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!