How to Get Started with Header Bidding?

Updated on: December 21, 2023
Learn the prerequisites for header bidding and how to start with the technique.

Many publishers know the benefits of header bidding but are unsure whether they can implement it. Sometimes the technicalities are overwhelming. The confusion about how the system works is another intimidating factor. 

But don’t worry, even if you’re completely clueless about header bidding, we’ll explain everything in plain English. Here’s all you need and how it converges to make header bidding possible.

Prerequisites for Header Bidding

To make header bidding possible on your site, you must have the minimum required traffic, an ad server, a wrapper, and the bidder adapters. Let us discuss each of them in detail:

– Minimum Traffic: There is no hard and fast rule for the minimum traffic to run header bidding. One million page views per month are considered ideal, and it also varies on the geography of your audience.

But wait, the SSPs seek a large amount of traffic. Most tier-1 SSPs* wouldn’t want to work with a publisher who cannot provide at least 50 million monthly ad impressions. Why? Working with top publishers is profitable.

*SSPs are demand partners participating in the header auctions.

Didn’t we mention “1 million PVs” will be enough to get started with header bidding? Yes, we did. When you can’t get direct connections to SSPs (have a few million users per month), you can use resellers (header bidding providers) to implement header bidding. Now that the minimum traffic is sorted out, let’s get to the next step.

– Ad Server: The ad server is necessary to serve/deliver ads on your website. Many other activities will take place inside the ad server along with — ad serving. For example, monitoring ad delivery and reporting the data related to impressions, clicks, etc. If you don’t have a server, we recommend Google Ad Manager. GAM is the most popular free ad server in the market and is quite a platform.

– Wrapper: A header bidding wrapper (or simply, wrapper) is a container that’ll receive the bids from all the SSPs and send the winning bid to the ad server. Without a wrapper, you’ll have to integrate every SSP individually, which will lead to an excessive amount of code on your site that can create a lot of complications in the future. But when you are using a wrapper, all the scripting required for the integration of SSPs is done inside the wrapper container.

It saves you from repeatedly interfering with your website’s main code. For comparison, you can compare the wrapper with Google Tag Manager.

You can work on creating your wrapper via Prebid (open-source header bidding framework), but it’ll require a lot of technical expertise. Otherwise, you can also get it from wrapper technology providers (like us), who’ll do all the work for you so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

The added advantage is leveraging their exclusive products, SSPs, and more. For instance, when we onboard publishers, we provide them with a suite of products (not just header bidding wrapper), SSPs, Google Ad Exchange (the largest ad exchange), managed services, etc.

– Bidder Adapters:  As mentioned earlier, the wrapper receives the bids from SSPs. The bids come through the adapters. The respective SSPs you want to work with will provide the adapters. If you want to work with OpenX, you must integrate the OpenX adapter into your wrapper. SSPs and header bidding wrappers communicate via the adapters.

Again, you can do it yourself. Or get a managed header bidding provider who offers the SSP connections — out of the box.

Partnership with SSPs

You need the best SSPs* to get the highest possible CPMs for your impressions. A well-performing SSP is one with high-quality demand sources that often bid to win the auction. The SSPs will also have their expectations of you. They’ll have their criteria for choosing partner publishers. They’ll analyze your traffic quality and quantity, your traffic sources, the geography and demographics of your audience, etc.

*We’ve compiled a list of the best SSPs in the market for you.

If you are directly going to SSPs and integrating them yourself, ensure that they offer what you are looking for, for example, real-time stats about inventory performance, a dedicated dashboard, extensive documentation, etc. The bitter truth is the well-known SSPs in the industry wouldn’t work with you directly if you don’t have the scale of the traffic they need.

How to Implement Header Bidding on Google Ad Manager?

The header bidding implementation process requires the ad server (Ad Manager) to be connected to the header bidding wrapper, and the wrapper should be connected to the adapters from the SSPs. The wrapper code goes into the head of your website (and hence the name header bidding). 

Here’s how it looks: As you can see, the wrapper is connected to the publisher’s ad server (your ad server) and SSPs (via adapters inside the wrapper).

Once the SSPs are ready to open their demand for you (they’ve to whitelist your site), you are all set. 

To sum it up:

Step 1: Build a wrapper*.

*If you can’t build it yourself, get it from a header bidding provider. They’ll have the wrapper, SSP relationships, proprietary products, and more. So, you don’t have to go through any of the following steps. 

Step 2: Contact the SSPs for the demand. If the SSPs are ready to work with you, integrate their adapters with your wrapper. Here’s the complete wrapper setup process for your reference.

Step 3: Integrate the wrapper with your website by adding the wrapper code (JS) in its header.

Step 4: Integrate the wrapper with the ad server (ad server setup). We have already covered the wrapper and ad server integration process here.

Step 5: Voila. Test the setup and take it live.

Testing the Header Bidding Setup

Testing your header bidding setup is an ongoing process. You need to keep looking for inconsistencies. You have to make sure that every partner is performing well. Any opportunity to increase the revenue should be leveraged. 

Weak partners should be spotted and removed; strong partners should be added and observed. In a nutshell, you must ensure the setup operates at its optimal capacity. Here are some tools to help you with the testing of your header bidding setup:

  • Headerbid Expert: It is a Google Chrome and Firefox browser extension. It can be used to check the timeouts of all the bidders on the page. This, in turn, can help in deciding the timeouts and sequence and inclusion or exclusion of the bidders. Here are more header bidding Chrome extensions to help you with your setup.
  • Google Publisher Console: It is a debugging tool offered by Google. You need to use the GPT tag to leverage it. Its main purpose is to improve the quality and performance of your ads. It can be accessed in multiple ways. Here is a complete guide for using the Publisher Console.
  • Publisher Ads Audit for Lighthouse: It is another tool by Google. You can use it for auditing your ads. It will provide you with various suggestions to improve the ad speed on your page. Here is a complete guide to Publisher Ad Audit.

Once the SSPs are approved, the ad server setup is done, the wrapper code is added to the website, and bidder parameters are set, you need to check whether ads are delivering. Use the tools mentioned above to confirm that everything is working as expected. If your wrapper provider avails a dashboard, you can check metrics like impressions, revenue, eCPM, etc., to ensure every SSP is performing.

Want to do a thorough review? Then, here’s how to test your header bidding setup completely.

What’s Next?

Header bidding is not as complicated as people think. All the resources necessary for the implementation are easily available. The only difficulty is sourcing demand. If you have the right amount and quality of traffic, then the demand wouldn’t be a problem too. What if you have no in-house team and enough page views to do it yourself? You can onboard a managed header bidding service provider

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