What are whitelists & blacklists in digital ads

If you’re buying search ads you probably have no idea about traffic source problems. That happens since you are actually using only one source, for example Google Adwords. But, you may have tested some other traffic sources. Bing, Yahoo, Quora, Facebook, Instagram ads or something. And they all showed you different traffic quality and different conversion ratio. You have a bunch of things that influence it: targeting options (unique for every platform), reasons for people to visit those websites, time spent, articles read, pictures seen, etc.

When talking about programmatic buying using ad network, you have to deal with 50+ SSPs, that pours traffic from thousands websites and apps. Those all are different sources with all different users. It’s quite difficult to make creatives, that will perform good for all of those. And you actually have no way to influence the quality of traffic you get. Or have you?

There is always “good” traffic and “bad” traffic. Some of the sources provide active real people and some are just flooded with bots. So most likely you will get decent results from the first one and wasted money from the second.

Bot traffic is not always the cause though. People from one source can just be less interested in your offer than those from the other.

It’s quite difficult to manage 50 000 sources manually, right? That’s why whitelists and blacklists exist.



whitelists digital ads

Whitelists are created from apps and websites, that usually show good performance. And were rarely spotted in sending bot traffic. Sometimes whitelists are made of just respectful old websites. But that’s not always the right thing though.

Anyway, since source usually have audience interested in a certain topic, whitelists are often created for a specific category. There are whitelists for beauty offers, for mobile game installs, for ICO investors etc.

And you must consider that those are kind of recommendation. It is not 100% that you’ll get the same results someone had, it’s just more likely to bring you conversions.



blacklists digital ads

Things are easier with the blacklists. Those are usually trash traffic websites. That applies when we’re talking about public blacklists. Ad platforms sometimes give you an ability to blacklist sources that don’t work for you. Being in that kind of blacklist doesn’t mean that website has bot traffic, it means you’re not satisfied with its conversion price.


Source Sampling

There are special tools to decide for your own whitelists and blacklists. For example source sampling, which allows you to force SSP to send you traffic from many sources. If there is no such tool, it will send you absolutely random traffic and you’re likely to miss opportunities and never find the best sources.

So, as you get traffic from different websites and see the results, you can actually create your personal whitelists and blacklists, that will work better for your particular campaigns. That’s how you make your work cost-effectieve.


Optimization Rules

To control your campaigns and media spend you need to be online all the time or at least manually check how all of those hundreds sources performed. That’s a bit exhausting.

With optimization rules you can set your performance criteria and let ad network do its job. For example you don’t want sources, that bring you conversions for $20. So you tell the system to blacklist all of those on autopilot. Or you want to save all good sources with $10 per conversion for later so you set the rules to add them to your whitelist.


Blacklists and Whitelists is one of the ways to filter traffic and optimize media spend. It is also a part of every media buyer experience. His knowledge about the industry and its segments. There is no way to do serious media buying without the lists, so at least save some time and automate what you can.

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