What is Google AdSense?

Google AdSense is an advertising platform that can help you generate revenue by allowing Google to place ads on your website.

Google AdSense: What Is AdSense and How Do I Use It?

Google AdSense is an advertising platform you can use to generate revenue by allowing Google to place ads on your website. When you sign up for AdSense for free, Google gives you some options on how you want to display ads, along with a line of code. You copy this code and paste it into your site’s backend. Google does the rest of the work and you get paid for impressions and clicks.

Sounds pretty simple, right? The process isn’t terribly complicated, but there are some key bits of information you need to know before you let Google harvest your domain with AdSense.

How AdSense Works 

The first thing to understand is that AdSense is different from Adwords. The latter allows you to place your website as a top search result in a Google search engine results page (SERP), while the former leverages your site as an advertising platform for sites that advertise through Google. Adwords labels your search result as an ad, and its intent is to help you capture traffic for your keywords. AdSense populates your site with ads from other sites — therefore it does affect the user experience on your site. 

How AdSense Helps You Make Money

AdSense gives you a piece of Google’s advertising pie. When brands buy Google ads, they pay for clicks — if someone clicks a Google ad, the advertiser pays Google. 

If a user clicks on an ad running on your site, you earn a percentage of the money the advertiser pays for that click. AdSense also monetizes impressions. This means you won’t earn AdSense money unless your site has traffic.

Once you’ve earned 100 dollars from impressions and clicks, Google makes an automatic deposit to your bank account or sends you a check, depending on your preference. You won’t see any money until that 100-dollars mark, but your earnings roll over month-to-month. If you earn 50 dollars the first month and 51 dollars the next, you’ll get a check for 101 dollars.

Here are some of the good things about AdSense:

  • You don’t have to pay anything — it’s free;
  • You can display ads on mobile sites;
  • You can display ads on multiple sites with a single AdSense account;
  • You can start monetizing a brand new site;
  • You can earn additional revenue from a pre-existing site;
  • You can display ads that might actually be useful to your audience;
  • You can use it on YouTube as well;

If you’re not against earning a little extra money and displaying ads, AdSense makes a great partner.

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How AdSense Could Hurt You

It is possible for AdSense to display competitor ads on your site, since Google customizes the ads it shows. The ads on your site are intended to be at least minimally relevant to your niche, which is why a competitor’s ad could land on your site. 

True, if someone clicks on your competitor’s ad, you earn money, but the amount of money you earn is nominal. If your competitor ends up converting a customer, your competitor wins largely because you signed up for AdSense.

To prevent this from happening, Google allows you to block ads on the “Blocking controls” page of your account. You can block specific URLs — such as those owned by your main competitors — as well as entire categories and ad networks. 

Google classifies certain categories — such as Religion, Politics, and References to Sex and Sexuality — as “sensitive,” and you have to opt in to display ads from these categories. Besides sensitive categories, there are over 470 general categories you can block based on where your competitors land. You can also block or allow categories based on their irrelevance or relevance to your site’s content. 

Besides the potential competitor ad snafu, here are some of the bad things about AdSense:

  • It can compromise user experience; ads running on every page of your site could distract users from your content;
  • It can direct users away from your site; no doubt you’re trying to convert visitors, which is hard to do if they’re clicking ads;

Some people also argue AdSense isn’t great because you need traffic to make any money; more on this in a moment.

How AdSense Rules Work        

If you disobey the rules of AdSense, you’ll be banned from using it. No exceptions — like everything it does, Google takes this platform very seriously. Here are the rules you need to know:

  • You can’t click on the ads you publish on your site;
  • You can’t encourage people to click on ads;
  • You shouldn’t place ads manipulatively in places where users might accidentally click, such as in-game interfaces or near interactive elements;
  • You can’t display AdSense ads on a site with more than three pop-ups;

Additionally, you can’t use AdSense on a site that uses software to fundamentally change the user experience. That is, AdSense doesn’t jibe with software that triggers pop-ups, modifies browser settings, sends users to unwanted sites, or messes with navigation.

Types of AdSense Ads

There are multiple types of AdSense ads you can allow on your site:

  • Text: Also called “sponsored links,” text ads appear as a link to a site, one or two lines of text, and a site address in green;
  • Image: Also called “display ads,” these include banners, buttons, skyscrapers, leaderboards, and billboards;
  • Rich media: Interactive ads including HTML, Flash, and video;
  • Flash: Interactive banners made with Adobe Flash;
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Dynamic animated image 
  • Link units: Displays a list of topics, and when users click on one, it takes them to a page with ads;
  • Search: Displays a Google search box, and when users make a query, it takes them to a SERP with ads;

You can place up to three ads per page.  

How to Use AdSense

Depending on which content management system (CMS) you use, the steps to enable AdSense are different. If you’re not using Blogger (a blog-publishing service hosted by Google), you’ll head to Google’s AdSense page and follow the steps to receive a line of code from Google.

If you’re using a self-hosted Wordpress site, for example, you’ll do the following: 

  • Log in as an admin;
  • On the sidebar, click “Appearances” and then “Widgets”;
  • Under “Blog sidebar,” select “Text”;  
  • Title the text “Ad” or “Advertisement” and paste the AdSense code into the HTML text editor;
  • Or, after you click on “Widgets,” paste your AdSense code into the Custom HTML widget;
  • Or, get a WP ad management plugin to help with placement;

If you’re using Blogger instead of Wordpress, you can simply click “Monetize” and it will help you set up AdSense. The steps to setting up AdSense in Wordpress illuminate how it’s necessary to paste your AdSense code into your site’s backend manually (or with a plugin) if you’re using any CMS other than Blogger.

How to Make Money from Google AdSense

There’s no secret to earning AdSense cash. To make money, you need to earn traffic, which means you’ll need to master content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) on your site. 

With content marketing, you create informative and valuable content that showcases your expertise as well as the usefulness of your product or service. Then, you share this content across channels — social media and email are good options. 

With search engine optimization, you take care of technical elements on your site and make sure all on-page elements are ship-shape, including your title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and internal links. This helps Google bots crawl your site and understand what you want to rank for. In combination with high-quality content, SEO is a powerful tool for creating visibility. It’s well-known across the web that Google prioritizes quality content and clean SEO.

Link acquisition is the next step in your traffic-earning endeavor. As Google notices other sites linking to your high-quality content, your site’s SERP visibility improves because you’re becoming a recognized authority in your niche. People are more likely to click to your site when it’s visible in the SERPs, and, once they’re on the site, they’re viewing your ads. Impressions and clicks should generate more AdSense revenue as your site’s traffic increases over time.