Intro to Header Bidding for Publishers

  • Updated

Header bidding is the most common way to integrate an SSP on a publisher's site. You use it to expand access to demand by collecting bids from several SSPs. With each available impression, you can earn the highest price possible. Therefore, header bidding can help you expand your business.

To learn more about the header bidding solution and prebid products.

The Header Bidding Model

Header bidding simplifies the bidding process. Header bidding solution is a response to a fragmented and inefficient process for digital ad display. It's an alternative to the complex and latent “waterfall” method, in which impressions are offered to one sales channel at a time, moving down an inflexible stack of sources.


Header bidding solved the problem of working with multiple SSPs. However, integrating header bidding into the SSP workflow has its own challenges:

  • Set up is extensive and requires a lot of attention at the start.

  • Timeouts create delays (usually between 500-1000 milliseconds) until the ad is live on the website.

  • You need a dedicated developer or specialist to prepare the model.

  • For large publisher groups, the implementation might be complicated.

The Header Bidding Process

Header bidding is activated before a call to the ad server. With the header bidding solution, you as a publisher create a short delay in your ad serving to obtain bids from many SSPs and ad exchanges. In this way, you can receive high-value bids on your inventory that may be unavailable through your primary ad server and exchange. The returned bids are then passed into the ad server so they can compete with direct demand and the primary ad server exchange on a level playing field.

The header bidding request process, shown below, illustrates the relationship between the ad server, the website, and the header bidding behavior.


The header bidding process has several stages:

  1. The website loads.

  2. The prebid code starts.

  3. The header bidding code calls different SSPs.

  4. Each SSP returns possible bids from their DSPs.

  5. The highest bids from each SSP compete in an auction.

  6. The header bidding code determines the winning bid.

  7. The header bidding code sends the winning bid to the ad server.

To understand the header bidding setup better, take a look at the header bidding specifications that should be applied for your SSP.

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