OpenRTB Simplified: A Simple Guide to Boosting Your Ad Revenues

Updated on: December 8, 2023
OpenRTB, it's more than just a buzzword. Find out how this game-changer protocol is transforming digital advertising and boosting ad revenues for publishers.

Managing your ad inventory can sometimes feel like a high-wire act. You’re constantly coordinating with multiple ad exchanges and negotiating deals with countless potential buyers while trying to get the most revenue from your ads. It’s like spinning plates – if one thing goes wrong, it could all come crashing down. Sounds challenging, right?

Now, imagine if there was a tool that could simplify this process, allowing you to automate the negotiation and auctioning of your ad space to the highest bidder. This isn’t just a dream; it’s a reality with OpenRTB.

You might be asking, “What’s this RTB in OpenRTB?” Think of it as an ultra-fast, automated auction for digital ad spaces. Every time a webpage loads, an auction is conducted within milliseconds to sell the ad space to the highest bidder. This is RTB (Real-Time Bidding) – a real-time process of buying and selling ads.

But here’s where things get interesting – OpenRTB. It’s like the supercharged version of RTB – a common language that makes these auctions work smoothly across different platforms. Developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), OpenRTB streamlines these real-time negotiations, ensuring everyone involved speaks the same language. It’s the behind-the-scenes maestro conducting the orchestra of digital advertising.

We get it – understanding OpenRTB might seem like trying to decode hieroglyphics. But don’t fret – we’re here to help! In this blog post, we’re going to translate this complex concept into simple, everyday language. Whether you’re new to OpenRTB, looking to improve your current setup, or simply curious about what’s next in digital advertising, you’re in the right place.

Ready to turn the high-wire act of managing your ad inventory into a walk in the park? Let’s dive in!

What is OpenRTB?

💡 OpenRTB is a standard protocol that enables real-time transactions of ad inventory between advertisers and publishers.

It serves as the backbone of the programmatic buying and selling of ads, essentially turning the process into a common language everyone involved can understand.

Imagine OpenRTB as a translator, ensuring all parties – the publishers, advertisers, and ad exchanges – are on the same page. It allows publishers to sell their website’s ad space swiftly and efficiently to the highest bidder, removing the complexity often associated with ad transactions. By simplifying these interactions, OpenRTB paves the way for a smoother, more profitable ad-selling process.

Here’s why OpenRTB is useful to you as a publisher:

  1. Speed: OpenRTB enables real-time transactions. The moment a visitor lands on your website, your ad space is sold, and the ad is displayed instantly.
  2. Efficiency: OpenRTB connects you with multiple buyers at the same time, which increases the chances of a higher price for your ad space.
  3. Control: With OpenRTB, you have control. You decide the minimum bid price and who gets to bid.
  4. Transparency: OpenRTB promotes transparency. You can see the entire transaction process and know who’s buying at what price.

How Does OpenRTB Work?

If OpenRTB sounds like a magical fix to your ad sales woes, you’re probably wondering how it works. Let’s pull back the curtain:

  1. The Ad Request: When a visitor lands on your website, an ad request is sent out. This includes information like the user’s demographics, browsing habits, website context, and more. All these data points help potential buyers understand the value of your ad space.
  2. The Auction: Now, this ad request doesn’t just go to one potential buyer. It’s broadcast to numerous buyers simultaneously. These buyers, who have their criteria for the perfect ad spot, will decide whether your ad request fits their needs. If it does, they enter an auction. Each buyer bids for your ad space based on the value they see in it.
  3. The Winner: The highest bid wins, but there’s a catch – the winning buyer pays only a cent more than the second-highest bid. This is called the second-price auction model, and it ensures fair play.
  4. The Ad Display: Finally, the winning ad is instantly displayed on your website. This entire process, from the visitor landing on your site to the ad being displayed, happens within milliseconds.

Benefits of OpenRTB

Now that you understand how OpenRTB works, you’re probably wondering about its benefits for you as a publisher. Here are a few:

  • Increased Revenue: Since multiple buyers bid for your ad space, the competition could drive up the price. It’s simple economics – when demand is high, the price increases.
  • Better Fill Rates: With OpenRTB, every ad request has the potential to result in an ad being displayed. This means less empty ad space on your site, leading to fill rates better.
  • Greater Efficiency: No need to negotiate with each buyer individually. OpenRTB simplifies the ad-selling process, allowing you to focus on creating quality content for your website.
  • Improved User Experience: Serving relevant ads based on user data not only leads to higher ad revenue but also ensures a positive user experience. When visitors encounter ads that align with their interests, they’re less likely to be annoyed and more likely to engage with your content.To delve deeper into striking the right balance between your ad strategy and user experience, check out our article on Finding the Right Balance Between Ads and User Experience.

That’s a broad look at how OpenRTB works and how it can benefit you. But how do you get started with OpenRTB?

Getting Started with OpenRTB

Alright, you’ve understood what OpenRTB is and how it works. You’re ready to get started, but where do you begin? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Choose Your SSP

Your first step in the OpenRTB journey is to choose a Supply-Side Platform (SSP). This platform bridges you (the publisher) and potential buyers. It sends out your ad requests and conducts the real-time auction. Some popular SSPs compatible with OpenRTB include Google Ad Exchange (AdX), Magnite, PubMatic, and OpenX.

Step 2: Set Up Your Rules

Next, you need to set up your rules or preferences. These include the minimum bid price you’re willing to accept, the type of ads you want to display, and the kind of buyers you’re willing to interact with. This gives you control over the ad-selling process.

Step 3: Monitor and Optimize

Once your SSP is set up and your rules are in place, you’re good to go. But your job doesn’t end there. It’s important to monitor your ad performance and optimize your rules based on your observations.

Best Practices for Implementing OpenRTB

To maximize the potential of OpenRTB for your digital ad space, adhere to the following best practices.

Proactive Fraud Prevention: Ad fraud is a constant challenge. To protect your ad revenue, apply robust fraud prevention measures such as domain verification and implementing ads.txt. Update these measures regularly to counter evolving fraudulent techniques.

Adherence to OpenRTB Version Updates: OpenRTB’s continuous development aims to address the dynamic nature of digital advertising. Stay abreast of updates to maximize the advantages of new features and improvements.

SSP Rules Adjustment: Your audience, content, and revenue objectives are not static, nor should your SSP rules. Adjust factors like your minimum bid price, ad types, and preferred buyers periodically to optimize revenue generation.

User Experience Consideration: Striking a balance between maximizing ad revenue and maintaining an enjoyable user experience is crucial. Irrelevant or intrusive ads can negatively impact user experience and eventually reduce your website traffic.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when implementing OpenRTB.

Ignoring Diverse Ad Formats: Limiting your focus to desktop ad formats will undermine your revenue potential. OpenRTB supports a variety of ad formats, including mobile and video. Ensuring that you’re tapping into these options will enhance your reach and revenue opportunities.

Setting Inappropriate Floor Prices: Overpricing can deter potential buyers and leave you with unsold ad inventory. It’s important to set a realistic floor price that reflects the value of your ad space but remains attractive to advertisers.

Neglecting Performance Analysis: Successful OpenRTB implementation requires consistent performance tracking. Neglecting to monitor your ad sales performance and failing to adjust strategies based on this data can lead to inefficiencies and lower revenue.

Breaking Down OpenRTB Versions

The world of programmatic advertising is continuously evolving, and so is OpenRTB. Let’s understand the key versions and how they can benefit you:

OpenRTB 3.0: A step up in the game, OpenRTB 3.0 was a significant revamp of the protocol. It was designed to tackle the increasing market demand for more security, transparency, and trust in programmatic advertising. This version works hand in hand with AdCOM 1.0, forming a robust and streamlined ecosystem. Its updates aim to reduce ad fraud and create a dependable programmatic environment for you, the publisher.

OpenRTB 2.5 and 2.6: These versions were about fine-tuning, bringing incremental improvements for better functionality and security in real-time bidding. For instance, OpenRTB 2.6 made room for header bidding, which lets multiple SSPs bid on your inventory simultaneously, enhancing revenue potential.

In essence, these versions of OpenRTB, each with unique features and enhancements, are designed to simplify your life as a publisher and make your ad space more lucrative. It’s all about staying in the loop with these updates to make the most of them.

Comparing OpenRTB with Other Ad-Serving Protocols

As a publisher, you have a variety of ad-serving protocols and systems to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. Here’s how OpenRTB stacks up against some of the other major players:

1. OpenRTB vs. Header Bidding:

  • Unified Auctions: While both OpenRTB and Header Bidding are designed to maximize revenue by offering the ad inventory to multiple bidders simultaneously, the methods they use to achieve this differ. OpenRTB’s process involves a traditional auction system where ad impressions are sold one at a time. In contrast, header bidding enables all ad exchanges to bid on the same inventory simultaneously before making a call to the publisher’s ad server.
  • Ease of Implementation: OpenRTB often requires integration with a Supply-Side Platform (SSP), which handles the auction process. On the other hand, header bidding requires adding a piece of JavaScript to the publisher’s site header, making it potentially more straightforward to implement.
  • Latency Issues: Header bidding may sometimes lead to latency issues as all auctions are conducted simultaneously and can slow down the page load times. In contrast, OpenRTB’s auction process can be more efficient, as it typically operates through SSPs, which can manage the process to minimize latency.

2. OpenRTB vs. Google’s Authorized Buyers (formerly AdX):

  • Open-Source vs. Proprietary: OpenRTB is an open-source protocol, making it widely adopted and supported by a range of platforms and vendors. On the other hand, Authorized Buyers is a proprietary protocol, offering the extensive reach of Google’s ad network, yet the usage is limited to its own platforms.
  • Real-Time Bidding: Both OpenRTB and Authorized Buyers offer real-time bidding, allowing dynamic pricing based on demand.
  • Control: OpenRTB typically gives publishers more control over their inventory, including setting minimum bid prices and choosing who can bid.

3. OpenRTB vs. Prebid:

  • Cost-effectiveness vs. Integration: Prebid is a free, open-source solution, potentially making it a more cost-effective option for publishers. However, it may require more technical expertise to set up and manage. Conversely, OpenRTB requires integration with an SSP, which may come at a cost but offers a more streamlined experience.
  • Header Bidding: Both OpenRTB and Prebid support header bidding, allowing multiple buyers to bid on inventory simultaneously, leading to better yield for publishers.
  • Ad Formats: While OpenRTB supports various ad formats like display, video, and mobile, Prebid primarily focuses on display and video ads.

4. OpenRTB vs. VAST/VPAID (Video Ad Serving Template / Video Player Ad-serving Interface Definition):

  • Versatility vs. Specialization: OpenRTB supports a broad range of ad formats, while VAST and VPAID are specifically designed for serving video ads. VAST is more widely adopted, while VPAID offers more interactive features and functionality.
  • Interactivity: VPAID offers higher levels of interactivity and complexity in video ads compared to OpenRTB, but it can also be more challenging to implement and require more resources.
  • Standardization: OpenRTB’s strength lies in its ability to standardize the communication between buyers and sellers, simplifying the ad-selling process.

By comparing OpenRTB with other ad-serving protocols, you can see that while there are many common features, each has unique strengths. Ultimately, choosing these protocols will depend on your specific needs and circumstances as a publisher.

Wrapping Up the OpenRTB Journey

Understanding and using OpenRTB can truly change the game for digital publishers. It simplifies the digital advertising process, ensuring you’re efficiently selling your ad space to the highest bidder. We hope this guide helps demystify OpenRTB for you and brings you one step closer to making the most of your ad inventory.

Remember, if you have any questions or need further insights about implementing OpenRTB, we’re here to help. Get in touch with us for any assistance in maximizing your ad revenue. We’re just a message away!


What is OpenRTB?

OpenRTB is a protocol in digital advertising for standardizing information exchange during real-time ad bidding.

What are the Benefits of OpenRTB?

OpenRTB enhances ad transaction efficiency, reduces miscommunication through a universal language, optimizes publishers’ revenue by enabling sales to the highest bidder, and promotes transaction transparency.

How does OpenRTB work?

OpenRTB works via real-time auctions. A publisher’s site sends a bid request for available ad space to multiple advertisers. They review and place their bids, with the highest bidder’s ad displayed on the publisher’s site – all within milliseconds.

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