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Google Ad Exchange (AdX) Vs Google AdSense | Publisher Guide

In this guide, we are going to learn a few things about the main SSP (Supply-Side Platform) role of Google Ad Exchange (AdX) and Google AdSense, as well as how they relate or differ from each other. Plus a few chops to help you as a publisher select the best platform between the two of them. But, we may not be able to answer fully as to which delivers the best results.

Simply, this is because any digital advertising revenue highly depends on many factors, which makes it difficult to recommend one platform categorically. As a matter of fact, back in 2017, Adnimation conducted a study with data from 400 websites which suggested that Google AdX would generate more revenue. But, in the end, there are key things to note.

For instance, it depends basically on whether your publication has a large enough audience or not. As well as the strategic marketing resources and advertising expertise in place to manage and optimize its ad operations effectively through Google Ad Exchange. If the answers are positive, Google AdX then opens up many more customization possibilities.

In addition to an array of other unique optimization paths to maximize revenue. If you don’t, however, then Google AdSense — which is easier to implement, manage and optimize than its sister Ad Exchange — would provide higher yields. So, what’s the difference between them? How do you choose which one is better for you and your business?

What Is Google Ad Exchange (AdX)?

Notably, both Google AdX and Google AdSense are digital advertising platforms that are owned by Google. They are used by publishers of all sizes to monetize their content. And both provide publishers with access to the same buyers and advertisers.

The origin of AdX (Google Ad Exchange) lies in DoubleClick Ad Exchange, a company founded in 1996 as an ad server. It was acquired by Google in 2008. The purchase was controversial at the time because there were concerns that Google would have too much control over online advertising. Below is a sample illustration image of how AdX usually works.

How Google Ad Exchange (AdX) Works

So, through Google Ad Exchange (AdX) platform, publishers can sell their ad inventory to advertisers and agencies using real-time bidding technology. By establishing an open marketplace where prices are set in a real-time auction, the Ad Exchange enables display ads and ad space to be allocated much more efficiently and easily across the web.

Sellers can make the most money for their ad space and get access to more advertisers, while still being able to control who can advertise on their site. Buyers get access to more websites and ad space and have more control over where their ads run.

How Google Ad Exchange Works

As a Supply-Side-Platform (SSP), the Google Ad Exchange platform helps digital media owners and publishers sell digital ads in automated auctions. On that note, a majority of SSPs like AdX also help improve the yield optimization of advertising space inventory on websites and mobile apps. In particular, so as to minimize wasted space and maximize views.

In 2018, Total Media listed DoubleClick Ad Exchange as its top choice for best SSP publishers. According to the report, “AdX outperforms the competition by connecting publishers into the world’s largest exchange of global inventory.”

There are three kinds of auctions on Google AdX:
  • Open Auction. Publishers are anonymous and the auction is open to all publishers and advertisers. It’s the standard or default auction type.
  • Private Auction. Publishers target a selected group of advertisers directly, offering them ad placements on their site. In this case, the publishers are not anonymous, and the publisher’s brand and profile have a deep impact on how well a private auction can perform.
  • Preferred Deal. In this mode, publishers offer a deal directly to an advertiser, offering them exclusive access to selected inventory before it goes to a private or open auction. Advertisers can then secure placement on publishers aligned with their brand, or which have higher conversion rates, in exchange for paying a higher price than in an auction process.

It’s, important to realize, that managing and optimizing a Google Ad Exchange (AdX) Account is more demanding than using AdSense. Technically, it requires either an agency, an ad ops team, or at least a dedicated resource. Decisions on this ad exchange can have a big impact on advertising revenue.

For example, setting up the floor price too high can make advertisers ignore your website in favor of other, less expensive alternatives, thus causing your revenue to plummet. To learn more about getting started with AdX, refer to Google’s Ad Exchange checklist where you’ll gather more details.

What Is Google AdSense?

Markedly, Google AdSense was developed as an internal product in 2003. It displays content-based advertisements on partner sites, allowing publishers to earn profit for every ad click made. AdSense matches ads to a site based on the publisher’s content and visitors. Advertisers then bid for the placement of their ads just like they do on Google Ads.

As a matter of fact, ads on AdSense come from Google Ads, the Google Display Network, and other Google products. It may be the benefit of having Google on their brand name or the fact that it’s an advertising product that’s easy to set up and requires minimal work, but AdSense is much more popular than AdX/DoubleClick in Google Search.

However, its popularity doesn’t necessarily make AdSense the better product. AdX is an ad exchange network, whereas AdSense is an ad network. The two products serve a fundamentally different use for different kinds of clients. To insert AdSense ads on your website you need to sign up on AdSense and submit your website details for verification.

Once they approve your request in a few days, you’re good to go. You just need to copy the ad tags provided by AdSense and insert them in your website code where you want to place ads.

How Google AdSense Works

AdSense is a free service, and the platform manages all steps of the process once the tags are set up. This means that everyone can sign up and the entry barrier is very low. Of course, optimizing a Google AdSense operation to maximize the results can require a lot of effort by a specialized consultant or marketing resource.

But, getting started with AdSense is actually very easy, which accounts for its popularity and high adoption rate from publishers and advertisers. Ad revenue share is strictly defined: 68% of revenue goes to the publisher, while Google keeps 32%. The publisher’s share goes down to 51% on ads shown on internal search engines powered by Google.

Publishers have a certain amount of control over the ads published on their websites. They can, for example, block competitors, sensitive topics and categories, and even individual ads from showing up on their site. They can also change the size and type of ads (text or display, for example).

The ads come from the Google Ads platform, where advertisers set up campaigns with ads and bid on the keywords that will trigger the placement of their ads. This makes it also very easy for advertisers to access placement on the AdSense ad network. So, what exactly are the key differences? And which platform is more suitable for you?


Learn How Google Ad Exchange (AdX) Differs From Google AdSense Platform

On one hand, Google Ad Exchange (AdX) (previously known as DoubleClick Ad Exchange) is an ad exchange network. This means that it is a Programmatic Advertising Platform, offering real-time bidding (RTB) on ad spaces to ad networks, including AdSense, agencies, and demand-side platforms. Publishers working with Google AdX have access to a larger inventory.

And, as such, they can access buyers from Google Ads and other marketplaces using this exchange. Equally important, it also provides much more control to publishers over their ad space and allows them to sell their ad inventory directly. There’s also higher competition for ad inventory, which results in increased revenue per ad unit sold.

On the other hand, Google AdSense is an advertising network. It allows publishers to monetize their content on desktop and mobile. Setting it up is very easy. You just create ad placements and insert a tag on your site’s code. From then on, AdSense will take care of everything, from serving ads to targeting to payment to the publisher.

Google AdSense will fill those placements with cookie-targeted ads from the Google Ads program. The filling rate is between 95-99%, so most of the time your ad units will be utilized. It’s not a very lucrative way to monetize content, as the platform is geared toward providing low-cost impressions to advertisers. But, publishers can’t set a floor price on their ad units.

Additionally, they can’t also sell those ad units on their own. In short, they’re stuck with what Google offers them. Still, there are plenty of stories of bloggers and small-scale operations that are able to generate a living wage out of AdSense.


Beginner User Guide: How To Get Started With  Google Ad Exchange (AdX) In Simple Steps

As you can see (from the video tutorial guide above), if you want to start using AdX to sell your ad inventory, setting it up can be a bit tricky. Basically, since access to the AdX ad exchange is, generally, reserved for large publishers.

Meaning, that a Google representative has to manually approve your application after submitting a request. Otherwise, if you’re able to get into this ad exchange you’ll have access to an advanced ad ecosystem with more functionality. Besides, you’ll also be able to set floor prices on your ad units and access a wider range of buyers and auction types.

If a large enough publisher with a dedicated AdX account manager, you can even negotiate your own share. This can have a huge impact on your bottom line, as small percentage changes have large impacts due to the large volume of a high-traffic site.

How To Create A Google Ad Exchange (AdX) Account

First of all, start by signing up with Google Ad Manager. You will get DoubleClick For Publishers (DFP), which is an ad server by Google and a Google Account Manager. This person will tell you if you are eligible for an AdX account or not. Be that as it may, there are a few criteria that you’ll need to meet if you want to qualify for an AdX account.

Consider the following:

Sometimes, there could be more checks related to ad viewability and safety concerns. By the same token, Google AdX might reject a publisher’s website if it’s known to show inappropriate content and/or is low in viewability score.

How Authorized Buyers Work With Google Ad Manager

Google Ad Manager is Google’s flagship ad server product, enabling publishers to leverage multiple ad networks including AdSense, Ad Exchange, and third-party networks. At the end of 2018, Google rebranded many of its advertising and publisher-facing products, including AdWords, Ad Exchange, DoubleClick, and other advertising and marketing tools.

Google’s Authorized Buyer Program enables millions of websites and apps from all over the world to make their ad inventory available to programmatic buyers. Authorized buyers have access to the “Google Partner Inventory”, allowing them to curate both how and who they work with through diverse buying methods.

The most common buyers include:
  • Ad networks. Companies that serve as brokers between publishers and advertisers.
  • Trading desks. Divisions at agency holding companies that execute exchange buys for all the company’s agencies.
  • Demand-side platforms (DSP). Platforms that make buying across multiple exchanges easier.

While AdSense remains a separate product for small-medium-sized publishers, Google Ad Manager combines Google’s popular ad server/SSP (formerly DFP) and their industry-leading ad exchange (AdX). Publishers need an AdSense account to sign up for Google Ad Manager. But to join Ad Exchange, publishers need to get invited by Google.

Or rather, sign up through a third-party partner. In doing so, Google limits access to its premium ad exchange and ad server to larger publishers and partners. With that in mind, for more information on how to sign up for a Google Ad Manager account, see this Google Support Article which has more useful details.

What Should You Choose Then, Google AdX Vs Google AdSense?

Google AdX offers an ad exchange programmatically or with real-time bidding. AdX has the potential to generate more revenue for publishers but requires more attention and dedication, or the resources to hire a third party that can manage their ad ops for them. Getting access to AdX is limited by Google to preferred publishers with at least 5 million monthly pageviews.

Since publishers using AdX have large audiences, they expose themselves to the world’s most premium advertisers who are eager to spend significant advertising budgets on widely trafficked sites. If you have substantial knowledge in the tech and ad industries and the resources in place to get the most from the platform, AdX is the right choice for you.

AdSense, on the other hand, is an easy and highly accessible way to generate revenue for even small-scale and niche publishers. This makes it a popular way to show text, images, videos, or interactive ads, which are targeted based on the site’s content and audience. You should choose AdSense if you’re a small or medium-sized publisher.

Especially, that’s if you have minimal resources to dedicate to ad management and implementation and limited technical knowledge. Any publisher who has a website that complies with the AdSense quality guidelines can apply for an account and easily get one. But in order to access Google AdX, you have to be a preferred publisher with a committed audience.

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