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Comparing Header Bidding and Waterfall: What Publishers Need to Know

Ad serving is a vital component of digital advertising, enabling advertisers and publishers to deliver targeted ads to specific audiences. However, selecting the appropriate ad-serving method can be challenging due to the numerous options available.

Header bidding is a modern ad-serving method that is rapidly gaining popularity among publishers. This technique allows publishers to offer their ad inventory to multiple ad networks simultaneously, encouraging real-time bidding and competition for ad impressions. As a result, it typically generates higher CPMs and fill rates compared to traditional waterfall ad serving.

On the other hand, waterfall ad serving presents ad inventory to one ad network at a time, following a predetermined priority order. Although easier to manage than header bidding, waterfall ad serving might not yield the same revenue or provide the same level of transparency.

Header Bidding vs Waterfall

To help you determine the best approach for your advertising campaigns, let’s compare header bidding and waterfall ad serving side-by-side:

  1. CPMs
    • Header bidding generally produces higher CPMs than waterfall ad serving due to the increased competition for ad inventory.
  2. Fill Rates
    • Header bidding often results in higher fill rates as multiple demand sources bid on ad inventory simultaneously.
  3. Revenue
    • Overall, header bidding can generate higher revenue than waterfall ad serving because of its ability to achieve higher CPMs and fill rates.
  4. Technical Complexity
    • Header bidding is more technically complex, requiring advanced JavaScript and web development skills.
  5. Ease of Use
    • Waterfall ad serving is simpler and more user-friendly, offering ad inventory to ad networks in a predefined sequence.
  1. Transparency
    • Header bidding provides greater transparency in the bidding process, allowing publishers to better understand the actual value of their ad inventory.

When to Use Header Bidding or Waterfall Ad Serving?

Choosing between header bidding and waterfall ad serving can depend on various factors, including website traffic, audience demographics, and ad inventory. Here are some use cases to consider:

When to Use Header Bidding

  1. High-Traffic Websites: Header bidding is often most effective for high-traffic websites, enabling real-time bidding and competition for ad impressions.
  2. Diverse Audience Demographics: If a website’s demographics are diverse, header bidding can ensure that ads are targeted to the most relevant users.
  3. Premium Ad Inventory: If a website has premium ad inventory, such as video or high-impact display ads, header bidding can help ensure the inventory is sold at the highest possible price.

When to Use Waterfall Ad Serving

  1. Lower-Traffic Websites: Waterfall ad serving can be adequate for lower-traffic websites that may have less demand for their ad inventory.
  2. Simple Ad Inventory: If a website has a relatively simple ad inventory, such as standard display ads, waterfall ad serving can be effective and easy to manage.
  3. Limited Technical Resources: If a website has limited technical resources, waterfall ad serving may be a more straightforward and manageable approach to ad serving.

As the digital advertising industry evolves, partnering with services like ProPS ensures that publishers stay ahead of the curve, leveraging cutting-edge technology to drive success in a competitive market.

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