Programmatic for Publishers: Best Ad Platforms to Boost Your Earnings

Programmatic for Publishers: 9 Ad Platforms to Boost Your Earnings

As a publisher, using a programmatic advertising platform can help you earn more from your ad space. They offer access to a wider range of advertisers as well as more advanced ad technology.

Together, these factors help you maximize your ad revenue. For instance, publishers who make the switch from AdSense to programmatic ads with Snigel earn an average of 57% more for their ad inventory.

In this guide, we share the two key types of programmatic ad platforms for publishers. Then, we compare some of the top platforms to consider, starting with a deep-dive into our solution, AdEngine.

If you want to learn more about what programmatic advertising is and why it’s often a better option for publishers than ad networks like AdSense, skip down to our FAQ.

Snigel is a Google Certified Publishing Partner that provides publishers with a fully managed ad service. Get in touch for a free consultation. 

Programmatic for Publishers: Two Types of Ad Platforms

There are two main types of programmatic platforms publishers use: ad exchanges and header bidding partners.

Below, we discuss each option in more detail.

1. Ad Exchanges: Programmatic Ad Marketplaces

While an ad network like AdSense sells your ad inventory for you (bundled with that of similar publishers), ad exchanges are programmatic ad marketplaces where you can sell ad inventory directly to advertisers yourself.

This gives you more control over the specific ads you show, as well as the price you sell your inventory for. In return, advertisers tend to be willing to pay a higher cost-per-mille than they would through ad networks, because they know exactly where their ads are ending up.

Note: The terms ad exchange and supply-side platform (SSP) are typically used interchangeably. SSPs used to be separate platforms where publishers managed their ad sales. Today, most SSPs have typically merged with the ad exchanges themselves.

Ad exchanges also give you access to different auction types:

  • Open auctions are where any advertiser can bid as long as they match the price floor you set. These are also known as real-time bidding (RTB) or real-time auctions.
  • Preferred deals are where you can offer your inventory to specific publishers before auctioning it on an open marketplace. In these deals, advertisers get more information about the publisher, while publishers can access more predictable income.
  • Private marketplaces (or PMPs) are exclusive venues where you can arrange private deals with select advertisers.
  • Programmatic guaranteed (also known as programmatic direct deals) is a private deal conducted between a single publisher and an advertiser, often for a single ad campaign.

Again, having these options gives you more control and flexibility.

However, there are two potential disadvantages to using ad exchanges.

First, most ad exchanges have strict entry requirements. For instance,  some ad exchanges require that you have at least 10 million ad impressions per month — which can be quite a lot for smaller publishers.

Second, in order to make the most of any of these platforms, publishers typically need to commit a lot of time and resources to their ads. As you’ll be selling directly to advertisers, you’ll need to optimize your ad placements, set your price floors, monitor performance yourself, and much more. You’ll also need to choose the right ad exchange for your site, based on your GEO, vertical, and more.

To make it even more challenging, most publishers don’t have the experience necessary to truly optimize their ad setup, which means they leave money on the table even after committing a bunch of time and effort to their ads.

2. Header Bidding Platforms: Connect to Multiple Ad Exchanges with One Solution

Header bidding lets you auction your ads on multiple ad exchanges, SSPs, and ad networks simultaneously. It lets you access more advertisers, who can all bid on your ads. This greater level of competition typically means you can access higher CPMs.

Plus, with a header bidding solution, you won’t have to worry about qualifying for ad exchanges because they manage all accounts with the SSPs and ad exchanges that they connect to.

Unlike ad exchanges, header bidder partners typically offer additional ad tech. For example, ad formats that have shown to have higher viewability (advertisers typically pay more the higher the viewability of the ad). The ad tech available to you will differ between header bidding partners.

Additionally, different header bidding platforms have different levels of service. Some let you manage and optimize your ads yourself, while others are a done-for-you service. Publishers typically see higher returns with done-for-you services.

9 Programmatic Ad Platforms for Publishers

Below, we share some of the top options to consider when it comes to programmatic for publishers. We break these down into header bidding platforms and ad exchanges.

4 Header Bidding Partners

1. Snigel: Full-Service Header Bidding

Snigel homepage: Unleash the Power of AI for Unmatched Monetization

Snigel is a header bidding platform that manages your entire programmatic ad setup based on your monetization goals. If you work with Snigel, you’ll get access to:

  • The top ad exchanges and SSPs for your site
  • Advanced ad tech to boost your CPMs
  • Ad strategy, management, and maintenance from our ad ops experts

Access to the Top Ad Exchanges

Snigel advertising partners: Transparent Ad Marketplace, AppNexus, Verizon Media, TripleLift, Rubicon Project, PubMatic, OpenX, Index Exchange, Amazon Publisher Services, Google Ad Manager 360

With Snigel, you can access 50+ top ad exchanges, including Google Ad Exchange (AdX), Magnite (Microsoft), Amazon Publisher Services, OpenX, Index Exchange, and more.

We’ll select the best fit for your site based on your vertical, GEO, and other factors, then we’ll apply for each one on your behalf and manage your payments for you. If you were working without a header bidding partner (or you chose a self-serve solution), you’d have to do all of this yourself.

One of the challenges for publishers is that sometimes connecting to too many SSPs can slow down your site and negatively affect the user experience. Also, not all demand sources are equal for every website — some will be a better fit for your audience, website, etc. and therefore will earn you more revenue than others.

As such, it’s really important to choose the right ad exchanges and then see how they perform for you. If a particular SSP doesn’t win bids, they may be just slowing down your site while offering you little in return.

That’s why Snigel’s ad ops specialists will continually monitor your site to see how each ad exchange performs for you. This way, you’ll be sure you’re maximizing your revenue while maintaining your UX.

Plus, if you’re currently using AdSense, you don’t need to give up that platform to work with Snigel. Instead, you can use them alongside each other for better results. For example, you can use AdSense for ad placements above the fold (where it tends to perform better), while using Snigel for other ad placements.

Use our AdSense revenue calculator to find out how much more you could earn with Snigel.

Advanced Ad Tech to Maximize Your Revenue

One of the advantages of using a header bidding platform like Snigel is that you get access to more ad technology. With Snigel, you can use a wide range of advanced ad formats and header bidding optimization technology to maximize your revenue.

Our advanced ad formats include:

  • Adaptive ads, which let you fill ad space with whichever number and size of ads returns the highest revenue. For example, if two smaller ads sell for $0.55 each, whereas one larger ad sells for $1, the two smaller ads would win the bid. This tech can increase your ad revenue by 10–30%.
  • Super adhesive ads, which let you show large ads in a smaller ad space, as the visible portion of the ad moves down with the user’s scrolling. This tech can increase ad revenue by over 20%.
  • Interactive ad units, which engage the user and increase the amount of time they spend viewing the ad, by inviting the user to click through, play a game, or vote in a poll. This tech can increase ad revenue by over 35%.
  • AdStream, which enables you to display high-quality video ads on your website, to achieve higher CPMs. This tech can increase ad revenue by 23%.

Plus, our bid optimization technology includes:

  • Adblock recovery, so you can earn revenue even when users have an ad blocker. Our tech automatically switches from standard ads to adblock-compliant ads based on the users settings. It can increase ad revenue by over 10%.
  • Dynamic floor pricing, which automatically adjusts the floor price to combat bid shading, increase CPMs, and prevent unfilled ad space. This tech can increase ad revenue by over 5%.
  • Smart refresh, which uses multiple time- or action-based triggers to display multiple ads in a single ad unit (rather than just a single ad for the whole time a user is on-page). This tech can increase ad revenue by over 6%.

Critically, though, not every ad tech is appropriate for every publisher’s website. For instance, if most of  your visitors are in a Tier 3 GEO, video ads may negatively impact the user experience. At Snigel, we’ll select the right ad tech for you, monitor its performance, and ensure you’re achieving the highest revenue possible.

Full-Service Ad Strategy and Management

Aside from our advanced ad tech, what sets Snigel apart from most other header bidding partners is that our ad ops team will manage your entire ad strategy and optimization for you. We provide:

  • Custom ad strategy based on your goals. Tell us your goals for your site and we’ll design an ad strategy for you. We’ll select the most appropriate ad exchanges and the right ad formats and tech for you, depending on your specific site.
  • Dedicated ad management. We’ll implement your entire ad strategy and set up and troubleshoot all your ad tech. We work as an extension of your team, allowing you to focus on the rest of your site.
  • Ongoing monitoring and optimization. We’ll continue to test your ad setup for new opportunities to maximize revenue. For instance, we’ll run A/B tests on a portion of your traffic to ensure you’re achieving the highest CPMs possible.

We offer a complete service, so that you can easily benefit from programmatic ads without the hassle of having to manage them yourself. Plus, you can test Snigel on a portion of your site traffic before you start so you can be sure we’re a good fit.

Get in touch for a free consultation. 

2. Ezoic: Self-Service Header Bidding for Publishers Just Starting Out

Ezoic homepage: Ad Monetization, Content Creation Tools & Video Suite

Some header bidding platforms like Snigel offer a fully managed service. Ezoic sits at the other end of the spectrum, as a completely self-serve platform.

That means that while Ezoic has tools to help you source, test, and manage your ads, you’ll need to do all of this yourself. This can be time-consuming and it doesn’t always deliver the best results, particularly if you don’t have a lot of experience with programmatic ads.

What Ezoic does offer is some minimal automation features, which can choose where to place specific ads for you. The trouble is that some reviewers say that the automated placements can overwhelm your site with ads. Plus, if you choose the automated setup, it’s difficult to customize the suggestions it makes.

What’s more, there’s no support available for most of the Ezoic payment plans, apart from basic FAQs, tutorials, and online forums.

Where Ezoic is strong, though, is in affordability. The basic plan costs less than most other header bidding solutions out there, making the platform a good option for publishers just starting out. Be aware that reviewers suggest there are additional fees to pay for any additional services, while for premium plans you’ll be locked into year-long contracts.

Read more: How Much Does Ezoic Pay? 6 Factors that Affect Your Earnings

3. optAd360: Header Bidding with Automated Ad Tech

optAd360 homepage: Boost Ad Revenue of your website, app and mobile game

If Snigel offers a complete programmatic ad service and Ezoic lets you manage your ads yourself, optAd360 offers a third option. Like Ezoic, it provides tools that automate your header bidding, alongside a consulting service to support your ad management.

optAd360 primarily uses AI to analyze your site and identify optimal ad layouts and ad tech for you. This can be useful if you don’t want to manage your ads entirely, but it won’t provide the ongoing optimization that a fully managed service would.

Instead of that managed service, optAd360 has an offering called “Consulting 360”. The header bidding partner will train your teams in ad management, while offering some limited auditing and support along the way. What they won’t do is take a hands-on approach.

It’s worth noting that you can use optAd360 not just on your website, but on games and apps, too. As such, it can be a useful service if you’re a developer.

4. Prebid: An Open Source Tool to Support Header Bidding

Prebid Open-Source Platform homepage: Boost Programmatic Advertising Revenue

Prebid isn’t technically a complete header bidding solution. Instead, it’s a tool you can use to manage multiple bid requests to multiple ad exchanges yourself. Essentially, it lets you implement header bidding, but it won’t provide any support or any other helpful tools (e.g., advanced ad formats, ad refresh).

To make this work, Prebid.js will run in the user’s browser to enable header bidding. Or you can make use of the Prebid Server, which lets you take header bidding off the user’s browser, which can speed up the bidding process.

While Prebid will be more work for you as a publisher than other header bidders, the benefit is that it’s open source. So, you can add any third-party software to the tool that you choose. For instance, if you want to switch between client-side and server-side header bidding, you can add additional software to make that possible.

That said, Prebid itself has few native features and there’s little support. You’ll need to rely on the Prebid forum — which is very active — for anything you need.

Find out more: What is Prebid? A Comprehensive Programmatic Advertising Guide

5 Programmatic Ad Exchanges

Rather than using a header bidding platform, you can also connect directly to ad exchanges yourself. As we explained above, this can give you more freedom to access different kinds of auctions. However, it does mean that you have to manage your relationship with every exchange yourself.

Remember, Snigel connects you to all of the top ad exchanges and manages your ad tech entirely for you, so you don’t have to.

With Snigel, you can connect to all five of these ad exchanges below, plus many more. 

1. Amazon Publisher Services

Amazon Publisher Services homepage: Build, monetize, and grow your digital media business

Amazon’s programmatic ads solution is known as Amazon Publisher Services (APS).

This is broken down into three separate products:

  • Transparent Ad Marketplace (TAM), Amazon’s ad exchange
  • Unified Ad Marketplace (UAM), Amazon’s proprietary header bidding solution
  • Connections Marketplace, where publishers can connect with ad tech vendors

Technically, you could use Amazon as a header bidding solution through UAM, which connects you to major SSPs alongside Amazon’s demand sources. However, this is built for the very smallest publishers and it won’t offer additional ad tech in the way that header bidding partners like Snigel would.

It’s also worth noting that, while TAM can be used for any vertical, it’s perhaps best suited to ecommerce and retail publishers. It has a tool called Shopping Insights, which helps you see how your audience engages with Amazon products.

2. Google Ad Exchange

Google Ad Manager (AdX) homepage: A complete platform to grow ad revenue and protect your brand wherever people are engaging

Google Ad Exchange (previously DoubleClick Ad Exchange) is one of the largest and best-known ad exchanges. It’s primarily recognised for its high-quality advertisers and rigorous eligibility requirements.

AdX sources advertisers from across the planet, so that publishers can access relevant ads no matter which geographies they operate in. Plus, it lets you benefit from the full range of different auctions and programmatic deals, including open, preferred, and private deals.

For publishers already using Google Ad Manager, AdX may be a good choice as it’s built into that platform. As such, it should be familiar enough to get started with easily — if you can join.

AdX is not an option for many publishers that are small or medium-sized, because it has really high eligibility requirements. You’ll need at least 5 million pageviews and over 10 million ad impressions per month for at least 6 months.

Find out more: Google Ad Exchange: What it is and How to Join

3. OpenX

OpenX homepage: Demand Transparency, Sustainability, and Addressability from Your Media

As it has relationships with advertisers in over 190 countries, you can use OpenX no matter where your audience is located. However, to access the ad exchange at all and to benefit from that global demand, you’ll need to have at least 10 million pageviews per month.

The ad exchange offers the full range of conventional deal types, including open, preferred, and private auctions. Plus, in a similar way to ad networks, it creates custom packages of ads that give better prices to publishers and more control to advertisers over ad placement.

What makes OpenX stand out is its OpenAudience feature, a tool that helps you with specific audience targeting. It uses data gathered by your site (alongside third-party data) to help you understand audience segments and provide more relevant ads to them.

4. Index Exchange

Index Exchange homepage: One Exchange. Every Channel.

Index Exchange is a premium ad exchange that primarily works with high-quality ads and tailored deals with more exclusive advertisers. While it does have an open marketplace, this is an exchange that’s more focused on private and preferred deals.

That means you’ll usually need to be a high-quality publisher from a Tier 1 GEO to join the exchange yourself. However, they do consider every publisher on an individual basis, so get in touch with them to enquire about access.

5. PubMatic

PubMatic homepage: Building a Better Supply Chain for the Future of Digital Advertising

PubMatic is an ad exchange that’s quite unusual in that it has no traffic requirements. That means that it’s open to working with all publishers, of any size, vertical, or GEO.

This makes PubMatic a good option for smaller publishers who still want to access a huge range of advertisers. The ad exchange has a similar size as the likes of Amazon Publisher Services and Google AdX, so you can be sure you’ll find demand for your ads. Plus, you’ll also be able to make private and preferred deals.

Something that’s useful about PubMatic is its proprietary dashboard that provides clear data about your ads. It makes it easy to track your performance through the platform.


How do programmatic ads work?

Programmatic advertising is the name for the automated purchase and sale of online advertising through software (instead of through human negotiations and agreements).

Ad exchanges provide marketplaces for advertising space, where the sale is automated.

Programmatic advertising works thanks to advertisers being able to identify and target users based on their behavior, demographic, cookie data, and other variables. This means they can reach specific target audiences that are most likely to be interested in their digital ads, in an entirely automated way.

During programmatic advertising transactions, the following automated process takes place, all in a matter of milliseconds:

  • A user lands on your site and their data (their behavior, demographics, and more) is sent to an ad exchange.
  • The ad exchange offers that user’s impression to a DSP (a demand-side platform), the equivalent of an SSP that allows advertisers to buy ad space.
  • That DSP matches the first-party data they get about the user with its own database of third-party data (known as a data management platform or DMP), in order to work out if and how much they want to bid.
  • Different advertisers bid and the ad exchange gives the impression to the highest bidder. Then, that advertiser’s ad is shown to the user.

Why should publishers use a programmatic ad platform?

When they start off with digital advertising, most publishers use an ad network like AdSense. This is different to an ad exchange or programmatic ad platform, as the ad space isn’t bidded on individually.

Rather, what AdSense does is bundle a publisher’s ad space together with inventory from other similar publishers. Then, it sells those bundles to advertisers altogether.

The benefit of ad exchanges is that advertisers are bidding specifically on each individual ad space. As advertisers know where their ad creative will show (which protects their brand safety), they’re typically willing to bid more. And for you as a publisher, you’ll have full control over the ads that end up on your site.

If you use a header bidding partner such as Snigel to access ad exchanges (as opposed to an ad network like AdSense), you’ll be able to access multiple ad exchanges at the same time — giving you the opportunity for higher CPMs. Plus, you’ll get access to more advanced ad tech, which advertisers are typically willing to pay more for.

Maximize Your Ad Revenue with Snigel

In this guide, we’ve shared the best options when it comes to programmatic for publishers. While you can join an ad exchange directly and manage your ads yourself, it’s much more convenient and profitable to use a header bidding partner like Snigel.

Partner with Snigel and we’ll connect you with the SSPs that will maximize your revenue, while implementing the most advanced ad tech available. What’s more, we’ll set up, monitor, and optimize your ads, all based on your own monetization goals.

Get in touch with us for a free consultation and try Snigel on a portion of your revenue.

About the Author

Ira is Snigel's Head Of Marketing. She supports our team and publishers by creating awesome guides on the latest adtech trends. Ira's background is in software development, communications, and media.


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