Spot the differences: Google ads vs AdSense

In the advertising space of Google there are a range of tools and with that comes a range of terminology. It’s no surprise that many can find it confusing and difficult to navigate. We have Google to thank for making it even harder by naming two of their advertising space products ‘Google Ads’ and ‘Google AdSense’… could they sound more similar?

Often, we’re asked the question, what’s the difference between the two? Well, we’re strong believers there are no stupid questions, and we’re here to answer this one.

An Introduction to Google Ads (Google AdWords)

Google AdWords

Google Ads, previously known as Google AdWords, allows you to display advertisements for your services across Google, YouTube and other sites on the Google display network. Businesses pay AdWords for ad space. As a result, their product or service shows up in search engine results pages, on web pages on websites, in and around YouTube videos, and in other places all across the web to drive traffic to a business’s landing page.

Google places your ad based on a number of factors, such as your competition, the quality of your landing page, the quality score of your ads and how much you’re willing to pay in a bid amount. Google Ads provides countless advertising opportunities to businesses, allowing them to create campaigns that are targeted to particular audiences.

Google AdWords handles the heavy lifting, matching your ad with likeminded website publishers whose website mood, feel, and content is in line with that of your content ads.

An Introduction to Google AdSense

Google AdSense

Google AdSense on the other hand can be considered the receiving end of Google Ads. Google AdSense allows website owners to place ads on their site, paid for by advertising companies. The website owners earn money from these ads that Google places on their site. Essentially, website owners are able to sell ad space.

Advertisers pay big dollars for it, wanting their ad placement to be on sites that are related to the services and products they’re offering. For example, if a website owner had a blog site that was all about education, then Google might start displaying ads for tutoring services on the site.

You might be thinking that having ads appearing on your site could look tacky. While it’s true that you don’t want to run display ads that take away from the content of your site, we do see ads everywhere we go these days, and it just makes AdSense to get in on the action and potentially make some extra money from it.

The way the financial side of things works is advertisers bid for ad space and the highest paying ads typically get placed on sites across the Google display network. The website owners get paid every few thousand impressions or when a user clicks on the ads. It can work out to be a great revenue stream!

Note, it’s only possible to place three content ads, two search boxes (which serve targeted text ads), and three link ads on your site.

The benefits of Google Ads


The benefits of Google Ads compared to other advertising platforms are countless. Some key benefits are:

  1. Google Ads Work Faster Than SEO

    Google Ads are able to drive traffic to your website faster than most other traditional advertising tactics. Compared to the likes of SEO, Google Ads win’s out in speed. We’re not saying you shouldn’t utilise the likes of SEO when you advertise, but utilising SEO in conjunction with a powerful tool like Google Ads can help you generate revenue faster to pay for the long-term strategies.

    Search engines are the first-place potential customers often go to find a product when they have a need or desire for one. The Google display network is also massive, so you’ve got lots of real-estate to play with for placing disruptive text ads or video ads.

  2. Helps In Increasing Brand Awareness

    Google Ads helps increase your brand awareness in two key ways. Firstly, when potential customers see your brand at the top of the results in a Google’s search, even if they don’t engage with it, it gives them a sense that your brand is on top of the rest.

    The order of Google search results has long played a role in the way customers rank businesses in their mind. We’ve all been told since we were young to always look at the first page of results, and rarely do we click ‘next page’.

    Secondly, Google search network ads on the Google display network show your brand to customers in unique settings. For example, if someone was looking up how to treat a cut on their finger and reading a blog on the topic, your ad for band-aids might pop up at just the right time.

    This leads to customers associating your brand with the solution to their problems or needs.

  3. Competitive Edge

    If your competition is on the Google Ads train, taking advantage of the massive network of sites, videos and Google search results to boost their product sales and generate revenue, and you’re not… well, we’re sorry to say but they likely have a competitive edge.

    Google is so central to everything many do on the internet that it’s not so much about the benefits of gaining a competitive edge as it is not losing one.

The benefits of Google AdSense

Google AdSense

Google Ads isn’t alone in its plethora of benefits. Google AdSense is a no brainer when you look at some of the perks it brings to a business or website owner.

  1. Largest ad network

    Google AdSense is the largest ad network in the world, boasting around 2 million websites worldwide. For advertisers that means they have a huge range of sites to publish ads on. For site publishers that means that there are tonnes of of advertisers looking to publish ads on your site. It’s a win win.

  2. You don’t need traffic for approval

    For you to sell ad space with Google AdSense, you don’t need proof of massive traffic coming to your site. Sites don’t need to be awesome lead magnets to get in on the action when Google allows anyone to sign up and give it a go, for free we might add.

    Site publishers simply need to get a Google AdSense profile and follow the prompts to get advertising. Compared to other advertising platforms, Google AdSense makes more sense.

  3. With one account you can manage multiple sites

    You can make AdSense work hard by managing multiple sites on your one account. The AdSense ads that show up on each of your sites will likely vary in nature and the kinds of product and services they’re offering. The good news is it’s an extremely streamline user interface to keep things simple and easy for website owners.

Tips for using Google Ads

Man using laptop

Getting started with Google Ads can seem overwhelming, we know. Here are some key tips for getting started.

  1. Focus on your advertising goals

    It’s important to have clear goals before you start to run ad campaigns on Google Ads. This will ensure that the quality score of your ads is higher from the get-go and that your ad will sand out and have an impact for your target audience.

    It also means you’re not wasting time running certain ad formats that don’t make sense. Is it lead generation, increased sales, or brand exposure and awareness you’re after? What’s the plan stan?

  2. Understand your audience

    You don’t want to be running an ad that is completely unrelatable for your audience and doesn’t connect with them in some way. That leads to a fruitless venture, and you may as well be throwing your money into the wind.

    Step into the shoes of your audience and consider what they might be looking for, how they would want to see it presented and what kind of language they will relate to when crafting your ads. This is important when selecting keywords for your ads to show up in response to.

    Think carefully about what a concerned mum or dad will search when looking for advice on treating that nasty graze on their child’s leg if you want your band aid product to show up at just the right time.

  3. Observe to optimize

    This is a big one. Advertisers could have ads running left, right and centre all over the Google display network, but how do they know what’s working and what isn’t? With all the tools and gadgets that Google Ads offers, it is important to experiment to find what works, and the only way you’ll know what works is if you keep an eye on metrics. To do so, get signed up to a Google analytics account.

Tips for using Google AdSense

Woman using laptop

Advertisers could also benefit from some advice when jumping on the Google AdSense train. Just like it’s Google Ads counterpart, it can prove a tricky world to navigate when you first start.

  1. Don’t break the rules

    We don’t know how else to say this. Google AdSense is strict… like, very strict. Basically, don’t be tempted to click on the ad on your site countless times to trick the system into thinking you have thousands of site visitors engaging with the ad content. They won’t shy away from blocking advertisers from ever using the service again.

  2. Try to blend the ads to your content

    Site publishers need to ensure that the ads they run with Google AdSense don’t flood the website and block out the original content. Likewise, you don’t want the look of the ads to be too stark against the backdrop of your site.

    Google allows you to have a say in the design of the ads that show up on your site. You can select colours, border details and backgrounds of ads that suit the look and feel of your site.

  3. Link your AdSense and Analytics accounts

    Just like with Google Ads, it pays to keep an eye on the performance metrics of your Google AdSense account. Linking with Google analytics will allow you to do this. It will make clear the typical traffic a publishers website receives and what kind of engagement the ads on the site are getting.

Ads vs AdSense: What’s the difference?

Man at his desk thinking

Okay, so now we’re at the crux of it all. Advertisers are always asking… Google Ads and Google AdSense – what’s the difference? To make it as clear as we possibly can, we’re going to try and sum this up in one sentence. Here we go, you ready?

Advertisers pay for Google AdWords ads to be displayed across the Google display network, while Google AdSense website publishers host those ads as Google sees fit.

Essentially, one is for the host (AdSense) and the other is for the one looking for a place to host (AdWords).

Taking advantage of the Google display network: AdWords and AdSense

Whichever end of the advertising spectrum you’re on, you can take advantage of the massive Google display network. Advertisers can utilise it to skyrocket the performance of their Google Ads and AdSense customers can make extra money by hosting them.

AdSense users benefit from this massive display network because Google has a huge range of sites it can deem appropriate for an ad. This means you’re not going to have irrelevant ads placed on your site.

Utilise rich media ads: AdWords and AdSense

Both AdWords and AdSense offer rich media ads for you to utilise. AdWords ads can be designed by advertisers with a range of creative tools and features that let you customise layout, colour, background and more. All the same aspects of a website ad in AdSense can be played with by site publishers to ensure that every ad matches the feel and look of your websites space.

The look and feel of the ads you choose will vary based on what you’re trying to sell or the already existing content of your site. Either way, rich media ads will level up your AdWords campaign or help you take better advantage of the Google AdSense program.

Ready to get started with Google Ads or Google AdSense?

You ready to get in on the action? Awesome. Now that you know the main difference between Google AdSense and Google Ads, it’s time to either advertise or host. Alternatively, you could do both. In the end, this isn’t really Google Ads vs AdSense…

You can take advantage of both platforms as a business owner, as long as you’re also a site owner. Get some AdSense ads up while having your own ads hosted on sites within the Google network.

We’re here to help!

From developing a bid strategy to understanding the best way to utilise different ad formats, we’re here to help. First Page New Zealand has the expertise and experience to take your Google Ads or Google AdSense account to the next level. The main difference between us and other advertisers is we make more AdSense.

Call us today on 0800 235 001 or visit We look forward to working with you!

Contact First Page NZ