What is AdSense and How Does it Work?

Everything you need to know about the Google AdSense ad platform

A man checks his AdSense on a laptop.

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AdSense is a program from Google that allows publishers to run ads, and monetize their content, without worrying about actually selling ads or managing ad inventories. The program is open to most website owners, and it's also integrated into Google's Blogger and YouTube platforms. If you have a website that includes unique, interesting, or entertaining content that's useful to your readers, you can use your Google AdSense account to make money.

How Does AdSense Work?

AdSense is designed to simplify the process of monetizing your websites with ads. Instead of making deals with individual advertisers and dealing with complicated systems to track things like how many people view and click your ads, Google handles everything.

Advertisers pay Google to run ads on the AdSense network, then Google pays you when those ads appear on your websites. According to Google's revenue share policy, you receive 68 percent of the amount the advertiser paid, while Google keeps 32 percent.

There are three main types of ads on Google AdSense:

  • Cost per click (CPC): Every time a viewer clicks one of these ads, you get paid. These ads are very common.
  • Cost per mille (CPM): These ads pay a fixed amount for every 1,000 times the ad is seen on your website by a viewer. They typically pay less than CPC, but they pay regardless of whether anyone clicks.
  • Cost per action (CPA): These ads only pay if a viewer clicks the ad and then performs an action like signing up for a mailing list. Since the action provides a direct benefit to the advertiser, these ads typically pay more.

You will typically see a variety of these ads on your website when you use AdSense. Since Google handles the entire bidding and placement process, you'll always receive the highest-paying available ads, regardless of type.

This is how the entire AdSense process works from start to finish:

  1. You create a website, blog, or YouTube channel that has unique and useful content for your viewers.

  2. You sign up for a Google AdSense account.

  3. If you're running a website, AdSense will provide you with Javascript code you can insert into your web pages. If you're using Blogger or YouTube, you just have to enable ads.

  4. Advertisers bid for the rights to run ads on specific content, like your website, blog, or YouTube videos.

  5. AdSense automatically inserts the highest-paying ads into your site, blog, or videos.

  6. Depending on the type of ad, you'll earn money based on how many times it's viewed or clicked.

  7. Once you have earned enough money, Google will issue you a payment.

How Do You Sign Up For a Google AdSense Account?

Before you can sign up for an AdSense account, you need to have a website, and it has to be eligible to run AdSense ads. Websites need to meet a number of requirements to be eligible. For instance, websites that simply copy content from other sources aren't allowed to use AdSense.

If you want to use AdSense with a Blogger blog or on a YouTube channel, apply directly through Blogger or YouTube.

If you have a website that provides engaging, interesting, or entertaining content, then you should be able to qualify for an account.

  1. Navigate to google.com/adsense/start, and select Sign up now.

    A screenshot of the Adsense sign up process.
  2. Enter your information, including your website URL and email address, then select Save and Continue.

    A screenshot of the Adsense sign up process.

    If you don't have a website or blog, you can't sign up for AdSense. You need to create your website first. If you want to sign up for AdSense for YouTube, sign up through YouTube.

  3. Sign into your Google account.

  4. Select your country or territory.

  5. Review and accept the AdSense terms and conditions.

  6. Select Create account.

Signing up is just the first step. After signing up, you'll have to activate your AdSense account, connect your website, place ads on your website, and provide Google with payment details. Activation is not instantaneous, and it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Understanding Google AdSense Earnings

Google AdSense earnings are based on the performance of the ads Google runs on your website or in your videos. Some ads pay out based on views, others pay based on how many times they're clicked, and a third type pays out based on how many times someone clicks the ad, then performs an action like signing up for a list or buying a product.

A screenshot of Adsense earnings.

AdSense earnings can be viewed at any time through the main AdSense portal, and additional information is available in the reports section.

Through the main AdSense portal, you can easily see how much you've earned that day, the previous day, the last week, the current month to date, and the previous 28 days.

This page can be customized, but the default configuration also shows you performance information, like how many ads were viewed, and how much you earned per click.

If you have multiple sites, you can also see your AdSense earnings for each website and how well each one is performing, including information about basic earnings, page views, and how many ad clicks each website received.

How Do You Receive Google AdSense Payments?

The whole point of using AdSense is to generate revenue, but there are a number of steps you need to go through before you can receive AdSense payments. There are also a few different ways to receive payments.

Here's the basic process you need to go through before you can receive AdSense payments:

  1. Provide your tax information to Google. In many jurisdictions, Google isn't legally allowed to release payments until they have your tax information. If you live in an area where that's the case, make sure to provide your information before you meet your first payment threshold to avoid delays.

  2. Confirm your name and address. Before Google can issue payment, you need to make sure that you provide the correct payee name. If you need Google to pay you personally, provide your full legal name. If you have a business, provide the business name. Also make sure that you have provided a valid address where you are able to receive physical mail.

  3. Meet the payment threshold. Your payment threshold is the minimum amount of money that you need to earn in order to receive a payment. The threshold is typically based on where you live, your currency, and the payment method that you choose. Once you meet this threshold, you will receive your payment in about three weeks, if you complete the rest of the steps in time.

  4. Select your preferred payment method. Once you first reach your payment threshold, and Google is able to issue a payment, you need to select the method by which you want to be paid. Depending on where you live, you may be able to receive payment through a direct bank deposit, wire transfer, check, Western Union, or other methods.

  5. Verify your identity. In some cases, based on where you live, Google may require you to verify your identity before issuing your first payment. You may need to provide information like your date of birth, address, and name.

  6. Verify your address. When you first reach your payment threshold, Google will mail a personal identification number (PIN) to your physical mailing address. You then need to enter the PIN into the AdSense site to verify your address.

Once you have completed this step, you should be eligible to receive payments each month that you meet the minimum threshold. If you don't meet the minimum in any given month, your earnings will roll over into the next month.

How Does Google AdSense Work With YouTube?

YouTube creators are able to monetize their videos through the YouTube Partner Program, which uses AdSense for payments. YouTube earnings were even listed in the AdSense dashboard at one point, although that information was eventually moved to the YouTube Creator Studio.

Before you can sign up for AdSense through YouTube and monetize your videos, you need to meet a series of strict requirements. Your channel needs to meet, and maintain, a minimum subscriber threshold, and your videos need to meet a minimum annual viewing time threshold.

If your YouTube channel doesn't have enough subscribers or yearly views, you can't sign up for AdSense through YouTube.