Header Bidding Explained: A Comprehensive Guide to Increased Revenue

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Key Takeaways

Header bidding enables publishers to fetch higher prices for their ad inventory by allowing multiple demand sources to bid on the same impression simultaneously, driving up competition and ultimately increasing revenue.

With header bidding, publishers can access a broader range of demand sources, including premium advertisers and ad networks, leading to higher fill rates and reduced unsold inventory.

Unlike traditional waterfall setups, header bidding provides publishers with greater transparency into the bidding process, allowing them to see which advertisers are bidding and how much they are willing to pay, enabling better decision-making and control over their inventory.

By reducing latency and improving ad relevance through increased competition, header bidding can enhance the overall user experience on a website, leading to higher user engagement and retention.

Header bidding allows publishers to manage and prioritize their direct-sold campaigns alongside programmatic demand, helping to mitigate channel conflict and ensure that all demand sources have a fair chance to compete for ad inventory.

While header bidding offers numerous benefits, its implementation can be complex and resource-intensive, requiring technical expertise and ongoing optimization to maximize its effectiveness.

Header bidding, also known as advance bidding or pre-bidding, has revolutionized the digital advertising landscape, offering publishers a powerful tool to maximize their ad revenue. By allowing multiple ad exchanges to bid on ad inventory simultaneously, publishers can secure higher rates for their ad space. But what exactly is header bidding, and how can it benefit publishers looking to boost their revenue streams?

Introduction to Header Bidding

Introduction to Header Bidding

Definition and Basic Concept

Header bidding, also called pre-bidding or advanced bidding, lets publishers sell ad space to many exchanges at once. They do this before asking their servers for ads. It allows them to get bids from various sources, including ad networks and exchanges. Then, they can pick the highest bid in real-time. This method helps publishers make more money by selling to the best bidder.

Comparison with Traditional Waterfall Method

In the waterfall method, ad inventory is first offered to the best-paying ad network. If it doesn’t accept, the price drops for the next network. This process continues until the inventory is sold.

Header bidding is different from the waterfall method. It lets all demand sources bid on inventory at once, not one after the other. This feature can boost publisher revenue. They can choose the highest bid from a wider range of sources. Moreover, it improves transparency. Publishers can see all bids and make better decisions on which to accept.

Types of Header Bidding

A. Client-Side Header Bidding

Client-side header bidding, or browser-side header bidding, is the traditional method. It runs auctions on the user’s browser before sending the ad request to the publisher. This method directly adds header bidding tags to the publisher’s website. Now, let’s explore its advantages and disadvantages.


  1. Client-side header bidding boosts revenue. It allows publishers to tap into multiple demand sources. These include ad exchanges, networks, and other buyers. The added competition raises bids, thus increasing publisher revenue.
  2. More Control: Publishers have more control over the auction process. This is thanks to client-side header bidding. They can set rules for how inventory is sold, including which demand sources can participate and how bids are prioritized.
  3. Improved Targeting: Client-side header bidding lets many bidders bid on the same ad space. This can lead to better ads for users. The ads are more relevant and can lead to more clicks and money.


  1. Client-side header bidding has a big issue: it slows down pages. The auction happens in the user’s browser, so it delays loading. This delay harms both user experience and SEO.
  2. Setting up client-side header bidding is complex. You need to add many ad tags and manage relationships with multiple demand sources. This complexity increases the chance of errors and makes fixing issues harder.
  3. Ad blockers affect client-side header bidding more. They can easily spot the auction in the browser.

B. Server-Side Header Bidding

Server-side header bidding, also known as server-to-server or unified auction, is a newer form. It shifts the auction from the user’s browser to an external server. Here, a third-party server conducts the auction. It connects with both the publisher’s ad server and demand sources. Now, let’s look at its advantages and disadvantages.


1. Reduced Page Latency: The auction occurs on an external server. Server-side header bidding can cut page latency compared to client-side bidding. This can lead to a better user experience and lower bounce rates, which can have a positive impact on SEO and ad viewability.

2. Simplified Implementation: Setting up server-side header bidding can be easier. It is also easier to manage than client-side bidding. It needs fewer ad tags and reduces the complexity of managing many demand sources. This can save time and resources for publishers.

3. Ad Blocker Mitigation: Server-side header bidding can resist ad blockers. The auction happens on a server that ad blockers struggle to detect. This can help publishers maximize their revenue by reaching more users with their ads.

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1. This is due to reduced revenue. Some publishers have reported this from server-side header bidding, compared to client-side bidding. This may be due to factors such as reduced competition among demand sources or inefficiencies in the auction process.

2. Publishers may have less control over the auction with server-side header bidding. The auction occurs on a third party’s server. This can make it difficult for publishers to optimize their inventory and maximize revenue.

Header bidding on servers can raise privacy concerns. This technique sends user data to external servers for auctions. Thus, publishers must follow privacy laws and get user consent.

How Header Bidding Works

How Header Bidding Works

Technical Overview: JavaScript in Webpage Header

Header bidding lets publishers offer their ads to many exchanges at once. They do this before checking their servers. They use JavaScript in the webpage header. When a user visits, the code asks exchanges and networks to bid on the ads.

Client-Side vs. Server-Side Header Bidding

In client-side header bidding, the auction takes place within the user’s browser before the ad request is sent to the publisher’s ad server. This method lets publishers access many demand sources at once. But, it can also slow pages and be blocked by ad blockers.

Server-side header bidding, on the other hand, moves the auction from the user’s browser to an external server. In this method, a third-party server manages the auction. It connects with the publisher’s ad server and demand sources. Server-side header bidding cuts page delays and is resilient to ad blockers. However, it might reduce revenue and limit the publishers’ control over the auction.

The Role of Header Bidding Wrappers and Prebid.js

Header bidding wrappers and Prebid.js help publishers with header bidding. They streamline the process of adding multiple demand sources. It acts as a container for the various ad tags from different demand sources, making it easier to manage and optimize the auction process.

Prebid.js is an open-source JavaScript library that provides publishers with a framework for implementing header bidding. It allows publishers to easily add and manage demand sources, set up rules for the auction process, and analyze the performance of their header bidding setup. Prebid.js is widely used in the industry and is supported by a large community of developers and publishers.

Overall, header bidding has become an essential tool for publishers looking to maximize their revenue from online advertising. By allowing publishers to access multiple demand sources simultaneously and compete for their ad inventory, header bidding can help publishers increase their revenue and improve the relevance of ads served to their users.

Benefits of Header Bidding

Increased Revenue and Higher CPMs

Header bidding helps publishers earn more and get higher CPMs. It lets many demand sources bid on ads at once, making auctions more competitive. This results in higher bids and more revenue. Moreover, it connects publishers with sources that are willing to pay more. This further increases their earning potential.

Enhanced Transparency and Control for Publishers

Header bidding provides publishers with enhanced transparency and control over their advertising inventory. Traditional ad buying methods are opaque. They often involve a series of transactions. In contrast, header bidding lets publishers see all bids. They can then make better decisions about which to accept.This transparency can help publishers optimize their inventory and maximize their revenue.

Reduced Latency and Improved User Experience

Header bidding can slow down pages when used on the client side. However, it’s faster with server-side implementations. Unlike the traditional waterfall method, it moves auctions to an external server. This streamlines ad serving and boosts the user experience. Less latency means quicker loading, lower bounce rates, and an overall better experience for the publisher’s website visitors.

Access to Premium Demand Sources

Header bidding connects publishers to more demand sources. These include top advertisers and ad networks. Through auctions, publishers attract high-quality advertisers. These advertisers are often willing to pay more for ad space. As a result, publishers diversify their income and boost their inventory’s value.

Implementing Header Bidding

Implementing Header Bidding

Getting Started: Steps for Publishers

Implementing header bidding involves several key steps for publishers:

1. Evaluate Your Website: Assess your website’s traffic and audience demographics to determine if header bidding is the right strategy for you. Consider factors such as page views, user engagement, and existing ad revenue.

2. Choose a Header Bidding Solution: Select a header bidding solution that meets your needs. This may involve using a header bidding wrapper, such as Prebid.js, or partnering with a header bidding provider.

3. Integrate the Header Bidding Code: Integrate the header bidding code into your website’s header. This code will facilitate the auction process and allow demand sources to bid on your ad inventory.

4. Configure Your Header Bidding Setup: Configure your header bidding setup to include the demand sources you want to work with and set rules for the auction process, such as floor prices and priority levels for bids.

5. Test and Optimize: Test your header bidding setup to ensure it is functioning correctly and optimize it based on performance data. This may involve adjusting your floor prices, adding or removing demand sources, and experimenting with different auction configurations.

Partnering with a Header Bidding Provider

Partnering with a header bidding provider can streamline the implementation process and provide access to additional features and support. When selecting a provider, consider factors such as their technology stack, integration process, and support services.

Identifying Demand Partners (Ad Exchanges & SSPs)

Identifying the right demand partners is critical to the success of your header bidding strategy. Look for partners that offer access to high-quality advertisers, competitive bids, and reliable technology. Consider partnering with a mix of ad exchanges and supply-side platforms (SSPs) to maximize your revenue potential.

Monitoring and Optimizing Performance

Once your header bidding setup is live, it’s important to monitor its performance regularly and make adjustments as needed. Keep an eye on key metrics such as fill rates, CPMs, and revenue to identify areas for improvement. Use this data to optimize your floor prices, adjust your demand partner mix, and fine-tune your auction settings to maximize your revenue.

Challenges and Solutions in Header Bidding

Challenges and Solutions in Header Bidding

Common Issues: Page Load Times, Complexity, Technical Maintenance

1. Page Load Times: One of the main challenges of header bidding, particularly in client-side implementations, is the potential for increased page latency. This can negatively impact user experience and SEO, as slower page load times can lead to higher bounce rates and lower search rankings.

2. Complexity: Implementing and managing header bidding can be complex, especially for publishers with limited technical resources. This complexity can make it challenging to set up and maintain header bidding setups, leading to errors and suboptimal performance.

3. Technical Maintenance: Header bidding requires ongoing technical maintenance to ensure that the auction process runs smoothly and that bids are processed correctly. This can involve troubleshooting issues, updating ad tags, and integrating new demand sources, which can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Solutions: Server-Side Bidding, Ad Management Platforms, Optimization Strategies

Server-Side Bidding

Server-side header bidding offers a solution to the challenge of page load times by relocating the auction process to an external server. This approach reduces latency and enhances user experience by decoupling the auction from the user’s browser. With server-side bidding, publishers can improve the efficiency of their ad auctions, leading to higher CPMs and increased fill rates.

Ad Management Platforms

Ad management platforms like Google Ad Manager and Prebid Server simplify the complexity of header bidding. These platforms provide publishers with tools for managing and optimizing ad inventory, streamlining implementation processes, and offering insights into performance metrics. By leveraging ad management platforms, publishers can enhance their ad monetization strategies and maximize revenue potential.

Optimization Strategies

Implementing optimization strategies is crucial for improving the performance of header bidding setups. Strategies such as setting floor prices, prioritizing demand sources, and experimenting with different auction configurations can significantly enhance performance.

By regularly monitoring key metrics and adjusting their strategies accordingly, publishers can maximize revenue potential and minimize technical issues, ensuring a seamless and profitable header bidding experience.


In conclusion, header bidding represents a fundamental shift in the digital advertising landscape, offering publishers a powerful tool to maximize their revenue potential. By allowing multiple demand sources to bid simultaneously on ad inventory, publishers can achieve higher CPMs and fill rates.

However, successful implementation requires careful consideration of various factors, including ad server setup, partner selection, and optimization strategies. Publishers must also stay abreast of industry developments and best practices to ensure their header bidding setup remains effective. Overall, when executed thoughtfully, header bidding can significantly boost ad revenue and enhance the overall monetization strategy for publishers.


What is header bidding?

Header bidding is an advanced programmatic advertising technique that allows publishers to offer their ad inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously before making calls to their ad servers. This enables publishers to receive bids from multiple demand sources and achieve higher CPMs.

How does header bidding differ from traditional ad serving?

Traditional ad serving involves a sequential waterfall approach, where ad requests are sent to different demand sources one after the other, based on priority. In contrast, header bidding conducts a simultaneous auction among all demand sources, allowing for fairer competition and potentially higher revenue for publishers.

What are the benefits of header bidding for publishers?

Header bidding offers several benefits for publishers, including increased competition among buyers, higher CPMs, improved fill rates, and greater transparency and control over ad inventory.

What are the challenges of implementing header bidding?

Implementing header bidding can be complex and resource-intensive. Publishers need to integrate multiple ad networks or exchanges, manage bid responses, optimize their setup for best results, and ensure that the implementation does not negatively impact page load times or user experience.

What is server-side header bidding, and how does it differ from client-side header bidding?

Server-side header bidding moves the auction process from the user’s browser to an external server, reducing latency and improving page load times. Client-side header bidding, on the other hand, conducts the auction within the user’s browser, which can lead to slower page loads and potential user experience issues.

How can publishers optimize their header bidding setup for better results?

Publishers can optimize their header bidding setup by setting floor prices, prioritizing demand sources based on performance, implementing header bidding wrappers, and regularly analyzing and adjusting their setup to maximize revenue and fill rates.

What are some common misconceptions about header bidding?

One common misconception is that header bidding is only beneficial for large publishers. In reality, header bidding can benefit publishers of all sizes by increasing competition and revenue. Another misconception is that header bidding always leads to slower page load times, but with proper implementation, this impact can be minimized.

Is header bidding suitable for all types of publishers?

While header bidding can benefit many publishers, its suitability depends on factors such as the volume of traffic, the quality of ad inventory, and the resources available for implementation and management. Small publishers with limited resources may find it challenging to implement and manage header bidding effectively.

How can publishers measure the success of their header bidding setup?

Publishers can measure the success of their header bidding setup by tracking key metrics such as revenue per thousand impressions (RPM), fill rate, bid rate, and latency. Regular monitoring and analysis of these metrics can help publishers optimize their setup for better results.

What are some best practices for implementing header bidding?

Some best practices for implementing header bidding include starting with a small number of demand partners and gradually scaling up, using asynchronous ad code to minimize page load times, optimizing ad placements for better performance, and regularly reviewing and optimizing demand partner configurations for maximum revenue.

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