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An Inside Look at Taboola’s Publisher Products

Taboola review
We've been on both sides of Taboola (as an advertiser and as a publisher) and have first-hand experience with all of their products. Here's the summary of what they offer to you, a publisher and answers to all your questions on user experience, content relevancy, and more.

When it comes to finding an additional source of revenue for your website, you’re likely to come across Taboola. It is so because Taboola is one of the major players in the ad tech industry. Especially when it comes to native advertising on the open web, they are the ones who have defined this space. In this detailed review, we will try to explain about Taboola and its products to help you make an informed decision. Let’s dive right in. 

First Things First, What is Taboola?

Taboola is renowned for providing native ads at the end of the articles on websites. After merging with Outbrain that was one of its biggest competitors, Taboola has now become a native ad partner to more than 20 thousand online properties including CNBC, NBC News, USA TODAY, BILD, Sankei, Huffington Post, Microsoft, and Business Insider. With such a big network, they claim that the Taboola reaches an audience of 2.6 billion. And, most importantly, they are not new in the market. Taboola was founded in 2007, just a year after Twitter was founded. 

How does Taboola work?

Taboola mostly works on recommendations. When you integrate Taboola’s recommendation system with your web property, the visitors start to see promoted links on the side and at the bottom of the articles (it depends on where you have integrated the code). These links are basically images accompanied with respective titles and are designed to look native to the website’s content. This, in turn, helps in coping up with banner blindness. 

Users may or may not ignore banners, but they’re likely to scroll down and end up viewing the Taboola articles. That being said, unlike display ads, Taboola pays for clicks, not for impressions. So, the real trick to engage with users and make them read the content completely and also ensure they’re looking at the relevant promoted links.

Before getting into the details of targeting, we’ll have a quick overview of what Taboola offers for a publisher.

– Content Recommendations

It is not necessary that the sponsored links are always ads. They are generally a mix of first and third-party content. The first party content is simply other articles from your website. These other articles can be recommended based on various factors like user’s interests, content on the current page, etc. When the recommended article is relevant to the user then the user is more likely to click on it, which increases the number of sessions on your website. This increased number of sessions leads to higher ad revenue. The third-party content will be from the advertisers who want to sell their product or bring traffic to their websites.

– Continual Feed

The Taboola Feed brings a continual, personalized content feed to the readers. This continuity of the feed has taken its leaf from the books of social media sites. Just like how Facebook and Twitter keep giving the users new content in their feeds to keep the users engaged and glued to their platforms, Taboola also tries to keep the users on your site till they find the right relevant content to read. If the user clicks a link in Taboola Feed, then it will be either from your site or from an advertiser, in both cases it is a win-win situation for you and the advertiser.

Placing Taboola recommendations at the end of the page is not the only option. You can choose to place them on the floating right box or in between the articles as well.

– Read More Button

Apart from recommendations Taboola also provides the “Read More” button which you might have seen on many websites. This button generally appears after the user has read an excerpt from the article. The remaining article is obfuscated by the button and the user has to click “read more” to view the remaining part of the article. The motive behind having the read more button is to bring the “sponsored links” way up to the top so that if the article is not able to grab the user’s attention in the beginning then at least the links would get a chance to do the same. 

How to Implement Taboola on Your Site?

Taboola setup is quite straightforward. Similar to AdSense, you don’t have to do much work other than adding a JS code to your pages. Here are the steps:

  • Go to Taboola’s website and fill out the contact form.
  • Taboola’s customer representative will get in touch with you to know more about your web property.
  • Once the team is done with the site review, you’ll receive the JS from the account manager.
  • Integrate the JS with your site.
  • To ensure, everything’s fine, check the ads after 30 minutes.

If the ads are not being rendered properly, then contact your account manager, otherwise, you are done with Taboola integration.

With the implementation of Taboola, you also get your access to ‘Backstage’, their reporting tool. You can use ‘Backstage’ for various purposes like analyzing the performance of the ad units (aka Taboola Widgets), check how much revenue is being generated, set filters to control the content being displayed on the widgets, and more (more on this later). 

So, who is eligible to become a Taboola partner?

Websites with a minimum of 1 million page views per month can apply to become a Taboola partner. 

How does Taboola pay its publishers?

Taboola makes payments through Payoneer on a net 45 basis.

What makes Taboola important?

The fact that Taboola is a market leader in the native industry is important for publishers. A native ad is something that should not be ignored currently in the publishing business. As we mentioned earlier, native advertising is quite good at dealing with banner blindness, therefore more and more advertising money is being poured in promotion through native ads. It is expected that the demand for native will keep growing in the future as well. In such a scenario, including native in your inventory can be profitable. However, you need to balance your display ads and native ads on a page optimally to get the best revenue possible. We’ve done a study on how to effectively run display ads and native ads together and you can access it here

User Experience with Taboola

It’s time for us to address the elephant in the room. How user experience is being impacted by Taboola widgets and what can you do about it?

The quality of ads displayed on your website can have a huge impact on user experience. It has been observed that people complain about the type of ads that Taboola displays to the users. That being said, Taboola is working on the improvement of its algorithms, and considering the acquisition of Outbrain, the ads should become better over a period of time. Apart from this, the relevancy of ads also depends on you, the publisher. How you are filtering the content being displayed on the ad units matters a lot. However, we cannot completely dismiss the issue when even the biggest brand in the publishing industry is talking about it.

A screenshot from The New York Times expressing the problems in Taboola/Outbrain ads.

The New York Times on Taboola

If you’re wondering why this happens, you need to take a look at the targeting options provided by Taboola.

Keyword blacklists:

Let’s start with blocking. The blocking filters available in the “Editorial tools” are limited to blocking the text and specific URLs. So, if you have blocked a word that can be there in the ads that are unacceptable to you, then those kinds of ads will stop appearing on your site. But what about the time when the same words are there in the ads that are perfectly fine to appear in your recommendations?

Yes, you will start losing the opportunities for earning revenue. And because of this reason, you will avoid blocking too many words and as a result, the quality of ads wouldn’t improve as much as you would like. Occasionally, advertisers can tweak the words to make sure they are bypassing your word blacklist. 

Targeting:

User experience is better when the users see highly relevant ads. The relevance of the ads depends upon how granularly the Taboola advertisers can target the audience on your website. But the targeting options in Taboola do not look enough to provide a very high level of granularity.

In targeting options, advertisers have locations, platforms, OS, retargeting, and publishers to refine the audience. While Taboola has partnered with various third-party data providers to enable advertisers to target audiences based on their behavior and interest, but using this data isn’t free and so, it can increase the cost of acquisition (CAC) for a marketer.

Taboola Campaign

The increased cost of acquisition may not be a problem for advertisers with deep pockets, but the publishers who are using Taboola for traffic acquisition aren’t likely to spend more. When publishers run their campaigns then they will want the content to be broad, which can appeal to a large audience, generate a huge number of clicks resulting in a massive influx of traffic.

Market Audiences

In short, it depends ultimately on the advertiser. So, you can’t bet on the relevancy. 

In their support document, Taboola says:

“The richer and more complete your metadata, the better Taboola’s predictive engine can understand your content, optimize your recommendations for maximum engagement, and empower your editors with granular content filters.”

So, if the metadata isn’t properly added, again there is a probability that the user won’t see relevant recommendations.

The other factor to keep in mind is that since the feed is continual if a user keeps on scrolling the feed, it will keep populating more and more content. But if there is not enough content that matches the user’s preferences, then the feed has no other option than recommending random content.

Considering all the aforementioned factors, we believe the recommendations by Taboola have chances of being irrelevant to a certain extent. If you have done the filtering properly, then it depends on the advertisers.

SEO Implications With Taboola

Some publishers may think that Taboola ads can affect their organic ranking. To clarify the doubt, Taboola clearly says that the Taboola Feed has been implemented on more than 10,000 sites worldwide, and none of those sites have seen any impact on their organic traffic due to the implementation. 

All their sponsored links are attributed as “no-follow”. The publisher’s links in the Taboola feed are redirected through Taboola’s servers and they also make sure that these links are not crawled with the help of robots.txt file.

Taboola Control Panel

Reporting:

Taboola’s control panel ‘Backstage’ is intuitive and provides all the metrics you will need to understand how your widgets are performing. You can get the information related to CPC, RPM, impressions, etc. and filter it based on placements and custom date ranges.

Taboola reporting tool for publishers

Blocking Content:

You can also block certain words and phrases from appearing in your sponsored links feed. This feature will help control the quality of the ads appearing on your website.

Traffic Acquisition: 

Backstage can be used to create campaigns for bringing traffic to your website. This feature can be helpful for goals like increasing brand awareness, increasing email subscribers, or any other goal which requires an immediate influx of traffic.

Campaign Controlling:

You get most of the necessary controls for running your campaigns like where your ad shouldn’t appear, how should the budget be spent, CPC bid (you do not get charged until your ad is clicked), which platform should the user be on and even adding URL parameters.

 

Visit Value:

You can track the value of your referral traffic with the help of Taboola. You can check the number of users who came to your website from different referral sources, the number of pages they visited and the amount of ad revenue you generated from those sessions. You need to use UTM codes to track this traffic.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Taboola provides you an additional source of revenue. The end of the article is a place where the reader has got the answer to his query and now, is ready to consume another piece of content. In such a situation Taboola provides an appropriate solution.
  • Publisher’s link in the feed helps in circulating traffic which provides an opportunity to display more ads to the user.
  • Publishers can acquire traffic from premium sites like MSN, CNBC, USA Today to build their audience. However, CAC (Cost of Acquisition) varies based on the placements. Premium publishers tend to command higher prices than the mid-sized or long-tail sites. 

Cons

  • The sponsored links being recommended to the user can be of low quality, negatively impacting your brand image.
  • You have to rely heavily on Taboola’s support team as even the basic tasks like generating the tags require you to contact your account manager and then the tag will be shared with you.
  • The RPM rates are generally lower and therefore you need to have a substantial amount of traffic to generate decent revenue. Yet another

Taboola’s Future Perspective

The demand for native ads is not going down any sooner and Taboola is one of the biggest players in this segment. Considering that they have been there in the ad tech industry for over a decade, we can say that they are going to stay in the market to help publishers. The recent acquisition of its biggest competitor ‘Outbrain’ has made, Taboola, a 2 billion dollar company, and it is going to give some technological advantages too. Outbrain was good at programmatic ads whereas Taboola has its strength in video advertising, combining the two can give better quality solutions to publishers. 

What’s Next?

Taboola can be a good source of additional revenue if you aren’t concerned about the irrelevant ads being recommended, once in a while or if you can control the quality through the blocking tools provided by them. Furthermore, you should be aware of the fact that when your visitor clicks on the link then you will be sending that user away from your site. You have to calculate the difference between the revenue generated through the link clicks and the revenue which you could have generated with your impression-based ads if the users would have stayed on your site. 

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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