google ad Manager vs adsense

Google Ad Manager vs AdSense – Which Is Best For Ad Publishers?


When it comes to the question of Google Ad Manager vs AdSense, it turns out that while both are powerful ad platforms that offer a high revenue potential, they differ in the manner they approach and manage ads.

Google AdSense, for starters, is essentially an ad network that gives publishers a simple and easy way to serve programmatic advertising to targeted audiences. Google Ad Manager (GAM), on the other hand, is much more than just an ad network - it comes in the form of an ad server that grants publishers granular control over their entire ad operations ecosystem.

Well, going by that alone, chances are that you’d favor Google Ad Manager over Ad Adsense. Because - let’s be honest - who wouldn’t appreciate its superior control capabilities?

However, things are not that simple. Choosing between Google AdSense vs Ad Manager comes down to way more than just the level of ad control.

That’s why, curiously, AdSense happens to enjoy more popularity - contrary to what many publishers would presume. It reportedly publishes ads across over 40 million live websites, outshining Ad Manager several times over.

Consequently, there’s much more than meets the eye in this one-of-a-kind contest. And we’re here to take you through it all.

And, in particular, we’re are looking to help out publishers who might be torn between Google Ad Manager and AdSense in terms of:

  • Which is a better platform for managing ads?
  • What types of features do they offer ad publishers?
  • Which of the two offers better monetization opportunities?
  • What types of ad publishing websites do they support?
  • What benefits and disadvantages can you expect on each of the ad platforms?
Google AdSense Logo

What Is Google AdSense?

Google Adsense is an ad network that offers automatic access to demand from advertisers. You can think of it as a convenient platform for setting up your ad inventory and running targeted programmatic ads, without worrying about the technical intricacies that come with dynamic ad ops ecosystems.

Since you don’t really require a background in ad management to start using AdSense, it is a great starting point for publishers that are running ads on their page for the first time. All you need is a decent website that is at least three months old, and manages to attract a sizable flow of traffic on a regular basis.

There are no minimum traffic requirements, though. Even the smallest sites are allowed to set up Google AdSense, as long as their content is aligned with Google’s terms of service.

The setup process itself is pretty much plug-and-play. You simply register with the Google AdSense platform, apply for its ad program, submit your personal details, and voila!

Once you’re approved, the Google Adsense platform will provide an integration code. This is what you copy and paste to your website, and the ads will proceed to display natively within your site’s content.

The ads here, as you’ll notice, are channeled from one demand partner - Google. This means that you can’t be doing any form of ad selection or use advanced technology like header bidding on AdSense.

Instead, Google will handle all that on your behalf. It’ll match up your site with relevant advertisers, and then proceed to deliver ads that are suitable for your audience, as well as the site’s content.

So, you won’t be expected to control much. Just set up your AdSense and its AI-driven ad delivery system will pick up from there.

Google AdSense additionally manages billing and payments for its ad publishers. Typically, the system automatically charges advertisers different rates based on their campaigns, ad types, and impressions. Part of collections is then channeled to ad publishers as payment in accordance with these two types of compensation schemes:

  • CPC (Cost per Click)
  • EPC (Earnings Per Click).

It’s worth noting that while the rates per impression tend to vary from one ad to another, you’ll ultimately receive 68% of the funds raised from your ads. Then as the administrator and facilitator of the ads, Google gets to keep a whopping 32%.

google ad manager logo

What Is Google Ad Manager?

Google Ad Manager - or GAM in short - only came into the scene in 2010. It was previously known as DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP), which was eventually dropped when the platform rebranded following a 2018 merger with another Doubleclick subsidiary, DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Since then, Google Ad Manager has operated as a hosted ad server. That means it stretches beyond the standard capabilities of ad networks to empower publishers with granular tools for controlling ad sources, ad prices, and ad delivery processes.

Now, to put it into perspective, this is essentially what you turn to when you want to dive deep into your ad ops ecosystem. Google Ad Manager puts you in control of not only the ad inventory but also your ad networks, as well as the ad sales process.

You can, for instance, source ads from a wide range of demand channels - not just Google. It’s even possible to bring in third-party providers, like Snigel, to maximize your revenue streams through their programmatic advertising solution.

Additionally, you have the option of sales management. This means that instead of waiting around for Google to make arrangements with advertisers, you get to go into the market to close the deals in person.

You could engage in dynamic auctions such as header bidding or open real-time bidding.

Although they might seem complex at first, these unrestricted markets offer better revenue potential than Google AdSense. You can freely define the rates, as well as the types of ads and advertisers you’ll be working with.

All that is part of the revenue optimization features that come with Google Ad Manager. You’ll be able to leverage them in tandem with the accompanying inventory forecasting, delivery management, and ad reporting functionalities.

That being said, GAM is very difficult to navigate for people without ad ops experience. The type of ad controls and tweaks here form a pretty steep learning curve, especially for ad publishers who are just starting out. Unless you have the time and resources to try and learn to navigate the platform, it is always better to hire a third party that can set up and manage your ad operations for you. Snigel’s team of experts has over a decade of experience in the industry and helps over 200 publishers with their Ad Manager accounts. Make sure to get in touch with our team to find out how we can help your website.

google ad manager vs adsense

What Is The Difference Between AdSense and Google Ad Manager?

When it comes to Google Ad Manager vs AdSense, one of the most confusing aspects is the fact that while the GAM is capable of performing all the functions of AdSense, the privileges don’t apply vice versa.

That means that Google AdSense cannot be used as an Ad Manager alternative. Only GAM could be leveraged as an AdSense alternative.

Why is that so?

Well, although they share some features and may, at times, perform similar functions, the architectures of AdSense and Ad Manager are miles apart. They are built differently, with varying objectives and target users.

To make sense of it all, here’s a breakdown of the primary structural and operational differences between the two:

#1. Google AdSense is exclusively an ad network whereas Google Ad Manager doubles ups as an ad server

As we’ve established already, Google AdSense is simply an ad network, while Google Ad Manager operates as an ad server.

Now, put simply, you could say that AdSense acts as the middle party between publishers and advertisers. GAM, on the other hand, operates as a control arm for ad publishers as they engage advertisers.

If you compare the two, AdSense emerges as the weaker platform as its ad network capabilities are naturally restricted.

AdSense itself is meant to facilitate the delivery of digital programmatic ads within a system-controlled environment. Google here automatically relays ad transactions between advertisers and publishers, but without any form of ad inventory negotiations.

On one end is an engine that analyzes publishers’ sites, after which it proceeds to aggregate and group their ad inventory. This is then forwarded to advertisers who are looking to promote their products.

On the other end is a corresponding system that, for a fee, gathers ad content from advertisers, and then dynamically delivers it to publishers site’s - where the ads ultimately end up targeting the relevant audiences.

With Google Ad Manager, however, you get an ad server that allows you to define the entire ecosystem. Instead of leaving everything to Google, you get to control your ad demand by picking your preferred ad networks and negotiating with advertisers.

While you’re at it, GAM additionally helps you stay on top of everything by generating critical performance reports. You should be able to keep track of KPIs such as ad impressions, click-through rates, revenue, and ad clicks.

What’s more, it offers ad reach metrics that can be further broken down per ad unit, line item, order, and advertiser.

#2. Google Ad Manager supports multiple ad demand channels while Google AdSense limits you to one demand partner

To keep everything simple and streamlined, Google AdSense offers just a single demand partner. All the ads that are displayed on your site are courtesy of Google’s ad assets - the Google Display Network, Google Ads, you name it.

Then considering that ad selection, ad targeting, and ad delivery are controlled by Google, it’s safe to say that you won’t be defining much of your ad inventory campaign and monetization strategy. The amount of revenue that you manage to generate from AdSense is largely dependent on the generosity of Google.

And speaking of which, it turns out that ad publishers are not Google AdSense’s top priority. Rather, its system tends to favor advertisers as it seeks to provide them with low-cost impressions.

That’s not the case with Google Ad Manager. Unlike AdSense, the Ad Manager gives publishers more power over their monetization strategies.

You can, for instance, natively serve ads from the AdSense network, alongside third-party demand channels.

Illustration of monitor displaying a website with ads

In particular, you want to leverage Google AdX (Google Ad Exchange), which is the programmatic advertising exchange within GAM. This is where you get access to an expansive virtual marketplace of advertisers, third-party agencies, and demand-side platforms.

As such, you should be able to maximize your potential by extending your ad inventory to a large pool of advertisers and demand partners. Google Adx’s real-time bidding system allows you to sample favorable rates from various third-party advertisers and networks.

Google AdX can be accessed through your Google account manager or an approved Google MCM and AdX partner such as Snigel.com.

#3. Google AdSense is simple and straightforward whereas Google Ad Manager offers granular controls

Google AdSense is a favorite among beginners and growing publishers because of its well-streamlined ad network. It doesn’t take much to monetize your ad inventory here - as everything is simple and straightforward.

The setup process itself can be performed without any technical skills. Plus, it’s open to all types of websites, including small-scale publishers who only host a handful of visitors.

You just need to copy the AdSense code from Google’s system and then paste it to your site - right where you intend to display the ads.
Once it’s all perfectly placed on your site, you can leave the rest to the AdSense AI engine. It’ll programmatically fetch cookie-targeted ads from the Google Ads program, deliver them to the right audience, and then charge advertisers accordingly based on the impressions or clicks.

So, as a publisher, your only job will be driving visitors to the site. Google AdSense will, in turn, keep the earnings flowings by maintaining a fill rate of about 96% to 100% according to Google. If you want to find out exactly how much your website can earn, make sure to check out our free AdSense revenue calculator tool.

The same cannot be said of the Google Ad Manager. The user experience here is not that seamless, and it can get be difficult for beginners that do not have a higher level of ad operations knowledge and experience.

You see, unlike AdSense, Google Ad Manager comes in the form of a full-stack demand-side platform - complete with granular controls for managing programmatic demand, third-party ad networks, direct deals, plus ad inventory.

As such, you can expect a pretty steep learning curve as you get started. Then when you finally learn the ropes, you still need to put a lot of time and effort into optimizing the ad inventory attributes. That being said, you will be rewarded with higher revenue in comparison to AdSense.

To make the most out of Google Ad Manager, you should partner with a trustworthy ad tech provider like Snigel. Our ad ops experts can get the most out of your ad setup and maximize your revenue through our market-leading header bidding stack, AdEngine.

pros and cons

Google Ad Manager vs AdSense Pros and Cons

To help you decide which of the platforms is best to monetize your website, we have put together a breakdown of the merits and demerits of each of them.

Google AdSense benefits / pros

  • The setup process is easy and straightforward. You don’t need any technical skills.
  • Ad publishers can serve ads automatically without rallying advertisers.
  • The platform is open to all types of publishers, including small-scale sites that are barely starting out.
  • Publishers get up to 68% of the advertisement fees collected by the system.
  • The system programmatically handles all the adverts and payments.

Google AdSense Disadvantages / cons

  • It restricts you to one demand partner.
  • It prioritizes the needs of advertisers over publishers’ revenue generation.
  • Lower revenue in compassion to using Google AdX
  • Ad publishers cannot set the base price for the ads.
  • The system retains full control over the type of ads to show.
  • Google deducts about 32% from the ad earnings as commission.
  • It offers limited performance reports and analytics.

Google Ad Manager benefits / pros

  • As an ad server, GAM gives you the opportunity to define your entire ad ops ecosystem.
  • It comes with granular controls for managing the ad inventory, demand channels, ad networks, etc.
  • You can optimize your ad revenue by using the built-in Google AdX to leverage opportunities from third-party ad networks.
  • Its ad inventory forecasting capabilities make it easier for ad publishers to manage their programmatic sales.
  • Higher revenue in comparison to AdSense
  • Ad publishers can increase their earnings by selling ad inventory directly to advertisers through real-time bidding.
  • It’s capable of running Google AdSense.
  • The platform offers advanced reports and analytics.

Google Ad Manager disadvantages / cons

  • It’s complex and has a steep learning curve.
  • Managing the many ad processes and attributes requires a lot of time and dedication.
  • You need an active Google AdSense account to use Ad Manager.

Final Verdict - Google Ad Manager vs AdSense

For a typical publisher, the Google AdSense vs Ad Manager question ultimately comes down to your traffic and the question of whether you are happy to exclusively serve ads from AdSense, or whether you prefer working with multiple advertisers and ad networks.

Google AdSense is the popular go-to for publishers who prefer to keep things simple and would be comfortable sourcing their programmatic ads from one demand partner. While this is a great solution for smaller-scale publishers, larger scale publishers miss out on between 20-70% of extra income if they do not enable more advanced technology like header bidding.

With Google Ad Manager, there are no revenue ceilings. The granular controls coupled with its unrestrictive ad ops ecosystem translate into endless monetization opportunities for publishers. You can earn as much as you desire from as many advertisers as you want.

With Snigels AdEngine our team of seasoned ad ops experts can optimize your monetization strategy and maximize your ad revenue. To learn more about how Snigel works, and to discover how we can build the most suitable and customized ad setup for your site, feel free to get in touch. We are glad to assist as you make the switch to Google Ad Manager.

About the Author

Ira is Snigel's Online Marketing Executive. She supports our team and publishers by creating awesome guides on the latest adtech trends. Ira has studied software development, communications, and media.

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