How To Use Blacklists & Whitelists

whitelists and blacklists in media buying

The ad-buying process and ad tech industry have seen exponential growth in the past years, alongside constant change and complexity. In such a complex environment, both buyers and sellers spare no effort to seek ways to maximize their digital revenue.

Blacklists and whitelists are one of them.

One of the most effective media buying techniques is to use blacklists and whitelists to manage, regulate and control ad activity.

In media buying, a blacklist is a list of unacceptable sources (publishers) or zones (websites/apps/domains) where the ad should never be displayed. They are usually used:

  • To safeguard a brand reputation
  • To reduce the risk of misplacement
  • To exclude sources or zones with poor performance

Blacklists are usually created based on verticals or themes where your ad should not be advertisers and/or based on poor performance indicators.

On the contrary, a whitelist is a list of sources or zones where the advertiser wants its ads to be displayed. The main issue when it comes to whitelists, especially when you are dealing with a blind network, is that there’s no way to know in advance in which sources or zones your ads will perform.

So how to create a whitelist?

One of the best practices to create a whitelist is to ask your account manager for a whitelist, based on the results of similar advertisers. Always keep in mind though, that whatever works for others, might not work for you. Every ad and every product is different and so the audience reacts differently.

If you don’t have data from the ad network, the whitelist should be created based on real data. This means you actually have to run your ad and  invest some money to find out which sources or zones perform well.

A few considerations when working with blacklists and whitelists.

First of all, you should understand that this is a reactive and manual process, which takes time.

Additionally, you should keep in mind what’s your strategy and ultimate goals. Keep in mind that working with blacklists will enable you to scale, while a whitelist approach can impact scale and it’s usually more expensive. Also, a whitelist approach will not let you discover new sources and fresh audiences.

So what is the best approach? blacklists or whitelists?

Based on our extensive experience as media buyers on Traffic Nomads, we found that the most effective approach is to work with both simultaneously.

The strategy we recommend is to work at the same time with a RON campaign and a Whitelist (WL) campaign. Here’s a step by step guide:

Ask for a recommendation

Contact the support team of the ad network and ask for advice for your vertical, product and targeting. Some sources, like Traffic Nomads, have Premium sources. Start there as it’s safer and based on real advice.

Create your campaign and start collecting data.

Once you start getting some traffic, gather some data and start optimizing:

  1. Adjust bids and/or pause (= blacklist) zones that have spent more than twice your CPA goal (read more). This original campaign will become your RON campaign, an explorer campaign, where the main goal is to find new audiences and new zones where your ad has a great performance.
  2. As you find profitable sources on the RON campaign, create a dedicated – separated – campaign just for those sources or zones (=whitelist). If there’s room for that, increase the bid.

And that’s it.

Your RON campaign will feed the whitelist campaign. With bid optimization, you will be able to get the profits or achieve the goals you’re looking for on the whitelist campaigns, whilst discovering new traffic sources and audiences through the RON campaign.

So what’s the strategy that best fits your goals?

Ready to start?

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