AdSense and Ad Manager are the two cornerstones of Google’s publisher-facing toolset. Both programmes help site owners earn money from ads on their websites, but they are wildly different tools with far less overlap than some realise. Understanding the differences between Ad Manager and AdSense, together with the strengths and weaknesses of each allows publishers to use the right tool for the right job, which is vital when trying to optimise their ad revenue. Let’s start with the basics before moving on to more interesting use cases.
What is AdSense?
Google AdSense is technically an Ad Network, although one that is quite different to any other Ad Network. Since it’s launch in 2003, AdSense has been helping websites of all sizes to earn money by serving ads on their websites. It’s biggest strengths are a combination of a huge number of advertisers (through Google Ads – formerly AdWords) and being incredibly easy to set-up and manage for publishers.
What is an Ad Network?
An online advertising network or Ad Network is a company that connects advertisers to websites that want to host advertisements. The key function of an Ad Network is an aggregation of ad supply from publishers and matching it with advertiser's demand. Wikipedia
What is Ad Manager?
Google Ad Manager (GAM) is still often best known by its old name; DoubleClick for Publishers (or simply DFP). Ad Manager is an Ad Server. Its primary purpose is to give publishers to tools to control how ads are served on a website, wherever those ads are sourced from, as opposed to providing the ads.
What is an Ad Server?
An Ad Server is a web based tool used by publishers, networks and advertisers to help with ad management, campaign management and ad trafficking. An Ad Server also provides reporting on ads served on the website. TubeMogul
That sounds simple. What’s the confusion?
The difference between an Ad Network and an Ad Server isn’t hard to grasp. Ad Networks are the middle-men between publisher and advertisers. Ad Servers are the software that dictates how ads (from networks, or anywhere else) are served. Unfortunately, things are rarely so clear-cut in the world of online advertising, so the lines are a little more blurred than that.
Google Ad Manager can also give publishers access to ad demand from AdSense or Google AdX. Because Ad Manager integrates closely with both of Google’s monetization products, this creates an overlap between Ad Manager and AdSense in particular. Publishers can log into AdSense to create ad units that serve Google Ads. They can also log into Ad Manager to do the exact same thing. What’s important to remember is that this is an additional function. Google Ad Manager is an Ad Server that also allows you to manage demand from Google’s products.
Enough theory. What is the real difference between AdSense and Ad Manager for publishers?
The choice between AdSense and Ad Manager will boil down to one simple question for most publishers: Do you only intend to serve ads from AdSense? If every ad served onto the site is going to be supplied by AdSense, then there is little advantage to using Ad Manager. Google Ad Manager offers many compelling advantages, but publishers continuing to only have AdSense demand competing for their inventory are not likely to get enough benefit from using Ad Manager to warrant a switch. The truth is that AdSense is very good at running AdSense ads.
Where Ad Manager comes into its own is in being able to manage multiple demand channels, which helps publishers to get the most value from each impression. Ad Manager can natively serve demand from Google AdX and from other partners via Exchange Bidding. By serving third-party tags, Ad Manager enables other networks and exchanges to compete based on price. Ad Manager also manages direct campaigns, optimising their impressions vs your programmatic demand to ensure the highest yield. Importantly, Ad Manager also allows for Header Bidding to compete against your dynamic allocation items, pushing up your revenue per impression.
AdSense is a great first step into website monetization, but can be limiting as publishers grow. If you’d like to learn about alternate options to monetize your website, please click here.
How to make more money using Google Ad Manager
There is a clear correlation between the amount of ad revenue a website generates and the likelihood of that site using Ad Manager over AdSense. Sites that make more money from ads are more likely to be using Ad Manager. As a website’s revenue increases, the opportunity to increase that ad revenue further using tools like Google Ad Manager grows with it. The approach is simple in concept:
- Introduce more demand for your inventory – More demand means more chance to match a potential ad impression with a high paying bidder. Ad Manager allows you to have multiple, quality Ad Exchanges, Ad Networks and SSPs, trafficked to the same ad units.
- Switch AdSense to AdX – Google Ad Exchange (AdX) is Google’s premium monetisation solution. It includes AdSense demand, but also demand from select third parties. It also pays based on CPM and has a few other advantages that help it perform better in a competitive environment.
- Enable competition – The real key to success is to allow all those sources of demand to compete against each other in auction for every impression either client side through Header Bidding, or server side with a solution like Exchange Bidding (or, if you are really smart – both together). That competition will force all of your demand sources to up their prices to win impressions rather than letting a single Ad Network (like AdSense) set the price for you
This approach is the core of how we increase revenue for the publishers that we work with (although we have many more ways to increase it further). If you would like to talk to one of our experts about how this could work for your site just contact us for a call back or drop us an email.
Mat has been supporting content creators on the web since 1996. As Co-founder of OKO Digital, Mat became the first person in the UK qualified to AdSense partner status and repeated this first with Google Certified Publishing Partner programme.