AdWords vs. AdSense: Your Questions Answered

AdWords vs. AdSense: what’s the difference? It turns out, there are actually a lot of differences, despite the fact that both are advertising platforms offered by Google. Despite the similarity of their names, the two platforms are extremely different. In this article, we will discuss Google AdWords and Google AdSense, the differences between the two, and how you can use each as part of your marketing strategy.

Google adsense vs Google adwords

Here is the main difference between AdSense and AdWords: businesses pay AdWords for exposure, and AdSense pays businesses for ad space. However, there is more to it than just that! Each platform is built for a different user. AdWords is meant for advertisers, and AdSense is for website owners who create their own content.

AdWords lets businesses bid on advertising space that promotes your business in the Google search results. On the other hand, AdSense allows publishers to sign up to sell ad space on their platforms to businesses in order to make money.

Which tool you ultimately end up using depends on what kind of website you have and what your goals are. Are you a business selling your product or service? Then, you will want to advertise on Google AdWords. Are you a blog hoping to monetize your website? Then, it’s time to sign up for Google AdSense.

Google ads

Google AdWords 

Google AdWords, now simply called Google Ads, is Google’s advertising service. You can pay for ad space on the search engine results pages, or SERPs. The ad platform has been around in one form or another since 2000 and remains one of the best digital advertising platforms to this day.

No matter what industry your business is in, you can use Google Ads to drive traffic to your website in order to convert visitors into customers or subscribers. Instead of waiting for your website to start ranking organically on the SERPs, Google Ads lets you bid on keywords that your target audience might enter into Google Search. Then, you will be charged by Google based on how many clicks your ad receives. This is called pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising.

Reasons to Use Google Ads 

There are a few reasons you might want to use Google Ads:

  • Build awareness
  • Generate traffic
  • Drive conversions
  • Capture leads
  • Grow a following

How to Start Using Google Ads

If you have decided that Google Ads is the right platform for your business, it’s time to set up your account. All you will need is a Google account. Simply sign into Google Ads with your email and password, and then set your currency and time zone preferences.

Types of Google Ad Campaigns

Once you’re ready to start a campaign, you will need to choose which kind of Google Ads campaign you would like to run. You can choose from:

  • Search campaigns, which are text ads on search results.
  • Display campaigns, which are image ads on websites.
  • Video campaigns, which are video ads on YouTube.
  • Shopping ad campaigns, which are product listings on Google.
  • App campaigns, in which you promote your app on many channels.
  • Local campaigns, in which you promote locations on many channels.
  • Smart campaigns, in which you can automate your campaigns.

Also, keep in mind that there are different specifications for different types of Google Ads.

The key to using Google Ads is to create goals before you start. What do you hope to accomplish with a Google Ads campaign? Then, decide how much you want to spend on your campaign. The cost of Google Ads varies widely.

If it doesn’t sound like Google Ads are right for you, there are also alternatives to Google Ads available.

Google adsense

Google AdSense

Google AdSense is a completely different platform than Google Ads. AdSense gives publishers or website owners the chance to monetize their digital content. If you sign up for this service, you will rent out space on your website in the headers, footers, and sidebars. Then, advertisers will bid for those spaces in a live auction, and the highest paying ads will go live.

Once your web visitors click on those ads, site owners get paid a small commission. While it is possible to earn some money with AdSense, your website needs to have quite a large following in order to make any serious money.

How to Sign Up for Google AdSense

Though it is free to sign up for AdSense, your site will need to be approved by Google before you can get started. Google will review your website to make sure that you qualify. Before you apply, check to make sure your website has a clear navigation, plenty of unique content, a good layout, and that it is both relevant and readable. Google only wants to serve ads on websites that deliver value.

Once your website has been approved, the rest of the AdSense process is automated. You don’t get to choose the ads that appear on your website, but you do get to choose the look, size, and format, to ensure that they fit in with the rest of your content. You can also set up restrictions to make sure that certain types of ads don’t appear on your website.

Then, Google matches your website with Google Ads advertisers who are looking to target a demographic similar to yours. This makes it a win-win for both you and the advertiser.

These are the three steps for how AdSense works:

  1. You pick where you want to display ads on your site by pasting a few lines of code.
  2. Advertisers bid on those open spots in a real-time auction.
  3. Google bills advertisers for the ads placed on your site, based on their performance, then pays site owners.

However, you might have to put in some effort in order to make money with AdSense. If you need help setting up your AdSense page, SEO Design Chicago can help.

difference between adsense and adwords

How to Earn Money with Google AdSense

How much money you earn with AdSense depends on your website. If your site is optimized well and you get a ton of traffic, it is possible to make some good money with AdSense. However, the amount you make really depends on the size of your audience and their engagement with the ads on your site.

There are two ways AdSense pays publishers:

  • Clicks: Some advertisers choose to pay on a cost-per-click structure. In this instance, publishers receive a cut of the CPC each time someone clicks on the ad.
  • Impressions: Other advertisers choose to pay based on impressions, or CPM (cost per thousands impressions.) In this instance, publishers receive commission based on the number of pageviews their site receives during a certain period.

Keep in mind that if a visitor clicks on an ad on your site, they will leave your website. This means that AdSense typically works better for bloggers or news websites, rather than business owners who are selling a product or service of their own.

Plus, if your website is displaying low-quality ads, it might affect how visitors feel about your site.

Similarities Between AdSense vs. AdWords

AdSense and Adwords do have something in common besides just “Google” in their names. Both platforms rely on targeted keyword research. In order to succeed on either platform, you will need to choose keywords that are most relevant to your product, service, or content.

One of the best ways to utilize these platforms is to use long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords tend to be less expensive and target your audience more specifically.

Can You Use AdWords and AdSense? 

The question is not always AdWords vs. AdSense, but sometimes the question is whether you can use both platforms. There are some instances in which the two make a great pair. Any AdSense user can also benefit from AdWords, but not all AdWords users should use AdSense.

For example, AdSense helps publishers make more money by redirecting visitors to other companies’ sites to make a purchase. This platform works well for sites that post affiliate marketing reviews, news platforms, or blogs that aren’t selling products and services. A food blogger, for instance, might use AdSense to monetize their blog and display ads for cooking equipment, meal kits, and flatware. These ads are useful for readers, but don’t take away from the recipes and tips posted on the site. The blogger might also run Google Ads campaigns in order to grow their following and get more page views, which in turn helps them succeed with AdSense, too.

However, it doesn’t really make sense for an e-commerce website to use AdSense, because it would only drive traffic away and reduce sales for their website. It makes more sense for an e-commerce site owner to only use Google Ads to promote their products and attract more customers.

AdWords vs. SEO

Many also wonder about SEO vs. Google Ads. Instead of using AdWords, does it make sense for you to invest in SEO to rank higher in the organic search results? In the long term, optimizing your website for popular search terms can help your business more than a short Google Ads campaign.

google ads

AdWords vs. AdSense with SEO Design Chicago

If you are still unsure if Google Ads and AdSense is right for you, contact SEO Design Chicago today. We can help you decide between AdWords and AdSense, and help you create a campaign for either platform. Our team of digital marketers is ready to help you!


  • What is the difference between AdWords and AdSense?
  • Should I use AdWords or AdSense?
  • What is Google AdWords?
  • What is Google AdSense?
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