An Honest Review of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

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Published November 20, 2013 by Brad Knutson
An Honest Review of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

I’ve been interested in trying StumbleUpon Paid Discovery for a while now, as on the surface it seems promising. The concept of StumbleUpon is a pretty interesting one for marketers. StumbleUpon sends targeted traffic to your sites for free. A huge bonus is that the better your content is, and the more that people like it – the more traffic you’ll get. The downside is that if your content is boring you probably won’t get much traction.

If you aren’t interested in leaving it to chance, then StumbleUpon Paid Discovery is for you. For a small fee for each visitor, StumbleUpon will send targeted traffic to your site, regardless of how popular it is, until your budget runs out. It seems like a pretty good deal.

Who wouldn’t want to get their content off the ground by sending a bunch of traffic to it?

I decided to try it out, and threw $100 at a campaign.

The Campaign

I wanted to generate some buzz for my new site Share Tally, so I decided to redesign the home page and add some share icons.

Over the course of 10 days, I saw 725 hits from my StumbleUpon Paid Discovery campaign.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Traffic

Unfortunately for me, this is where the positives stopped.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Flaws

Sigh…where do I begin?

Traffic Tracking

My first complaint is that it seems as though some of the traffic that comes through has any URL parameters stripped off it. I had set up a Google Analytics campaign URL complete with campaign name, source and medium. I fully expected to be able to track all the traffic coming from StumbleUpon through this campaign.

So, the average person would expect to see 725 hits for the campaign, correct? Wrong…

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Analytics

558 visits for the campaign, out of the 725 StumbleUpon claims to have sent me – that’s 76.9%…ouch.

Now, before you grab your torch and pitchfork, I’m not of the opinion that StumbleUpon is ripping us off. Instead, I think that StumbleUpon handles the individuals they send to your site differently depending on which device they are using. I would be willing to bet that the campaign URL parameters are lost when a small percentage of users are sent to my site – perhaps StumbleUpon mobile app users?

Never the less, it’s still rather annoying to know that of the full 725 visits I had for the campaign, I would only be able to track about 3/4ths of them.

That being said, at least they are consistent with their inconsistencies. Each day saw essentially the same number of visits.

Cost Per Visit

Some people compare StumbleUpon Paid Discovery to PPC advertising, but the difference is that StumbleUpon Paid Discovery leaves out the “click” step and sends the traffic directly to your site whether they want to be there or not.

This is the fundamental flaw in the StumbleUpon Paid Discovery methodology.

Because you are paying to send traffic to a page, the person who is getting sent there has no vested interest in your content and might not even be particularly interested in your topic. To StumbleUpon, they are essentially guessing that the person would be interested in what you have to offer. The thing is though, StumbleUpon does no vetting of the content they accept for campaigns (why would they?), so they don’t care if the content is good or not.

So, for my $100 spent, I received 725 visits, of that 667 were paid for. The remaining 58 visits were “earned.” Earned? Really? I’m so glad that I earned a few visits each day – thanks for throwing me that bone. My other content gets more than that and I didn’t pay a penny for it.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Data

So, since I only paid for 667 visits, that works out to $0.15 per visit, which seems to nice a number to be a coincident. The $0.138 “effective cost per visit” is nice, but honestly I feel like they are just giving me a line – “here have these free visits, it’s like saving money!”

My god…the Bounce Rate!!!

For the 558 visits that actually registered as my StumbleUpon campaign in Google Analytics, the bounce rate was 93.91%

93.91%?!?!?!?!?!?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I knew that StumbleUpon visitors are click-happy, and when I’ve personally used the service I know I provided a very high bounce rate – but come one…this is a paid product. Don’t you expect a little more?

Again, we’re back at the fundamental flaw of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery – the visitors have no vested interest in what you are offering. Frustrating, right?

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Visits

I can’t say that I’m having a good time looking at these numbers…

StumbleUpon users are WAY too click-happy

Itchy trigger finger? Can’t make up your mind? Then StumbleUpon is absolutely for you!!

I had a sneaking suspicion that the high bounce rate was due to the tendency of StumbleUpon users to “stumble” to the next page if they don’t immediately understand what they are looking at, or don’t care to investigate further. So – I premptively installed CrazyEgg analytics on the page so I could analyze the clicks from the StumbleUpon campaign. The data is staggering (and frustrating)…

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Click Tracking

Of the 558 visits that registered as the StumbleUpon campaign, there was only 24 registered clicks – and only 13 where in areas of the page that I cared about. I know that my campaign page wasn’t the most optimized page in the world, but that click rate is appalling.

Let’s compare the click rates to a different channel – in this case traffic from Google+ – over the same time frame.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Click Tracking - Reference

Would you be surprised to find out that all these clicks came from just over 400 visits, compared to 558 visits in the StumbleUpon click image? It surprised me…

It’s not all doom and gloom – the short list of advantages

I think I’ve gotten my point across about the negatives to StumbleUpon Paid Discovery, so let’s spend a short time talking about the advantages.

Of the small number of visitors that did convert (in this case I consider any action other than bouncing a conversion) they seemed to stick around a while and really enjoy what I had to offer.

StumbleUpon Visitor Flow

It’s hard to see in the above graphic, but I had a few visitors stick around and hit 10+ pages each. I received a handful of “StumbleUpon” likes as well.

Since I ran this campaign over a month ago, Share Tally has really taken off. It’s received links several highly ranking sites, shown up on the first page of Hacker News, did rather well on Reddit, had so much traffic it brought down a server, and was even mentioned at #SESCHI. I’d say it’s had a good couple of months. Is it possible that this was all keyed off the right person “stumbling” upon the site? It’s definitely possible!

Conclusion

It’s obvious that my opinion of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery isn’t the greatest, but that might be because I wasn’t able to properly track where each penny I was spending was going, and wasn’t able to get a proper ROI. When things blew up for Share Tally, was it keyed off of StumbleUpon, or did someone happen across it on Twitter or Google+? It’s impossible to say, unfortunately.

To play devil’s advocate, if all the traffic, links, and mentions of Share Tally were caused by a single StumbleUpon visitor, then it’s the best $100.00 I’ve ever spent. If not, then honestly I feel like that $100 went nowhere, and produced zero ROI.

What did I do wrong?

My mistake was assuming that people would find Share Tally a useful and cool tool by just looking at the home page. Because of StumbleUpon’s click-happy nature, you really only have a split-second to catch the attention of the visitor.

Catching someones attention in less than a second with a form element? Not so good…

If you’ve spent any amount of time on StumbleUpon, then you know that the things that are the most successful are humor, images, awesome HTML5 and CSS examples, videos, and other media intensive sites. Infographics do quite well on StumbleUpon, as does other content that is generally good “viral” content.

So – could StumbleUpon be used to drive interest in a media asset? Absolutely! You could get great results from this type of campaign.

I posed this question on Twitter, and AJ Ghergich responded:

This further proves my point that StumbleUpon Paid Discovery can be useful, if used properly.

So my mistake was over-thinking the campaign. It’s clear by the success that Share Tally has had that the site is worthy of people’s attention, but it’s probably not the best for a StumbleUpon Paid Discovery campaign.

Have you run a StumbleUpon Paid Discovery campaign before? What were your results? Did you get what you expected?

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Founder at Inbounderish
Brad Knutson is a Web Developer in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. He has experience working with WordPress and Drupal, and also has an interest in SEO and Inbound Marketing.

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12 thoughts on “An Honest Review of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

  1. Dino Dogan

    Interesting analysis. It seems the best use of SU’s Paid Discovery is for kick ass infographics.

    I’m using Share Tally now and loving it. Did you build the site yourself or …?

    Reply
    1. Brad Knutson Post author

      Hey Dino – yes I built Share Tally, thanks for your kind words!

      I tend to agree that the best use of StumbleUpon Paid Discovery is for infographics, or really kick ass HTML5 web pages – with awesome visualizations with canvas and Javascript – those are the ones I remember thumbing up when I used StumbleUpon.

  2. Ivan

    Loved this article. I don’t know much about StumbleUpon so I figured I’d read around before I decided to dump some money into it. I’m glad I found this article. Now….Must evaluate site to see if it’s StumbleUpon friendly! or at least will generate decent ROI.

    Reply
    1. Brad Knutson Post author

      StumbleUpon can definitely be used to produce a solid ROI, but like you said it’s important to do a little research to see if StumbleUpon will work for your site and your topic. Good luck!

  3. Adam

    Thanks for writing this detailed write-up of your StumbleUpon PPC experiences Brad. I was considering using it for a specific campaign but I’m rethinking it now. Unfortunately you will find a high bounce rate for most social media advertising.

    Reply
    1. Brad Knutson Post author

      Hey Adam,

      I’m glad you found the article useful. There are definitely profitable uses for StumbleUpon Paid Discovery, I just wanted to caution other marketers, so they audit their campaign and determine if SUPD is right for them. I would suspect that many of them would be a waste of money.

  4. Sean Barber

    I mainly agree with this article, it’s good for directing traffic to your website, but figures don’t always seem to match up and the bounce rate can be very high. Saying that, it is very affordable, and you can target interest groups etc. which helps find your target market. Overall, it all depends your website and landing page, if your overall aim is to increased website traffic, I recommend this form of advertising.

    Reply
  5. Chris

    Great overview of Paid Discovery. We’ve used it a bit on our site, Shake, and they jury is still out as to how effective of a medium it will be for us. I will say, that I do like the fact that StumbleUpon has the option of only paying for people who remain on your site for more than 5 seconds. By enabling this feature, we’ve not had to pay for ~ half of the traffic that our campaign has produced since it was deemed lesser quality.

    Reply
  6. Astirian

    Hiya, good read! I’m just getting my first iOS app out the door (Defender of the Wood) and I’ve tried a MyLikes campaign for a week and just kicked off an SU campaign to see what happens. I have the sinking sensation I need to be chucking thousands at these things though. Marketing is tough! :)

    Reply
  7. Thomas

    Hi, and thanks for this review. I’m about to try SU paid discovery myself, and it’s nice to read about other people’s experiences with it.
    I took a look at http://sharetally.co/ and it looks like an awesome tool. I really was looked like some thing like that in fact, but i find that is seems a little imprecise.. My blog is rather new and small and it is only shared very rarely – so i often have a pretty good idea about when it has been shared and when there should be no precence.. The thing is, that when i search for some of my pages on your site, it shows up “no shares” although i have, in fact, shared it myself on – say facebook, SU or reddit.. Is it a bug, or something I’m missing?

    The site i plan to advertise on SU is this one http://onedrawingdaily.com/2015/01/22/6-things-i-learned-after-drawing-319-drawings-in-4-months-and-13-days/ – I’m no pro at creating good material, but I did it with SU in mind.. I plan on marketing it specifically for people with “drawing” and “painting” as interests, and then only a small amount of money – like say 20$, to see if it is worth the effort.. If you have any suggestions or recommendations I’d be happy to hear them!

    Reply
  8. Richard

    Pretty good review although I don’t think it fully details the power that Stumble-upon paid discovery has. After only putting 10 dollars into it with the spend immediately feature. I received 20,000 to 30,000 views daily on my post. This lasted for about a week. Plus it has earned me a steady flow of traffic with stumble’s organic reach ever since.

    Reply

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