Google has launched a free tool for AdSense publishers that provides content recommendations.

Dubbed Matched content, the tool is similar in nature to popular offerings from companies like Taboola and Outbrain, and “generates contextually relevant and personalized article recommendations from the pages on your website” and is available immediately to select AdSense publishers with “multiple pages and high volumes of traffic.”

To add Matched content to their sites, publishers generate ad code like they would regular AdSense units. Publishers with access will see “Matched content” as an option in AdSense’s Ad type drop-down.

To ensure that ad units fit the look and feel of publishers’ websites, publishers have the ability to set custom sizes.

Google recommends that publishers embed the Matched content HTML to article pages below the fold and suggests that “when placed directly above or below an ad unit, Matched content units can improve the visibility and engagement rate of your ad units.”

To help it identify the best articles to recommend, Google requests that publishers add unique images to their pages and use standard meta tags on pages, as well as Schema.org microdata and Open Graph tags.

It’s all about the Benjamins

While Matched content is free and might seem like a fairly insignificant new tool, The Wall Street Journal notes that content recommendation has become a big business. As a standalone business built around content recommendation, Taboola has raised over $100 million and is reportedly valued at $700 million.

For Google, the value of content recommendation is clear: as the search giant itself notes, Matched content has the potential to help increase pageviews, time spent on site and overall engagement. That, of course, creates the potential to increase the number of AdSense ad impressions and clicks.

Interestingly, while not directly suggested by the company, it’s not hard to imagine that Google could incorporate AdSense performance data into its recommendation algorithms, something Taboola and Outbrain can’t do.

Instead, Taboola and Outbrain are effectively ad networks themselves, with publishers paying to promote their content, and receiving compensation when they direct their users to other publishers’ content. This doesn’t always produce great results.

Because Google already has the ability to monetize on AdSense publishers’ sites, it doesn’t need to recommend third party content. It can direct a publisher’s users to pages on the publisher’s own site that are not only the most relevant, but that produce the highest eCPMs.

If Google is able to deliver on that type of potential, Matched content could become a much more prominent part of the AdSense toolkit and spell big trouble for the Taboola and Outbrains of the world.