Header Bidding: A Guide

by | Jun 16, 2023 | 0 comments

Source: Freepik.com

Imagine two cats fighting over a single piece of food. 

They are both trying to get the same thing, so they have to compete with each other. This is kind of like header bidding – it’s a way for multiple buyers to bid on one ad space at the same time. 

This means that publishers can get higher prices and more buyers, which helps them make more money from their ad spaces. Header bidding creates an open and fair auction process, which makes sure that everyone involved gets a good deal.

Header Bidding

What is Header Bidding?

Rolled out as an alternative to the Waterfall method, header bidding is powerful and sophisticated programmatic advertising method allowing publishers to offer their ad inventory to multiple ad exchanges and ad networks simultaneously.

This process involves a JavaScript (JS) code snippet being placed in the head section of the website which then sends bid requests to demand partners in real-time, resulting in an auction-style system that can power up ad revenue like never before. 

In fact, 84% of the US top 10,000 sites have already implemented header bidding into their web pages, with more than half of US publishers now reporting higher CPMs since making the switch. The entire process is exceptionally fast – taking just a fraction of a second – so publishers are able to maximize revenue without compromising on user experience or page loading speeds. With its transparent auction dynamics enabling buyers to bid on impressions based on performance rather than position, header bidding provides better opportunities for both publishers and advertisers alike. 

By leveraging this innovative technology, digital marketers can optimize their campaigns for maximum ROI while ensuring they deliver a positive user experience. So if you want to take your campaigns to the next level and secure yourself a competitive edge over other advertisers in your space, don’t miss out – get up to speed on header bidding today!

History of Header Bidding

The term “header bidding” came into existence around 2015, but the concept predates this term and was known by various names such as “tagless,” “bidder,” “parallel auction,” “universal auction,” “JavaScript in the header,” “full bidding,” and “dynamic bidding” among others.

The name ‘header bidding’ emerged as it was descriptive of the process where the SSP is enabled in the header of a webpage to submit bids in advance of the ad call​.

The term started gaining traction on the internet during the summer of 2015. It was used and popularized in various forums and events, including a Slack channel and AdMonsters events. An AdExchanger article titled “The Rise Of ‘Header Bidding’ And The End Of The Publisher Waterfall,” published on June 18, 2015, played a significant role in popularizing the term and consolidating the understanding of the concept.

Despite the potential to use terms like “pre-bidding” or “advance bidding,” the term “header bidding” was chosen in an effort to avoid potential confusion with vendor-specific terms.

How does Header Bidding work?

Step 1: The page loads in the user’s browser. 

Step 2: The header bidding code in the page header executes and calls all demand partners at once. 

Step 3: During this time, the demand partners have an auction to determine who has the highest bid. 

Step 4: The highest bid values from each partner are sent to the publisher’s ad server before its direct inventory is called. This means that all demand sources are participating in the auction at once, and publishers can choose which sources get included too! 

Finally, with this process they can charge higher prices for their premium inventory, resulting in better yields and smarter allocation of impressions sold to whoever bids the most money!

To avoid the hassle of outreaching and coordinating the demand partners themselves – web publishers rely on specialized ad revenue optimization platforms like Geniee.

Advantages of Header Bidding for Publishers

Adopting header bidding has a lot of benefits for publishers. Publishers can enjoy increased ad revenue and improved yield optimization with reduced reliance on traditional waterfall setups.

By using header bidding, you also have access to a wider range of demand sources, leading to better ad performance and user experience. This means your visitors get a great experience with higher viewability and ad quality, plus reduced latency and faster ad delivery.

Perhaps best of all, header bidding grants you enhanced control and data insights that come with granular reporting and analytics, driving real-time optimization and decision-making. You’re able to effectively measure the performance of individual campaigns, as well as being able to easily make changes to optimize so your site can run at its peak performance.

Disadvantages of Header Bidding for Publishers

As great as header bidding can be, there are a few drawbacks you need to be aware of. First, the setup can be complicated as everything needs to be manually configured and synced. Then, because of all the bids you’re dealing with, your costs and latency will both increase. And lastly, there is less transparency with server-side solutions as the publisher does not have access to detailed bidder information.

All in all, these disadvantages may seem off-putting initially, but it’s worth considering the long-term that comes with using header bidding for higher ad revenues. Just like any other complex setup process, you just need to understand it first before you can reap all the benefits.

Best Practices

If you want to get the most out of header bidding and make sure your earnings go up, it’s important to get the configuration and setup right. Here are the best practices we recommend for those using header bidding:

Proper Configuration and Setup Guidelines

The key is to ensure that you configure your ad server and wrapper correctly. When dealing with wrappers, pay attention to the parameters- including timeouts, order, etc. Monitoring for potential latency issues is also essential. In case of any timeout issues, make sure you are able to detect them as quickly as possible.

Performance Tracking and Analysis

It’s important to evaluate how your header bidding partners are performing in terms of ad impressions served, fill rates, viewability rates, etc. Use analytics to keep track of any changes in partner performance over time.

This should also be leveraged for A/B testing different implementations or strategies so you can determine which one works best for your platform.

Choosing the right Header Bidding partners

Once you have enabled header bidding on your platform, there are several things you need to consider when selecting a partner: technical requirements and challenges; OpenRTB support details; user privacy policy among others. Weigh these factors carefully before deciding who should be included as a partner in order to maximize the efficiency of your header bidding setup.

Finally, if you decide to use header bidding in AMP pages –which is possible– pay extra attention due to the constraints imposed by AMP setup including synchronous loading of ads instead of asynchronous loading.

Future trends and challenges

Now that you know the basics of what header bidding is and why it’s important to master it for higher ad revenue, let’s look at some future trends that you should be aware of, as well as potential challenges you might face.

Evolving landscape of header bidding

As more and more technologies emerge, the landscape of header bidding is quickly evolving.

Server-to-server advancements are making it even easier for publishers to maximize their revenue from multiple demand partners without any technical difficulty.

Video Header Bidding

Video header bidding has become increasingly popular in recent years as it allows publishers to leverage their inventory on video platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. while increasing ROI through higher fill rates and better CPMs.

This type of header bidding requires specific technical implementation knowledge but can also help you capitalize on not only user engagement but also improving your user experience.

Header Bidding for Video and Mobile

So we now know that Header bidding can be used for video and mobile environments too. While this is a great opportunity for publishers to increase their ad revenue, there are some potential challenges and limitations associated with both video and mobile header bidding that must be taken into consideration:

Ad fraud and invalid traffic concerns due to the lack of real-time impression validation

Technical complexity when working with multiple demand partners across different devices

Resource-intensive maintenance, as header tags must be updated regularly in order to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing technology landscape


In conclusion, header bidding can be a powerful tool for boosting ad revenue, but only if it is used correctly. If you’re not already using header bidding for your website, take the time to understand the process and explore the various options—you could be leaving money on the table.

Header bidding can be daunting to get started with, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The results could mean increased ad revenue, higher CPMs, and improved user experience. By following the steps outlined in this article and some of the best practices, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking the full potential of header bidding for your website.

Ready to Boost your Ad Revenue?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts