Header Bidding - A Complete Guide for Publishers

Header Bidding - A Complete Guide for Publishers

Ashwin Krishnakumar
Ashwin Krishnakumar

Chief Technology Officer, Airtory

Published on: 11 Jan 2023

Reading time: 4 minutes

In the ever-evolving ad-tech ecosystem, new trends are being introduced every day. When it comes to streamlining the deals between advertisers and publishers, header bidding is the most recent and popular trend. Also known as pre-bidding, header bidding is a programmatic technology where publishers can offer their ad inventory to several demand partners simultaneously. In fact, in recent years, it has come across as a great alternative to waterfall bidding, the traditional and popular technique used to sell ad inventory. The best thing is that advertisers can use this technique for different types of programmatic ads

Let’s dive deeper and discuss this emerging trend and the benefits it offers: -

A Closer Look

Header bidding is a programmatic advertising method that is sometimes referred to as advance bidding or pre-bidding. This automated auction technology allows publishers to simultaneously offer ad spaces to several SSPs or ad exchanges.

In header bidding, publishers can receive bids from multiple advertisers simultaneously since all the demand partners have equal access to bidding. This way, publishers do not have to juggle multiple platforms and ad serving companies to increase their ad revenue.

How It Works

Here is how desktop header bidding works:

  • First of all, publishers need to paste the header bidding code in the header of the page. 
  • When users visit the site, an ad call is made to all demand partners.
  • At this point, the bidding starts, and the wrapper sends the bids to the publisher’s ad server. 
  • The highest bidder gets the ad space, winning the real-time auction. 

Mobile header bidding is very much similar to desktop header bidding. The process is the same, where a code needs to be inserted into a header and requests are sent to demand sources. After this, the buyers start bidding on impressions, and the one with the highest bid gets the deal. 


Here are the major benefits of header bidding: -

Increased Revenue: This is one of the biggest advantages of using header bidding. In this method, publishers get enough opportunities to get the best prices for their ad spaces. At the same time, it also ensures higher ad revenues as compared to other methods of selling ad inventory.

More Control: In header bidding, publishers have the option to choose which demand partners can participate in their auctions. This not only improves the quality of the ads they get but also puts them in a more controlling position when it comes to choosing ad exchanges, SSPs, and ad networks.

Higher Competition: Publishers get a chance to offer their ad inventory to several demand partners simultaneously. When there are more advertisers, the competition automatically increases, and so does the CPM. This simply means that the advertisers have to pay more so that they can outbid each other and win impressions. As a result, publishers can make more money by selling their ad inventory.

Easy to Manage: While working with a reliable header bidding partner, publishers do not have to worry about managing the backend or updating any solution.

Enhanced Visibility for Advertisers: When a publisher chooses to sell their ad inventory, all the buyers can see the available ad space. Thanks to this visibility, they get better and more transparent bidding opportunities as compared to the waterfall bidding method.

Client Side Header Bidding vs. Server Side Header Bidding 

Client-side header bidding is also known as browser-side header bidding. As the name suggests, in this type of header bidding, the auction takes place on the user’s web browser. In today’s time, this is a popular technique preferred by most publishers and monetization platforms.

The server-side header bidding is somewhat similar to the client-side header bidding. The only major difference is that, instead of sending many ad requests and holding auctions on the user’s web browser, only a single request is sent to the server. After this, multiple requests are sent to server-side platforms or ad exchanges. In this type of header bidding, advertisers immediately respond without the involvement of the user’s browser. 

Wrapping It Up!

The waterfall method, also known as daisy-chaining, is an advertising technique that was very popular before header bidding came into existence. This involves selling the ad spaces in a sequential manner, where only one demand source is dealt with at a time. In this technique, a preferred order for ad networks and advertisers is established by publishers, depending on their previous yields. A price floor is also set, and the minimum acceptable amount for a particular ad placement is decided. Since the ad inventory is offered sequentially to the demand partners, an impression is sold as soon as a specific advertiser meets the price floor.

Header bidding, on the other hand, is a method by which publishers receive bids from multiple advertisers at the same time. The ad spaces are sold in a single auction where all advertisers get equal bidding opportunities.

Hence, for all these reasons, header bidding is a popular advertising technique among publishers. It not only increases the profit-making chances for publishers but also gives advertisers the opportunity to access high-quality ad inventory.

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