Header Bidding Explained: Guide to Wrappers, Integrations, and Best Practices

Google for nearly a decade built a seemingly unbreachable position in online ad sales that let it pick the best ad inventory from around the web for resale. With every publisher that used its Doubleclick for Publishers service to sell ads, Google was in place to beat any incoming best offer by just a cent. That changed in 2016, when Header bidding came into existence which allowed publishers to collect bids from multiple partners at once instead of relying on just one, such as Doubleclick for Publishers, for the auction. Header Bidding is an advanced programmatic solution which offers publishers a way to simultaneously offer ad space out to numerous SSPs or Ad Exchanges at once in a unified auction with equal bidding opportunities. It takes place outside the ad server, in the header of a web page. The header typically contains metadata about the page and calls scripts used for formatting the style of the page, tracking, and so on. Even though this new auction happens in the visitor’s browser, the publisher essentially controls this auction.

There are different Header Bidding Platforms in this guide for beginners explaining the details of server-side header bidding and its benefits.

Why is Header Bidding Important for Publishers?

This new auction place for bidding gave publishers a range of benefits like:

  • Increased Control – In header bidding all the demand sources are bidding at the same time and publishers can control which sources have the ability to participate in the bidding process. They retain control over their sites & take this control one step further to prioritize certain advertisers in the auction, which could encourage marketers to continue to work with their favorite publishers.
  • Increased Revenue – Publishers can increase the prices they are charging for their premium inventories. Some publishers have increased revenue 30-50% with header bidding.
  • Improved Yield – By allowing a better allocation of impressions and increased fill rate, overall yield increases.  
  • Reduced Reporting Discrepancies – As header bidding is a single auction happening across multiple partners simultaneously, there’s no sequential chaining, which drastically reduces reporting discrepancies.
  • More options: Working with only one SSP means working with their sources of demand which are incomplete. The more bids from advertisers, the more demand received.
  • Transparency – Most transparent programmatic technique where publishers have full control over the auctions.
  • Planning – Header bidding also allows to plan  ahead of time, to know what’s being bid, as opposed to the waterfall technique.
  • Free – It is open for all exchanges and doesn’t involve any taxes.

How Does Header Bidding Works?

Image Source: AdProfs

During the auction, header bidding hinges on a piece of JavaScript in the header of a publisher’s page that allows buyers to bid on advertising. First, a user clicks through to a website. Then, the publisher’s header tag requests several ad networks. The ad networks place their bids, and the winning bid is passed to the publisher’s ad server. Finally, the publisher’s ad server connects the user to the advertiser’s server, which shows the winning ad creative. Advertisers can win header bids for any inventory as long as their bids are high enough and they don’t interrupt the delivery of direct orders. This lets publishers know exactly what each advertiser is willing to bid before the publisher calls its ad server.

Header Bidding Types:

Client Side Header Bidding

It involves injecting a header tag which is provided by the header Bidding vendor  in the head element of the publisher’s website. This tag is a short snippet of Javascript code responsible for connecting various sources interested in participating the Bidding and purchasing ad inventory.

Once the page loads the demand sources ( ad networks and buyers connected to supply-side platforms and ad exchanges) bid on each impression on that page. This allows impressions to be offered to multiple demand partners who can bid on it. If nobody bids, it creates a second price auction. This process goes on and on until all the impressions are sold.

Server Side Header Bidding

Server-side header bidding, takes all the heavy requests on the browser and moves them to an external server. It requires the publishers embed some code on the back-end of their web pages, but all the legwork is transferred from the browser to the ad server. Ultimately making the whole process faster. The browser can focus on displaying the web page to the viewer, while the auction takes place on a separate server. This process takes much less work on the publisher’s end to set up.

  1. A Solution for Latency Issues – The latency issue is significantly reduced by moving the header-bidding process off the browser and into a server – either a dedicated header-bidding server or an ad server.
  2. Works Better for Videos and Rich Media – Because videos themselves are slow to load, switching to server-side is found to vastly improve user experience when loading video ads.
  3. More Demand Partners – Unlike browsers that have a limited number of network connections they can make at one time, server-side header bidding can be set to send bid requests to as many buyers as the publishers want.

What is a Prebid?

An open source of software products designed to enable publishers to implement header bidding on their websites and within their apps. It is free & designed to give a better header bidding experience. It comes with the following features:

  • The largest repository of working header bidding adapters.
  • Asynchronous and single time-out to provide a better user experience.
  • Prebid Server to run faster auctions with more partners.
  • Tools and analytics to optimize the setup.
  • Multiple options on formats (display, video, native) and channels (mobile, web).
  • A well established and helpful community which can advise on best practices and if needed provide professional setup and services.

Prebid.js & Prebid Server are core products of prebid suite. The process is:

Image Source: Prebid

Header Bidding Setup and Implementation

Implementing Header Bidding is a complicated and tedious process. The setup forces to develop countless line items for their ad inventory. Even after setup, header bidding can increase page latency. Third-party tags that enable header bidding make it load more slowly. The process can be explained as follows:

  • Selecting appropriate partner – In the header auction, having a strong demand partner helps publishers to maximize the revenue.
  • Reducing page latency – Header Bidding increases the latency due to page loading. Publishers need to manage the timeouts so that no one partner will hold up the header auction.
  • Wrappers – Header Bidding Wrappers are tags that allow publishers to manage their demand partners easily i.e. adding or removing them as per requirement. The tags translate each partner’s unique parameters into a common value that can be passed to the ad server uniformly and allow important settings, such as a centralized timeout, to be configured, enforcing a hard deadline for the header auction. They also ensure that the header auction happens asynchronously, so that it won’t negatively affect the rest of the page loading.
  • Configuring ad server – Publishers after configuring to header bidding wrappers, need to create hundreds of line items in its ad server to capture each bid value that comes from the header auction. This is the most tiresome part of the header bidding setup process.

List of Self Serve Header Bidding Platforms

For faster, more efficient & customized ad serving Header Bidding platforms to be selected are:

  • OKO
  • Ezoic
  • Reklamstore
  • Adtelligent
  • Smartyads
  • AdKernel
  • Criteo
OKO

Increase your website revenue with ADX, Exchange bidding, and additional demand.

List of Header Bidding Partners to Increase your Ad Revenue

A single impression on the site is auctioned out to multiple partners who all compete with their bids to win and be able to serve an ad. A publisher has total control over these partners, and get to decide on which ones to choose. In the past, publishers would have to manage these partners manually. However, header bidding has evolved and now allows for header bidding wrappers that help publishers run several partners.

1. Criteo: Straight to Business
Minimum monthly impressions: 50M
Bid rate: 55.9 (desktop); 32.4 (mobile)
Win rate: 19.9 (desktop); 15.2 (mobile)
Timeout rate: 20.9 (desktop); 16.4 (mobile)

2. Google (EBDA): The ‘Alternative’
Minimum monthly impressions: 90M
Custom header bidding solution: DFP’s Exchange Bidding

3. Facebook Audience Network: Mobile Demand for Everyone
Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
Bid rate: 20.1 (desktop); 63.3 (mobile)
Win rate: 80.5 (desktop); 86.4 (mobile)
Timeout rate: 5.9 (desktop); 4.1 (mobile)

4. Amazon: The Elite Club
Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
Custom header bidding solution: Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM)

5. AppNexus: The Maverick
Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
Minimum monthly impressions: 30M
Bid rate: 60.8 (desktop); 47.8 (mobile)
Win rate: 37.8 (desktop); 51.9 (mobile)
Timeout rate: 14.7 (desktop); 8.9 (mobile)

6. Index Exchange: The Neutral Party
Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
Yield Partner on Google EBDA
Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
Custom header bidding solution: Known simply as “Header Tag Wrapper”
Bid rate: 68 (desktop); 38 (mobile)
Win rate: 41.8 (desktop); 51.4 (mobile)
Timeout rate: 11.9 (desktop); 6.1 (mobile)

7. AOL Marketplace
Supports Prebid.js and Prebid Server
Supports Pubfood.js
Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
Custom header bidding solution: Smart Yield
Bid rate: 30.6 (desktop); 12.1 (mobile)
Win rate: 37.4 (desktop); 34.2 (mobile)
Timeout rate: 9.9 (desktop); 7.8 (mobile)

8. Rubicon Project
Supports Prebid.js
Yield Partner on Google EBDA
Minimum monthly impressions: 10M
Custom header bidding solution: FastLane
Bid rate: 68.4 (desktop); 21.6 (mobile)
Win rate: 38.3 (desktop); 30.4 (mobile)
Timeout rate: 5.8 (desktop); 8.2 (mobile)

9. OpenX
Supports Prebid.js
Minimum monthly impressions: 100M
Custom header bidding solution: OpenX Bidder
Bid rate: 36.3 (desktop); 28.5 (mobile)
Win rate: 25.6 (desktop); 23.7 (mobile)Timeout rate: 7.3 (desktop); 9.4 (mobile).

10. Centro Brand Exchange
Supports Prebid.js
Minimum monthly impressions: N/A
Ref Source: Adpushup

OKO

Founded by Bruce Bennett, Mat Bennett in 1997 is a global leader in the field of ad monetization. They help their clients run ad-funded websites by working with the world’s-best networks & exchanges.

Header Bidding Solution is given by OKO using their suite of software products like Prebid & EMX. As Google Certified Publishing Partners they offer AdX access through an approved channel & give access to by invitation only.

Features:

  • Ad manager speed test- After understanding the irritation people face while encountering slow ads, they developed OKO speed test tools ensuring publishers don’t lose their valuable ad revenue.
  • Competitive revenue share, that improves with scale
  • Fast, efficient approval process
  • Zero learning curve – we manage AdX for you
  • Fast, responsive expert support covering technical, yield, policy and more
  • Intuitive reporting through our exclusive publisher dashboard
  • Reliable monthly payments
  • Optional access to additional premium demand as well as AdX
  • Optional use of automatic price floor technology to maximize request CPMs
OKO

Increase your website revenue with ADX, Exchange bidding, and additional demand.

Works as an ad optimization specialist helping publishers increase their ad revenue in display, video, native, and high impact ad formats. You can contact him on skype (skype id: ronniedey) to increase your ad revenue immediately or hire him for a consultation. If you're an ad network owner, do get in touch for sponsored reviews.

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