Outbrain: A Brief Overview, and How This Can Help You Online

The days where you could drown a website in banners, or hope people read those blatant and loud magazine advertisements are rapidly disappearing.

Educating consumers via content marketing has become integral to the success of online brands. Within the expanding world of content marketing is the content amplification platform of Outbrain.

We want to do a deep dive into Outbrain as it is becoming an important tool in the content marketing landscape.


Outbrain is a content amplification platform. Its primary competition comes from Taboola, a similar company that focuses on content promotion. The major difference between the two companies is that Outbrain relies on its algorithms that generate results based on what content the user may find interesting, whilst Taboola tends to rely on feedback to make its content relevant.

But for those of us who don’t have a degree in online content-marketing, what does this actually mean?

If you read the news online, you may have seen editorial links like these:

There are often a variety of eye-catching images combined with titles that make you do a double take. The motley crew of images are often under a generic title, such as “Recommended for You”, “Content from the Web”, or even “Recommended Content”. You probably assumed they were spam ads.

Notice the little “Outbrain” notation?

In fact, these articles put up here are not allowed to be ads; rather, they represent content – content that, should you be interested, you can continue to read once you have completed your article. Some come from the website itself, whilst others are drawn from the Internet.

Outbrain has strong connections with news websites such as Fox, Fairfax Media, The Age, and CNN International, as well as numerous other reputable publishing websites.

This has helped give the company not only credibility, but a wide reach, which can be highly beneficial for those who use it to promote content on a grand scale.

So, Outbrain is effectively a platform which places content links on websites of partners like Time, The Age, CNN International. Outbrain uses sophisticated algorithms that endeavor to match users with content that would find interesting.


Outbrain’s algorithms are unique on the Internet for big reason: instead of a purely “recommended for you” approach, it bases its results on a strong Click Through Rate (CTR) as well as a low bounce rate. So the articles are not only articles that you may find interesting – they are articles other people have found interesting as well.

Similar to Google, Outbrain uses online behavior to help determine what articles would be recommended to individual users. For example, if I was reading an article about drum solos on a website, then I went to CNN or Fox News, there would be a good chance I would see a recommended article about drums if possible, or music at any rate.

This is very different to other content amplification platforms, which tend to use the article in question as the source of recommendation (meaning that for me to see drum-related recommendations, the article on CNN would also need to be about drums and drumming).


In comparison with its competition Taboola, Outbrain does tend to send fewer potential customers to a website. However, the quality of these customers tends to be higher, insofar as they have a much higher conversion rate. Part of this because of its claimed algorithms: Outbrain states that they help to try and tailor content that users want to see, or that interesting and “high quality” content that makes content marketing effective. Another part is where Outbrain has influence: trusted websites such as CNN use Outbrain, leading to Outbrain to claim, in their own words, to be “the most reputable in the industry”.

Outbrain can provide your website with cheap access to “premium publishers” – such as Fox or CNN – for a fraction of the price of regular advertisements. Again, you have to be careful to make sure that what you’re providing isn’t ads – it has to be content – but aside from that, it is an often under-utilized tool for content providers out there.

As a basic overview of how the site makes money: publishers pay money per click to have their content marketed towards a relevant audience, based on the mysterious algorithms, which then herds traffic to the intended website. Ideally of course the ads on the new website will be more than enough to cover costs, or there will be places on the website to buy something (for example, if the article is about drum solos, maybe on this drumming website they sell drum sticks, which could see an increase in sales that way).

As an example of how effective Outbrain has been, there have been occasions where publishers have been forced to withdraw or cease using Outbrain sponsored articles on their website, as the articles led a high volume of traffic away. Let’s hope you have that success.

Whilst this is definitely a backhanded compliment, these instances highlight the effectiveness of Outbrain.

Here is what the Marketing Director of a large Health Insurer had to say to us: “We acquire over 40% of our paid traffic via Outbrain and though it is a deeper and longer buying cycle we obtain a deeper connection with our customers”. A ringing endorsement if ever there was one.

So keep your eye on Outbrain and we suggest keep it in your marketing tool kit as we believe it will grow in importance as they continue to refine their model.