Blacklisting v. Whitelisting – What’s the best tool for the job?


If you’ve spent any time managing traffic, then you’re already intimately familiar with the concepts of whitelisting and blacklisting. In fact, you might be so familiar with them that you don’t want to hear about them anymore. 

Now, if you don’t work in this industry, then there is a good chance that you’re significantly less familiar with the concepts. 

That’s something that we’re going to change over the next few minutes. Because if you work in AdTech, you need to understand the importance of these tools

In a rush? Skip straight to the essentials

Generally, blacklisting and whitelisting occur in the context of traffic quality control and at the subID level. So let’s start there.


So what’s a subID? A subID is essentially the end publisher. When Ad Networks, DSPs, and other platforms buy traffic through an SSP, the actual site the ad appears on is the “subID”

Now, depending on the situation, a subID can be many things other than a website. For example, with mobile traffic, the subID could be an app rather than an actual site.

In general, it is best to think of the subID as the end publisher that is displaying the ad. 

Now, for a variety of reasons, not all subIDs are good for your business. Some bring a lot of fraudulent traffic, aren’t well suited to your ad or target audience, and some just plain don’t work.

The inconsistent and often unpredictable quality of a subID is why traffic quality control is so important.

There are two primary methods for controlling traffic in the modern digital advertising world. These are blacklisting and whitelisting


Blacklisting is when you take a given subID and ban it. Banning, in this case, means that you cease to display your ad on their site.


Whitelisting is essentially the opposite of blacklisting. You don’t ban subIDs; you explicitly choose which subIDs you want to put on that campaign. 

So rather than starting with all the subIDs that a given SSP sends you, you start instead with a limited number of trusted subIDs. 

Both Blacklisting and Whitelisting are extremely useful for two things: limiting fraud and optimizing campaigns

Limiting fraud

For one thing, all supply providers are going to have some measure of fraud. Digital Marketing is a juicy target for fraudsters. 

Fraud is omnipresent primarily due to the industry’s fast-changing, globalized nature and the tremendous amount of money floating around in it. 

Fraudsters invent new means of trying to rip off online advertisers almost every day. From clickfarms and bots to clickspam and click injection, the array of tools that these nefarious bad actors have developed is ever-expanding.

A lot of this fraud, however, can be limited at the subID level.

How do blacklist and whitelists stop fraud?

To minimize the amount of fraud that a given campaign is going to experience, it is vital to sort the different subIDs given their past performance. 

If you know that a certain subID has sent you a large volume of fraudulent clicks in the past, you’d naturally not want to include them in new campaigns. 

This subID would be a good candidate for blacklisting. 

Now, if you’re running a very sensitive campaign, then whitelisting is likely going to be your best course of action. 

This way, you can allow only the most trusted subIDs with whom you have a good deal of experience to display the ad. 

Campaign optimization

Whitelisting and blacklisting are incredibly versatile tools. They are by no means limited to just fighting fraud. Indeed they can serve a much greater purpose: campaign optimization

A lot of times subIDs simply aren’t going to perform well for a given ad, even if they seem like they would. If subIDs are just losing you money or if the traffic isn’t converting, then it’s time to cut them loose. 

This kind of triage will improve overall campaign efficiency and help you better utilise your budget. 

So by selectively blacklisting underperforming subIDs, you can continuously improve the quality of the traffic that an advertiser receives. In this way, blacklisting can have a very positive effect on CTR (Click Through Rate) and CR (Conversion Rate). 

But it’s not just blacklisting that is useful in this regard

Likewise, whitelisting can be excellent for campaign optimization, as well. If you have already run a similar ad in the past, then you likely know which subIDs led to the best CTR/CR. In a case like this, you could whitelist all of the same subIDs that performed well last time and use that as your springboard. 

Black/whitelists on social media 

Perhaps the best way to look at blacklisting and whitelisting is through the lens of social media.

Blacklisting is like blocking people on Twitter. Whereas whitelisting is like having your entire profile on private and choosing each person that you allow into this restricted circle. 

The automated blacklist

A useful technology is automated blacklisting. Automated blacklisting is a system whereby you can set specific parameters and when a certain subID exceeds them, the system automatically bans it. 

This system is particularly useful because it sets a ceiling and a floor, so to speak, for your traffic sources. If CR gets ultra-low or extremely high, then you’re likely dealing with fraud, at which point it’s best to just cut it off at the source automatically. 

Mobinner has built-in automated quality controls

These are precisely the kind of built-in quality controls that you’ll have at your disposal at Mobinner. 

When you run a campaign on the Mobinner DSP, you can set automatic optimization parameters. You can set a minimum and maximum CR and automatically ban subIDs that exist outside of this range. 

This kind of CR control allows you to automatically fight fraught and nix subIDs that just aren’t up to snuff. Check out Mobinner DSP here.

Simple tools, powerful results

By now, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the different applications of both blacklisting and whitelisting in the programmatic advertising industry. 

Both of these tools are critical to managing fraud and optimizing traffic sources. Neither is particularly complicated or difficult to use in and of itself. It is deciding when to use these tools that can be the real conundrum.

Quick Recap

Blacklisting and whitelisting are tools that, at least in digital advertising, are generally used to control traffic quality by choosing the subIDs on which an ad can be run. A subID is the end publisher, generally either an app or a website.

Blacklisting is the choosing of specific subIDs to exclude.

Whitelisting is the choosing of specific subIDs to include. In this case the list is generally built from scratch or a replica of an existing, proven list.

Both are extremely useful for the controlling of traffic quality, optimization of campaigns, and the limitation of fraud.

Mobinner is a High-Performance Demand-Side Platform. We have been helping our users acquire users, build brands, and drive conversions. See how Mobinner can help your company reach new heights.

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