive $0.68 (or 68 cents) for that.
We don’t disclose the revenue share for other AdSense products; the revenue share varies for other products due to different costs of developing and supporting these products.
As mentioned, AdSense is very stringent when it comes to policy violations. Hence it is recommended to all AdSense publishers to comply with its policy and best practices. Here are some important rules set by Google:
- Publish high-quality original content
- The publisher should be at least 18 years old
- The publisher should own the website (purchased the domain and hosting)
- One should not promote abusive and/or obscene content. Similarly, illegal and plagiarized content is not welcomed.
- No invalid click or practices like clicking on own ads to inflate CTR
- Use ads.txt to show partnered networks that are allowed to sell inventory
- Genuine traffic source — paid/bot traffic and click farm activity are not allowed
- No smart tricks to encourage clicks on ads – this can lead to a permanent ban
Ad tech is a very volatile market. Technology comes, reaches its peak, and vanishes within a span of a few months. This makes publishers experiment with more technologies to understand their audience, improve their inventory, and the future of their business.
One of the tests that publishers prefer is trying multiple ad networks and ad optimization platforms. When it comes to trying AdSense alternatives, most publishers have these reasons:
- Rejection from AdSense: Even though AdSense allows blooming webmasters and bloggers to use the tech, it does reject websites if there is the slightest disagreement with its policy. In such a case, publishers have no other option but to partner-up with AdSense alternatives.
- Looking for improved targeting options like demographic and device targeting.
- In order to get more transparency, most publishers choose alternatives over AdSense.
Some of the great AdSense alternatives to try are:
Using AdSense with Other Networks
AdSense allows publishers to use other ad networks, in parallel. This gives publishers a way to progress in their business with safe earning support from AdSense.
Publishers can even make these other ad networks compete with each other to increase bid pressure on their inventory. Remember to keep the number of ad units and auction time frame in control to provide an optimal user experience.
Another reason to try AdSense with other networks is to get by its cons. For instance, with other networks, you can experience the benefits of the first-price auction, get dedicated support, and access to the top demand from the market.
Best Practices: Tips to Optimize Existing Campaigns
You can find plenty of AdSense best practices on the internet. To make it easy for publishers, we have broken it down into 3 essentials. Here are those:
Keep optimizing the layout
- Never place too many ad units that hamper the user experience. You might think that adding more ad units will increase revenue, on the contrary, it reduces the fill rate affecting (decreasing) the overall page RPM.
- For mobile sites, place a 320×100 ad above the fold where it’s visible to everyone who lands on your page.
- For desktop sites, use vertical ad units. These remain visible even when users move around a page. The 300×600 layout is a popular ad size with advertisers for desktop devices
- Keep changing and improving the ad layout. Users get used to a certain ad layout and start ignoring the ads leading to banner blindness. In such a case, updating the placements can bring freshness.
- Always keep AdSense policies in mind while updating the layout.
Give appropriate attention to your mobile site version
- Due to the boost in the use of smartphones, mobile web traffic has exceeded desktop traffic. In such a case, strategies for the web will not work in a mobile environment.
- Start with page load time, anything above 3-second load time might mean the user is jumping off to your competitor’s site.
- Try responsive ad tags. Mobile devices further have varied sizes (viewports). In such a case making a one-size-fit-all ad unit is very tricky. Hence, responsive ads can help resize as per the dimensions of the mobile device and give users an optimal ad experience.
- Keep your mobile experience similar to the web, otherwise, users can get confused and jump off if the site doesn’t seem trustworthy.
Ensure safety measures
- Even though AdSense takes care of ad safety for most parts, publishers are also recommended not to engage in any activity that might hurt users, advertisers, or AdSense policy in any way.
- Never click on ads on your webpage. This is called an invalid click and Google’s system is quite proactive in detecting such malpractice. The immediate penalty includes two-click ads or an account ban.
- Don’t use ad layouts that are deceptive or misleading in the hopes of getting more clicks. For such practices, accounts are liable to be suspended if the demarcation between ads and content is not clear.
- Regularly check the quality of traffic and keep a close eye on excessive bot traffic. Websites with high invalid traffic are banned immediately.
- Always follow the Code Implementation Guide and don’t try to modify your AdSense code.
- Maximize content, not ads per page. It’s important that original and regularly updated content remains the focal point of your website.
AdSense Features for Revenue Optimization
AdSense keeps on updating its features to make it better for publishers. Every new feature, in some way or the other, creates an opportunity for publishers to maximize their ad revenue. The end goal of every development is to make publishers run better ads, engage users, and improve their AdSense earnings.
But do publishers use all of them? Here are some old and new AdSense features not all publishers might know about.
If publishers have existing placements on the pages, auto ads take those into consideration when assigning space for new placements. This is a great feature for new publishers who don’t really understand the concepts of popular ad placement, user experience, and basics of ad ops. However, this feature can also restrict publishers as it requires complete dependence on AdSense leaving them with no opportunities to experiment with layout and learn.
Running an experiment allows publishers to compare one of the ad settings against a variation (created for testing purposes). Experiments work by splitting the site’s traffic between original and variation ad settings. Then their performances are measured side by side. This helps to make informed decisions about how to configure your ad settings and can help you increase your earnings.
Create, monitor, and choose the winner of experiments on the ‘Experiments’ page. To view the ‘Experiments’ page: Sign in to the AdSense account and click Optimization > Experiments.
Reports and analytics
AdSense reports show a close estimate of the current activity (CPM, RPM, and overall revenue) in the publisher’s account. However, the final earnings can be different from the report as it depends on many factors such as niche, geography, and even time of the year.
After the publisher’s earnings are finalized, they are posted on the ‘Transaction’ page. The revenue generated from invalid impressions and clicks is refunded to show publishers the exact amount they will be receiving in their bank accounts.
AdSense arbitrage is a method for publishers to increase their traffic and CTR. It starts with getting paid traffic from social media, native ads, and even Google Ads in some cases — yes, it requires a bit of investment. Next, the publisher optimizes website placement to improve impressions and clicks.
Generally, websites with niche traffic are ideal for this method. However, keep in mind that it’s risky as you are investing a good amount of money. If ROI doesn’t turn out to be good, stop this practice and start looking for other optimization opportunities.
Use AdSense with Ad Manager
If you are ready to try a direct deal on your inventory, then you need an ad server. Google Ad Manager is an ad server that syncs up with AdSense. Simply sign up to the Ad Manager (it’s free), create proposals for direct deals, and start pitching them to advertisers.
Ad Manager will become a common reporting tool for your direct deal and AdSense earnings. Furthermore, you can start adding more ad networks and even AdX demand to further improve your ad earnings.
What’s Next After AdSense
AdSense is a great way for new publishers and bloggers to make easy money from their content. However, as a website grows with the number of traffic and quality of content, publishers should start thinking about increasing this revenue.
If you, as a publisher, are comfortable with Google products, then it has more advanced services like AdX and Ad Manager to try.
Apart from Google tools, here are some technologies for publishers who are looking to grow their ad revenue with/without AdSense:
It’s a transparent real-time auction that calls out multiple demand partners as soon as an impression is available on the publisher’s webpage. While it requires a little more technical support, it pays really well by giving publishers complete control of their inventory. With header bidding, publishers have two options: client-side header bidding – run auctions on the user’s browser and server-side header bidding – run auctions on the publisher’s server.
Why stop at header bidding? When you can practically call out to as many demand partners as possible. Basically, with hybrid bidding, publishers can call out to demand partners via header bidding (both client-side and server-side), AdX demand, and other third-party ad networks. While all these compete at the same time, publishers get the best possible deal for each impression.
If you have a niche website or niche webpages, then chances are some advertisers would want to secure impressions on your web pages. This is where direct deals can help. Currently, direct deals can be done both programmatically and manually. Most publishers go with the former option due to its reporting benefits. Basically, you can get in a deal with advertisers directly and allow them to show their creatives to your audience for a negotiated CPM/CPC.
This guide is created for web publishers who are using AdSense and looking to optimize their existing revenue. If you are completely new to the AdSense platform, we recommend you visit the AdSense YouTube page for some quick tutorials on various getting started steps.
Next, we have tried to cover factors like optimization tips, hidden features, and best practices. Feel free to reach out if we have missed anything above or if you have any questions.
If you find this guide useful, please spread the word to help fellow publishers with their monetization goals.