Timeouts simplified: get immediate results through easy steps

Posted by Asmaa Bentahar on
What is the Prebid Timeout exactly, and how does it work?

The Prebid Timeout or BidderTimeout is a time limit on receiving bids from SSPs. This is how it works: a timer starts along with the Prebid auction, which is triggered by pbjs.requestbids. When that timer reaches the Prebid Timeout value, the auction concludes automatically even if not all requested SSPs have sent back bidResponses. Any SSP that has not sent a bidResponse within that time is considered to have timed out.


What is my timeout rate and why does it matter?

The timeout rate is the average rate at which an SSP times out. At Pubstack, we calculate the timeout rate for each SSP with the following formula:

# of times the SSP timed out / Total # of bid Requests sent to the SSP.

Having high timeout rates (> 10%) is detrimental to ad performances:

  • It decreases overall revenue.
  • It increases the risk of an auction concluding without any winner, negatively impacting fill rates and bid rates.
  • It decreases the Prebid share of voice in favor of other demand sources such as AdX.

Thankfully, the fix is usually an easy one: a slight increase in the Prebid timeout configuration value can have a big impact on timeout rates.

What is my configured timeout value and how do I change it?

The Prebid Timeout can be set up in the following ways:

  • It can be specified directly within the Prebid auction:
    adUnitCodes: X,
    timeout: Y,
    bidsBackHandler: function () { Z }
  • If not specified there, then it will default to the value stored in pbjs.getConfig(“bidderTimeout”). This can be easily set up or changed using pbjs.setConfig({ bidderTimeout: X }). By default, the config’s bidderTimeout value will be 3000.

This can be a bit confusing to navigate. To eliminate any doubt, you can check the timeout value of your auctions with the AdWizard extension.

What should my prebid timeout be?

Well, as always, it depends. What your timeout configuration should achieve is both an auction that cannot be too long and a time limit that is not too restrictive for your SSPs. This is why it’s important to monitor the timeout rates of your SSPs to know if you are cutting off too many bids, or not. Usually, for European traffic, the best timeout is around 2000. This keeps timeout rates reasonable (usually <5%, at most 10%). You can go lower if you find that it does not increase your timeout rate significantly, or higher if, on the opposite, your SSPs are struggling to meet that limit, but there is rarely a need to go over 2500. It’s also a viable strategy to go for a different configuration on Mobile than Desktop, because SSPs tend to need more time to bid on Mobile. Some of our publishers experienced an increase in Prebid revenue of up to 8% simply by increasing their timeout from 1000 to 2000ms.

Why should I care about timeouts?

While the increase in revenue brought by tackling this issue may be quite meager, doing so is amazingly easy, resulting in a low-effort and guaranteed return on investment. Furthermore, beyond earning you additional revenue, fixing timeouts can also help decrease your dependency on GAM and increase the attractiveness of your inventory for SSPs.

More on timeouts:

Prebid documentation on timeouts

Timeouts optimization

How to optimise your Prebid Timeouts for high yield and optimal user experience

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