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EricGiguere.com > AdSense FAQ > What is AdSense?
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What is AdSense?

AdSense is an advertising program that lets non-Google websites participate in the AdWords advertising network. To understand AdSense, then, you have to first understand AdWords.


AdWords is a self-service advertising program for placing ads on Google's search result pages and on partner sites. Anyone with a credit card can sign up for AdWords and have their ads shown on Google almost immediately.

Most AdWords ads are shown on Google's search result pages, where they are called "Sponsored Links". So far, only text ads have been shown on the result pages. A text ad consists of a title up to 25 characters long, two description lines (up to 35 characters each), and a domain name or partial URL (up to 35 characters as well). Advertisers pay when a Google searcher clicks the title or URL of an ad and are redirected to the advertiser's landing page. This is known as cost-per-click or CPC for short.

The text ads shown on a result page are selected using an algorithm that factors in price (how much the advertiser is willing to pay per click), clickthrough rate (how well the ad is performing), keyword relevance, and other factors.

AdWords also offers image and video ads, but these are shown on partner sites, not on the search pages. These ads are bought on a cost-per-thousand impressions or CPM basis.


AdSense extends AdWords to third-party (non-Google) partner sites. Sites that meet certain basic criteria can elect to display AdWords ads (text, image or video formats) on their pages. Collectively, AdSense sites are part of the Google content network.

Ad delivery to AdSense sites is completely automated and is done on a per-page basis by analyzing the content of the page using a patented algorithm and selecting the ads that best match the content. This is called contextual targeting and is the primary reason for AdSense's success: relevant advertisements have much higher click-through rates than random image ads. They're also incredibly easy to add to a page — just paste in some JavaScript that Google generates for you.

AdSense publishers (site owners) are paid a percentage of the ad revenues earned by Google from clicks and impressions on that publisher's sites. The exact percentage has not been disclosed. Payments are made on a monthly basis by cheque or by electronic money transfer.

Comments or questions about this AdSense FAQ entry? Leave them on the Unofficial AdSense FAQ for discussion.

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