AdSense is an ad serving network run by Google. Webmasters opting in to the service have contextually relevant text, image or video advertisements displayed on their site in return for payment when the ads are viewed or clicked by website visitors.
Which adverts are shown is most highly dependent on website content. For example, if a website is about antique cars (or a page on the website has content relating to antique cars), AdSense is likely to display advertising relating to the antique car industry. Adverts are also influenced by the visitor's geographical location.
From a publisher's point of view the advantage of AdSense is ease of deployment; once an account is setup and the code is added to a website, adverts will be served automatically. The high relevance and simple formats of the AdSense system also means that, compared to other similar options, conversions are relatively high and so can generate a reasonable income.
The popularity of AdSense with webmasters as a source of hassle-free income (in some circles the service is derogatorily referred to as "Webmaster Welfare") has seen the rise of MFA (Made for AdSense) sites, which typically have little useful or original content (which is often scraped from other sites) and are designed purely to serve visitors adverts.
Due to the possible negative connotations of AdSense-heavy sites and the risk of brand damage if the ads are overused, added to a website with a low readership or low levels of content, it should be used with caution.
Although AdSense can offer steady returns for webmasters, better revenues can often be achieved through direct sale of advertising space or by using the space to promote the company's own products or services.
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