What is Outbrain and Why Does It Matter to My Website?

Outbrain Content DiscoveryMore traffic makes everything better. It can make or break a blog. It can make or break a business. Which is why everyone online is looking for a competitive advantage. Visitors are why you build websites, of course, but they can be hard to come by when everyone else in your niche wants those very same visitors.

If your search and social traffic aren’t delivering the pageviews you’d prefer, what are your options? Content discovery tools are an emerging tactic seeing rapid adoption among brands and publishers alike. They aren’t ideal for every marketing objective, but they can have a significant impact when applied properly. Outbrain is one such tool. You may have noticed it inside our content marketplace. Here’s what you need to know.

How Outbrain Works Outside Content Blvd

Thousands of publishers have installed the Outbrain content recommendation widget at the bottom of their blog posts. You’ve certainly seen them; they look like this:

The Outbrain Widget at Work

When a reader gets to the bottom of an article, he or she is presented with these browsing options. If the reader clicks on an article under “We Recommend,” he or she is taken to other content on the same site that Outbrain thinks the reader might like to see. (Apparently they have some pretty sophisticated algorithms for determining what you’ll want to read next.)

However, if the reader clicks on an article under “Elsewhere Around the Web” she is sent to an article that’s been included in the Outbrain network for a fee.

Popular publishers with lots of traffic are keen to monetize each visitor as best they can, while also providing their readers a great content experience. Outbrain helps them do that by getting paid to send qualified readers to other sites.

When a marketer purchases Outbrain exposure for an article, the published article (and the host site the article is published on), are reviewed by Outbrain for quality (you can read their submission guidelines here) and categorized for relevance. If accepted to the Outbrain network, a thumbnail image for the article and title appear in Outbrain widgets all over the internet, helping more readers find the article directly from other relevant pages– pages that may often get many times more pageviews than your own.

How Outbrain Works Inside Content Blvd

From within the Content Blvd platform, we help brands drive more traffic to their content placements by purchasing clicks through Outbrain. Brands get more visitors to their content, while publishers benefit from this paid traffic because the clicks are being sent to the articles they publish for brands on their own sites.

When a particular article has an Outbrain budget, publishers see this in the content marketplace:

Outbrain in the Content Marketplace

That Outbrain Budget represents the amount the brand has agreed to spend to drive Outbrain traffic to the article, once it’s published (more on what that means, below).

It’s a handy arrangement because brands want more exposures to their content and publishers want more visitors to their sites. Unlike purchasing paid search ads, or display ads, Outbrain fits perfectly into a content marketing strategy.

What Outbrain Costs

Outbrain is completely free to our publishers. Whether an article is promoted through Outbrain is up to the brand.

Minimum purchase for brands is $10 and is drawn down on a pay-per-click basis. To date, we’ve seen most clicks cost about $0.35 to $0.40 each, which yields roughly 25 to 28 clicks per $10 spent. So, a $100 Outbrain budget is likely to send around 250 additional visitors to the target article.

The publisher site that hosts the widget (where a reader clicked) receives part of that fee and Outbrain takes the rest. Content Blvd does not take a margin on Outbrain revenues, so brands receive the most traffic for their money. We simply provide it as a benefit to our users.

Why Use Outbrain: The Big Picture

Depending on how you market your site, regardless if you’re particularly active in social media, or whether your subject matter is conducive to sharing, or even if you don’t market a consumer-focused product or service, there are three primary ways visitors are going to run into one of your web pages:

  1. Organic Search
    Users type in a keyword phrase and find your site in the organic search results of Google, Bing or Yahoo. This is often considered the Holy Grail of internet marketing.
  2. Paid Advertising
    Paid search results are at the top of this funnel, as are display ads on relevant sites and social media platforms. This would even include sponsored posts, reviews and other forms of “native advertising.”
  3. Referrals from Other Sites
    Whenever your site is mentioned in another article, a guest post, a social media post, listed in a directory, or otherwise shows up on a page where your new visitor already is, clicks from those pages are referral traffic.

(If we want to be picky, offline referrals– from a business card, TV commercial, billboard, event, or in-store promotion– could be considered a fourth channel, but we’re focused purely on the online ecosystem for the purposes of this discussion.)

Smart marketers look to build a marketing engine based on some combination of these three channels. While there are people who extol the virtues of one given channel over all the rest (SEO vs. Paid vs. Social), the truth is usually more complicated.

Your marketing mix should be fashioned around the needs of your target customers and how they behave online. Outbrain (and other content discovery and recommendation tools like it– Taboola, Disqus, etc.) happen to support an array of marketing objectives because of how they help an audience find you.

Once readers spend time on a page, they become more likely to keep clicking from one page to another, as opposed to going back to the top of the funnel by opening a new search page, or revisiting their social media stream. A great deal of traffic comes from browsing from page to page– what we call the “browsing backdoor.”

Outbrain traffic flows through this backdoor, and is a hybrid of organic, paid and referral traffic all rolled into one. In the strictest sense, it’s paid traffic, because you have to buy the clicks to get the pageviews. However, the recommendations only show on sites that are relevant to the content, and Outbrain only recommends content that offers value to the reader.

In other words, you can’t just pay to play in Outbrain. You have to provide real content, hosted on real sites– the sort of thing readers really want.

Outbrain is Built for Content Marketing

Brands and publishers both face a challenging dilemma when content is their primary marketing tactic. To rapidly scale readership, they need to

  • buy advertising for it (not economically tenable), or
  • increase organic traffic flow (not realistic in a short period of time).

Even if content is built for the long game to gain brand recognition, credibility and engagement, more immediate business pressures usually mean that simply writing and publishing lots of stuff isn’t going to get the job done in the near term. Content discovery tools help to fill in the gap between speed and expense.

Outbrain lets you test, iterate and grow your content marketing by:

  1. Capturing pre-qualified visitors who already show engagement with related content
  2. Throttling a small budget up or down to test what happens with those visitors
  3. Sending fresh traffic to older pages to reinvest in previous content “investments”
  4. Retaining new readers who like your content, share it, come back again, and even link to it

What’s more, you can extend the value of earned media (like guest posts or news about your site or company), owned media (posts on your own site) and paid media (like sponsored posts), without having to choose between them. Paid, earned and owned media all have their uses, and content discovery can benefit each of them. That’s why we say Outbrain successfully blends your online marketing channels.

Think of it as your secret blend of herbs and spices– just the right amount at the right time can make a world of difference in your content marketing recipe.

If you’re a brand user who would like to purchase Outbrain traffic, contact the Content Blvd support team. We’re helping users navigate the choices directly, before we roll out a full service-feature.

Mike is Co-founder and CMO of Content BLVD, a marketplace where product companies and YouTubers meet to get more products into more videos. He's written for, been quoted in, and kicked out of many fine establishments.

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Posted in Content Marketing
3 comments on “What is Outbrain and Why Does It Matter to My Website?
  1. […] What is Outbrain and Why Does It Matter to My Website? (contentblvd.com) […]

  2. […] can use Outbrain within the Content BLVD dashboard, and really maximize your online outreach. Content BLVD is also a very straightforward company that […]

  3. […] What is Outbrain and Why Does It Matter to My Website? […]

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