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A few suggestions

I have a number of suggestions:

1. Make the "most popular posts" widget work based on clicks, too, not just recommendations. In fact, I don't plan on using recommendations because there are already social media buttons that can be used the same as that one, and giving my readers one more option would confuse them as in which should they press.

So, please make posts "popular" based on how many clicks they get either directly or just based on the clicks from the recommended articles at the bottom.

Since I haven't used the most popular widget, I didn't get a chance to see how it actually looks. Is it just like the recommended one at the bottom of the post, but in vertical position, with thumbnails and all? If not, I would prefer it like that, with thumbnails.

2. Another suggestion I've made before: please make it the outbrain code like Google Analytics or like any other analytics software out there. Is it REALLY necessary that all traffic is redirected in the url bar to Outbrain?? I seriously doubt that, otherwise all would be like that. I'm sure you guys can find a cleaner solution, and perhaps a faster one, too. I don't really mind the "few days" delay in reporting, though.

3. I've noticed the clickthrough rate is about 15%. Have you or anyone else tried to optimize this? Can it be raised by changing the "You might like" text, or the images borders, or how headlines are displayed under it (somehow they look nicer under Linkwithin - not sure why), or by removing the red X (the red color might be a deterrent)? A higher CTR means more page views for your widget users, which means happier users.

4. Improving the speed of indexing, especially after an article is posted, would be nice, too.

I hope you will take my requests seriously, because I like the product and I want to continue using it, and I'm sure my suggestions would be welcomed by all your users :)
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  • EMPLOYEE
    I’m thankful
    Hey Lucian - thanks for all the feedback! We definitely take suggestions like your seriously.

    A couple of comments:
    Re #2 - Our entire algorithm is designed to optimize the links we serve for your readers based on what they show most interest in, as indicated by their clicks So its paramount for us to capture each click and get our algorithm smarter for the clicking user, as well as all future readers of your site.
    You are right that on a click pointing to another page Outbrain is installed on, we could do a hack that doesn't require the link to redirect through us. Without getting too technical here - There's a performance price for that and to date we haven't found an elegant solution to do that. It is on our list, and we hope to eventually find a way to do what you're suggesting.
    (BTW - Google analytics is slightly different, because they are by default installed on all pages of the site... we point links both to pages we're installed on, and to 3rd party sites on which we're not. Makes sense?)

    Re #3 - First - that CTR is fantastic already! 2nd - Outbrain is all about the CTR. We constantly A/B test everything we can, and try to bring back our best CTR know-how into our widget.
    Regarding the red [x] - that does *not* show up for your readers, so it's not an issue for CTR purposes. Only you, as the blog owner, get to see those x's, and it lets you zap recommendations you didn't like. If you go to Outbrain.com and log out, you will see those X's disappear and will get the version your readers are seeing.

    #4 - note taken. We've already improved the speed of indexing drastically this year (it used to take ~3 hours...), and now most documents are indexed within a couple of minutes after the page is loaded with our widget for the first time. Our engineers have constantly been improving every aspect of our performance, and I'm sure we'll get around to further improving that in the future.

    Again - thanks for all the feedback! We'd love to hear more if you have any comments.
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  • I’m thankful
    Great response. What do you think of my first suggestion, though?

    I think when you have things like Facebook Like or Tweetmeme's Retweet button and so on, those alone speak a lot about the amount of "recommendation" people make about an article. I think your recommendation button might not be necessary if you create a popularity algorithm based on clicks, so I hope you'll look into this.

    The reason I want it is because I used to have a very nice popular posts widget for the sidebar that worked with thumbnails, kind of like your Outbrain widget (the one at the bottom since i haven't seen the other one), which also showed comment count (popularity was based on comments), and I believe this widget increased my page views by an extra 15% too. My bounce rate used to be 58-60% and after I took it down it got up to 70% (well now it's lower but for different reasons)

    I couldn't really find a plugin/widget to replace that, and what I had was part of the theme, and the only way I could make it work was to put it at the top of the sidebar, and I don't want that anymore. This is why I was hoping your widget could do that.

    ---

    I'm also glad that you optimize CTR. Do you think 15% is pretty high then? I would try to leave only 3 boxes as well, but it wouldn't look good with 3, unless I could modify the boxes' size, and scale them to the whole horizontal width, which would also make them taller. You could also try making the "best" recommendation with a different border color, to make it stand out between the whole bunch. This should make it more clickable, thus increasing the overall CTR.

    Another idea could be to put the whole widget in a rectangular box and make the background color different, to make it stand out and be noticed more by readers after they finish the article.

    Even adding the number of clicks each article got (popularity), like above the boxes, might increase CTR, because they'll have an idea about which article is most popular out of the related ones, and go click on that.

    Perhaps you can add more customization options like these later on, to increase CTR. When I'll get more ideas I'll let you know :)
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