Whitelisting and Blacklisting for Programmatic Buying

Whitelisting and Blacklisting for Programmatic Buying

Making sure an advertisement appears in the right place at the right time is crucial – we all know that. 

And tools like whitelists and blacklists can help do exactly that. Essentially, they are the heart of the optimization process and are absolutely necessary if you ever want to maximize your ROI. 

Mastering how to determine which targets to include and which ones to block can be a bit of a challenge, especially when taking your first steps in performance marketing. That’s why in this article we want to clear the air around blacklists and whitelists, discuss how they can be implemented, and how they can improve your performance as a digital marketer.

Let’s nail down the basics first!

Whitelists and Blacklists: What are They?

In simple terms, a whitelist is a list of specific placements where you want to exclusively get traffic from. Such a list can be rather general and consist of particular websites/apps or it can be super granular and include specific widgets or ad space IDs on a certain placement. Whitelists are generally used to group high-performing sources together.

While whitelisting is all only about targeting certain placements, blacklisting is about excluding specific sites, apps or widgets. Basically, if there is a particular source that has yielded negative ROI for your ad campaign, or if it doesn’t match your target audience, then you can blacklist it. 

What are the Advantages of Using Whitelists and Blacklists?

Money & Time Saver

The most obvious benefit: whitelisting or blacklisting traffic for your ad campaigns allows you to invest only in the most profitable placements that show the highest level of user-engagement, leaving behind sources that aren’t worth your attention and money. In this way, you not only increase your testing budget for the new campaigns but also save your precious time.  

Brand Safety First

For sure there are some places you want your ads to be shown, and some places you prefer to stay away from. Imagine that you’re running a campaign promoting antivirus software and it shows up on a torrent site. It could give your potential customers the idea that your product has been obtained illegally. With whitelisting/blacklisting you can avoid such situations. 


Once you’ve whitelisted top-performers or blocked unnecessary sources that dragged down campaign performance, you’re able to start your scaling adventure. As long as you do it wisely, the more you invest, the more you’ll be able to get out of it. 

How Can You Create Your Own Whitelist or Blacklist?

No matter how you want to build your whitelist or blacklist, you should first launch a test and run a run-of-network (RON) campaign for a few days. In case you’re not familiar with this term: it’s a campaign in which your ads will be displayed on any placement partnered with the ad network. 

Not sure why you should do it? Native ad campaigns are built from a number of elements, not only the offer, so it’s crucial to get to know and understand your specific target audience first by testing different images, headlines, landing pages, etc. Keep in mind that past experience and insights are invaluable, but traffic can get really unpredictable. 

Think about it this way: it’s just like trying on new clothes. One small element such as color, cut, or current fashion trend can change your mind about the piece. Moreover, all these elements depend on many factors such as geo, type of clothing, price, and so on. That’s why most of us prefer to try on and test clothes before making a final purchase. 

Only when your test campaign is launched and you’ve gathered some data, you can start to think about whitelisting or blacklisting. Generally, really digging deeper into your campaign reports is the hardest yet most effective and reliable way to create a list. Performance-wise it is definitely much better than targeting blindly. Some traffic sources like Voluum DSP provide the tools that make the process really quick and easy.

There are also many additional ways of collecting whitelist/blacklist data. Here are the most common ones:

  • Do some research – it’s the key to progress. Use spy tools, read industry news, articles and stay up to date with the latest affiliate marketing trends or insights you can find on community groups or forums. Just remember that not all data is available in spy tools, not to mention that you can get distorted data due to landing page protection scripts and mixed data from DSPs and direct sources.
  • Subscribe to some industry newsletters and receive the most recent data updates to your inbox. 
  • Reach out to your traffic source representative and ask if it’s possible to get some additional hints. 

When creating a whitelist/blacklist don’t forget to take into consideration some key aspects like the:

  • Ad format you want to run your campaign with 
  • Vertical of your offer
  • GEO (country/region) that you plan to target 
  • Budget for you campaign
  • Other offer details and restrictions (device type, mobile carrier, etc.)

Remember that the more insights you have on your campaign, the more tailored and suited the list can be. 

Whitelisting vs Blacklisting Strategy: Which One Should You Choose?

If you are not sure what strategy to use, one of the proven ways to find the best approach is to combine them and run both whitelist and blacklist campaigns on the same traffic source. By doing so, you are simply increasing your chances to scale effectively.

There are many reasons why affiliates like to follow this strategy. First of all, by excluding the whitelisted placements in the blacklist campaign, they can avoid self-competition and make sure that their campaigns are not bidding against themselves. What’s more, when running a blacklist campaign, they can still discover some new high-performing placements that could be added to the sister whitelist campaign.

How Can You Create Blacklists or Whitelists with Voluum DSP?

Ok, so you’ve found your traffic gold mine. Now, it’s time to add it to your campaigns. 

If you are running native ads with Voluum DSP it’s as easy as pie. 😉 There are three ways to prepare a placement list: manually, automatically from daily bid requests, or automatically from your campaign.

Creating a Placement List Manually

The manual option requires you to create a CSV file with placement addresses in any spreadsheet editing software, such as Microsoft Excel. This method is the best choice if you already know where you’d like your ads to appear, or which placements you prefer to avoid. 

Basically, to create a whitelist/blacklist manually, you have to insert all placement addresses in the first column of the spreadsheet according to the following rules:

  • Provide only one placement address/ID per one cell.
  • Do not provide the name of the column with placement addresses.
  • Do not include protocols (HTTP or HTTPS) in case of web placements (the address should look like this: placement_address.com).

Once you’re done, you just need to upload your file to Voluum DSP “inventory list” section, and voila! Your list is ready to use. 

Creating a Placement List Automatically from Daily Bid Requests

This automatic method allows you to create a list in Voluum DSP by selecting placements from the Daily Bid Request section that you can find in the DSP Traffic Planner. It’s definitely a great way to go if you want to check estimated traffic volumes for selected placements, taking into consideration all targeting conditions, like Ad Exchange, country, device type, mobile carrier etc. 

How to do this? Open the DSP Traffic Planner, then select the “Daily Bid Requests” tab, add the appropriate filters and click on the “create inventory list” button. Select the checkboxes next to the specific placements that you want to add to the lists – and you’re ready to go!

Creating a Placement List Automatically from Daily Bid Requests

Creating a Placement List Automatically from Your Campaign

Finally, you can adjust your white/blacklist to the specific offer and create it automatically from your ad campaign. Just remember that in this case, you have to first spend min. $50-100 on RON  and collect enough data to analyze. 

As soon as you get the knowledge you need, you’ll be able to work on your list under the Reports section. There are a few report categories that you can investigate depending on the traffic type and how granular you want to get: Site, Application, Widget ID and Ad Space ID. 

Once you choose the report category, you’ll see the full list of placements where your ads were displayed, together with the results. While reviewing it, you should select checkboxes next to the top-performing placements and click on the “add to the list” button. It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

Creating a Placement List Automatically from Your Campaign

The Bottom Line

Now you have the theory, it’s time to put it into practice! The tips above should help you identify the areas that deliver the best performance and implement them into your ad strategy. If you need support in setting up your first native ad campaigns or filtering out undesirable targets, feel free to reach out to us on Skype (ID: Voluum DSP AM) or via email dsp-am@voluum.com.

Voluum DSP advertising experts are here to help you!

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