StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Fails

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If you’re a new blogger trying to figure out how to get more traffic to your site, then you’re not alone. Everyone wants new traffic. Yet it’s not enough to get traffic, you want to get the right traffic. Qualified readers. Right?

On Word+Pictures=Web, I am usually trying to attract readers interested in technology, marketing, photography, new media, gadgets, comic books, and fun stuff like that. Digging into my stats, I noticed that I was getting some good traffic from

Note: For blog analytics, I use a combination of Site Stats from WordPress and Google Analytics. Both packages are free.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery became available in March, 2011, so I guess I am an early adopter here. It required a new sign up and some basic information, all of which was quick and easy. Paid Discovery offers three pricing teirs, which includes Light, Standard and Premium.

  • Light – 5 cents per visitor
  • Standard – 10 cents per visitor
  • Premium – 25 cents per visitor

At this point, I selected Light because I was just getting started and there really wasn’t much information out there. There is a lot more information about how to run search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns on Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing, but not much on Paid Discovery.

The Light option didn’t offer much flexibility in terms of customization or reporting. Reporting is only offered to Standard and Premium campaigns. From a paid customer’s perspective, this kind of sucks. StumbleUpon is a freemium service and I am coming in as a paid customer. Maybe I am not spending a lot of money on my own personal campaign, but I might spend more on client campaigns. By throwing up another roadblock, you’ve just prevented me from even seeing the premium features. As a person who likes data, I find this frustrating.

The campaign started on March 20 with a budget of $8 per day. As advertised, StumbleUpon Paid Discovery drove 160 clicks. Same for March 21. I figured I’d start small. If it was working, I could always add more out of pocket spend. Set up was easy. Nobody can really get it wrong.

Checking my stats, I was disappointed to discover that Paid Discovery was driving a lot of bounced traffic. I mean, a LOT of bounces.

According to Google Analytics, I was getting a 97.76% bounce rate. Traffic was staying 00.01 seconds or less on the site.

That’s a pretty stark contrast from the regular traffic I was getting from StumbleUpon. The actual traffic was just a trickle, but it had a 42.86% bounce rate and average time on site of 00.15. When I opted for Paid Discovery, I wanted more traffic like that.

As I mentioned, I’ve run SEM campaigns on AdWords, so I figured I could go in and make some adjustments. Nope. The Light version offers no way for you to modify your campaign settings, except for the budget spend. So, I dialed the budget down every day, just hoping that maybe less traffic would mean more qualified leads. Sadly, no.

In the end, it was just a complete fail for me. I love StumbleUpon, I really do. So I hoped that by spending some ad dollars, I could give something back and drive more of their qualified traffic to my site. Alas, I was mistaken. StumbleUpon Paid Discovery failed for me.

Will I try again? Sure, if they make some adjustments to their algorithms and give me more flexibility in the dashboard, I would try again. StumbleUpon is a terrific discovery tool for me personally and professionally. I imagine that they’ll be looking for ways to improve their Paid Discovery offerings so that it’s a little more on par with SEM solutions. I’d even be interested in helping them test new features, if it meant an improved final product offering.

Until then, I will stick with AdWords for paid traffic and StumbleUpon to discover new websites.

Oh, and if you were wondering, yes, I Stumbled this post.

12 thoughts on “StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Fails

  1. Thanks for this – you may have just saved me some money. I was going to give this a go and like you I was preparing to use the Light version. I have just trialled FaceBook advertising and while the impression rate was staggeringly high the CTR was appalling.

  2. Ian – Glad that this helped. I was looking at other sites, and all they did was talk about the option to advertise. It didn’t seem as if that many people had actually tried it. I may give it a shot again down the road, but I might be inclined to wait until they work out more of the bugs.


  3. I use SU Paid Discovery (Light) to fine-tune my blog.  Mostly my spend is about the same as yours, but by analyzing daily like/dislike ratios sometimes I can figure out what needs improving above the fold.  I got an uptick after I replaced “About me” in the menu bar with “New? Start here”.

    I get free stumbles along with the PD account but the quantity varies wildly from day to day and I’ve never been sure just how the number of free stumbles is determined.  The most I’ve ever gotten in a day is 65.

  4. Charleen – Thanks for sharing your experience. I find that the StumbleUpon traffic is pretty good on specific articles. You can see some crazy StumbleSpikes on certain posts and then it dies down in a single day. I’m wondering if that’s good traffic because the bounces tend to be pretty high and the time on site is pretty low.

    That said, I think it’s smart that you are monitoring the traffic from StumbleUpon, since it shows you what kind of articles drive the most amount of interest.

    What’s your blog about? Can you share a link to your best post?

    Buddy Scalera

  5. Dan –

    Wow, that’s quite a poor experience. You’d think that you’d have a better experience when you’re holding a credit card.

    People should check out your blog post, so they understand how it worked out for you.

    In the meantime, I’m going to check out your website to see what it’s all about.


  6. Hello,

    I came across this post as I was researching people’s experiences with Paid Discovery.

    I thought you might  find this article interesting about Paid Discovery and high bounce rates.

    Essentially, the way Stumble Upon works most analytics programs (like Google Analytics) will record high bounce rates.

    Of course since you experienced pretty decent bounce rates with organic SU traffic vs that of Paid Discovery it might not be applicable here.

    Anyway, just thought I’d share.

  7.  Jeremy – That’s a good answer there on Quora. I think that the idea behind Paid Stumble is great. If they can figure out a way to drive more qualified traffic, I would try it again. In the meantime, I think that Google AdWords tends to drive some really good traffic.

    Did you try Paid Discovery? Did it work for you?

  8. Good review.  My paid stumbles resulted in a lot less traffic than people up-voting naturally.  btw… I gave this page a thumbs up and followed you on stumbleupon 🙂  

  9. I wish I found your article earlier Buddy… over the past couple of weeks I was trying stumble upon paid discovery on various websites & pages including those offering free services, gifts etc, some of them have very high (35%) organic conversion rate all with the same (zero) result. It feels like scam 🙂

  10. Vladimir,

    Here’s the crazy thing…I wrote this in April 2011. I am actually pretty surprised that they haven’t actually found a way to perfect this service by now.

    Interesting, but Twitter is giving me my highest ROI these days. I haven’t done a proper analysis, but the Google Analytics data suggests a strong flow of traffic.


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