Header bidding has witnessed a steady adoption rate after its release in 2015. Today, publishers heavily rely on it for increasing ad revenue. According to eMarketer, 79.2% of the publishers, out of 1000 most popular US websites, used header bidding for selling their ad inventories in March 2019.
Header bidding allows publishers to offer their inventories to multiple demand partners simultaneously. The sophisticated process ensures that publishers are getting the highest possible value for their inventories. The end result is, of course, increased CPMs for publishers.
But is it enough to just implement a header bidding setup to get better ad revenue?
The answer is a resounding no.
For starters, implementing header bidding is technically complicated. On top of that, it requires constant monitoring and innovation to keep the setup yielding better results.
Hence, in this post, we help publishers in understanding what challenges are associated with header bidding. And how they can improve its performance.
Challenges with Header Bidding
Header bidding has definitely made life easier for publishers. However, here are some recurrent challenges with the much-adopted technique:
- Latency: Header bidding latency is a well-known issue, often the primary challenge associated with it. Latency generally means increased page load time, slow loading of ad creative, increase in time for getting bids from the bidder, etc.
- Technical Complexity: Another recurrent problem with header bidding is the technical complexity associated with it. Even though wrappers (like Prebid) has made its implementation much simpler, there are technical complications that still occur.
Apart from these two challenges, many publishers are unable to stick to the right container technology.
However, publishers can overcome these challenges. Here’s how publishers can improve header bidding performance:
Consider Managed Services
Typically, publishers have two options:
- Either implement and maintain Prebid themselves (i.e. through in-house developers) or
- Opt for a managed header bidding service.
Publishers who have previously implemented complex and custom header bidding in-house can stick to the former. They might be at an advantage maintaining header bidding personally, since they are aware of customizations suited to their needs.
But in-house management takes time and consumes resources.
If time and resources are not abundantly available, then we recommend such publishers to use Managed Header Bidding services. Such services further offer features that make both the initial implementation and maintenance of header bidding easy.
You shouldn’t look at an existing solution and ask “how can I retrofit that technology to solve my business challenges?” Instead, you should look at your business challenges and ask “how can I work with a technology provider to develop the best possible solution to achieve my goals.Kevin Haley, Chief Scientist, Videology
One of the best advantages of working with managed services is upgrading to new Prebid versions. Because upgradation is a tiresome job involving technical complications, publishers can end up delaying it. This can negatively impact monetization, since they are missing out on the latest optimizations and features of Prebid.
A managed service also helps publishers analyze, understand, and improve their performance. They are provided with analytics features which provides them important data required for optimizing their header bidding implementations.
Transition to Server-Side Bidding
Publishers, these days, have options to choose from client and server-side header bidding.
The server-side option has recently been presented as a solution to latency issues caused by client-side setup.
Page latency can occur from having to call multiple demand partners directly from the browser. S2S bidding, however, makes one call that pings all the bidders on the server-side. This ensures that ad load time is reduced for providing users with an enhanced experience and facilitating higher viewability scores.
Switching to server-side bidding though is a concern for publishers, as cookie match rates are comparatively lower with this bidding type. This can affect revenue generation.
However, the ad tech industry is quickly heading towards a post-cookie era. Google Chrome has already promised the sunsetting of third-party cookies since 2022. Hence, this issue will not hold meaning within a few years.
Prebid, the most popular HB wrapper, has a server-side solution called Prebid Server with additional benefits such as better transparency, reduced page latency, unified auctions, support multiple demand partners, etc.
Implement Innovative Ad Formats
Traditionally, publishers have used header bidding for banner ads. However, website users have learnt to subconsciously ignore such ads. This phenomenon is commonly called banner blindness.
These ad formats can help retain user attention, thus offering much higher CPMs as opposed to traditional formats. This can boost header bidding performance by offering better inventory potential to the demand partners.
Several publishers partner with an ad network that provides header bidding (like AdPushup). We encourage such publishers to assess whether their desired ad tech partner offers multiple innovative ad formats or not.
Check out some innovative high-impact ad formats that AdPushup offers: Innovative Ad Formats
For including innovative ad units, publishers need to implement certain changes in their header bidding wrapper.
Ad units need to be called out in the header by entering ad unit sizes and identifier codes in the header. The place for entering these parameters depends on the wrapper that a publisher is using.
For example, if a publisher is using Prebid as their header bidding wrapper, the edits will have to be made in variable “adUnits”. The publisher will also need to put in unique parameters for bidders who will be serving ads on these ad units.
Optimize Ad Layouts
If a publisher is just using standard ad layouts and not experimenting, they are most likely missing out on ad viewability optimization. This directly implies lesser revenue generation.
An ideal way to deal with this is to make sure that ad layouts are personalized for users.
Here’s how publishers can optimize their ad layouts for increasing header bidding performance:
- A/B Testing: We cannot stress enough on how important it is to test your page layout for assessing which ad units gives the best CTR. We encourage publishers to test for page load time, ad formats, ad positioning, and other important factors for improving the ad layout of a web page.
- Top ad unit: If your top performing ad unit in terms of CTR is not loading faster than others or can be boosted by trying out a newer ad format, you are clearly missing out. This also relates to ad testing wherein you consistently figure out how to boost your top ad unit performance.
- Location: Ad location on a web page is pivotal to improving ad revenue. Imagine if a reader is browsing through your web page but ads at the wrong places are ruining their experience? This is why it’s important to test where exactly you should render your ads on a page. As a rule, publishers need to find the balance between aiming for enhanced user experience and earning maximum CTR out of your ad units.
By taking care of such issues, publishers are essentially inviting a larger number of demand partners, and in turn, avoiding revenue loss.
Use Prebid as Header Bidding Wrapper
A large number of publishers these days are using Prebid as their header bidding wrapper. The option being highly flexible, allows publishers to customize their header bidding setup as per their needs.
Prebid allows publishers to set up a timeout for bidders. If one of the demand partners is not responding to bid requests in an optimal amount of time, the whole process can be stalled. Furthermore, publishers are free to add their own yield partners via their adapters to various auctions.
Choosing the ideal header bidding wrapper is important for publishers, as it basically sets the rules for auctions. Prebid allows for seamless implementation of header bidding and takes care of latency issues, which is a major issue for client-side bidding.
It is safe to say that more publishers will be shifting to header bidding in the future for improving their ad revenue. Merely adopting header bidding isn’t enough, it’s important to improve the ad performance by making the above adjustments.
Publishers need to pay attention to ad layout optimization and innovative ad formats for increasing ad viewability on their pages. Increased ad viewability will encourage more demand partners to bid on their ad inventories.
Additionally, a proper header bidding wrapper gives publishers the freedom to conduct their auctions in a customized way. With a wrapper like Prebid, publishers are allowed to implement advanced criteria for conducting auctions.