Posted on Feb 16, 2024

Elevate Your Ad Revenue: The Ultimate Guide To Header Bidding

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For website and app owners, header bidding means a great chance to increase advertising income, while marketers benefit from more transparent conditions (and not only). Considering this, your ad exchange platform has to support this functionality. But what exactly does this model imply? Why is it important and how to implement it? In this guide, we have header bidding explained, so keep reading to discover all the details.

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What Is Header Bidding?

Let’s start with the header bidding definition. This technology, also known as advanced bidding or pre-bidding, allows publishers to send requests to the entire set of demand sources at once. Since a lot of ad auctions take place at the same time, the competition grows, which positively affects the publishers’ advertising revenue. 

Do not confuse pre-bidding with real-time bidding (RTB). Being a subset of RTB, the header model solves the inefficiencies of the waterfall approach (like sending requests sequentially) and ensures higher income for publishers.

Key Components 

To clarify the header bidding meaning even more, let’s review the core components involved in this process: SSPs, DSPs, and ad exchanges.


An SSP is a supply-side platform for website owners and app developers who want to monetize their inventory programmatically. Such platforms come with numerous ad inventory management and reporting features, allowing publishers to sell their ad space effectively and at competitive prices.


A DSP, a demand-side platform, is a solution for advertisers. Using it, they can find the most relevant publishers and deliver their ads to the right audiences. 

Ad Exchange

Usually, an ad exchange performs as an intermediary between an SSP and DSP. However, in this case, the auction happens in the header of the website. An ad exchange, instead, receives the requests about the available inventory. So, basically, an exchange plays the role of a DSP.

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How It Works: A Header Bidding Example

Within this model, the process of selling and buying ad inventory involves the following steps:

1. A user visits a publisher’s website;

2.A piece of JavaScript code (known as a wrapper) embedded in the website header pings multiple DSPs and exchanges simultaneously, informing them about the available ad space;

3.Each of these platforms has the opportunity to place a bid, and then the publisher’s SSP identifies the highest price;

4.The winning ad is delivered to the publisher and shown to a user.

Advantages Of Implementing Header Bidding

For publishers, the header bidding technology offers numerous benefits. Let`s explore the main ones.


Publishers get access to a larger and more diverse pool of marketers who are interested in purchasing their ad inventory. This way, optimizing fill rates becomes easier. As for marketers, they can buy even premium inventory without taking part in direct deals.

Enhanced Control

Publishers can control which demand sources can bid on their inventory. In case one of the partners is not delivering the desired results, it can be simply excluded from the setup.

Higher Competition

Since the inventory is offered to multiple buyers at once, the competition grows. Besides, advertisers who want to deliver their ads to specific audiences tend to bid higher. For publishers, this means an increase in revenue.

Less Management

There is no need for publishers to manage the prioritization order for their demand partners. This is possible since each of these partners claims the impression value in advance.

Greater Transparency

The buying process becomes more transparent. Publishers get a deeper understanding of how their inventory is valued and sold. In turn, advertisers get a clearer view of the inventory, as well as of competition. 

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3 Main Requirements

Pre-bidding comes with a couple of preliminary requirements for publishers. Here they are.

Minimum Traffic

To start selling inventory programmatically, publishers need to join a supply-side platform, and many of these solutions have minimum traffic thresholds. It is essential for website and app owners to explore these and other requirements and check if they meet them.

Website Optimization

It is also crucial for publishers to ensure the effective performance of their websites or applications. This involves minimizing technical errors, increasing the loading speed, being compliant with all the relevant regulations and standards, employing diverse ad formats, and optimizing the layout and ad positions. An effective website means that the inventory will be more competitive and profitable.

Content Quality

Content plays a pivotal role in creating a great user experience, so publishers need to deliver high-quality content. Just like website optimization, this will help drive traffic and competition, which is essential for stable advertising income.

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How To Implement Header Bidding Step-by-Step

To join a header bidding auction, publishers need to take several steps. The first one is to make sure that the website (or app) delivers a good experience and is well-optimized. After this, the following actions are required.

Finding an SSP

When choosing a supply-side platform, publishers need to review their features and requirements thoroughly. It is essential to check if the platform supports their ad formats and offers header bidding integration.

Installing a Wrapper

Then, a publisher needs to install a so-called wrapper — a piece of JavaScript code. Added to the code of the page, it consolidates the demand sources. Prebid.js is among the most popular options suitable for integrating advanced bidding both on websites and apps.

Configuring the Auction Process

Finally, publishers need to specify floor prices for different ad segments, along with the auction time limits.

Consider SmartHub Your Trusted Partner In Header Bidding

Due to the advantages described above, offering header bidding on your ad exchange becomes virtually a must. With it, using server-to-server supply integrations, you can integrate with partners on the supply side and perform as DSP with its own bid adapter, and using server-to-server demand integrations, as from the publisher, your SmartHub platform will send requests to the Prebid Server of your demand partners.

Integrating such a functionality into your platform can be challenging, but, fortunately, the SmartHub white label ad exchange has got you covered. 

Header bidding is already on the list of its integration options. The SmartHub platform has been registered and added to the Prebid.js adapter list, so you can integrate relevant supply-side partners with ease and ensure equal conditions for advertisers competing for their inventory. In this case, bidding will take place in a browser.

Alternatively, you can go for the supply integrations so that the bidding process will happen on a server without affecting the page loading speed. The integration settings for both options can be specified when you configure an endpoint for each of your supply partners. Select either Prebid or Prebid.js connection type, and then complete the standard endpoint setup.

Learn about the differences between Prebid.js and Prebid Server.

In terms of pre-bidding, the platform currently supports desktop and mobile web environments, while the available ad formats are banner, native, and video ads.

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This way, instead of building a profitable ad exchange with advanced bidding functionalities from scratch, you can get a fully working solution and start media trading within one week (or a bit more in case you have additional requirements). 

Final Words

The header model allows publishers to increase income, get better control over their inventory, and access a more diverse pool of advertisers. In turn, marketers benefit from greater transparency and equal conditions. 

To keep your ad exchange competitive and profitable, you need to offer your supply and demand partners multiple integration options, and header bidding should be on this list. Thus, if your platform helps publishers earn more and allows advertisers to purchase premium inventory more effectively, your trading income will grow. 

Keep in mind that choosing a white-label solution supporting header bidding is the way to simplify this task so that your ad exchange will enter the market in no time.

Learn more about SmartHub and its features!


What is header bidding advertising?
The header bidding technology enables website and app owners to offer their inventory to multiple demand sources simultaneously. This increases the competition and income for publishers, while advertisers benefit from greater transparency and inventory diversity.
Do I need to install a wrapper on my SmartHub ad exchange platform?
No. You will only need to select the Prebid or Prebid.js connection type for each of your supply partners who require header bidding. This can be done when creating an SSP endpoint.
Does SmartHub support other integration types for supply partners apart from header bidding?
Yes. For the supply-side integration, SmartHub offers the following options: header bidding, OpenRTB 2.5., “VAST to RTB”, “VAST to VAST”, “VAST To All”, and JS tags. For the demand side, the options are the same, plus DSP connectors for specific integrations.
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