The StumbleUpon Experiment

Do people “stumbling” across the net have their wallets open while doing so? Will they stop when they see a commercial site or keep on “stumbling” by? That was today’s quick experiment: advertising through StumbleUpon.

StumbleUpon Toolbar

StumbleUpon offers a toolbar that lets you find new websites by “stumbling” through sites recommended by other users of the toolbar. You just click the “Stumble!” button on the toolbar to visit a new site, and can rate each site with “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” buttons.

I first joined StumbleUpon and downloaded their toolbar in May, but had forgotten about it after upgrading to Windows Vista. I was recently reminded of it when seeing a couple hits in this blog’s referrers after another blogger reviewed this site in StumbleUpon.

StumbleUpon sells website visits for just $0.05 a view. After a 4-figure sales day at VisitorBoost yesterday, I decided to put a bit of that into StumbleUpon. In addition to the ultra-low cost for guaranteed traffic, StumbleUpon isn’t prone to click fraud since they neither syndicate their ads nor have any mechanism to bring up a specific site, and they also offer targeting according to their users’ stated interests. I really didn’t expect these users to buy, it’s not the mode they’re in when using the toolbar, but I’ve been surprised by sales from unexpected sources before, so I’ll try everything once or twice before discounting it.

I created a new tracking URL for the ad campaign and filled out the form to start it up with StumbleUpon. I chose the Web Development category hoping to reach website owners, and restricted my ad to only U.S. visitors for the best chances of a purchase. A few hours later, the ad was approved and running.

It was evening when the ad began to show, and at 250 visitors to the site, I hadn’t made any sales. I paused the campaign for the night, planning to continue it during the afternoon the next day to show during business hours. Another 250 visitors came through after I resumed before I considered that to be enough of a trial for now.

One thing I can say about StumbleUpon that I can’t about any other service I’ve advertised with is that they are 100% accurate in reporting and 100% free of fraud as far as I could tell. My tracking program tracked exactly 502 visits where StumbleUpon shows 500. That’s 500 paid for, one from the reviewer that approved the campaign, and one click by myself to test the URL before starting.

A quick analysis of the traffic backs up the presence of interest targeting fairly well. More than 90% of the visits were by computers running the Firefox browser with a high screen resolution. That matches up to what you’d expect from the web development community.

The results? No sales, 96% of the visitors only viewing the landing page for the campaign, and none of them rating the site positively or negatively with the toolbar. That says to me that most people that see a commercial site, or a site that isn’t immediately interesting to them with StumbleUpon will simply move on and click the “Stumble!” button again.

  • Mr Blonde

    Me and my partner have a clothing label (Mr Blonde) and i tried out stumble mainly just for exposure and wasn’t expecting any sales… especially seeing the reason i use stumble myself is when I’m bored to fill in time viewing random sites in my interest.

    I used $50 aswell and received nearly the same result as you, except when my balance was down to $2, i received 2 sales! At $40 AUD each minus the free shipping i was offering at the time i just made my money back so I take it as a pleasant experience! :)

    I think there are the occasional people out there that would buy something, and if you have it up running long enough they will come across your site.

    I do agree with you saying if it dosn’t immediately interest them they will move on. With the organic traffic I receive to my site, I get a lot of pageviews and positive feedback, but on stumble i had a decent amount of positive rating, a few negative too, with the majority not rating and my pageviews dropped significantly . Even though I put my site under the clothing category, styles of clothing can differ so much that a lot of people would just hit the stumble button one more time to see if a different style would come up.

    Anyway I see it as a positive, and will start narrowing my campaign down to target specific age groups in specific countries and see if improves.

    NB: the sales i did make were to the UK where i had my lowest number of visitors allocated.

    Mr Blonde

  • Brendon Kozlowski

    Dan, perhaps I’m stepping a bit overboard in my thought process here, but perhaps Web Development isn’t necessarily the target audience you’d want. After thinking about it for a moment, if I were to visit a website that offered me something to buy, specific to web development, I’d probably instantly think to myself “I can get something similar for ‘free’ in the opensource community.” Although the value of something may or may not be as good, as a developer I do know there are almost always alternatives.

    Entrepreneurs who would visit your site, however, may find a different value in the things you were offering (depending on your content writing skills) and may garnish more hits.

    I’m not sure what categories StumbleUpon offers to choose from, but I would think, from my introversion, that a different target group may be slightly more efficient. (I don’t know many developers that take the time to rate things positively or negatively unless it’s something like HOTorNOT.)

  • Dan

    Entrepreneurs who would visit your site, however, may find a different value in the things you were offering (depending on your content writing skills) and may garnish more hits.

    Sounds like a plan; there’s an “entrepreneurship” interest category. Let’s give it a try and see what happens. Unfortunately I can’t change the targeting I chose for the campaign I wrote about, so I’ll have to wait for a new one to be approved. I’ll give an update if the results are any different.

  • Brendon Kozlowski

    It might be worthy to note that a better sales campaign would probably have a landing page garnered specifically to that group since you actually *can* choose groups to target.

  • Dan

    It might be worthy to note that a better sales campaign would probably have a landing page garnered specifically to that group since you actually *can* choose groups to target.

    You’re surely correct about this, and I have all kinds of landing pages I’ve used and tested with other advertising sources. For my best affiliates, I even create entire custom subdomains of my sites which are cobranded with their logos as well as custom landing pages tailored to their individual audiences.

    However, I am an extremely lazy marketer. The time I put into optimizing and tweaking an ad campaign is proportional to the ROI I saw when I started. If my two ‘default’ index pages (I *always* split new advertising between VisitorBoost and TargetedVisitors to start) can’t make sales with their history of doing just that with just about any webmaster-related traffic, then I would expect the conversion rates from a custom landing page to be lower than I’d get putting that money somewhere I know it works, like MSN AdCenter where I desperately need to take advantage of the 13% conversion rate I saw in the end of 2006.

    So the way I see it, if I don’t make any sales without putting in the extra work, my time is better spent working on other sources of traffic, or developing W3Counter and other applications I directly sell. If I do make a couple sales, it’ll then become worth the time to try to raise that now-positive conversion rate even higher.

  • sara

    This is pretty interesting to me as I’m a new stumbler. I don’t have a site that sells anything, but eventually I might consider using StumbleUpon just to get traffic to a site and to build a community.

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  • Anita

    People use SU for entertainment primarily, so I certainly wouldn’t expect a translation to sales for web services. This is why SU works best for humor/photography/etc.

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  • Todd Jordan

    I “I like it!” my website and now SU has brough a significant amount of visitors. Since I’m not selling anything, and have no adds on the page yet, it’s more esoteric. But I’d recommend just putting your site up for free as a liked page and see what happens over time.

  • Karen Bryan

    I read about the power of Stumbleupon to promote your business, so I last month decided to kickstart the process for my travel website with a $100 (for 2000 views) ad campaign targeted at primarily UK stumblers interested in travel. 3% of stumblers liked my site, 1% disliked it.

    I now spend some time most days stumbling, networking and looking for interesting sites to give the thumbs up. I am receiving around 70 daily hits from Stumbleupon but I think it this will increase if I keep up the process.

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  • Web Hosting Mind

    I actually had a similar experience.. the clicks are good and accurate but nothing converts. I think people using it just want to check out other sites and not specifically sign up or buy anything.

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  • Binh Nguyen

    I also experience the same problem. I did a quick analysis with screenshots included here: . There 716 page views with absolutely no ad click.

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  • StumbleUpon

    Thanks for the informative post.. and thanks for adding our comment to the blog. I am subscribing to your feed so I don\’t miss the next post!

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