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5 Real-Time Bidding (RTB) Best Practices for Publishers

May 13, 2021

Have you been looking into ways to diversify your revenue streams? If so, you’ve likely already heard of, or are already using, programmatic ads. You may even have heard of real-time bidding.

In short, real-time header bidding is a programmatic ad buying technique that allows publishers to offer their inventory to multiple buyers through an automated real-time auction. If you’re planning to diversify your revenue streams, real-time bidding programmatic ads is an excellent way to do so.

That said, there are a few practices you should follow. Below, we share five of our top best practices to help publishers create effective, robust RTB programmatic ad campaigns.

Use a Holistic Programmatic Approach

There are several different types of programmatic advertising. The primary four are:

  • Open Marketplace (Real-time bidding)
  • Private Marketplace
  • Programmatic Direct
  • Preferred Deals

In our experience, publishers need to use a holistic approach and create a strategy that includes more than one type to maximize their revenue. For example, preferred deals allow publishers and advertisers to connect directly and negotiate a fixed price for premium ad space. The rest of the ad inventory goes to the open market.

Combining different types of programmatic ads can be a complex exercise, but it also helps create a more controlled, stable revenue stream.

Give Buyers and Advertisers Insight Into Your Audience

Audience segmentation and targeting are a vital part of programmatic ad buying and selling. Before buyers can determine how much they’re willing to bid, they want insight into a publisher’s audience, such as:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income level)
  • Location
  • Behavior (social media use, device type, operating system)
  • Lifestyle Preferences and Values

Currently, programmatic data provides a lot of this information through soon-to-be phased-out third-party cookies. However, multiple alternatives are already in the works. It also allows publishers to turn their first-party data into an extremely valuable asset.

Direct deals are a fantastic way to turn your first-party visitor data into revenue. By showing advertisers that your audience matches their ideal buyer profile, you make your ad inventory more valuable. Consequently, you can negotiate for higher bid rates.

Create Responsive, Multi-Platform RTB Campaigns

As of 2020, most internet traffic comes from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. While the numbers are almost even (46.39% on desktop vs. 53.62% on mobile)1, it does mean that publishers need to prioritize responsive ads and multi-platform campaigns. 

What works on a desktop browser won’t necessarily work on mobile, so it’s critical to adapt your strategy accordingly. Consider programmatic ads with optimized creatives that automatically resize to fit a new device.

Another factor to consider is buyer behavior. Mobile ads are far more valuable and more expensive than desktop ads due to the increased demand. Mobile users are also typically regarded as “high-value” targets since they’re two times more likely to make large online purchases. Craft your mobile and desktop real-time bidding ad strategies with that in mind.

Review Trends and Optimize Your Bid Floors

If your goal is to boost your programmatic ad revenue, you need to learn how to understand trends and set hard and soft bid floors accordingly. Several factors can influence how valuable buyers consider your inventory, including:

  • Ad Formats
  • Audience information
  • Traffic, impression, and similar metrics

Setting a real-time bidding limit that’s too high or too low means that you’re losing revenue. For example, setting a hard price floor (HPF) too high means that many bids will get excluded automatically. If no bids are over your limit, no ads will display at all.

While setting soft price floors (SPF) can help you decrease missed opportunities, it might mean that you need to optimize your ads better. It’s a good idea to review your results every two weeks. That way, you’ll be able to spot problems and fix them quickly.

Use Multiple Ad Formats

There’s a wide variety of programmatic ad formats available, and they all have unique benefits and disadvantages. The different types include:

  • Display
  • Video
  • Native
  • Social
  • Audio
  • DOOH (Digital-out-of-Home)

It’s vital to test the different ad formats to find those that work the best on your site and with your audience. Remember how we mentioned that not all ads perform equally well on mobile and desktop platforms? That’s another factor you’ll need to keep in mind as you evaluate ad performance.

Find a Strategy That Works for You

There are multiple programmatic ad strategies available to publishers, but finding the right fit can be a tricky, time-consuming process. You’ll need to test different approaches, formats, and optimization techniques while continually evaluating the results to make improvements.

Developing an effective real-time bidding strategy can take a lot of time and effort. Having the right experience to understand and interpret data is critical, and mistakes can significantly negatively impact your revenue.

Ensure that you work with a team or service provider that can accurately perform tests and evaluate the results.


is a digital advertising performance expert and the Director of Rev•Amp at Softonic. As a business unit leader, Fréderic is responsible for the monetization and the success of the Softonic Publisher Network. Within Rev•Amp, Fréderic oversees Product, Business Development, and Account Management functions.
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