Getting Your Setup Right: Server-Side Header Bidding Pros and Cons
Our earlier post in the 5 Golden Rules of Header Bidding focused on the pros and cons of client-side header bidding solutions for digital publishers. Today's post focuses on server-side header bidding and hybrid solutions.
Server-to-Server Header Bidding Solutions - Pros:
- User experience: Server-to-server (S2S) header bidding technology adoption improves the user experience. This solution resides outside the user's browser and thus can make calls to as many SSPs as you want without slowing down the user's browser or damaging the end user experience on site.
- Accessibility to more resources: You gain the ability to connect a broader number of SSPs and header bidding partners in this setup, theoretically maximizing competition on your inventory. You also benefit by being able to rely on the additional technical resources of your S2S header bidding partner to help take care of issues that exist in this setup.
- The ease of implementation: This solution is considered easier to implement. Assuming you trust your partner, the partner managing the S2S header bidding wrapper can take care of much of the heavy lifting of implementation. In the S2S header bidding setup, there are no line items to create, and often little to no implementation work - just selecting and adding partners via the console.
Server-to-Server Header Bidding Solutions - Cons:
- Lack of transparency for some players: bringing the wrapper to the server-side introduces new transparency risks, and for this reason, much closer observation should take place. In the server-side integration, the process is not under the publisher control and is thus more opaque. There is little visibility on bids and auction resolution, because there is only one partner managing the whole process and you don’t necessarily have access to logs to retrieve all bid information.
- Lack of segmented data: in cases where the publisher does have access to Server- to-Server data, most times this data contains a single line item for all demand, making the data less useful in understanding each partner, particularly without an analytics plug in.
- Cookie/Audience tracking is less effective: Cookie tracking is the other major reason why the S2S header bidding solution is not a perfect solution yet. The cookie matching rate is lower in S2S and many intermediaries lose information. In this setup, there tend to be more intermediaries and thus more cookie-sync layers to accommodate. Let’s say hypothetically that each layer has a 50-60% match rate. In the end, it becomes very difficult for the buyer at the end of the chain to match the cookie. The result is lower bids and cookie matching and the resultant revenue loss. (If you want to solve this issue, as you examine server-side header bidding partners, ask the partner for cookie match rates and compare them to what you get in a client side setup).
The Third Option: A Hybrid Model Using Both Client and Server-side Models
Something we are seeing more frequently is publishers using a hybrid of both solutions together -- a hybrid solution leveraging the best attributes of both client-side and server-side running at the same time.
While today you may be only using client side, remain flexible and have an organization that listens to change in the market, which may point you toward further evolution of your header bidding setup.
Hybrid Header Bidding Solutions - Pros:
- Publishers can tier their monetization partners into those that get preferred access (on page) in the client-side implementation and those that get access only through server-side
- Publishers can keep partners “on their game” by positioning the client-side as a place of honor if they perform in the server set up.
- Publishers receive the best of both worlds: high paying data-driven sellers on the page in the client-side setup and maximized competition via more direct demand that theoretically doesn’t hurt the user experience in the server-side set up.
Hybrid Header Bidding Solutions - Cons:
- It goes without saying that if you multiply the number of channels and partners you leverage to monetize inventory, you multiply complexity, making it more difficult to manage yield holistically across your stack.
- More data silos. Each partner has their own unique data set that will need to be manipulated to understand that partner’s position and productivity in your stack
- Operating two different technologies and integrations can cause operational headaches and cause the team to spend more time putting out fires
- The same data opacity issues from server-side header bidding solutions will persist here with the partners you have in your server-side solution
Now that you understand the advantages and limitations of each of the three options for a header setup, we will next address the questions you should ask to decision on your setup. Stay tuned!