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How to Get Started with Header Bidding?

Getting Started Header Bidding
Every publisher who's willing to run header auctions struggles to understand the setup process and what it takes to get started with header bidding. Well, let's sort it out.

Many publishers know the benefits of header bidding but are unaware of whether they are ready to implement it or not. Sometimes the technicalities overwhelm them too. The confusion about how the system works also can be an intimidating factor. But don’t worry, even if you are completely clueless about header bidding, we’ll explain to you everything in plain English. Here’s all that you need and how it all converges to make header bidding possible.

Table of Contents:

Prerequisites for Header Bidding

To make header bidding possible on your site you need to have the minimum traffic required, 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. 1 Million page views per mo. is considered to be ideal and it varies on the geo of your audience as well.

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 for them (considering the setup & support cost involved). 

*SSPs are header bidding partners participating in the header auctions.

Didn’t we mention “1 million PVs” will be able to help you get started with header bidding? Yes, we did. When you can’t get direct connections to SSPs (have a few million users per mo.), 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: Apparently, the ad server is necessary to serve/deliver ads on your website. There’ll be many other activities that’ll take place inside the ad server along with — ad serving. For example, monitoring the ad delivery, reporting the data related to impressions clicks, etc. If you don’t have any 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, in turn, 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 scripts required for the integration of SSPs is done inside the wrapper container.

It saves you from interfering with the main code of your website again and again. For comparison, you can compare the wrapper with Google Tag Manager. 

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

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

– Bidder Adapters:  As we mentioned earlier, wrapper receives the bids from SSPs. The bids come through the adapters. The adapters will be provided by the respective SSPs you want to work with. Say if you want to work with OpenX, then you have to integrate 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* if you want to get the highest possible CPMs for your impressions. A well-performing SSP is the one with high-quality demand sources that bids often to win the auction. The SSPs will also have their own expectations from you. They’ll have their own 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 have compiled the best SSPs in the market for you.

In case 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 the performance of the inventory, 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. 

Header Bidding Implementation

So far, it must have been clear to you that the header bidding 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 that’s inside the wrapper).

Header Bidding Process

Image Courtesy: ClearCode

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, then 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.

Step 3: If the SSPs are ready to work with you, then integrate their adapters with your wrapper. Here’s the complete wrapper setup process for your reference. 

Step 4: Integrate the wrapper with your website by adding the wrapper code (JS) in its header. 

Step 5: Integrate the wrapper with the ad server (ad server setup). We have already covered the wrapper and ad server integration process here.

Step 6: 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 opportunities in increasing the revenue or speeding up the bidding process should be leveraged. 

Weak partners should be spotted and removed, strong partners should be added and observed. In a nutshell, you have to make sure that the setup is operating 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.
  • Google Publisher Console: It is a debugging tool offered by Google. You need to use 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 to audit your ads. It will provide you 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 and the wrapper code is added to the website, bidder parameters are set, then you need to check whether ads are delivering or not. Use the tools mentioned above to confirm that everything is working as expected. If your wrapper provider avails a dashboard then you can check metrics like impressions, revenue, eCPM, etc to make sure 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? Just let us take care of it

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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