What is Header Bidding? | Explained 

what is header bidding blog cover

Header bidding technology is part of the programmatic ecosystem. In fact, the adoption rate for this technology has reached 67.8% in the United States in the first quarter of 2021. 

This article explains what header bidding is and the main things you should consider before implementation.

Table of Contents

What is Header Bidding?

Header bidding, also known as pre-bidding or prebid, is a programmatic technology whereby publishers offer their ad inventory to many demand partners like Google simultaneously. 

Header bidding became an industry standard around 2014 when it replaced another popular technique of selling ad inventory–waterfall

Letting multiple demand partners (SSPs, ad exchanges) bid on the same ad inventory creates more competition, enabling publishers to sell their ad inventory for the highest possible price. 

How Does Header Bidding Work?

A header bidding technology is facilitated by prebid.js, which is an open-source header bidding wrapper responsible for:

  • making ad calls to demand partners;
  • evaluating bids;
  • communicating with the ad server

Here is how header bidding works:

  1. Firstly, publishers need to paste the header bidding code in the header of the page. 
  2. As soon as the user visits the site, the wrapper makes an ad call to all demand partners.
  3. The demand partners now submit their bids. There is usually a time frame or a timeout in which bidders must respond to prevent page latency
  4. Then, the wrapper sends the bids to the publisher’s ad server, for example, Google Ad Manager.
  5. The highest bidder wins the real-time auction, and his ad creative gets displayed on the publisher’s page. 
how does header bidding work

What is a header bidding platform?

Header bidding platforms are known as monetization platforms, like Setupad. These platforms offer publishers fully managed website monetization solutions and customer support.

While prebid.js is available for anyone, maintaining a header bidding wrapper is a tedious task that requires technical resources. 

In addition, you still need: 

  • to add multiple SSPs to maximize competition for your ad inventory, which might not be possible for small-medium publishers;

  • a dedicated AdOps team to take care of HB implementation and ad optimization;

  • granular optimization within Google Ad Manager or for prebid.js to achieve maximum efficiency in terms of ad revenue;

  • malvertising control.

Setupad offers its clients all of the above. Moreover, we connect publishers to 15+ SSPs, including Google, which is an optimal SSP number. 

Related Article: SSP vs Monetization Platform | Difference Explained 

What Are the Benefits of Header Bidding? 

1. Multiple demand partners competing for the same ad inventory.

2. Control over demand partners, price floors, timeouts, and more.

3. Revenue uplift by 30-80% over Google AdSense.  

4. Advanced reporting and analytics using bid-level data.

5. Reduced risk of underselling ad inventory.

6. Minimum ad discrepancy thanks to a single auction.

7. Increased fill rate.

What Are The Disadvantages of Header Bidding?

1. Complicated implementation and maintenance unless working with a monetization platform.

2. High page latency with client-side header bidding.

Header bidding vs RTB 

Header bidding is just one of the ways the ad inventory can be sold through RTB.  

Real-time bidding is a method of buying and selling digital ads through real-time auctions. It’s traditionally associated with open auction, however, it can also include:

  • header bidding;
  • waterfall;
  • private auction;
  • preferred deals;
  • programmatic guaranteed;
  • and more.


Header bidding has quickly taken over the adtech world. However, the industry evolves every day, which is why it is important to work with a platform which header bidding solution is competitive and up-to-date. 

Setupad’s header bidding solution consists of the most advanced and complete ad stack. Our hybrid header bidding wrapper also doesn’t compromise the website’s speed and our clients benefit from superior customer service and an individual approach. 

Still don’t know if header bidding is right for your website? Reach out at [email protected] or sign up to test the solution! 

Join the conversation