Content Recommendation Widgets: How Do They Work?

From Outbrain to Taboola and now AddThis––the great thing about content-based recommendation tools is that you have lots of great options and don’t have to limit your site to just one. Although they all recommend content, they each work differently, and have unique capabilities and algorithms for you to consider.

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Consider Your Objectives

Are you trying to increase recirculation? Increase immediate monetization? Or reduce your exit rate?

Once you figure that out, the next step is to choose a tool that will help you reach your goal. The table below outlines the pros and cons of recommending on-domain content (i.e. content on your site) and off-domain.

Content Recommended Pros Cons
  • Increased recirculation
  • Increased pageviews
  • Increased shares & engagement
  • Some sites may not have enough content or pages for this strategy
  • A great way to monetize your site
  • No content creation or curating needed
  • Less control over the content being recommended

Consider the Algorithm

Another important thing to consider is the algorithm behind the recommended content. Some tools use a contextual algorithm, which recommends similar content to what’s on the current page. That’s great when you have diverse content and user interests, but it doesn’t work well for on-domain recommendations on your homepage because it is usually the least specific page on your site and doesn’t offer much context to the algorithm. This step is important to get right because your homepage is often the largest single entry point for new traffic.

Another common method is recommending trending content from your website (that is, your site’s most popular content). This is good for content like news that has a shorter shelf-life than product or reference content.

Behavioral recommendations using off-site data can also be very powerful because they’re relevant when you don’t know anything about the visitor because it’s their first time on your site.

Consider the Placement

Where to place your recommended content widgets is another important consideration. Here are some options when it comes to placing your recommended content widget:

  • Below the article for those readers that finished article and are ready to click on another. For example check out articles on
  • Toaster format will slide out from the side of the page to grab the reader’s attention toward the end of the page. For example, check out articles on
  • Floating sidebar or top of page for visitors that may have landed on the wrong page. For example, check out articles on

Consider AddThis Pro

AddThis Pro’s content recommendation tools use a blend of each algorithm and incorporate the unique browsing data we see on 14 million websites. It is an incredibly powerful tool for recommending either on- or off-domain content because it matches content with interests. It’s powerful enough to make solid content recommendations even when a visitor comes to your site for the first time. Often called a “cold start,” AddThis Pro knows what to recommend to that visitor because it understands the behavior of that browser across the Web.

AddThis Pro also gives you all of the above mentioned placement choices, plus the ability to promote content you choose within your recommendation widgets. So if you’ve acquired a sponsorship on your own, you can make sure all your visitors get to see that promoted content in your content recommendation tools!

So which tools and implementation of recommended content will work best for your site? The only way to know is to test, test, test!

  • aaronwhoughton

    Very cool feature. We recently rolled out a paid campaign with Outbrain but haven’t considering using their widget on our site. Your technology using behavioral data from across the web sounds much smarter, this is great for smaller businesses who don’t have as much (or as focused) content on their domain already. Very smart.

  • Aw, thanks! :) Let us know what you think once you give it a try. We’d love to get your thoughts.

  • Linear Liquid

    Thanks for sharing this. We really enjoy AddThis Pro, but have yet to use the recommendation features. Since we don’t have a lot of content yet, we might be better off looking to recommend off-site content. I look forward to experimenting with these features.

    I think that behavioral data could be the most accurate way for us to get related content to what is currently on our site. Since AddThis knows the behavior of the visitor, this could lead to some interesting articles.

  • Thanks for stopping by! You can promote off-domain content in the AddThis Pro Recommended Content tools; have you given that a try?

  • Zareena Malik

    I am amazed to read your post with all the recommendation, that how my site will do better by adding few extra tools. Thank you very much for advising me to try addthis pro, I am going to try it. Again thank you for the recommendations.

  • We are using your this wizard in some of our sites and we have found that many a times it shows the same page in all recommendation tabs. you need to rectify this.

  • I am giving your article some thought and believe content based recommendation tools will benefit my site. Thanks

  • ForzaFlow


    for some reason the content recommendation widgets do not work on my blog hosted by blogger, but only in the preview mode. Do you have any idea why?

  • Hi! There could be a few reason why it’s not working. Send our support team an email with your URL and we’ll check it out to see what’s going on:

  • Pik

    Is working good at none English language using sites too?

  • Fabian

    tengo problemas con los acentos en español

  • trabajosmangelesalumnos@gmail.
  • How does add this decide which content to recommend. Is it based on meta keywords/description?

  • Good question. There are several things taken into consideration. Here’s a quick read about them:

  • GeckoboardNick

    Hey there, I’m a little confused – I reached out to AddThis support to see why this wasn’t working on our site, and was told content recommendations aren’t currently supported (as of April ’15) on sites that use https. But this very post is being served over https with beautiful content recommendation intact. What gives?

  • Hello! That’s correct. We don’t support https for our content recommendations. The reason though that we’re able to show them on our blog is that our blog can use both http/https. The recommendations being generated are for our http pages.

  • Aditya Bhardwaj

    HI same problem with me do you get the solution?

  • Hi Aditya, our support team can definitely help you out. Please send an email to and they’ll assist. Thanks!

  • Hi, I too have the same problem. I am not able to see the recommended content in my website. Could you please help me out. I have just emailed the support team, recently. Any Help would be appreciated. Thanks
    Vaishak S

  • Hi Vaishak, our apologies for the trouble you’re having with our recommended content tools. If you’re still waiting to hear from our support team, please feel free to email me at christian [at] addthis [dot] com and I can assist.

  • The recommended content tools are clearly not only displaying “trending” content since I’m seeing pages being recommended that no visitor should ever have seen, let alone shared.

  • Hi Eric, if you have content you’d like to exclude from showing up in the recommended content tools on your site, you can adjust those settings here:

  • Hi, I found it, thanks. I also realized that some of these pages were only being shown to me. I’ve got it all fixed now. My bad!

  • Sounds good, Eric. If you need a hand with anything else, please feel free to reach out to our support team at help [at] addthis [dot] com.

  • Yep, will do. Appreciate it.

  • Not show in my blog by Blogger :(

  • Hi Jennie, please send an email to help [at] addthis [dot] com with a link to where you’re having this problem, and our support team can assist. Thanks!

  • I want to remove Addthis credit

  • Jason Stepp


  • For questions about billing, please send us an email at and we can assist. Thanks!