What is Taboola?

  • on
  • By
  • in PPC

What is Taboola?

Taboola is a content recommendation or content discovery platform that we decided to try out recently from the side of the advertiser. Without realising it, it is likely that you have come across Taboola already as many well known online publications use it such as The Huffington Post, The Lad Bible, The Journal.ie and many others worldwide.


Taboola on The Huffington Post
Taboola on The Huffington Post

We had already found Outbrain (who offer practically the same service as Taboola but has different publishing partners such as The New York Post and The Irish Independent) but after getting in touch with them, we were informed that they don’t offer services to companies in Ireland unless you have a minimum budget spend of around $5000. Then we sourced Taboola who we realised would host a campaign for us using a more realistic budget for an SME.

Scientific Approach is Key

In DPFOC our research and focus, when not actively managing campaigns, is always fixed on trying to generate new ways to increase lead generation for our clients and therefore their revenue. We are always open to new ways of achieving this but we believe there should be major emphasis put on testing out methods before accepting any marketing blurb that you so often hear.

In the case of Taboola and Outbrain, being quite honest, we were sceptical from the outset as the space you pay for is not an ‘obvious’ advert but more designed to look like another article as an add-on to the one that the user has just read. This means that there is largely no buying intent by the user at the stage they click on the title.This is in direct comparison to an obvious ad on Facebook for example with a specific creative telling you to ‘click here to save money on your life insurance’ or similar. For these types of campaigns, we have achieved and continue to achieve success in terms of acceptable cost per lead and resultant conversions.

Creative for a Facebook ad campaign for a client of ours which was successful in terms of effective cost per lead.
Creative for a Facebook ad campaign for a client of ours which was successful in terms of effective cost per lead.

While many in the area of Internet marketing now scoff at the success of paid display advertising and regularly predict its demise, we are continuing believers in it. Of course the only way that you can ‘safely’ carry out any paid advertising online is by close monitoring and that is why we call our approach scientific. Knowing where your leads and traffic are coming from will ensure that you don’t unnecessarily waste any marketing budget where it is not working. Of course certain traditional paid display options won’t work for all campaigns but testing and attribution is paramount to discovering the fundamental answer…otherwise you may as well throw your marketing budget out the window and see where it carries you.

Testing Taboola for a Mass Market B2C Client

In terms of us trying out Taboola, we did so for a mass market B2C company and assigned a budget of €200 in our tentative approach. The basic result was that we got plenty of clicks (500+ see below) but ZERO conversions.

540 visitors from Facebook "traditional" ads generated 20 leads whereas 550 visits from Taboola generated none.
540 visitors from Facebook “traditional” ads generated 20 leads whereas 550visits from Taboola generated none.


Eventhough this foray into the world of content recommendation and discovery platforms was not a success for us, we are glad that we tried it out in order to rule it out also in effect. While it was ‘nice’ to see content from our client on worldwide publications like The Huffington Post and while this might have hit branding goals should we want to achieve them, the campaign was not successful. Simply, the results don’t lie and with zero conversions, it would be remiss of us to advise our client to allocate more budget into this.

Perhaps the only way Taboola or Outbrain would work is by pay per click arbitrage whereby an advertiser would ‘purchase’ the traffic from Taboola and then resell the space on their page for a higher price. The success of pay per click arbitrage is based upon the idea that the purchaser can resell the traffic gathered for more than the original price of the original pay per click services however this is virtually impossible.

It will be interesting to see if there is longevity in the whole area of the content discovery and recommendation business. It is our belief that there won’t be as ultimately in order to survive as a medium, it will need to deliver cost effective leads and/or revenue for companies and we don’t see that happening.