Outbrain vs Taboola: The Native Showdown

Published by Pedro Campos on

outbrain vs taboola

Choosing to advertise on Outbrain vs Taboola or vice-versa is not an easy decision.

This is because these platforms are quite similar in terms of targeting, ad costs, and performance. They also share the same values and the people who work there strive for similar goals.
In fact, back in 2019, Taboola tried to acquire Outbrain but the negotiations didn´t bear fruits.

According to Taboola´s founder, it was purely a decision based on business numbers. Both companies still came out of that “non-deal” with a good relationship.

As far as the platform goes, there are a few differences that might help make up your mind. That´s what we´ll explore in this article.

We´ll give you the facts, the figures, and what exactly makes one platform different from the other.
Outbrain vs Taboola: who will win? Let´s find out.

Outbrain vs Taboola: What´s The Difference?

From now on, we´re actually going to dive deeper into these platforms. Specifically, this is what we´ll explore:

  • platform overview
  • key ad features
  • performance
  • cost

In the end, we´ll compile everything we covered and more to give you the ultimate comparison chart between Outbrain and Taboola.

What Is Taboola

Simply put, Taboola is a content discovery network for publishers and marketers. It enables publishers to monetize their sites while providing solutions to the audiences through native advertisements. On the other hand, marketers get to put relevant ads in from of their ideal customers and help solve problems.

Taboola was founded in 2007 by Adam Singolda and its yearly revenue now surpasses $1.2 billion. Advertisers reach over 500 million active daily users on the publishers´ networks. The platform provides easy and clear reporting, as well as a variety of targeting options appealing to small businesses and big brands.

Taboola Key Ad Features

This platform is heaven for marketers who enjoy intuitive targeting options. It all starts at the campaign level with different marketing objectives to choose from.

Marketing Objective

The very first thing you need to select before creating a campaign on Taboola is the marketing objective.

outbrain vs taboola

I don´t know about you but for me, it´s super important to have a platform that can give flexibility. This option allows you to choose different marketing objectives for different campaigns.
For instance, let´s say you want to retarget folks who haven´t signed up for your newsletter. In this case, Lead Generation would come handy.

If you´re an ecommerce brand, Taboola´s machine learning can use the Online Purchases objective to drive optimal performance and bring you the most sales possible with your budget.

Audiences

It doesn´t matter what industry you´re in, you´re almost guaranteed to find an audience you can target with great success. Taboola segments audience targeting into:

  • custom
  • marketplace
  • contextual

Custom are audiences that come from 1st party data. Marketplace gives you access to a wide range of premium inventory on the Taboola network, such as special B2B partner audiences, behaviors, interests, or demographics.

outbrain vs taboola

The last option is contextual.

Contextual targeting is very powerful and certainly one of Taboola´s best options. This is where you can target article pages and reach highly engaging audiences. Because of that, the placements can get a bit more expensive.

Stock Images

When you´re setting up your creatives, Taboola gives you the option to use stock images. I find this very useful, it saves a lot of time, without having to go back and forth with the creatives team.

Not many platforms have this feature.

It´s also a lot easier than uploading a bunch of images. This feature comes in handy if you´re mainly using native creatives, which you should anyway.

Recommendations

If you´ve ever used Google Ads, you´re probably familiar with the recommendations tab.

Taboola has its own version of Recommendations. It´s basically what the name suggests, a list of changes you can apply to your account to improve performance.

When there are recommendations available, you´ll also see them at the campaign level on the chart icon. These can be about budgets or bids, for example.

Performance

This is always a bit tricky to evaluate because it will depend on what metrics you consider as success indicators. For example, you might have an ecommerce brand and just want to drive the best ROAS possible, and don´t care too much about leads.

Case Study

The mattress brand Otty is a good example of that.

With sponsored content via Taboola, Otty was able to achieve a 7.8x return on ad spend, on average, and 10x more conversions from retargeting campaigns.

Cost

Taboola’s average CPM is between $0.37 and $1.12 and the average CPC is between $0.37 and $3.00. These numbers can vary depending on the country, placement, and objective.

High-quality publishers and competitive countries like the US drive prices up.
However, if you have a global brand, you can find great opportunities in Europe, for example, where the cost of advertising tends to be lower but still with good quality.

At the end of the day, results are what brands care about when they advertise, not so much aesthetics or intuitive platform interfaces.

What Is Outbrain

Outbrain positions itself as a recommendation platform. Essentially, it´s also a content discovery network that connects publishers and advertisers. They currently have 344 billion monthly recommendations and 55 plus countries in their network.

Yaron Galai founded Outbrain in 2006 and the company revenue now surpasses $700 million. In 2017, Outbrain acquired Zemanta, a leading demand-side platform for programmatic buying.
This was a brilliant move, from my perspective, as it complements Outbrain´s offering, creating a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Outbrain Key Ad Features

This isn´t a platform for freshmen. There are more options here, especially when it comes to bidding that makes it more powerful and not so beginner-friendly.

Outbrain is like a Ferrari without traction control. Powerful in the hands of skilled drivers but “dangerous” in the wrong hands.

Real Time Data

If you´re familiar with Google Analytics Real-Time reports, you will love this feature. It isn´t just a fancy dashboard.
For high-volume campaigns, it´s a great option to have because it helps you predict trends in real-time and adjust your strategy accordingly.

outbrain vs taboola

There´s also an option to see what´s already trending on Outbrain´s network by country and device. This feature alone can have a big impact on the performance of your campaigns.

Dynamic Retargeting

In another article, we compared Outbrain vs Facebook ads. This feature is similar on both platforms. It allows the advertiser to automatically show ads based on what the user has previously seen or purchased.

It´s very useful for ecommerce advertisers. The bigger your inventory, the more you will appreciate this option. Similar to other platforms, Outbrain uses your product feed for dynamic retargeting.

Bidding

As an advertiser, it´s important to have multiple bidding options to fit your goals. This is one of Outbrain´s strengths.

When you select the Conversions objective, you have the ability to choose between several bidding options:

  • Fully Automatic
  • Semi Automatic
  • Target CPA
  • Target ROAS

Choosing between one or the other will depend on your campaign goal and the level of control you want. For example, if you want to keep your cost per acquisition under a certain amount, you would use Target CPA.
On the other hand, if your goal is to get as many conversions as possible with your budget, Fully Automatic would be your choice.

Creative Formats

You probably already know that the creative is a big part of your success with native advertising.

Outbrain is stepping up when it comes to creative formats by introducing something similar to Facebook´s Instant Experiences or Yahoo´s Tiles. It´s a feature that improves ad experiences on mobile devices.

They give you four creative formats to choose from compared to just two on Taboola if you include GIFs and images in the same bucket.

Performance

When it comes to campaign performance, these two platforms are very similar and can deliver exceptional results at scale. Much like Taboola, Outbrain is used by some of the biggest advertisers in the world.

Case Study

One of those advertisers is L’Oréal.

Through a combination of smart ads and auto-optimization tools, L’Oréal was able to decrease cost per acquisition by 69%. This was accomplished in just one month and a half with short-form video assets.

Cost

Outbrain average CPM is between $0.12 and $3.00 while the average CPC is between $0.15 to $0.30. Similar to Taboola, ad costs will depend on many factors.
There is an extra cost associated with some placements on Outbrain though.

Certain audiences will have an extra CPC cost due to their relevance and quality. From my perspective, this isn´t something you should worry about since higher-quality audiences drive better performance.

Outbrain vs Taboola: Side By Side Comparison

I have to warn you that this comparison is a bit subjective in some categories. However, it can give you a good idea of where one platform differs from the other.

Features

User Interface

Not as intuitive to navigate between campaigns and creatives.

More user-friendly, dashboard is similar to Google Ads.

Bidding Options

Gives you four different options that fit more campaign goals.

Only has two bidding options, smart bid and fixed bid.

Creative Formats

Has the option to choose between 4 different formats.

You can choose between static images, GIFs or videos.

Recommendations

Alerts you when the entry bid is far greater than the optimized.

Dedicated section for budget or bidding recommendations.

Targeting

Story sequence, value-based audiences, lookalikes, interests and attributes.

Custom audiences, marketplace, contextual but only lookalikes from customer lists.

1st Party Data

Allows you to create lookalikes audiences based on any event.

Can create lookalikes based only on lists from US customers.

Cost

Avg. CPM: $0.37 - $1.12

Avg. CPC: $0.37 - $3.00

There´s an extra CPC cost for certain higher quality audiences.


Avg. CPM: $0.12 - $3.00

Avg. CPC: $0.15 to $0.30

Performance

Above average performance due to high quality placements.

High quality placements drive above average performance.

Objectives

4 campaign objectives: awareness, traffic, app installs and conversions.

5 objectives: lead gen, purchases, website site engagement, brand awareness and app installs.

Brand Safety

Exclude contextual placements or publishers/sections manually.

Adjust risk tier easily on 7 different IAS categories.

Tracking

Same conversion can´t be used for multiple audience windows (e.g. 7, 14 or 30-day).

Need to create separate events for each audience window (e.g. 7, 14 or 30-day).

3rd Party Data

Ability to use 3rd party pixels and import campaign data to other platforms.

Able to send data to other platforms via 3rd party pixels or JavaScript tags.

Taboola is a clear winner in some areas and doesn´t do so well in others, the same happens with Outbrain. Truthfully, there are no perfect platforms.

From our analysis, the only category where they´re both equal is performance.
That´s what really matters if you ask me. At the end of the day, results are what brands care about, not so much aesthetics or intuitive interfaces.

So, Which Is Better?

Well, similar to other platform comparisons we´ve done, you might say it´s a disappointing ending. “Come on Pedro, you made me scroll all the way down to tell me there´s no winner?”

That´s correct… it´s a tie! At least, from my perspective.

Both of these are fantastic native advertising platforms to grow and scale your business. Choosing Outbrain vs Taboola will come down to your personal preference. Honestly, I´m not much of believing in “extremes.”
So, why not use both?

We´d love to know what you believe in though. Is it Outbrain, Taboola, both, or maybe something else?


Pedro Campos

Pedro is a Portuguese-born who fell into the media buying world by chance after watching a video ad online. These days, you can find him running Advertongue, an agency helping global brands grow and scale efficiently by turning native advertising into profit. Outside work, Pedro enjoys traveling, Mexican food, adventure sports, and action-packed movies. Hard to get him to drop a good book too, especially those from legends of the ad business.

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