6 warnings before you use StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

I wanted to experiment with the new StumbleUpon Paid Discovery to see if it was an effective way to introduce the world to my book. For those who don’t know, you pay from 5 cents to 25 cents per visitor to have your website, or a specific page on your website, inserted into the mix of highly-ranked sites on StumbleUpon.

I ran my first campaign on April 19, 2011 then evaluated the results, made some changes and repeated the campaign on April 20, 2011. I set a maximum spend of $25 for 5 cents/visitor (500 visitors each day). My goals for the campaign were:

1. Increase traffic to my site and convert them to blog subscribers
2. Generate a viral effect so Stumblers told others through Twitter, Facebook, etc
3. Sell more books

For the first campaign, I pointed to an existing blog article featuring a YouTube video that showed how to make a gorgeous textured background for a PowerPoint slide. For my second campaign, I created a page with 5 videos showing cool PowerPoint tricks to make your slides look better. The videos are about 5 minutes each with a hip-hop soundtrack and, of course, highly visual and hopefully entertaining. I also targeted the second campaign to those 25 and older.

What were the results

  1. I did indeed see 500 new visitors/day. In fact, the traffic comes fast: 100 visitors in just an hour. However, these visitors were not sticky, did not subscribe to my blog or YouTube channel, did not view additional YouTube videos or visit any other pages on my blog. They came, they saw, they left.
  2. There was NO viral effect. No-one tweeted or reposted any of the videos.
  3. Book sales were a bit higher than normal, but it did not appear to be coming from the StumbleUpon traffic as there was not additional clicks to my book page. The extra sales were probably coming from other marketing efforts

The problem is in the demographics. I was able to see the 40 or so people who clicked that they liked my page in the first campaign. The most common profile was a 19-year-old girl, many sporting “party” photos (cleavage, flirty looks, etc). My typical reader is a consultant or business manager working for a Fortune 1000 company, so I didn’t reach the right customers!

For the second campaign, I only got 3 “likes” out of 500 views. Perhaps young people are more engaged with the content than the over-25 crowd?

Of course, now it makes sense. Who has time to join StumbleUpon and just click through a random set of websites that are supposed to match their interests? Those with a lot of time on their hands: restless teenagers, bored university students, the unemployed. And what are they looking for? Entertainment, cool videos, humor. And so on.

So, in retrospect, my campaign was not a great fit for the audience or what they were looking for as Stumblers.

StumbleUpon does deliver the traffic, though. And the costs are so reasonable it’s worth an experiment. Here’s my advice to you if you do attempt a StumbleUpon campaign.

1. Be strict with your demographics. If you want lots of young people, then open the campaign to everyone. But if you’re targeting business people, tighten your requirements to age 30 and older.

2. Create a separate page for your StumbleUpon campaign. This allows you to track how much traffic is coming from StumbleUpon and not mix it up with your normal traffic. Welcome them with a greeting like “hello fellow Stumblers” and make sure your most interesting content shows above the fold.

3. Make your content heavily visual and entertaining. Stumblers are switching websites like frantic channel surfers! Pages of lengthy text are daunting and many people will just keep clicking until they find something entertaining. Use YouTube videos, pictures and limited text.

4. Write good headlines. Stumblers are impatient and ready to keep clicking unless something catches their attention. Headlines are one of the first things they see, and the main hook to stay on the page. Write a headline that conveys a benefit (eg. 5 ways to turn a job interview into a job offer) or creates intrigue (top 20 movie gaffes of all time). “List” headlines (eg. top 10 things…) appear frequently among highly-ranked StumbleUpon sites. Study the successful sites!

5. Make sure your content shows above the fold. My experience as a Stumbler is you make quick decisions on each website whether you want to drill in further. That’s why having enticing content above the fold, so you don’t have to scroll down, is more likely to hook the reader.

6. Use long pages. Even though my long page did more poorly than my short page, I still believe long pages will be more effective. In my experience as a Stumbler, short pages are consumed and then quickly abandoned. Long pages force the reader to slow their frantic pace, spend more time with you, get to know your content and develop trust. Intersperse your call to action throughout the page.

Would I use StumbleUpon again? I’m not sure. It seems the audience is mostly young people looking for entertainment. So if that’s your audience, then go for it.

But if it’s not your audience, that may be okay too. These young people are connected to family members and friends who may be in your target market. Is there a way to give them content they want to share with those family members and friends? That’s where I would focus next time.

Leave a comment letting me know if your results were the same or different.

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One Response to 6 warnings before you use StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

  1. julian says:

    I was curious to get some feedback on Paid Discovery. I think you’re right, this is good to understand first, who are the Stumblers. I am considering of using it as it could be cheaper than Google Adwords or Facebook advertising.
    The site, I am launching is an entertainment site so in that case i believe this could be the right target audience. Unless, I am wrong, I guess the majority of Stumblers are below 28, early adopters and looking for fun and new things out there.

    Thanks for your post.

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