Key Points

  • Header bidding solutions are a sure way to increase ad revenue, as long as they are set up and maintained correctly.
  • The amount of time and effort you put into your header bidding solution will directly correlate with the results you can expect to gain from it.
  • There are many additional tools or efforts that can be combined with header bidding to truly amplify ad revenue.

header-bidding-processBenefits of Header Bidding

The benefits of header bidding are well known, but just to give a brief breakdown for context, some of the key benefits are:

  1. Increased CPMs: The most commonly cited benefit of header bidding is the fact that increases CPMs. HeaderBidding forces multiple demand sources to compete for your ad inventory in an auction that benefits the highest bidder, forcing higher bids from advertisers to win ad space.
  2. Access to More Premium Inventory Demand: This benefit grows as you add more demand partners to your auction. It is a simple case of supply and demand. The more bidders you have competing for your inventory, the higher the amounts they'll have to bid in order to win.
  3. Higher Fill Rates: Another major benefit to incorporating more demand sources is a better fill rate. If one demand source is unable to fill a particular ad impression, then another might be able to. Varying your sources of demand just makes sure you can fill in as many ad impressions as possible.
  4. More Control: With header bidding wrappers, you can control price floors and other settings to increase your CPMs. In fact, there are so many settings you can tweak on a per-impression basis, at Playwire we've created machine learning and AI algorithms just to make the most of these settings!
  5. Fewer Passbacks: A passback occurs when your floor CPM isn't reached on a particular ad exchange or ad network. The bid request is then "passed back" to your ad server, where it then goes to another ad network. Header bidding improves this issue by sending the requests out to all of the exchanges and networks at once, which means there is no passing back to be done because the request has already reached everyone.

For most publishers, adding header bidding is the next natural step when you are ready to begin increasing the number of demand sources in your ad tech stack.

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The Complete Header Bidding Resource Center

The Complete Header Bidding Resource Center

How to Make Your Header Bidding Solution More Effective

Header bidding is often viewed as a "magic bullet" whereby simply adding a header bidding solution to your ad tech stack will magically improve your revenue. While this is true to a degree, it is somewhat of an oversimplification that hides some of the real work that must go into setting up and maintaining a header bidding integration.

The only real way to make your header bidding solution more effective is to put a lot of time and effort toward it. For many publishers this means taking time and effort away from other important activities, namely producing the content that brings visitors to the site in the first place.

Some of the background effort and activities that make or break the success of a header bidding solution include:

Maximizing the Number of Demand Sources in Your Auction

The simplest, and most effective way to increase CPMs for your website or mobile app is to incorporate more sources of demand. At its core, more competition ultimately drives higher CPMs and ad revenue.

Integrating, and maintaining integrations with individual demand sources is no small task. Each source you integrate incurs an effort tax. And, at some point, as you add more and more, that tax becomes so large it outweighs the benefits.


Not to mention the fact that each integration increases the complexity of your code and introduces more opportunities for things to go wrong. Your ad ops team will need to grow exponentially to support the maintenance and firefighting that comes with driving increased competition.

Yield Optimization Experiments

Any good Yield Ops professional can tell you that there are thousands of tests you can run by combining different settings and adjusting dials on each of your individual header bidding demand partner integrations.

Simply turning on a header bidding solution and assuming everything will be set properly to drive the highest ad revenue is a big mistake. Optimizing your settings on each individual demand partner integration in order to drive the highest revenue is a full-time job. In fact, at Playwire, we have an entire team dedicated just to that.

Integration Maintenance

Another often overlooked effort is the time needed to maintain each integration you have with a demand source. Nothing in the ad tech industry stays stagnant, and header bidding solutions are no exception.

You can expect that there will be regular work required to manage integrations once they are set up (it is unfortunately not a "set it and forget it" type of situation). Ad Ops teams regularly find themselves troubleshooting and fighting fires across the ad tech stack, including troubleshooting issues with header bidding solutions as they arise.

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The Complete Guide to Header Bidding

The Complete Guide to Header Bidding

Beyond Header Bidding: Revenue Intelligence®

Header bidding solutions on their own are very effective, but they only scratch the surface of what's possible when it comes to maximizing your ad revenue.

After we spent time building the most comprehensive set of demand source integrations on the market, our yield team realized the vast untapped potential that existed beyond simple "revenue optimization."


It is one thing to run tests here and there, then decide upon the optimal settings across all demand integrations, and then leave those settings "static." Instead, we found that combining human intelligence (our yield ops team and data scientists) with machine learning could maximize ad revenue beyond our wildest expectations.

So we created Revenue Intelligence®. Machine learning and AI maximize yield on every impression. Real time predictive algorithms ensure you always receive the highest bids possible by adjusting thousands of settings across the ad tech stack on a per-impression basis.

You can learn more about our proprietary Revenue Intelligence® algorithm and the teams that make it so effective here.

Beyond Header Bidding: Data Management Platform

Another technical tool that can amplify the effectiveness of header bidding is a data management platform.

As we begin to witness the slow downfall of third-party data, first-party data is more important to publishers than ever. Once you have access to first-party data, you can use it to further increase your revenue on top of the increases gained from header bidding alone.

A comprehensive data management platform (DMP) can both help you collect and action this first-party data. However, many standalone DMPs won't have the full feature-set that makes them actionable to publishers that aren't enterprise-level.

The data you can collect in a DMP is only useful if the audience set is large enough to be interesting to advertisers and has a way to push the necessary information about your audience back up the "ad tech pipes" to make it useful for programmatic advertising.

Playwire's DMP solves both of these problems. First, by combining your data with audience data across our entire network, we can create large enough audience cohorts to be attractive to advertisers. And second, with our existing connections and relationships with SSPs, we can raise relevant information about your audience to programmatic buyers and increase the CPMs for your inventory.


Beyond Header Bidding: Direct Sales

One of the single most effective ways to increase overall page view CPM is to add direct sales into your mix. Building your own direct sales team is often an undertaking that is simply not feasible unless you are a huge publisher in your own right, but getting access to an existing direct sales team might be a very attractive option.

Direct sales immediately increases CPMs for the units they package and sell directly to advertisers, but they also have indirect effects on your programmatic CPMs as well. Because of the nature of the relationship between supply and demand, the fact that direct sales will take a portion of your demand and remove it from the open exchange, it is reducing the amount of supply. 

This, in turn, tends to raise CPMs on even your programmatically sold inventory because as supply becomes smaller, demand increases and advertisers must bid more in order to win some of what remains.

Getting access to an already established direct sales team, that has already forged relationships with major brands and has experience selling in your vertical will seriously accelerate your path to realizing increased revenue from direct sales.

The Bottom Line

Header bidding is a sure way to increase your ad revenue, but without the proper time and effort, it will never reach its full potential. There are also many additional activities which, when combined with a header bidding solution can truly amplify ad revenue.

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