Google AdX vs Google AdSense: The Definitive Guide (2021)

Google AdX VS Google AdSense

Google AdX and Google AdSense are the two main digital advertising platforms from Google for publishers. While both platforms enable website owners to monetize their traffic, there are significant differences between the two. Knowing which platform to use will save you time, development resources, and late-night headaches. It will also help you increase your ad revenue.

In this guide, we’ll examine the differences between Google AdX and Google AdSense and show you which platform is the best fit for your website.

Google AdX (previously called DoubleClick Ad Exchange) is an advertising exchange that facilitates the buying and selling of display advertising space. As a programmatic ad exchange, Google AdX uses real-time bidding (RTB) to determine the price of advertising space. It works like a stock exchange, where advertising space is openly traded.

For publishers, Google AdX is a marketplace where they can sell advertising space to a wide range of advertisers in real time. Publishers retain control over which ads are shown on their websites and receive data on who purchased their inventory and for what price.

For advertisers, Google AdX provides a way to purchase ad space from publishers. Since a wide range of publishers use the platform, AdX is an easy way to scale campaigns or target specific demographics of users. Advertisers also benefit from real-time bidding which enables them to bid for ad space in real-time, depending on how much they value the impression.

Overall, AdX is an ad exchange that connects publishers and advertisers at scale, allowing both parties to more efficiently buy and sell display advertising space.

Google AdX
Source: Google

Is AdX owned by Google?

AdX is currently owned by Google. DoubleClick Ad Exchange was founded in 1995 and purchased by Google in 2008 when it was quickly rebranded as Google Ad Exchange (Google Ad Exchange or AdX for short). Microsoft and other companies raised concerns about the purchase as it was believed it would give Google too much control over online advertising. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the European Union looked into the arrangement and both gave the green light for the acquisition.

What Is Google AdX Now called
Source: Google

Is Google AdX A SSP?

Google AdX is widely regarded as one of the best SSPs in the market. As the world’s largest exchange of global inventory, AdX provides strong performance for publishers. Other popular SSPs include OpenX, Pubmatic, and Magnite. You can use header bidding to connect to these SSPs to increase your ad revenue.

What is AdX called now?

The programmatic buyers and networks formerly called “AdX buyers” are now known as “Authorized Buyers”. Google retired the AdX brand in 2018 when it integrated AdX into Google Ad Manager. The change was rolled out in the Ad Manager UI over several months.

What Is Google AdSense?

Google AdSense is an easy-to-use platform that enables website owners to monetize their content by serving ads. Website owners need only install a small piece of code on the site and select the spaces they want ads to appear.

Once AdSense is live, advertisers bid on the new ad space based on the website visitor’s profile. After an ad is served, AdSense bills the advertiser and pays the website owner per-click or per-impression. AdSense serves ads from advertisers who are using Google Ads, the Google Display Network, or other Google products.

AdSense helps reduce the manual input required from the publisher. Criteria such as ‘ad size’ and ‘ad placements’ can be automatically taken care of by using responsive ad units. In addition, the entry criteria for the platform are low. Publishers just need to have family-friendly content, no invalid traffic, and no copyright complaints. As a result, AdSense is one of the most popular digital ad platforms for publishers – far more popular than AdX.

Google AdX VS Google AdSense key differences

Google AdX vs Google AdSense: What Are the Key Differences?

The key differences between Google AdX and Google AdSense are:

  • AdX delivers more ad revenue when optimized correctly for tier 1 Geos. With an optimized dynamic flooring setup, Google Open Bidding, and preferred deals, publishers can expect their ad revenue to increase between 10%-30% when switching from AdSense to AdX for tier 1 Geos
  • AdSense is almost always best for tier 3 Geos. AdSense almost always outperforms AdX for tier 3 Geos
  • AdX has higher entry requirements than AdSense. With AdX, publishers need to have at least 5 million page views per month before they are eligible for consideration
  • AdSense is easy for non-technical publishers to use. To get the most out of AdX you will need an AdX partner, advertising operations expert, and ad tech developer
  • AdX is accessed through Google Ad Manager. This is a separate platform from Google AdSense
  • AdSense has a low minimum payout. AdSense almost always outperforms AdX for tier 3 Geos. In addition, it has a $10 minimum for US-based publishers, making it ideal for websites with low traffic levels
  • AdSense can be automatically configured. While AdSense can automatically place ads on a website, AdX gives publishers more control over the way ads are sold and displayed. For example, publishers can’t set floor prices for impressions, and they can’t also sell ad space directly to advertisers
Google AdX Google AdSense
5 million monthly pageviews required No minimum pageviews required
Better rates for ad inventory and access to premium ad campaigns for tier 1 Geos Better rates for tier 3 Geos
More complex setup since a Google Ad Manager account is required Setup can be done in just a few minutes without Google Ad Manager
Setup can be done in just a few minutes without GAM Tool for small to medium publishers

Is AdX better than AdSense?

AdX provides more ad revenue than AdSense for tier 1 Geos but there are also other factors to consider. In general, AdX is a good fit for larger websites with premium ad inventory while AdSense is suitable for the long tail of smaller websites that don’t have a lot of resources to invest into their advertising technology stack. If you’d like to find out more about which solution is the best fit for your site, contact our advertising operations experts here.

How Do I Join Google AdX?

You can access Google AdX directly in Google Ad Manager or through a Google MCM and AdX partner like Snigel. With direct access, you’ll get maximum flexibility but you’ll also need an advertising operations expert to maximize your ad revenue from the platform. When using a channel partner, you will need to share part of your revenue but the channel partner will take care of the ongoing advertising operations work.

How To Access Google AdX Through A Channel Partner

It is easier to access Google AdX through a channel partner or network partner manager (NPM) like Snigel. To gain access, you will need to meet the NPM’s minimum criteria. In general, a channel partner will want to see that your site has at least:

  • 500k pageview per month
  • 10% or more of your traffic coming from tier 1 countries
  • Family-friendly content
  • No invalid traffic
  • A good history with Google AdSense or Google Ad Manager

Certified Google MCM partners like Snigel have access to special accounts which allow them to serve ads and earn revenue on your behalf. The channel partner will distribute the revenue earned to you based on the revenue share you agreed.

How To Join Google AdX Directly

For direct access, you will need to first sign up for a Google Ad Manager (GAM) account and establish good scores for viewability, family-friendly content, and invalid traffic. After that, your Google account manager will be able to invite you to AdX at their discretion. You can ask your Google account manager to assess your suitability after your GAM account has been live for a few months. If you receive direct access, you will get the flexibility to manage your own AdX account. However, getting the most out of AdX is time-consuming.

The most successful AdX users constantly run tests and update their settings to take advantage of new features, pricing rules, technology, and ad formats. Overall, getting direct access makes sense if you have an ad operations expert and an ad tech developer on your team. For example, large publishers like Forbes and ESPN have these resources inhouse. Otherwise, you’ll get more ad revenue and less headaches if you go through a Google channel partner.

What Are The Minimum Requirements For Google AdX?

To access Google AdX directly, you will need:

  • A Google Ad Manager (GAM) account
  • No history of policy violations, unsafe content, or invalid traffic
  • An updated ads.txt file with details of all buyers
  • At least 5 million pageviews per month
  • A minimum of 10 million ad impressions per month for at least 6 months

It’s important to note that even if you meet these requirements, access to Google AdX is invite-only and at the discretion of your Google Account Manager. In addition, there may be further requirements from Ad Exchange with regard to content types and ad viewability. Contact our advertising operations experts here to get a free assessment of your website and see if it meets the minimum requirements. Users access AdX through Google AdManager.

How does Google Ad Exchange work?

Ad Exchange gathers ad inventory from publishers and offers it to advertisers. In return for facilitating this transaction, AdExchange takes a cut of the final price paid for the ad inventory. When a user lands on a publisher’s website, the publisher sends an ad request to Ad Exchange. The ad request contains information on the type of display ad inventory which is up for auction, the publisher’s site, and the user. Advertisers then bid on the ad impression in real time. The advertiser with the higher bid wins. Their creative is then sent from Ad Exchange’s ad server to the publisher’s website through JavaScript code placed on the publisher’s website. For advertisers, Ad Exchange’s ad server powers ad targeting, tracking and reporting on the campaign. Users access AdX through Google AdManager.

How Does Google AdX Work

What is Google Ad Manager?

Google Ad Manager is an ad management platform for large publishers who want granular control over their website setup. Ad Manager provides more functionality than AdSense and supports multiple ad exchanges and networks, including AdSense, Ad Exchange, third-party networks, and third-party exchanges. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the differences between AdManager and Ad Exchange.

Once you have gained access to Ad Exchange as a publisher, you will see a set of new features available in your Google Ad Manager account. You can find the full list of Ad Exchange settings here

google ad manager

Delivery

Google’s Ad review center provides features to help you find specific Ad Exchange ads to review and block. This can be helpful if you’re looking to monitor or improve your website’s ad quality. Google MCM partners like Snigel use the ad review center to continuously refine ad quality.

AdX Auctions

Open Auction

In an open auction, all advertisers connected to Ad Exchange can bid on the publisher’s ad inventory. This is also known as open exchange, real-time bidding (RTB) or open marketplace. It is the most traditional form of programmatic auctions. In an open auction, publishers can set a floor price for an ad but the final price is determined by how much advertisers are willing to bid. The inventory in this auction is not guaranteed.

Preferred Deals

Preferred deals allow publishers to offer inventory to specific advertisers before it goes to a private auction or open auction. Preferred deals can give buyers priority tier inventory, or be used to sell unique inventory. As such, this auction format is generally used to give premium advertisers the first option to buy inventory at a higher price than would be fetched through an open auction or private auction. Advertisers pay more in preferred deals because they get access to ad inventory that aligns with their brand or produces higher click-through and conversion rates.

Private Auctions

Private Auctions allow you to invite a set of buyers to bid on a selection of your ad inventory via an auction. Here you specify a minimum CPM floor price, and that buyer must exceed the floor price to be eligible for the auction. The winner is determined using the same auction model that applies to the open auction.

Google AdExchange Benefits

What are the benefits of Google AdX?

Ad Exchange benefits for publishers:

  • More ad revenue for the same ad space. Without AdX, many sellers have inventory that goes unsold or is sold for a price below its potential market value. AdX provides access to more premium advertisers which leads to better rates for ad inventory. The platform is most effective for tier 1 Geos while AdSense can outperform AdX for tier 3 Geos
  • Access to more advertisers. While still being able to control who can advertise on the site
  • Simplified reporting and payments. A single exchange manages it all

Ad Exchange benefits for advertisers:

  • Get access to many more websites and more ad space. This means more options for your ad campaigns
  • Use real-time bidding (RTB) technology. This allows advertisers to bid on ad space in real-time, depending on how much they value a particular ad impression
  • More control. Decide where ads run and don’t run

Ad Exchange benefits for Google AdWords advertisers:

  • Easy access to the websites in the Ad Exchange. In addition, advertisers can access all the existing websites in the Google Content Network through their AdWords interface

Google AdX vs AdSense - which is better for your site?

While Google AdX delivers more ad revenue, it is time-consuming to set up, update and maintain the account. In addition, to get the most out of Ad Exchange, you’ll need an advertising operations expert to test which pricing rules work best for your site, manage your preferred deals, set floor prices, initiate Google Open Bidding, and improve your ad layout. If you are a large corporation with access to these resources you could consider direct access to AdX and training your team to use the platform. However, most websites looking to access Google AdX go through a third-party ad tech company and Google MCM partner like Snigel. The ad tech company will simply pass across JavaScript tags for you to add to your site, and you will be ready to go. All administration and optimization tasks will be handled for you.

If your website has less than 5 million pageviews per month, you will have no option but to go through an ad tech company since you do not meet the minimum criteria for a direct account. The good news is that ad tech companies are often able to offer additional services like header bidding and video ads that can further increase your ad revenue.

Alternatively, if you prefer to have an ad setup that is easy to maintain and doesn’t require working with a third party, you could stick with AdSense. While your ad revenue will be 10% – 40% lower with this option, you will still have access to text, image, or video ads. Overall, AdSense is a great fit for smaller independent publishers who are looking to focus on content creation rather than monetization.

If you’d like to find out more about which option is best for your site, contact our ad ops experts here. They will be happy to answer your questions.

About the Author

Ben Rycroft

Ben is Snigel's Head of Publisher Success. He works on business development and marketing - spreading the word about how Snigel can help publishers supercharge their ad revenue.

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