For paid media, I’ve heard of Outbrain and Taboola for a lot of times, but never really used them before, so I’m very glad when getting the chance to try them. Now the first month’s Outbrain and Taboola performance reports have been sent to client, and I can finally write up something about a whole experience of using them from setting up an account to finishing a performance report.
Outbrain and Taboola are two leading content amplification platforms that discover the possible audiences interested in the content, and promote content to these audiences on partner media properties in a natural and imperceptible way.
How do they find the audiences?
The platform engine crawls each piece of content, understands what it is about, categorizes it, and then uses algorithms to serve the article on a variable weighting system. They are employing a large variety of algorithms, but normally the algorithms are grouped into 3 types:
- Context: The content is matched to contextually relevant articles across the platform’s network.
- Behavior: The engine looks at the behavior of readers, based on cookies and collaborative filtering, and will serve the content if it sees they are likely to engage with it. It’s like how Amazon recommends products. For example, people who buy Harry Potter books also have a tendency to buy Twilight books, so if you buy a Harry Potter book, Amazon may recommend Twilight.
- Performance: The performance algorithms look at where the content is getting the highest engagement rates and will optimize to serve more impressions in those high-performing environments. When an article starts to perform well, the engine will start to optimise for this by serving more impressions because people have shown a lot of interest in it. This does not hinder the other articles because the impressions simply increase, and there is not a finite amount of impressions that is given to a campaign. Ultimately, a good campaign will show good distribution across many articles.
This means you can expect a combination of category-specific publishers, alongside broader media sites with news and business sections, as well as publishers where your audience also spends time, like technology and sports sites.
Publishers: Where will your content recommendations appear?
We don’t need to select publishers as the algorithm makes the decision on where content is recommended. The full list of Outbrain and Taboola’s publishers are here:
The publishers are very important since they will actually help to decide which platform you will want to go for. I’ll explain further in the next part – cost projections.
For Outbrain, I’ve got an estimation of average CPC as USD 0.37, and estimations of different markets as below:
So here comes the question. Outbrain and Taboola are using similar algorithms, but How come do their CPCs have so much discrepancy, and if Taboola is much cheaper, why don’t we just go for it rather than Outbrain? I emailed to Outbrain and also looked up lots of articles online. To combine Outbrain’s reply and other articles’ info, here is the answer:
Outbrain has premium publishers, and they’ve made great effort to keep away shady traffic buyers and inappropriate content, and maintain a certain level of class with buyers, publishers and most importantly – the readers. As a result, which platform is better to use depends on the campaign objective. If we are simply looking for traffic boost or short-term revenue, Taboola is definitely a good choice; but if we want to guarantee the quality of readers, I’d say Outbrain could give us more confidence.
Creative specifications and best practice
If you only have 5 minutes, then I can give you a simple standard answer on the specifications. Both Outbrain and Taboola need a headline and image to generate an ad. Headlines are key to ensure the brand is attracting target audiences and it’s the most critical targeting tool.
- Taboola: 60 is max – 35-45 is optimal
- Outbrain: No limit
- Taboola: JPG preferred, at least 400×300 px, under 75kb.
- Outbrain: a square JPG with a maximum size of 400x400px
But if you have more time, here are more details to learn.
- Headlines: You can submit as much content and headlines as you like. The more, the merrier! More content increases the opportunity for discovery and thus sustains CTRs over the campaign period. As best practice, it is best to launch with at least 10 stories (URLs). If you have less than 10 stories, please create an additional 3-5 headlines per story — the key is to have at least 10 headlines at launch. Headlines are important for attracting the right audience, and must be written in an editorial style.
- Images: There is no need to submit images as the system automatically picks up the first image on your story. If your story does not have an image, then you can update it to include one – engaging readers with strong visuals is best practice. Should you wish to use a different image from the article, submit a square JPG with a maximum size of 400x400px.
- Some best practice here: Outbrain Content Creation Guides & Tips
- Taboola best practice: Taboola Content Creation Guides & Tips
Both Outbrain and Taboola will assign an account manager to serve your account. The difference is, Outbrain will help you to set up the first month’s campaign, and hand it over to you after that. You’ll need to set up the rest of the campaigns and manage them by yourself. However, Taboola will do all of this for you, and you’ll just need to keep an eye on it to make sure all of the setting follows your requirement (This is why I like Taboola better. The account manager that helped me is always reachable, and always proactively offer suggestions based on her daily monitoring).
Once the campaign is confirmed and the contract signed, you can submit URLs, headlines, images, clicktrackers and UTM tags to the account manager, and they will launch the campaign within 3 working days.
Outbrain has 2 types of payment. For markets including US, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia, Israel, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Philippines and India, you can use the self manage system and pay through credit card. For other markets that are not in the list, you’ll have to contact Outbrain to sign an IO with them and pay via invoices.
Here I want to remind advertisers about a new policy released by Outbrain recently:
This means if we have a fixed daily budget, we need to reserve 20% buffer when setting the daily cap.
Taboola needs to pay via invoices.
Advertisers will have full access to campaign performance via the Outbrain/Taboola dashboard. Data available:
- Impressions, Clicks, CTR (Outbrain/Taboola)
- Spend to-date (Outbrain/Taboola)
- Performance by country (if you’re running a campaign in multiple countries) (Outbrain/Taboola)
- Top publishers recommending your content (Outbrain)
- Performance by headline (Outbrain/Taboola)
- Performance by platforms (Taboola)
For Taboola, they can also align a fixed time with you for each month, and send you an automatic report at that time. The system-generated report will be most accurate and updated.
To get more info about Outbrain & Taboola’s backend setting, here is a list of tutorials:
- Outbrain – adding new campaign: http://help.outbrain.com/customer/portal/articles/1447282-how-do-i-set-up-my-first-campaign
- Outbrain – Editing campaign settings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nksYnwbzZv4
- Outbrain – Managing and adding content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43ShpFt8GDY
- Outbrain – Bulk upload tutorials: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WSPvvPHhdk
- Taboola – Backstage overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-205Qb6R7I