Written by Content Team on 17 Mar 2021


A complete guide

Real-time bidding, also called RTB, is a process of valuing and bidding for an ad impression in real-time, where ad requests from the publisher are sent to an open exchange (marketplace/platform which facilitates auction) to get bids from buyers.

Every time, users load a web page, ad requests are sent out to exchanges. The number of ad requests varies from one publisher to another. Basically it is an online media marketplace involving the seller (publisher) and buyer (advertiser).

Mobile Real-time Bidding: Mobile RTB is the selling of mobile ad inventory in real-time. It has its own challenges. Firstly, mobile ad inventory refers to both web-based inventory and app-based inventory. These two follow a different set of protocols to run an RTB auction. Secondly, for app-based inventory, cookie tracking is not possible which makes targeting a challenge. Although, due to a rise in mobile users, the mobile advertising market is expanding rapidly.

It involves a variety of moving parts, including:

How Can Publishers Get Started with RTB?

Getting started with the RTB process may sound complex but it is an easy process. The RTB process involves SSP (supply-side platforms), ad exchange, DSP (demand-side platform), publishers, & advertisers. The SSPs assist publishers in accessing the ad exchange and place their inventory to be sold, on an ad exchange. So, your job is to get on a good  SSP to help you sell the impressions.

There are certain basic requirements that should be met in order to make ad space available via ad exchanges. Once the following requirements are achieved, a publisher can immediately register with an SSP.

Page Views: Publishers with an acceptable number of page views are allowed to register for programmatic. Page view requirement varies depending upon the SSPs.

Target Audience: Though it isn't necessary to have an audience, many SSPs prefer to take publishers who have built a specific audience base. It may be location-based, niche-based, etc. But, it pays to have a huge chunk of certain audience segments.

Avoid Fraudulent Content: Though this is understood, it is always best to have safe content that does not harm partner identity.

Traffic Referrals: As a publisher, you might be getting traffic from several sources including search engines, Google, Social Media, etc. But CPMs are higher for search engine traffic and direct referrals. SSPs may even reject you for having more than 70 or 80 percent social traffic.

It is advised to look for SSPs that provide:

  1. proper support and service.

  2. Analytics and optimization dashboard to track and control ad inventories.

Benefits of RTB for Publishers:

  1. Streamlined process -- Real-time bidding has changed the way ad impressions were sorted and placed. It automated the whole trade for publishers. The platforms check the relevance of the ad and match it with the defined parameters within the blink of an eye; thereby structuring the process.

  2. Better ad revenue and flexibility -- Based on real-time market demands, publishers can set minimum prices for impressions (floor prices). Since the ad impressions in RTB are thoroughly matched with the required criteria, it is less likely to make wrong decisions. This makes the entire advertising process much efficient, flexible, and faster.

  3. Optimization -- You can track the earning real-time and optimize accordingly to increase your ad revenue. Unlike ad networks, RTB puts you in control. You know what's happening (if you're going with header bidding) completely.


Make sure the DSP you choose meets the following criteria:

  • Cross-device attribution

  • Reporting and actionable insights

  • Reach and scale

  • Transparency

  • Objectivity

Cross-device attribution allows your campaigns to appeal to consumers using multiple devices and channels.

As for reporting and actionable insights, you need to go with a DSP that provides you with both standard and customizable reporting. That way, you can act quickly on the marketing insights that you gain through ad performance.

By considering the reach and scale of a DSP, you guarantee your company's ability to cast the widest net possible. That means looking for an advertising partner with global targeting capabilities.

Transparency represents another vital characteristic of a competent DSP. After all, you need to know exactly where your ad dollar is getting spent and the value of your media.

The same goes for objectivity. You're in an industry where DSPs often sell their own media inventory. Talk about a conflict of interest!

In many cases, looking for an independent and objective DSP remains the best route.


When compared with the more traditional forms of display advertising, real-time bidding offers loads of benefits. Some of those are mentioned below:

  • Improved inventory pricing: Publishers get to set a floor price for their inventory which they can change at any point. This benefits publishers to optimize the price of their specific ad units as per the demand. This allows publishers to extract the exact value for their inventory in real-time.

  • Handling remnant ad units: Remnant or unsold inventories is a concern for most publishers. Real-time bidding helps publishers get a fair price for remnant ad units by making them available at various auctions.

  • Ad unit modifications: Publishers maintain control over their inventory. They can change the floor price, ad unit placements, and targeting options anytime at ad unit level. All of this helps with ad testing to get a better price by placing ads on sites.

  • Better user experience: With real-time bidding, publishers can closely examine the response of users toward the ad placements. Using this data, publishers work on improving their user experience. Also, web cookies dropped by sites can further help to know more about these users. Moreover, this data can be shared with advertisers to run targeted campaigns.

  • Quick solutions: Everything about real-time bidding is so fast-paced that both publishers and advertisers get to see results instantly. This idea can be leveraged into improving the ad delivery process. For instance, publishers can monitor their most-viewed ad units and increase their floor price. Similarly, they can get details of low performing ad units and accordingly improve their quality.

Why Is RTB Good for Publishers?

  • Maximizes revenues through a highly competitive bidding process

  • Highly scalable -- offers one-stop access to a large number of demand sources

  • The Smaato Publisher Platform (SPX) brings in actionable insights to further improve monetization

Why Is RTB Good for Advertisers?

  • Cost-effective -- allows advertisers to bid on only the most relevant, valuable users

  • Optimizes programmatic campaigns by providing dynamic targeting parameters and access to premium inventory

  • The SDX allows advanced targeting and access to a global audience.


Even with all the benefits offered by real-time bidding, it still has some challenges that make it not as effective as it was designed to be. Here are some of those:

  • Data leakage: GDPR, CCPA, and other similar laws convey that for a few geographical locations, the security of their users is the most important thing. Hence, this creates a challenge for publishers to decide whether to share user's data (for targeting purposes) or not. Another challenge is these laws differ in a way that it's getting difficult for publishers to understand whether they can store user data or not. If so, should they use it for targeting purposes or not?

  • No guaranteed deal: Unlike programmatic guaranteed, real-time bidding solely depends on demand-and-supply rule. If there is demand for inventory, publishers will get a good price for it. And if the demand is less, there will be a decrease in ad earnings. Such complexity threatens the overall profit for publishers.

  • Brand safety: Publishers want to have control over advertisers placing ads on their sites in order to maintain the quality and safety of their site. Similarly, advertisers want to make sure their creatives are getting appropriate allocations on sites rather than going unnoticed. These concerns from publishers and advertisers can be resolved by including a third-party platform.


In order for RTB to be able to expand, there are a few elements that both publishers and advertisers need to take into consideration:

  • Make the right partnership

In order to see growth in RTB, both the seller and the buyer need to meet the minimum technical requirements for data safety, so that user security does not become a problem. Moreover, both parties should be subject to regular auditing of the data that is collected versus the amount of money spent on advertising.

  • Publishers must control the flow of data

User data is initially generated by websites and stored by publishers. Hence, it becomes the publishers' responsibility to monitor its flow. Being transparent is one way to avoid any fraud with the data. If a publisher openly shares a part of their data (like cookie information) with advertisers via SSP and makes sure the advertisers are not involved in data fraud. Then there will be no confusion around data safety.

  • Avoid ad fraud

Bad actors always seem to find workarounds for ad fraud prevention techniques. However, these frauds can be avoided simply by complying with the ad safety measures.

  • Consider private auctions for premium inventory

Yes, RTB can effectively get you a fair price for your inventory. However, you as a publisher should know which part of your inventory is your gold mine. Carefully segment your inventory and take the premium part to the private marketplace for better profits.

  • Monitor page loading speed

Too many ads are seen to increase the page load time of websites. Also, running too many auctions at a time (RTB, header bidding, and exchange bidding) can result in users waiting longer to access the site. Hence, while running auctions, optimize your site for faster ad serving. However, ad tech is now well-equipped to help publishers with page loading optimization, one of such methods is lazy-loading. With lazy-loading, publishers can show ads to users when they are ready to see them. Hence, these ads don't load with the rest of the content allowing both content and ads optimal time to download on users' browsers.

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India Office

GreedyGame Media Private Limited,
4th Floor, No.04, Zed Pentagon,
Hosur Main Road, Bommanahalli,
Bengaluru 560068 Karnataka

USA Office

GreedyGame Inc.
2093 Philadelphia Pike,
#2346, Claymont,
State of Delaware 19703

India Office

GreedyGame Media Private Limited,
4th Floor, No.04, Zed Pentagon,
Hosur Main Road, Bommanahalli,
Bengaluru 560068 Karnataka

USA Office

GreedyGame Inc.
2093 Philadelphia Pike,
#2346, Claymont,
State of Delaware 19703