Saturday , 19 June 2021
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Taboola

Taboola – review, guide, cases

Teasers no longer work in 2021. The number of such statements is increasing. We try to keep our finger on the industry’s pulse, that’s why we monitor the relevance of different affiliate marketing traffic sources. True, teaser networks have seriously flopped in popularity in recent years. But not because they’re “bad” or something, it’s just that competing tools are taking over a large part of the audience. The top spots are occupied by native grids, not teaser ones. And one of them is the main character of today’s review – Taboola.

There’s hardly an affiliate marketer that has at least tried native ads who hasn’t heard about this ad grid. This network, without a doubt, is among the leaders of the sphere as a whole. But it’s not Taboola’s competence that usually triggers questions but rather their prices, how difficult it is to configure the settings and the range of suitable verticals. In our review, we’ll cover all these aspects in detail and together we will decide what type of affiliate marketer will be satisfied with this ad network (AN).

A few words about Taboola

Taboola home page
Taboola home page

Для знакомства «пробежимся» сугубо по фактам:

Founded 2007
Founder Adam Singolda
Payout models CPM, CPC, CPV
Deposit methods PayPal, credit cards, bank transfers
Turnover >$1 billion a year
Minimum AC budget $2,000
Languages English and regional languages
HQ New York, New York, USA. Second HQ – London – for managing European sections
Unique users 1.4 billion every month
Tech support Tech support contactable by phone or email. The platform provides open access to guides
Number of sections globally 14
URL taboola.com

Native ads – the way of the future

Taboola focuses on native ads. Yes, the creatives themselves can be of different formats, from good ol’ teasers to video clips, but that’s not the point. The project’s focal point is native advertising. And it is worth noting that their choice of format was more than decent. After all, the numbers show that native ads are performing exceptionally well and are only becoming increasingly more popular. Users won’t give in to persuasions, attempts to win them over with bargains or clickbait. No sir, the user is increasingly looking for a good reputation, and that’s what native ads are all about.

So, what are they essentially? Ads integrated into the website. Ideally, it matches the latter in terms of both style and content. The creative looks like a part of the website, its direct extension. That’s why the user perceives it as a direct recommendation from the website. What’s important in this case? That’s right, the platform’s reputation. If the user knows it well and trusts it, they are more likely to respond positively to the native ad, which is nice for the CTR. Moreover, the user gets to the part with the ads only when they’re through with the main text and is looking for additional content. This is the moment when they are most receptive to new information and offers.

Now we get to the 2 most important aspects – amassing premium platforms for affiliate marketing and the integration method. And in both cases Taboola’s approach is uncommonly professional. The project cooperates with the most popular resources: Bloomberg, Business Insider or ThisIsMoney. There’s plenty of websites of this level in Taboola’s arsenal, but getting your ads on them is not that easy. The platform is a literal battleground of affiliates competing over target clicks.

As for integration, the company doesn’t just implement creatives, but also finds perfect (in terms of relevance) places to display them. Everything is taken into consideration, a lot of attention is paid to the client’s search history. Their queries, the way they behave on websites, ad transitions, the articles they read to the very end – all that is studied. With proper targeting, the traffic you get is as target and warmed-up as possible.

native ad
Traffic from any type of native advertising is as targeted as possible

Taboola features

Let’s take a look at what the project has to offer

GEO

The main list of the service has 3,500+ premium sites. Traffic comes mainly from the US and Europe. Moreover, in the US, the ad network covers 95% of all users. In the UK (home to the 2nd HQ), the coverage reaches 89%. The situation is about the same for the other European countries, in Germany it’s 78%, in France – 85%. Coverage in Canada lags behind a little, but not too much. Slightly more than half (51%) of the traffic comes from desktop PCs, the rest – from mobile devices.

The conclusion is simple, almost all traffic comes from TIER 1 and 2 countries. If your offer isn’t very expensive and the advertiser pays around $3 for a lead, don’t expect good results from this platform. Here, solvent users get transformed into no less solvent leads.

Geo-targeting at Taboola
Geo-targeting at Taboola

Website level

Only premium sites are used. There are no options for the lower or even the middle segment. This is a double-edged sword. Of course, there won’t be any low-quality traffic. But it won’t be cheap either.

A separate note – despite the impressive number of users (1.4 billion, as many as the most popular news channels on Facebook have) the number of websites themselves is anything but impressive. 3500 is a lot, sure, but you are unlikely to successfully promote a narrow offer. So, most of the time you have to adapt to the resource. Follow the trends, work with meta verticals.

Working with AdSense

This is a completely white-hat project that works great with contextual ads. Google allows Taboola’s recommendation to be displayed next to their own contextual ads. The services are even somewhat similar, both are guided by identical algorithms for displaying targeted ads.

Considering Taboola’s high-quality traffic, PPC advertising does not so much complement it as it competes with it. So, simultaneously using Taboola and AdSense isn’t always a good choice.

Working with AdBlock

Many ad networks can’t do anything with this plugin. They’re forced to get creative, beg the user to temporarily shut off the program, rewarding them with various bonuses. In our case, however, Adblock won’t pose a problem, since the project is the program’s partner – part of Acceptable Ads. Taboola’s widgets don’t get blocked in any way. That’s why you can safely ignore this element when setting up your campaign’s targeting – the entire audience will see the ad.

Such a partnership is pretty rare, continuing to be an “Acceptable Ad” requires the project to invest considerable funds.

Prohibitions and restrictions

Taboola is meticulous about the “purity” of its participants. this applies to many areas:

  • before creating an ad campaign, immediately after registering, you need to send moderators the offer you intent to promote. The latter will scrutinize it for any gray-hat elements and if any suspicions arise concerning its legitimacy, they simply won’t approve it. And the affiliate won’t be allowed to even make the AC;
  • all gray-hat verticals are banned. Don’t try to promote adult or shady gambling offers. You’re doomed to fail – mods will check everything and ban your account;
  • Taboola is very meticulous when it comes to accurate information. If you use news articles, they must be true, unique health and beauty techniques – good luck trying to get the offer approved without mandatory tests and recommendations. The project also doesn’t take kindly to blatantly overinflated numbers. It doesn’t matter, what they refer to, be it the number of buyers of the product or the amount of money earned on this “miracle case”;
  • in addition to the downright ban on some verticals, using their distinctive elements is also prohibited. If you’re promoting a dating offer, don’t drive traffic to a landing page with elements inherent to adult creatives. Yet, this is a fundamental tool of the affiliate! Dating loses a lot of its oomph if the creative doesn’t feature a lingerie model. Alas, when working with Taboola, everything has to be suitable even for mormons.

Violating the rules will lead to serious sanctions. If the administration issues you a ban, you can rest assured it’s permanent. You don’t get your money back, it stays forever frozen on your account, which you can no longer access. The most dangerous part is that your payment details are recorded – you won’t be able to use them even if you make a new account.

Cloaking also isn’t allowed. Naturally, there have been precedents of some members successfully driving traffic to adult offers for months using camouflage. But almost each one eventually got banned. Taboola is constantly updating its detection methods. Whether the risk is worth it or not – decide for yourself.

Suitable verticals for Taboola

As you can see, the service has its fair share of restrictions. The cost per click is high, the GEO is premium, the traffic is targeted and solvent. Based on this information alone, you can already guess which verticals suit Taboola best.

Not all verticals can be used with Taboola
Not all verticals can be used with Taboola

But we’ll also bring up some statistical data and our own experience with Taboola and compile our own list of the top verticals:

  • Finances. A significant part of the websites on this platform is dedicated to financial topics. And these are expert resources that people visit mostly in search of analytics, market forecasts. That’s why finance offers are the perfect choice. And deposits on such offers rarely have a lower threshold of less than $200 and lack an upper threshold altogether. This is the ideal service, where you need to hook a fat-cat investor. This sector also includes loans and trust financial management offers. Gray-hat arrangements are obviously out of the question;
  • ICO. A peculiar niche, it’s rarely singled out as a separate vertical, usually grouped together with cryptocurrencies. But crypto offers in Taboola find a moderate response, whereas crowdfunding or ICOs are wildly successful. Your main task here is to find a really “tasty” offer with a bias for innovations. What’s peculiar is that Taboola doesn’t recommend driving traffic to drive traffic to the offer directly, instead suggesting you make a go-between in the form of a landing page or have a professional article written in a popular blog. WIth most ICOs, White Paper will gladly do just that. Killing multiple birds with one stone;
  • Rehab. An even more peculiar niche. For those who’ve never heard of it – these are offers of rehabilitation services. Most often, drug rehab, but you may also encounter drinking rehab. Not popular in Europe at all, but is in very high demand in the US. And since Taboola gets more traffic from the US than anywhere else, it’s worth a try.
  • Education. Cheap education offers don’t exist, but getting leads here can be quite a challenge. The client base is strictly limited, the client absolutely has to be warmed up, their level of income is crucial. Taboola’s traffic fits all these criteria perfectly;
  • Mobile games and apps. The project uses In-app traffic as well. So, driving traffic to apps is also an option. And it doesn’t fall behind its competitors in the niche either, the percentage of mobile traffic is 49%. If you choose to work in this vertical, don’t forget the strict moderation all creatives have to pass. If mods detect any adult elements (often used to promote RPGs) or excessive violence, the creative won’t get to see the light of day;
  • Commodities. Lots of different offers to choose from. Online stores, technology, gadgets all sell well. There aren’t any restrictions, just make sure your offer is white-hat. Oh, and it’s better to focus on expensive goods, farming accounts on Chinese exchanges through Taboola is a pretty illogical decision;
  • Dating. A popular vertical, but those prohibited adult elements we mentioned hurt your chances to promote it efficiently. As we’ve mentioned, finding a creative with a good CTR that also falls in line with the project’s rules is a tough one. Still, the results may be worth it, this sector is very popular in first and second world countries;
  • Nutra. Use only cosmetics offers. Moreover, it would be a good choice to cooperate with the offers of agents that sell popular brand products at their own price. Naturally, only original products, no fakes. Heath products don’t really find a good response, we don’t recommend driving expensive traffic to them.

We don’t recommend choosing sweepstakes or gambling if you decide to work with Taboola. The response these areas get isn’t all too impressive. And don’t even get us started on gray-hat offers – that’s all on you. Promoting adult content without cloaking is out of the question – you’ll get banned as soon as the moderation stage.

Taboola pros and cons

Now let’s sum up all the ad network’s pros and cons, as well as take a look at the features that make it stand out from its competitors.

As is tradition, we’ll start with the pros:

  • coverage: 1.4 billion users. The figure is so impressive that it makes it possible to count its direct competitors on the fingers of one hand;
  • serious targeting settings, studying the user’s behavioral patterns and search history
  • a thought-out and seasoned retargeting mechanism. A client who left the target website will see non-intrusive ads of that resource on similar websites and is very likely to come back;
  • native In-Feed. This is an ad format disguised as a social media or other website news feed. Taboola’s version looks almost identical to real posts;
  • an impressive collection of premium websites.

Now, for the cons:

  • the service is expensive;
  • the moderation is strict. You won’t be allowed to even access and test your ad campaign before submitting your materials for moderation. Everything is checked – the source, the text, the creatives;
  • all verticals with even a hint of gray-hat elements are prohibited;
  • if you get banned, you lose all your funds and your payment details get blacklisted.

So, what makes Taboola stand out from its competitors? The fundamental difference lies in how platforms and traffic are filtered. The developers care deeply about their reputation. News, offers, websites and creatives are all filtered. That’s why when the user sees Taboola’s widgets, they get curious rather than annoyed. They already know that these ads lead to interesting and lucrative offers, not annoying spam.

This leads us to another distinctive feature – in 90% of cases the incoming traffic is already warmed up and in a good mood (as opposed to irritated), ready to actually hear the offer out, make a purchase, register.

This grid’s CTR is much higher than that of its competitors (given the proper targeting), but the average click price for premium platforms is also 30-50% higher.

Ad formats

Taboola widget block
Taboola widget block

The network uses two main formats and their subtypes. The first are teasers, but displayed and designed as a native ad. This includes inserts between posts, blocks of widgets and In-feed posts. The second – video ads.

They have different conversion rates, depends on the details of the offer. For a test campaign, it’s best to use standard teasers.

Payout models

The service technically supports CPM and CPV, but they aren’t really used all that much. The most common model is CPC. Plus, with this model the price equivalent is calculated as accurately as possible. The service helps to choose a balanced bid by showing statistics as well as with the help of built-in tools, monitoring and auto-advisers. Though, there’s one peculiar moment, practice shows that for optimization reasons you’ll have to overestimate your balanced bid by an average of 20%. Otherwise, you lose a significant fraction of the traffic.

Taboola tools

The quality and complexity of the service setup directly depends on the toolkit the AN offers. Taboola got this point covered. There are plenty of features to assist you.

Campaign Clickers

Retargeting based on the clicks your ad campaigns generated. Returns clients to the offer as well as redirects them to other ones. A nice tool, especially if have a dozen ACs running simultaneously. If it’s just one or two ad campaigns, you’ll be fine on your own.

Bot traps

An experienced affiliate marketer knows just how damaging bots can be to a campaign. You can’t make leads out of them, while they chow down on the budget just like any other traffic. Given the high cost of clicks in Taboola, bots can become a serious problem. Luckily, the service’s tools allow you to filter platforms that use bots. Built-in plugins like “invisible buttons” are great at detecting fake clicks and blocking the website.

ConvertMedia

This company was purchased by Taboola and turned into a tool of the same name. An excellent assistant for affiliates that have chosen video ads as their prefered format. It’s a set of around a dozen ready-made formats. Choose a suitable layout, optimize it a little and launch it.

Automatic design of creatives

On websites that support it, the OpenGraph technology allows you to automatically create teasers. No need to create headlines and descriptions from scratch – they are generated from pre-written tags. As a result, all you need to do is register a link to a specific article – the ads will be integrated without any effort on your part. The benefit is obvious – the feature saves a lot of time when you’ve got lots of ads to display.

Targeting

You can target the audience by:

  • GEO. By country, inter-state entity or city. And the database is extensive, it includes even small towns;
  • sex, age and other personal features;
  • device type. As we’ve mentioned, the traffic is divided almost evenly into desktop and mobile;
  • Software.
Targeting by operating systems and their versions
Targeting by operating systems and their versions

Marketplace audiences are also available. Traffic lists already sorted by certain interests. By adding one you make the search more relevant but lowers the coverage. You can add as many as you want, but each one seriously narrows your audience. We recommend focusing on one particular group, instead of adding multiple filters.

Use the lookalike database as well. Searching for an audience that fits specific parameters. You yourself decide how similar the traffic must be to the set parameters. There’s 5 criteria – from 5% to 25%. The higher the number, the more narrow the traffic, but the higher its quality. When testing a campaign, it’s best to keep this parameter at 10-15%.

Tips for creating ADs on Taboola

Now for some practical recommendations that will be useful for creating your own advertising campaign on Taboola.

  • first of all, work with the offer. As we’ve said, the moderation here is strict. Make sure the offer has no gray-hat elements. And only then send it for approval. Since if you fail, you won’t technically get punished, but your personal rating will take a hit;
  • after getting your offer approved and making a deposit, you can proceed to making an AC. But it’s best to start off with a test. Sure, proven methods that don’t need testing exist. But unless you’ve worked with Taboola before, you’ll mess up on some specific moments. Dedicate the campaign’s first 2-6 days for testing;
  • use the project’s targeting tools. Even seasoned affiliates ignore them sometimes. By force of habit just load up their base from the pixel or set basic targeting by GEO, device type, OS. Completely forgetting that Taboola has a lot more capabilities. Set up a lookalike base, use interest lists, sort users by their hobbies. At first, you’ll seriously cut your audience with such an approach, but will learn to accurately identify your target audience. And that’s exactly what testing is for, experiment with different targeting settings and record each separate result;
  • draw up your own stop-list. Taboola mostly focuses on super-efficient websites, capable of flooding your offer with traffic. But that doesn’t mean it will convert well. For example, if you drive traffic from Fox News to nutra offers, you’ll get plenty of clicks. The website’s rating is high, it gets hundreds of thousands of unique users that trust the resource absolutely. So, sure, you’ll get clicks, but who from Fox News will purchase nutra products? And don’t forget that clicks from such a resource will cost a pretty penny. That’s why we recommend ignoring large news portals when you’re starting out. As well as resources that have nothing to do with your offer’s topic;
  • after testing for 2 days, add the resources and regions that showed low CTRs and poor conversion rates to your stop-list;
  • don’t forget to set up the bot-blocking filter;
  • think over your approach to designing creatives. If it’s borderline bannable, then you may very well pass the first stage of moderation and gobble up a ban at the next one. Outright lies, obvious clickbait, inaccurate news articles, overestimations of potential profits, etc. are all prohibited. For example, some of our partners made several attempts to place ads for rehab offers. Taboola’s filters devoured dozens of variants. Practice showed that any image of syringes or pills are acceptable. A depressed person is also a-ok. But adding both of these elements to one creative leads to a guaranteed block of the creative.

Case – Finance investment in Europe

As is tradition, let’s briefly cover our experience working with Taboola.

The main idea was to probe Europe’s investment market. The offer came from the States, but we decided to drive traffic from several European countries. The target action users had to perform was make a deposit in a trust finance management company. Payout – $250. Not exactly “tasty” for this sector, but the conditions were pretty light, making the conversion rate 1.4%.

The starting assets were clear, the targeting was the tricky part. We decided to focus on key financial platforms, but the largest ones went straight to the stop-list. Even without a test it was clear that with a click cost of $15-20, even with an insane CTR, it’d be impossible to cover our expenses and go into the black since the remuneration isn’t that high.

Targeting:

  • GEO – key European countries – the UK, France, Germany. Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and the Netherlands also made the cut;
  • traffic type – any;
  • interest settings – we chose thematic ones – close to finances and investment;
  • software – only IOS for mobile users, other device types – any OS.

We used simple and unobtrusive creatives. The text and headlines were derived directly from the tags. We used three different images:

Creative images-3

Creative images-2

Creative images-1
Creative images

Each one got 3-4 randomly picked headlines with appropriate descriptions.

Testing phase – 5 days. From the very start we input a stop order into the tracker – the campaign had to be stopped if the ROI reached -50%.

5 days report: expenses $750, revenue 500$. A negative ROI, but not enough to shut down the AC. After conducting the tests we adjusted the stop-list by adding a few resources with small CTRs to it. We stopped driving traffic to all countries except the UK and Germany. All the others showed insufficient conversion rates, plus the CTR was only good in these 2 regions.

The following 10 days report: expenses $1,500, revenue $2,750. Since we noticed a significant improvement in performance, we decided to increase the daily budget to $250.

In the first days, the growth was tangible, but as we came closer to the 10th day mark, the flow of income began to dry out, so we decided to terminate the AC so as to not go into the red.

Final results:

  • Expenses – $5,750;
  • Revenue – $8,250;
  • Profit – $2,500;
  • ROI – 43%.

FAQ

1. Is Taboola suitable for affiliate marketing?

1. Is Taboola suitable for affiliate marketing?

Quite. But with certain reservations that stem from the project’s nature and features. The service works with premium websites, in return demanding that these platforms have a considerable competitive click price. For productive results, you need to use this advantage, find an offer with high enough payouts to cover the considerable expenses. Are you promoting a large investment projects in the finances vertical? Taboola is your ticket to premium leads. But if your offer is a random social network that pays $5 per registration that you promote through cheap teasers, Taboola will leave you bankrupt.

2. Is Taboola a good choice for beginners?

2. Is Taboola a good choice for beginners?

Unfortunately, this tool is more fit for a professional rather than a newbie. The project is exactly learning-focused – besides a couple of manuals, there’s nothing here. The setup is pretty complex, identifying your target audience without proper experience and testing is almost impossible. If this is your first affiliate marketing gig, best to look for a different service.

Yes, there’s a free (to anyone who’s made a basic deposit) option to ask the managers for help in setting up your AC. But the consultation is carried out via email with 2-3 day intervals between answers. Only the top clients get premium service. And these aren’t affiliates that have dumped $10-20 thousand into dozens of ACs, but rather large brands that place orders worth millions. Taboola considers all its other clients “mere mortals”.

Author: Elmira Nikiforova

Social media and digital marketing professional with over 5 years experience working at Leadbit. I love comedy and dream of visiting 100 countries of the world.

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