You must have an existing website before you apply to the Google AdSense program. The Google AdSense team reviews your site before accepting new applications, so you must first put up a working website and not just some "under construction" page. For example, if you are starting a personal blog, post a few articles about yourself or your experiences first.
When your site is fully functional, apply to Google AdSense. You can find AdSense listed among other advertisers in thefreecountry.com'sAffiliate Programs: Free Sponsors and Advertisers page.
Google will then send you an email to verify your email address. Follow the instructions in that message (which is basically to click a link). Once you do that, your application will be sent to the Google AdSense team. One of them will pop by your website to review it. Don't hold your breath though, it may take a couple of days before they get around to your site. During this time, if your site is a blog, continue to post to it as per normal.
Once your account is approved, you can log into your account to get the necessary HTML code to paste into your blog or web page.
The Google web designers tend to change their layout from time to time, so if what I say here does not match what you see, look for the equivalent. At the time I wrote this paragraph, to generate the code, look in the left column and click "My ads", followed by "Content", then "Ad units". When that is done, click the "+ New ad unit" button in the right column.
You will be asked "Which type of ad would you like to create?". The advertisements you see on thesitewizard.com are "Text & display ads", so if that's what you want, you will have to click the "SELECT" button for that. You will then be able to give your Ad unit a name (so that you can identify it later, should you create multiple units for different parts of your site), set the size, style, appearance, etc. Once you have finished configuring, you will be given some HTML code which you can cut and paste into your site.
There are other types of adverts beside the context-sensitve ads. The "Search" line in the left column (underneath "Content") provides you with a Google search box that you can place on your site. When your visitors search through that box, and click an advertisement, it will be as though they had clicked an ad on your site.
Make sure that when you insert the code into your site, you insert it as HTML.
If you run a blog, you may want to paste the code into your blog's template instead of individually stuffing it into every post you make. For blogs hosted on Blogger, one of the free blogging services listed on the Free Blog Hosts page, you can use my tutorial on How to Insert Google AdSense Advertisements in a Blogger Blog to help you insert your advert.
At the time I started using AdSense, when my earnings reached a certain amount (I think it was US $10) for the first time, Google sent me a card by snail mail (ordinary paper mail) with a series of characters printed on it. I had to log into my AdSense account and enter these characters, the PIN. I don't know if they still do this, but if so, note that it takes a while before this card is sent (possibly up to a few weeks after you reach the threshold amount, depending on where you live), so just wait for it. You will only have to do this once in the life of the account.
One of the things you must always remember is never click your own Google ads, even if it is to find out whether the site linked to is acceptable for your website's audience. Since (at this time) Google pays AdSense ads according to the number of clicks, clicking your own ads is regarded as fraud, and will, at the very least, get you kicked out of the AdSense program.
Although the Google website doesn't say this, if you are showing off your blog or site to your family members, make sure they do not click any of your advertisements either. This is the case even if they are genuinely interested in the products advertised. They can always look for it by name in a search engine later if they wish, but for anyone living in your own household, any Google advert on your site is strictly off limits. The reason for this is that clicks from your household will look exactly like clicks from you.
This only comes after you have done some serious website promotion or advertising.
Be realistic: remember that even if someone clicks your ads, you may just get a cent or two from that click, assuming that Google doesn't disregard that click for some reason. In addition, only a very miniscule percentage of your visitors will actually click ads. Put those factors together and you can roughly guess how much you are going to make if you only have a few visitors per day.
If you can, try not to put Google AdSense ads or, in fact, any advertisements at all, if you are trying to sell a product or service on your website. There are a couple of reasons for this:
You may be inadvertantly advertising for your competitors. You cannot predict what sort of ads are going to pop up in the AdSense code for your site. What you see when you load your site may not necessarily be what your visitors see. If a competitor places an ad that Google finds relevant for your page (and it surely will, if Google's context-sensitive engine works correctly), then their ad will appear on your page. You may thus lose sales to that competitor as a result of the ads.
Ads distract your visitors from the real focus of your site. You want your users to read your sales copy, and not be clicking on links to go to some other site even if those links do not lead to your competitors.
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