Outbrain vs. Taboola – The Content Marketing Battle

October 13, 2016

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Content promotion is big business these days and marketers are keen to find new ways to engage new audiences and increase the reach of their content. Outbrain and Taboola have both been around for several years and are by far the two biggest content promotion platforms.

So what do they do?

Do you know the annoying ads at the bottom of articles with titles such as “You wouldn’t believe what the star of Wonder Woman looks like now”? They are products of Outbrain and Taboola which are basically the Internet’s version of tabloid ads. Whatever you may think of them, these platforms have enormous reach and can work wonders for marketers, when used correctly. So which one kicks ass and which one sucks?

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1) Budget and Spend

Both platforms are great if you want to get your Ads out there, but the two content marketing giants do differ in quality, service and minimum requirements. Regarding budget, Outbrain only allows you to set a daily budget which is a bit of a pain; especially since they have a habit of going over that limit by around 20%! They also don’t allow you to schedule your ads according to hours. So if you want to schedule campaigns to run throughout US daytime hours, you can’t. Taboola offers a monthly budget and crucially, you get to do the daily breakdown yourself which is far more convenient. However, they do have a minimum monthly spend of $1,500 a month! Apparently, this is the bare minimum for the algorithm to collect the requisite data.

Taboola is even nice enough to give you a rep; this person will sell you a package and you have to sign a paper agreement. You’ll typically be asked to commit to a set budget and per click rate. For instance, you may want a $10,000 budget with $0.25 CPC. Outbrain doesn’t offer a rep unless you spend a significant amount; we’re talking thousands per month over a sustained period. Smaller spenders end up with the self-service option, which is not bad, just less flexible.

Winner – Outbrain

Despite what I said above, Outbrain wins hands down because with Taboola you’ll end up spending your money in a heartbeat! Seriously, the reach of Taboola (almost double that of Outbrain) means you could get hundreds of clicks in minutes. Both have a minimum daily spend of around $10, but for most small-medium size businesses that are looking for quality upon quantity, the Outbrain platform will do the job. Obviously, if you are a big spender and need personal assistance, then Taboola kills it when it comes to customer support and service.

2) UX

To be fair to both platforms, they are extremely easy to use. You can quickly access crucial data such as budget, CTR, clicks and a lot more besides. However, Outbrain will irritate you since it won’t allow you to edit or alter your article once you have created it. If you make a mistake, the only thing you can do is replace it with something new. Have the people at Outbrain never heard of typos? Let’s say you type something else instead of ‘duck’? The letters ‘d’ and ‘f’ are close together you know!

Additionally, you can’t automatically block specific sites (sources) on Outbrain; you have to get in touch with a rep which is time-consuming and annoying.
Taboola on the other hand, has really done a fantastic job with their platform. Not only is it easy to use, you’ve got additional features like, blocking sources, changing CPCs per source and numerous optimization tools that Outbrain still lack.

Winner – Taboola

Again, here it really depends on your spend. If you’re running a large budget then you’ll be able to receive the same functionality from both systems. One will offer it through their powerful system, while the other will give you the options through a rep. Problems occur when you are a small spender. If your company is into branding then optimization might not be such a big deal, but if you need to optimize and drill down into data then the Taboola Platform is a sure bet!

3) Support

A content marketing platform is only as good as the level of support it provides. If you are experiencing technical difficulties and they aren’t resolved ASAP, you could lose a pretty penny because on the Internet, downtime is dead-time.

Taboola provides you with a personal account manager and they are relatively easy to contact regarding problems with the account. Unfortunately, they don’t have a comprehensive FAQ section whereas Outbrain does. In addition to the video tutorials and online & phone support, you are contacted by a ‘support team specialist’ who offers tips on turning your content into $$$.
Regarding Outbrain’s API, I can tell you first hand that it is amazing. They also have a fantastic level of support regarding their API. Everything that I wanted to know about their API was answered in less than 24 hours.

Winner – Taboola

Outbrain offers excellent online information but lacks the personal touch of Taboola; this is because the latter requires a greater level of expenditure so they make it up to you somewhat with outstanding support. The account manager is a great touch and Taboola is extremely quick when it comes to responding to queries.
While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Outbrain’s support, it pales in comparison to the higher quality service offered by Taboola. Outbrain is a rump steak whereas Taboola is Fillet Mignon.

4) Tracking User Traffic

Both platforms enable you to track user traffic with conversion pixels. This is important as the practice allows you to target certain segments of your clients on specific sources, provide them with the right ads and learn more about the interests & preferences of readers. If specific sources are working well, you can also scale up, create white lists and block sources that aren’t working. However, Taboola has a larger reach so it’s easier for big companies to ‘scale up’ on the traffic they want. With Outbrain it isn’t so easy.

Winner – Taboola

You can track successful conversions and use the algorithms of both platforms to optimize your budget to sites that offer the greatest level of profitability. However, Taboola makes the process a whole lot easier and offers a much larger potential traffic source. With Outbrain, you have to contact a member of your team for assistance. In its defense, the traffic on Outbrain is of a higher quality so it is really a game of ROI and which one works better for you.

5) Content Practices

It was thought that the days of spamming the Internet with crap were long gone but judging by the garbage I see online, I’m not so sure! Taboola tends to approve your content a lot faster as you can seemingly display almost anything. Add in the fact that it gets far more traffic than its rival and it may be the best option if click quantity is your main goal.

Outbrain is slower to approve and may even ask for changes and adjustments. While this can be a problem for some, it is ideal for those looking to create high-quality content.

Winner – Outbrain

These platforms function differently so it is really a question of what you want. Some niches are simply not approved on Outbrain as they try to keep a very high level of traffic. If you are running arbitrage sites, spammy content or content such as gaming and financial services, you might find it easier to run on Taboola. If you are looking for quality users that convert and will provide a decent ROI, then try Outbrain.

6) Performance

Ultimately, the gold standard for any content promotion platform is performance ‘bang for your buck’. I took the liberty of checking out Moz’s findings relating to Outbrain, Taboola and nRelate with over 1 billion impressions in total during the course of its experiment.



It found that Outbrain outperformed Taboola on Desktop, Tablet and Smartphone with double the CTR% rate on Desktop and Tablet. To be fair, Moz did use Taboola for new visitors and Outbrain for those more familiar with the brand. How much of an effect this had on performance levels is hard to say.

I can tell you that Taboola is more popular with companies that are lead generation oriented. Also, most of these companies work with wide funnels, drive traffic and only then filter the good from the bad.

Winner – Outbrain

We do need to take into account several factors when analyzing this data. As I mentioned earlier in the piece, it is ‘easier’ to get content published with Taboola. The benefit of the higher traffic is offset somewhat by the high bounce rate. With Outbrain, you may find it harder to get published but the reward is likely to be higher click-through and conversion rates.

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About the Author
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Adam Perl
Adam Perl is VP Marketing at TechSors, a digital agency that specialises in Content marketing and Web Development. Adam's work experience spans 10+ years of strategic marketing & planning for online international companies in the financial, gaming, eCommerce and the travel industry.