Top 10 Ad Exchanges (& How to Access 40+ From One Platform)

Top 10 Ad Exchanges (& How to Access 40+ From One Platform)

As a publisher, there are many different ad exchanges that can help you earn more revenue for your ad space.

But the best ad exchange for your particular site will depend on a few factors. For instance, the types of ads you want to run (e.g., display vs video), your content’s niche or vertical, and your audience’s location will all affect which of the top ad exchanges you might choose.

In most cases, publishers benefit from using a combination of different ad exchanges via a process known as header bidding (more on this later).

However, connecting to just one ad exchange on your own is a huge headache — let alone multiple ad exchanges. Typically, only large publishers (for instance, ESPN) have the resources to set up accounts with ad exchanges and get the most from their ad strategies by themselves.

Instead, most publishers work with a header bidding partner like Snigel.

Snigel matches your website to the top ad exchanges for your needs and then maintains accounts with those ad exchanges for you. Plus, we provide all the additional ad tech you need to maximize your ad revenue while maintaining a great user experience for your audience.

For a free assessment of your website, get in touch.

In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about connecting to ad exchanges, including:

  • The difference between ad exchanges, SSPs, ad networks, and header bidding partners like Snigel (plus the different types of ad exchanges).
  • What it takes to connect to ad exchanges on your own.
  • How to choose the best ad exchanges for your site.
  • How Snigel helps you maximize ad revenue by connecting you to 40+ top ad exchanges.
  • The 10 top ad exchanges to connect to.

What Are Ad Exchanges? And How Are They Different from Ad Networks, SSPs, and Header Bidding Solutions?

There’s a lot of confusion about the differences between ad exchanges and other types of programmatic advertising platforms, such as ad networks, SSPs, and header bidding solutions.

It’s worth being clear about what these options actually are because the one you choose will affect everything from the quality of ads you’re able to display to the costs-per-mille (CPM) you’re able to earn.

Here’s an overview of the most common ad monetization solutions for publishers:

  • Ad networks. Ad networks gather ad inventory from multiple publishers and sell it to advertisers as a bundle. This means publishers have little to no control over which ads will be going up on their site, and advertisers don’t know exactly where their ad creatives will be shown.
  • Ad exchanges. Whereas ad networks sell the ad inventory for publishers, ad exchanges let publishers sell their own ad inventory directly to advertisers via ad auctions. This gives publishers more control over the adverts they show and the price of their ad inventory. And, because advertisers can see exactly where their ads will be placed, they’re typically willing to pay higher CPMs.
  • Supply-side platforms (SSPs). SSPs are platforms where publishers automate and manage the process of selling their inventory to an ad exchange (advertisers use DSPs, or demand-side platforms). Not long ago, SSPs and ad exchanges were distinct platforms. However, these days, most SSPs have been merged with an ad exchange. That’s why most of the time ‘SSP’ and ‘ad exchange’ are used interchangeably.
  • Header bidding solutions. Header bidding lets you send bid requests to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously. This increases competition which typically increases CPMs. Plus, you have access to more advertisers, which lets you be more selective about ad quality. Most header bidding solutions also come with additional ad tech to help you increase ad revenue. For example, Snigel offers interactive ad units, which engage the user and increase the amount of time they spend viewing the ad. This can increase your ad revenue by over 35%.

It’s also worth noting that there are different types of ad exchanges. We cover those next.

What Are the Different Types of Ad Exchanges

The types of ad exchanges vary by the exclusivity of the marketplace and the types of deals that publishers can make with advertisers:

  • Open ad exchanges. In an open ad exchange, any advertiser can bid on and win your ad space, as long as they match or exceed your price floor. This offers you a broad range of bidders on your inventory, but may not give you as high of CPMs because the advertisers are given less information about the publisher.
  • Preferred ad exchanges. Preferred ad exchanges let you offer your ad inventory to specific advertisers for a set price before sending it to an open or private auction. By fixing the price, you’re creating a more predictable advertising ecosystem.
  • Private marketplaces (PMPs). These are more exclusive exchanges where publishers invite select advertisers to bid on specific ad inventory with a set price floor. PMPs are a good option for publishers who want more control over which advertisers they work with and the ad auction terms.

If you’re not sure which type of ad exchange is right for you, contact our team and we’ll help you decide. 

Why Publishers Should Connect to Multiple Ad Exchanges (and Why That’s a Headache)

Connecting to many ad exchange platforms as a publisher means that you have more advertisers bidding for your ad space. This leads to higher CPMs and higher-quality ads for your site.

For example, some ad exchanges choose to focus on specific verticals (e.g., retail, healthcare) and therefore are often able to secure higher CPMs for publishers in those verticals. However, it’s not always guaranteed that these vertical-specific ad exchanges will be able to produce higher CPMs. By sending bid requests to multiple ad exchanges, you’re able to take advantage of whichever one can return the highest CPM rather than locking yourself into the results of just one ad auction.

On average, publishers see a 57% increase in ad revenue when switching from using one demand source to connecting to multiple ad exchanges with Snigel. 

However, connecting to even just one ad exchange can be a challenge for a publisher acting alone.

  • You’ll need to negotiate individual deals with each exchange. Typically, smaller publishers get poor revenue shares because they don’t have the leverage to negotiate better deals. (In contrast, header bidding partners like Snigel can negotiate better terms and guarantee publishers a certain amount for their inventory.)
  • You’ll need to manage the admin associated with each exchange. For instance, you’ll need to aggregate invoices from each SSP and check for late payments. And if things go wrong, you’ll need to negotiate and follow up multiple times to ensure you’re paid. (In contrast, Snigel takes care of this and pays you on time regardless of whether the SSPs have paid them).
  • You’ll have to sort through hundreds of ad exchanges, to decide which ones are the best fit for your website — and whether you meet the criteria to access them. (In contrast, Snigel matches you with the best ad exchanges for you.)

Plus, once you’re connected to the ad exchanges, you still have to manage:

  • Your ad strategy, i.e., what ad formats to use, where the ads should be placed, which SSPs to connect the ad units to, and much more. It takes years of experience working with many different ad layouts to know how to truly optimize your ad strategy.
  • Additional ad tech for optimizing your ad inventory for higher CPMs, such as ad refresh, adblock revenue recovery, dynamic floor pricing, and more. Most publishers need a full-time team of experienced developers to manage their ad stack.

All in all, this is too much to handle for the vast majority of publishers. That’s why most of them work with a header bidding partner like Snigel, who will:

  • Connect you to the right ad exchanges for your site’s size, niche, and geography.
  • Create and manage accounts with dozens of SSPs.
  • Guarantee consistent payouts and secure favorable revenue shares for publishers.
  • Provide additional ad tech to increase ad revenue, such as smart refresh, sticky ads, and lazy loading. (For instance, we helped DeviceTests increase their ad revenue by 180% year on year with this ad tech.)
  • Handle your ad strategy and ad stack for you. (You’ll still have complete say over your ad strategy, we just provide you with the expertise and do the heavy-lifting for you.)

If you think Snigel could be the right fit for you, get in touch.

If you’re still interested in connecting to an ad exchange yourself, the next section covers eight factors worth considering.

8 Factors to Consider Before Joining an Ad Exchange

Ad exchanges come in all shapes and sizes and one that works well for one publisher may not be the right choice for another. Before you sign up to any particular ad exchange, consider the following criteria.

  • What geographical locations does it focus on? Some ad exchanges work with advertisers worldwide while others focus on attracting advertisers in particular countries. For instance, GumGum primarily has US-based advertisers.
  • Do they specialize in a particular vertical? For instance, Criteo commonly deals with advertisers in ecommerce, while other ad exchanges focus more on large media brands or other niches.
  • What are the eligibility requirements for joining? You may need a certain amount of site traffic, for instance. Most ad exchanges also won’t work with publishers with a history of policy violations or unsafe content.
  • Can it support the ad formats you want to show? Most ad exchanges will support most types of ad, but some ad exchanges excel in particular formats, such as video ads, native ads, or mobile ads.
  • How easy is the platform to use? If you’re managing the account with the ad exchange yourself, you’ll want it to be as user-friendly as possible. For instance, clear reporting tools are a must. Reading customer reviews on third-party review sites can also be very helpful.
  • What is their pricing structure? Some ad exchanges charge a subscription fee and/or take a cut out of whatever revenue you earn. You’ll also want to check how often you’ll get paid (e.g., NET 30, 60, or 90), what the minimum payout amount is, and how easy it is to track payments.
  • How does the exchange ensure quality ads? Ad exchanges with a stricter vetting process for advertisers produce higher-quality ads. You can also see what other publishers are saying about ad quality, and check whether the exchange complies with Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) or Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) standards.
  • Do they offer the types of ad auctions you need (i.e., open auctions, PMP, or preferred auctions)? While you may only be interested in one or two of these right now, it’s a good idea to have all three types available to you in case your needs change.

Keep in mind that you need to ask these questions for each ad exchange you want to join.

How to Connect to Multiple Ad Exchanges with Snigel

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

If you partner with Snigel, you don’t need to navigate the differences between ad exchanges yourself. Instead, our ad ops specialists work with you to determine which ad exchanges are the best fit for your website.

Snigel’s AI-powered header bidding solution, AdEngine, connects with 40+ of the top ad exchanges, including:

  • Google AdX
  • Magnite (Microsoft)
  • Amazon Publisher Services
  • OpenX
  • Index Exchange
  • PubMatic
  • Xandr (formerly AppNexus)
  • ConnectAd
  • District M
  • And many more.

Snigel also helps publishers optimize their ad strategy and ad stack for maximum ad revenue and a great user experience. In the following sections, we dig into what publishers can expect from Snigel’s:

  1. Advanced AI-powered ad tech
  2. Dedicated ad ops specialists

1. Advanced AI-powered ad tech

AdEngine is Snigel’s data-driven header bidding solution that comes with next-gen ad formats including:

  • Adaptive ads — fill advertising space with whatever number and size of ads will return the highest revenue. For example, if two smaller ads sell for $0.45 each, whereas one larger ad sells for $0.80, the two smaller ads would win the bid. This can increase revenue by 10–30%.
  • Super adhesive ads — to display large ads in a smaller ad space (the visible portion of the ad moves down with the user’s scrolling). This can increase revenue by over 20%.
  • Interactive ad units — to engage the user and increase the amount of time they spend viewing the ad. These ads invite the user to click through the ad for more info, to vote for which answer they identify with, etc. This can increase ad revenue by over 35%.

AdEngine also offers features to optimize ad setup and the auction process, including:

  • AI bidder optimization, which switches bidders between client- and server-side header bidding based on where they perform best. This can increase revenue by over 7%.
  • Adblock recovery, which lets publishers earn revenue even when users have an ad blocker enabled. It does this by automatically switching from targeted ads to adblock-compliant ads based on the users settings. This can increase revenue by over 10%.
  • Dynamic floor pricing, which automatically adjusts the floor price for every ad unit, user, GEO, and device each hour to combat bid shading. This increases CPMs and prevents unfilled ad space. This can increase revenue by over 5%.
  • Smart refresh, which uses event-based, time-based, and/or action-based triggers to display multiple ads in one ad unit, one after the other. This can increase revenue by over 6%.

Snigel also gives publishers access to:

  • AdStream, to empower you to display high-quality video ads on your website, which adds value to users and provides a further source of revenue. This can increase revenue by 23%.
  • AdConsent, to let you easily comply with all data privacy regulations including GDPR or CCPA while keeping your site speed intact.

The entire tech stack can be customized to fit the exact needs of your website — and it’s all handled by our experienced ad tech experts. They will implement each solution, monitor your site for any ad-related performance issues, and fix any issues that do arise (often before you’re aware they exist).

2. Dedicated ad ops specialists

For each website, the best ad technologies and strategies will differ depending on the content of your site, how users navigate it, your own priorities as a publisher, and more. However, knowing which strategy to use and how to get the most out of your website requires years of experience.

For example, if you want to optimize in-text ads, you’ll need to decide on the best ad format to use, what type of ad refresh to use (if any), how targeted the ads need to be, and much more. While you can run tons of A/B tests and eventually figure it out, it’s much better to hone in on just one or two possibilities with the highest potential right away. Plus, you have to know the right questions to ask in order to know what to test.

That’s why working with an ad ops specialist is essential for optimizing your ad setup.

Snigel provides dedicated ad ops specialists to every publisher we work with. Our ad experts have 10+ years of experience running ads on many different sites and will work closely with you to determine the best setup for your website.

Our ad management experts essentially become a part of your team and will:

  • Choose the best ad exchanges for your site.
  • Run ongoing A/B tests to ensure the most effective solutions are being implemented.
  • Search for and test out new technology.
  • Monitor your website for (and help you solve) any issues caused by the ad stack.

Get in touch for a free assessment to see how Snigel can help you increase your ad revenue. 

10 Top Ad Exchanges for Publishers

1. Google Ad Exchange (AdX)

Ad Exchange in Google Ad Manager: Help Center

Google Ad Exchange (previously DoubleClick Ad Exchange) is one of the biggest and best-known ad exchanges. Google AdX is known for attracting high-quality advertisers from across the world, meaning that it can serve ads to whichever geography your site operates in. AdX also offers open, preferred, and private auctions.

For publishers already using Google Ad Manager, Google AdX may be a good choice as it’s built into that platform. However, it’s often not an option for small to mid-sized publishers because of the rigorous eligibility requirements.

How to Join

Google AdX is invite only. If you don’t receive an invitation, you can ask your Google account manager to review your site. As a minimum, you’ll need:

  • A Google Ad Manager account
  • At least 5 million pageviews per month
  • At least 10 million ad impressions per month (for at least 6 months)
  • An updated ads.txt file
  • No policy violations, unsafe content, or invalid traffic.

There are typically additional requirements regarding ad viewability, content type, and more.

To learn more, read our guide on Google Ad Exchange: What It Is and How to Join.

Benefits & Features

  • You’ll have access to very broad demand, from quality, international advertisers.
  • Ad inventory is bought and sold per impression rather than per click, which often results in higher CPMs.
  • It offers a range of ad formats, including video and display ads.
  • It provides a step up to publishers who may have outgrown Google AdSense.

2. Amazon Publisher Services

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

Amazon’s digital ads solution is known as Amazon Publisher Services (APS). This contains three separate offerings:

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

Most verticals can use TAM, but it’s best suited for retail and e-commerce publishers. That’s because it gives access to Shopping Insights, which reveals how your audience engages with Amazon across different products.

Meanwhile, UAM gives smaller publishers access to top SSPs, without you having to negotiate with them individually. Unlike Snigel, UAM doesn’t come with additional ad tech. But the Connections Marketplace allows publishers to access new ad tech directly through APS.

How to Join

Amazon Publisher Services is invite only, and you’ll need at least 5,000 unique visitors a day.

If you already have relationships with ad partners and meet the minimum traffic requirements, you can see if you qualify. Simply fill in a contact form and someone from Amazon will get in touch.

Benefits & Features

  • Amazon has a large range of demand partners.
  • Publishers get access to Amazon Shopping Insights, so you can see how your audiences engage with the whole Amazon platform.
  • You receive detailed reporting on your ad performance.

3. OpenX

OpenX homepage: Demand Address From Your Media

OpenX is an SSP and ad exchange with a broad range of demand-side partners. One of its strengths is that it has partnerships with advertisers in over 190 different countries, meaning that it can be used by publishers globally.

OpenX provides open, preferred and private marketplaces. They also build custom packages of ads that give better prices to publishers and more control to advertisers over where their adverts are placed.

OpenX is particularly good at targeting specific audiences, through its OpenAudience tools. This uses data gathered by your website and leverages third-party data to help you get visibility on audience segments.

How to Join

OpenX is available in all geographies. But, to access the ad exchange, you’ll need 10 million pageviews per month.

Benefits & Features

  • OpenX offers direct deals to publishers through its PMP and dedicated specialists who can guide you through the process.
  • The exchange is protected by anti-fraud standards, in line with TAG certifications.
  • You can benefit from in-depth audience analysis and targeting options through the OpenAudience tool.

4. Index Exchange

Index Exchange homepage: One Exchange. Every Channel.

Index Exchange is an ad exchange that emphasizes high-quality ads and tailored deals with demand partners. While it does have an open marketplace, this is an ad exchange that’s more focused on PMP and preferred deals.

While anyone can get in touch with Index Exchange to enquire about the possibility of an invitation, the exchange is primarily aimed at high-quality publishers. It also works primarily with advertisers in Tier 1 GEOs.

How to Join

There are no specific qualifications that Index Exchange states you need to comply with. However, you stand the best chance if you are a premium publisher.

Benefits & Features

  • Index Exchange emphasizes high-quality ads and deals and focuses on transparency.
  • Publishers have lots of control over pricing and ad configuration.
  • You can connect with premium advertisers via preferred deals

5. PubMatic

PubMatic homepage: Who will win their fair share of commerce media?

PubMatic is up there among the biggest ad exchanges, rivaling the likes of Google and Amazon for the number of ad transactions. It can also serve ads globally, including in Tier 3 GEOs. PubMatic doesn’t specialize in any particular verticals.

The ad exchange offers a range of different marketplaces, including real-time bidding (RTB) and PMPs. All deals and relationships are shown in your dashboard, alongside real-time analytics.

How to Join

There are no minimum traffic requirements for PubMatic.

Benefits & Features

  • You’ll have access to PubMatic’s proprietary dashboard to monitor your ad performance with sophisticated analytics. For instance, you can benchmark your performance against similar publishers.
  • No matter your size or niche, you can access a huge range of demand partners.
  • You can also make private deals with premium advertisers through the PMP.

6. Magnite

Magnite homepage: Magnite is the world's largest independent sell-side advertising company. We'll help you win across every channel, every format and on your terms.

Magnite was formed from the merger of Rubicon Project and Telaria in 2020 and now claims to be the largest SSP on the planet. As such, it offers an enormous range of options for all types of publishers, with ads for every format, geography, and vertical.

How to Join

You’ll need 5 million monthly pageviews to join Magnite.

Benefits & Features

  • Magnite has a huge number of demand-side partners for publishers to make deals with.
  • Publishers benefit from audience analytics through the Magnite data management platform (DMP).
  • Ads can be shown in a range of other contexts too, such as TV, OTT, DOOH, and Programmatic TV.

7. Criteo

Criteo homepage: Advertise more effectively

If you’re looking for a smaller ad exchange in the retail niche, Criteo could be for you. While Criteo started out as a demand-side platform, it later added an ad exchange and header bidding platform, Criteo Direct Bidding, to its offering.

Criteo is a France-based exchange working with 19,000 advertisers in total, primarily in the retail and ecommerce industries. For comparison, a larger ad exchange such as OpenX works with over 100,000 advertisers.

While Criteo may have a smaller pool of demand partners, they’re often able to produce high-quality, highly-targeted ads.

How to Join 

Criteo has no minimum traffic requirements.

Benefits & Features

  • Publishers in retail and ecommerce have access to high-quality, highly relevant ads.
  • You can use your existing header wrapper, or use Criteo’s header bidding solution.
  • Criteo Direct Bidder cuts third-party fees and simplifies the process for publishers.

8. Sharethrough

Sharethrough homepage: Enhancing the Ad Experience. Across Every Channel. For Better Outcomes.

Sharethrough is another ad exchange that focuses on quality, targeted ads. Rather than focus on one vertical, they acquire premium ads by individually selecting publishers and advertisers with human staff.

Sharethrough works with publishers of any size, in any vertical. Plus, it has a range of PMPs based on themes such as seasonal ads or event-specific campaigns.

How to Join

You can join from all over the world and there are no minimum traffic requirements. Publishers can choose to work with Sharethrough directly or you can access it through Google Open Bidding in your Ad Manager.

Benefits & Features

  • Publishers get access to curated deals.
  • Sharethrough’s experts can help with ad set-up, monitoring, and troubleshooting.
  • The platform’s own technology helps optimize price floors for publishers and ensure all your ad formats are performing well.

9. GumGum

GumGum homepage: GumGum Places Ads in the Moments That Matter

GumGum calls itself a “contextual intelligence” company. Simply, this means that it uses the information on your website — i.e. the specific content of a blog post, image, or video — to serve extremely targeted ads to your audience.

These highly relevant ads increase the site experience for your users. The exchange also prioritizes in-image ads, meaning if you don’t have many images on your site, it might not be the best solution for you.

What’s more, GumGum focuses mainly on partnerships with the US advertising industry, meaning that it’s not ideal for publishers targeting demographics in other geographies.

How to Join

GumGum doesn’t explicitly list any qualifications publishers need to join.

Benefits & Features

  • Ads are primarily in-image, based on the context of ad space.
  • Publishers get a dedicated account manager to improve your ad performance.

10. Improve Digital

Improve Digital by Azerion homepage: We bring simplicity

Improve Digital is a Dutch-based company that’s part of the larger European ad agency, Azerion. It can connect advertisers to a global audience, but its focus is on Europe.

It offers an open marketplace, a PMP, and a “curated” marketplace — where specific deals can be made between suppliers and demand — for publishers in any niche.

How to Join

There are no traffic requirements, but Improve Digital is one of the most rigorous in terms of security and brand safety — both in content quality and technical integration standards.

Benefits & Features

  • Improve Digital supports all ad formats and functionality.
  • It offers transparent reporting on your ads’ performance.
  • Publishers and advertisers need to meet strict standards to prevent ad fraud.
  • Improve Digital’s API lets you manage your account through your internal systems.

Conclusion: Connecting with Top Ad Exchanges

There are many ad exchanges out there that serve different verticals and GEOs — all with different requirements for joining.

If you’re serious about maximizing ad revenue, it’s best to use multiple ad exchanges. But to do that alone is a huge administrative burden — even for the largest publishers out there.

The better option for publishers is to use a header bidding partner like Snigel. Our dedicated ad specialists will connect you to multiple ad exchanges and manage your ad strategy and ad tech for you. This way, you’ll maximize your ad revenue and optimize your site experience for your users.

Get in touch with Snigel for a free assessment.

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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