Key Points

  • Google is the largest ad tech company in the world (yes, ad tech). Its two main ad tech platforms are Google Ad Manager (GAM) and Google AdSense. 
  • GAM and AdSense are very different. AdSense is a great option for beginner publishers who want to learn the ropes, but most will need to transition to GAM fairly quickly if they’re serious about earning ad revenue.
  • There is a steep learning curve for navigating GAM and building your own ad tech stack, which is why most publishers opt to work with a revenue partner to help expedite the learning process and skip straight to revenue optimization.

Few things are certain in the fast-paced world of ad tech. Here’s one of them: Google’s suite of ad monetization platforms and tools are essential vehicles in any ad revenue strategy. 


  • They’re the industry standard
  • They provide access to the world's largest demand source
  • They’re easy to integrate with complementary tools

As the world's largest advertising company (and yes, since over 80% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, they are an advertising company), Google has a tool for everything. 

Think of Google as the Honda of Ad Tech — they make reliable rides for new drivers, professional racing motorcycles, and everything in between.

The question is: what’s the difference between them all? And which one is right for you?

Let’s start with the company’s two main platforms for monetizing ads: Google Ad Manager and Google AdSense. In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between the two. Keep reading to learn more about GAM vs. Google AdSense, and to find out which one will help you get to the finish line.

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Google Ad Manager Pillar

The Publisher's Guide to Google Ad Manager and GAM 360

What is Google AdSense?

Google AdSense is a free, easy-to-use ad monetization platform where publishers can earn revenue from each ad unit hosted on their website(s).

It’s like your first car: affordable, reliable, and simple. While this makes it easier for you to learn the rules of the road (because you’ll have less technical stuff to manage), it can be restrictive.

AdSense allows you to provide your visitors with a targeted, personalized, and overall quality advertising experience. Since better visitor experience = higher value ad inventory, this means it benefits advertisers, too. And ultimately results in more money in your pocket. 

However, because of its limited controls, we recommend AdSense for beginner publishers. If you’re serious about revenue, you’ll need something with more horsepower. It’s pretty normal to get started in AdSense and then quickly realize that you need more sophistication in terms of controls, features, and capabilities.

What is Google Ad Manager (GAM)?

Google Ad Manager is often referred to as the next step up from AdSense, but it’s actually more complicated than that. GAM is a robust ad management platform where you can create, monitor, manage, and report on entire ad campaigns. The platform, which is the largest in the world, works for both websites and apps.

To provide a bit of background on the platform, in 2018, GAM changed its name from Double Click for Publishers and became much more sophisticated in its offerings to publishers. It added several advanced features including audience targeting and programmatic bidding. 

In more recent years, the platform has stayed competitive by adding enhanced reporting through Google Analytics, dynamic creative optimization (DCO), and an API that allows publishers to integrate third-party ad networks.

Because of the comprehensive and customizable nature of the platform, GAM is an ideal solution for many publishers. Whether you prefer a hatchback, a sedan, or a racecar; GAM has a solution for you.

At some point, you may find that you have outgrown even the many capabilities of GAM and require a vehicle that’s a bit more luxurious, such as GAM 360. To learn more about GAM 360, GAM’s paid, premium version, click here.

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Google AdSense Pillar

The Complete Guide to Google AdSense

GAM vs. Google AdSense

While they come from the same company, GAM, and Google AdSense are two completely different products. As we said earlier, think starter car vs. a performance machine. AdSense and GAM are both essential parts of the publisher’s journey, but whether or not they’ll be ideal for you depends on how far along you are. 

The short answer —

Beginner publisher → AdSense

Intermediate to advanced → A more sophisticated solution such as GAM

But, like all things in ad tech, it's miles and miles more complex than that. 

The Differences Between GAM vs. Google AdSense

AdSense is the faithful beater your parents deliver on your 16th B-day, which means it has the fundamental capabilities you need to get on the road. Once you’re ready for heated seats, backup cameras, or even autopilot, it’s time to upgrade to something more advanced.

That’s where GAM comes in. GAM is an essential part of any sophisticated ad monetization solution. But that doesn’t mean you should hop in the driver’s seat unprepared.  

Like most racecars, GAM has a lot of parts and features.

Features like —

  • Enhanced ad offerings
  • More granular controls
  • Wider variety of ad creatives
  • Less restricted ad formats
  • Support for a wide range of ad network exchanges
  • Support to monetize multiple types of ad inventory
  • A centralized location to manage all inventory
  • Support to manage high-value direct deal revenue
  • Advanced Google Analytics and reporting capabilities

GAM requires advanced knowledge to operate, optimize, maintain, and manage. If you’ve only ever driven a Subaru, you’ll end up driving your racecar like a Subaru. AKA: not taking advantage of tools and features you don’t have the know-how to use. And in some instances, you may be hurting your results by using one of these advanced features incorrectly (think of it like putting regular gasoline into a Ferrari instead of premium). 

This isn’t a problem when you’re working with a Google Certified Publishing Partner (GCPP) like Playwire. But when you’re on your own, you’ll need to complete a lot of training before you can shift into high gear.

Get the Best of GAM and Google AdSense with Playwire

Ready to hit the road and drive off into the sunset?

GAM and Google AdSense are both terrific vehicles for driving ad revenue. The important part is knowing which option will work best for you. 

If you’re still unsure, don’t worry. That’s why we’re here.

At Playwire, we can get you access to all the tools, features, and functionalities you need to accomplish your revenue goals. 

But, working with us takes you further than just that. With Playwire, you get access to our RAMP Platform, which is less like a racecar and more like a rocket ship. We take features from GAM, GAM 360, and more and optimize them to amplify your ad revenue and take you further than you thought possible. Plus, you get a full-fledged pit crew — our diverse team of experts who are dedicated to helping you get to the finish line.

Wanna get on board? Reach out to us online to get started.

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