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Comparing Google AdSense and Google AdX: What’s the Difference?

Both AdSense and AdX are digital advertising platforms owned by Google. Both help publishers monetize their content. And both have access to the same buyers and advertisers. So, how are they different? How do you decide which platform better suits you and your business’s needs? Let’s take a closer look at AdSense and AdX to help make this decision easier.

Google AdSense Overview

Google AdSense is an ad network, meaning it connects advertisers (who wish to advertise) to publishers (who wish to monetize their content). It’s very easy to get started. As a publisher, all you need to do is create ad placements and insert a tag on your site’s code, and AdSense takes care of the rest. The platform fills those placements with cookie-targeted ads from the Google Ads program. Their filling rate is between 95% and 99%, meaning that your ad units will be utilized most of the time.

While this sounds great, AdSense isn’t the most lucrative way to monetize your content, especially since the platform is geared towards providing low-cost impressions to advertisers. Publishers do not have the option to set floor prices and cannot sell ad units on their own, meaning you’re stuck with whatever ads Google offers you. While the platform is free, AdSense’s revenue share is strictly defined: Publishers keep 68% of ad revenue, while the remaining 32% goes to Google.

Google AdX Overview

Google AdX is an ad exchange, meaning that it functions as an online marketplace that offers real-time bidding to ad networks (including AdSense), agencies, and demand-side platforms. Publishers who work with AdX not only have access to a much larger ad inventory, but they also have more control over their ad space since they sell directly to advertisers. As a publisher, you can set floor prices and even negotiate your own ad revenue share. Since the platform uses real-time bidding, competition for ad inventory is higher, meaning that revenue per ad unit sold is also higher. These factors can have a huge impact on your bottom line, especially if you’re a high-traffic site.

AdX may seem like a publisher’s dream come true; however, the platform still has its disadvantages. Getting started with AdX is a bit tricky. Your application must be manually approved by a Google representative, who usually only grants access to large publishers. Unlike AdSense, managing and optimizing an AdX account is very demanding and requires an agency or an ad ops team. Making a wrong decision on the ad exchange can have a devastating effect on your ad revenue. For example, if your floor prices are set too high, advertisers will completely disregard your site, causing your ad revenue to plummet.

How to Get Started

To start using AdSense, visit the AdSense webpage and create your account by entering your website details and signing into your Google account. There are a few tasks you’ll need to complete, like placing an ad tag on your webpage and providing payment details, before sending your account for approval. AdSense then reviews your website and sends a confirmation email within a few days.

Unlike AdSense, which is more of a plug-and-play network, AdX is a premium ad exchange. Therefore, it requires a minimum of five million monthly pageviews along with a long list of eligibility requirements. Publishers will only be accepted by the exchange once they have a Google Ad Manager account.

Publishers (including those without five million monthly page views) can also access AdX by working with a Google Certified Publishing Partner, such as ReigNN, as long as their site is approved by Google’s compliance team.

How Are Payments Made?

While both AdSense and AdX require a minimum payment threshold, their payment methods are different.

AdSense follows a monthly payment cycle, meaning that if you pass the payment threshold by the end of the month, a 21-day payment processing period begins. Once this period is over, the publisher receives its payment within five to seven days, whereas with AdX, publishers receive their payments when the following month ends. This means that if you pass the minimum payment threshold on October 5th, you won’t receive your payment until the end of November.

Which One Generates More Revenue?

While some claim that AdX generates more revenue, the reasoning behind their conclusion isn’t so cut and dry. Digital advertising revenue depends on so many factors that it’s difficult to decide which platform is categorically better. At the end of the day, ad revenue is based on two factors: website traffic and the publisher’s ability to effectively manage and optimize their ad operations.

This Brings Us to Our Next Question… Which Platform Is Best for You?

AdSense is an easy way to generate revenue for small and medium-sized publishers. It’s low barrier to entry makes it a popular option for those who lack the time or resources to effectively manage and optimize an ad account. While the opportunity for higher revenue isn’t as high as with AdX, there are still plenty of publishers who make a living using AdSense.

If your site has a large enough audience (a minimum of five million monthly pageviews) and you have the resources to effectively manage an ad account, AdX opens up many more optimization paths and customization possibilities to maximize your revenue.

Although managing an AdX account can be demanding, publishers can hire a third-party to manage ad operations.