Everything You Need to Know About Bid Request

Reading time: 5 minutes

A bid request[5] is just one of the many things that improve the user experience while increasing your ad revenue. The user experience is always the top priority for website owners. However, if your entire purpose for running a website is contingent on ad revenue, then your other top priority is ensuring that the ad experience — for the users and the sake of your page load time — is seamless and efficient.

After all, the entire point is to attract and retain visitors, and if there’s one thing that can drive visitors away it’s a poor ad experience. It’s bad enough if your ads are interrupting the user experience by getting in the way of your website’s content or causing slow page load times. It’s arguably worse if you’re delivering the wrong ads to the wrong people.

More so than anything else, irrelevant ads directly affect how people associate with your brand in general.

It’s difficult enough to gain a loyal following that surpasses the 100,000 mark and ads aren’t just something you can forgo. There are just too many independent media companies and other types of companies that depend on putting their ads out on the open internet.

This is why a bid request is so important. It’s essentially the only way to deliver an optimal user experience by running relevant ads. 

Here’s what we mean: 

What Exactly Is a Bid Request?

Simply put, a bid request is a singular piece of code. This code is in charge of recording the data that relates to each individual user and the device that they’re using to surf the open web. Once a web page with ad spaces loads, the bid request code triggers this basic data tracking function which uses said data to fetch relevant ads through the ad networks in play and displays them to the visitor[12].

While this is happening, advertisers receive bid requests to place their bids for the ad impression[6] inventories. From here, the publisher[13] typically goes with the highest bid and displays the right (most relevant) ad.

This bid request process works for virtually all programmatic advertising[1] scenarios, including real-time bidding[2], exchange bidding, and even header bidding. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of how a bid request comes into play during the bidding process:

  • A user visits a publisher’s website, triggering a bid request generation. The bid request locates various data points concerning the user’s location, such as page context, the user’s demographics, browsing history, and so on.
  • The bid request with the relevant data that is taken from the publisher’s website is sent to the ad exchange[7]. Here is where it shares the relevant data information about the visitor (or visitors) with the advertisers in play. Depending on whether you’re working with header bidding[8] or not, either an ad server or a header bidding wrapper[9] will handle the process of sharing this information.
  • Using the user data[14] at hand, advertisers will place their bids. Advertisers’ bids generally work on ads per impression (CPM[3]) basis. 
  • With the help of the header bidding wrapper or ad server, the publisher can choose the highest bid which allows the advertisers to deliver their ads onto the publisher’s web page. 
  • For however many ad slots exist on a given web page, the bid request process will be repeated, providing for a full page of ads relevant to the visitor on the site.    

What Type of Information Is Contained in a Bid Request?

At any given moment, a bid request will be full of valuable information about the user in question, the ad units available, and the web page’s general content. When you break down a bid request, here’s what you’ll see:

  • The bid ID
  • The user device
  • Details regarding the user
  • The ad impressions available
  • The website
  • Any extensions
  • Any applications

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

  • The Bid ID: The bid ID is characterized by a unique identification number. Each bid is assigned its own bid ID to identify a specific bid request.
  • The User Device: The user can be using their mobile phone, a desktop, or any other smart device to consume content. All the information related to the device that the user has, such as type, model, operating system, ISP, and so on is put into the bid request to allow for better ad formatting and compatibility for a seamless user experience.
  • The User’s Details: “Details” of an individual user typically means their demographics. This would include their age, location, gender, personal preferences, browsing history, and even things like their family size and income. This is the information that advertisers use to serve ads that are as personalized as possible to ensure the user engages with them. 
  • The Ad Impressions: When we talk about ad impressions in a bid request, we’re talking about impressions that include the lowest number of impressions for banner ads[10] or videos. These are typically offered up by the available inventory[15] in the exchange. 
  • The Website: The website data gathered for a bid request usually includes page context, the type of subject matter the website is built upon, the content, the site’s publisher ID, domain name, and so on.
  • Extensions: Extensions provide any additional information that’s related to the ad inventory[11] that proves to be useful for demand-side platform[4] (DSP) advertisers. Essentially, it’s just more general information.
  • Applications: In some instances, the available inventory is specifically designed for applications. When this happens, the ad bid request will contain information such as the application ID, the type of content in the application, the publisher ID, and so on.

While this is the typical information included in a bid request, it’s important to remember that certain browsers prevent the user’s personal information from being revealed. In this case, the type of information collected for a bid request within the parameters listed above will vary greatly, which could cause the ads served to be irrelevant to the user in question.

For example, Safari uses Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to purge users’ browsers of all third-party cookies. The user can also choose to opt-out of personalized ads or install ad blockers. In this case, a bid request will be relegated to just the context of the page to deliver ads that are at least contextually relevant. 

Bid requests are a critical component of programmatic advertising as they allow publishers and advertisers to exchange and utilize important user information to serve up the best ad content possible. In essence, a bid request works to provide both parties with a win-win situation so that everyone can increase their bottom line.

However, publishers must be vigilant about their bid requests as they’re often used for ad fraud[16] — hence the need for user consent, which is another topic for another day.

1. programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising entails using machine learning and technology suites to buy and sell ad inventory with a data-driven process.
2. real-time bidding. Real-time bidding is a technology-driven auction process where ad impressions are bought and sold almost instantaneously. Once an advertiser wins a bid for an ad impression, their ad is shown on a website. Real-time bidding plays a crucial part in the digital advertising ecosystem together with other players such as ad exchanges and supply side platforms.
3. Cost Per Mille/Thousand [CPM] ( CPM ) Cost per mille, or thousand (mille = thousand in Latin). A pricing model in which advertisers pay for every 1000 impressions of their advertisement served. This is the standard basic pricing model for online advertising. See also CPC and CPA.
4. demand-side platform. A Demand Side Platform or DSP is a platform where advertisers can buy digital inventory to easily and more directly connect with sellers in a programmatic and real-time ecosystem.
5. bid request. Request from the SSP for a bid. Includes data points about the user and the impression being sold.

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