Header Bidding started exploding in popularity in 2015 and has quickly become the preferred ad serving approach for publishers keen to earn more from their ad inventory. The rate of adoption of Header Bidding says a lot about how effective it is at driving revenue gains, but nothing is perfect. Like anything in business, there are both disadvantages and advantages of Header Bidding for publishers. Overall it is a great solution, but it isn’t suitable for every site. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks is key to making informed choices about whether Header Bidding is right for your website.
In March 2019, 79.2% of the internet’s most popular 1,000 sites that sell programmatic ads used Header Bidding.
What are the advantages of Header Bidding for publishers?
Exposure to more advertisers
Header Bidding provides a means to present your ad inventory to multiple Ad Exchanges, Networks and SSPs. Each demand source comes with its own collection of buyers. Increasing the exposure of your inventory in this way can help push up CPM rates in a number of ways:
- More buyers means more chance to match an impression with a high bid – Buyers will pay more to target users who look like their ideal customers. More buyers increase the chance to match a buyer to a user and secure those higher bids.
- Better chance of a remarketing cookie match – The highest CPMs are often reserved for the customers already known to the buyers/advertisers. Imagine an e-commerce advertiser trying to reach a customer with $1000 of goods in their basket. Working with more demand sources means more chance of getting such a match.
- More auction pressure throughout the session – As users see more ad impressions, high bidders will reach their per-user frequency caps and stop bidding. Exposing your inventory to more buyers helps ensure that higher bids are received for every impression, not just the first served in each session.
- Increased fill rates – Exposure to more advertisers increases the chances of getting a bid on every impression. This pushes up fill rates and eCPMs too.
Equal opportunity to bid
Old waterfall ad serving set-ups did not give all Networks/Exchanges a look on every impression. The SSP at the top of the waterfall would have the opportunity to buy every impression, then pass those they didn’t bid on to the second SSP in the chain. They would then buy the impressions they wanted and pass the remainder on to the third, and so-on down the chain. This would mean that those further down the chain wouldn’t get the chance to buy some impressions, even if they were willing to pay more than those ahead of them.
Header Bidding requests offer the impression to all bidders at once, giving each bidder an equal look at every impression. This ensures that every possible higher bid is taken into account.
Fewer lost impressions
Header Bidding results in having more impressions to sell. As impressions are passed down the chain in waterfall set-ups, a few impressions are lost at each step, eroding your precious inventory. With Header Bidding there is no chain and far fewer dropped impressions.
If all of your revenue is generated from a single SSP or network, you are always at risk of that being interrupted. Technical or policy issues can bring ad serving rapidly to a halt and cause revenues to plummet. Diversifying your demand can keep the revenue flowing.
A variation in demand also means setting prices through competition rather than allowing one buyer to set their own price. If every impression you sell is through a single network then that network is choosing what price to pay for each impression. Header Bidding puts multiple networks and SSPs in competition with one another and to win the impression they need to pay more than their competitors for your inventory.
Introducing Header Bidding is particularly effective if you are running Google AdX only on site. When AdX runs alone on-site, it does not have to compete with other demand sources. Adding Header Bidding to your setup will increase auction pressure and more competition usually results in higher bids.
What are the disadvantages of Header Bidding for publishers?
Header Bidding does require an additional script to run on the page, which can increase load time. Adding too many bidders or adding bidders who are habitually slow in returning a bid can result in slow ads or even a slow page. Header Bidding does not have to damage the user experience, so long as it is executed well. It is important to monitor user experience metrics such as visit depth, frequency and engagement when rolling out any significant changes.
Setting up Header Bidding for yourself is not simple. There is a lot to learn and a lot to get wrong. Header Bidding calls on a new skill set that only the largest publishers tend to have in-house.
Once up and running, Header Bidding also has to be closely managed to ensure that it is performing well. Adjusting bids to take discrepancies into account, adjusting timeouts and of course, chasing down errors and bad creatives can all add up.
Get all the advantages of Header Bidding without the disadvantages
OKO offer publishers Fully Managed Header Bidding that protects publishers from all of the drawbacks of Header Bidding whilst still delivering those important benefits (as well as a few extra advantages of our own). If you would like to experience the revenue gains and advantages of Header Bidding, but don’t fancy dealing with the headaches then Contact Us today.
Mat has been supporting content creators on the web since 1996. As Co-founder of OKO Digital, Mat became the first person in the UK qualified to AdSense partner status and repeated this first with Google Certified Publishing Partner programme.