StumbleUpon is a bit of an old school ad platform that has been making a small comeback, especially among marketing types. It’s a social discovery app, similar to Reddit. Users browse (or “stumble”) on content that is submitted by users, which is sorted by StumbleUpon’s algorithm (note especially the increased Earned & Unpaid visit in the image below).
StumbleUpon had its heyday in the mid-2000s, but is still a very large 2nd tier social network with 30-ish million users. It is especially interesting to marketers because you can purchase paid stumbles based on very precise interest & demographic targeting. And users are on StumbleUpon because they are specifically looking to browse & share. In other words, it has all the positives of Facebook (target demographics & likes) and Reddit (target precise interests of active browsers) without the anti-marketing culture of Reddit or the competition with friend’s baby pictures of Facebook. Also, StumbleUpon is incredibly cheap per click.
However, paid StumbleUpon visits are infamously bouncy with low engagement. If you’ve ever used StumbleUpon, then you’ll know that it’s a very fast-paced experience with a bias to clicking to the next piece of content rather than staying & engaging with the content. And it’s a huge downside. It’s easy (actually quite common) to spend a few hundred bucks on a campaign; get a tsunami of traffic; and have nothing to show after but a 99% bounce rate. Ross Hudgens has written an Advanced Guide to StumbleUpon Marketing which tackles this issue & AJ Kohn has an innovative way to combine StumbleUpon with remarketing to help “fill your funnel.”
StumbleUpon also provides an option I’ve always been curious about – paying an extra $0.05 for an engaged visit. StumbleUpon specifically defines it as “visitors who stay more than 4 seconds.” But if you are choosing engaged of unengaged visitors – does it actually make a difference? Is it worth the money?
Here’s the StumbleUpon Pricing Overview for your reference:
The test itself was pretty simple. I have a calculator that helps online storeowners figure out if free shipping is really worth it. It’s interactive, simple, useful – and from what I have read is a pretty good page to submit to StumbleUpon.
I ran 2 campaigns back to back weeks – on approximately the same days of the week. The targeting was the same, demographics the same, and devices the same. The only variable was “engaged visitor” setting. I spent $75 on each campaign to get a decent set of visits to look at. The engaged visitors cost $0.21 per visit and the unengaged visits cost $0.16 per visit.
First off, in every StumbleUpon campaign I’ve ever run, my numbers in Analytics and what StumbleUpon reports never quite line up.
That said, the general visit and engagement rates lined up with what I bought on StumbleUpon. Unengaged visitors spent 73.39% less time on the page vs. engaged visitors. The bounce rate was also 31.65% worse.
Interestingly though, the unengaged (ie, cheaper) campaign only sent 7.93% more visits despite being 23.8% cheaper – something which will come up again in my cost results.
But more time on page & lower bounce rate was about as far as the differences went. Here’s StumbleUpon’s campaign report:
Engaged Campaign Metrics –
The Unengaged Campaign Metrics –
The lack of shares & re-stumbles was especially unfortunate. I had hoped that more engaged visitors would also be more likely to share & re-stumble, but apparently not. Some of that may have been the content, but showed that you really are simply paying for more time on page – not necessarily engagement broadly defined. Keep in mind that “time on page” could just be people with multiple tabs open or anyone who happens to be distracted with your site open.
StumbleUpon does have a deliberate quirk in their algorithm that more engaged content can earn more organic stumbles – even if apparently no one re-stumbles your content. Also, for an engaged campaign, you still get all those unengaged visits. You just don’t have to pay for them.
Both these variables are key in determining whether you should pay the extra $0.05 for engaged visitors. Here’s the account overview with the 2 campaigns back to back.
Both campaigns garnered some earned visits – with the engaged campaign earning slightly more. But note all the paid visits that showed up on the site that I didn’t actually pay for (the pink Unpaid bars). I paid an extra $0.05 for those clicks as part of the engaged campaign. But, if they were part of an unengaged campaign, they would have cost $0.10. Of course, StumbleUpon is pretty good about not giving away tons of unpaid visits…but it’s a bit of a quirk that does affect your budgeting & choice. Here’s the 2 campaigns broken out.
The engaged campaign’s effective cost-per-view (CPV) (ie, after all visits generated by the campaign) was $0.166.
The unengaged campaign’s effective CPV was $0.153.
In other words, I was effectively paying a $0.013 premium for my more engaged visitors after everything was said and done – not the full $0.05 front-end premium.
So are engaged visitors worth it on StumbleUpon?
Again, it goes back to your goals. Before the test, I would have thought that if you are simply trying to fill your remarketing audience, then go cheap with unengaged visitors, and if you are going for engagement & shares, then go with engaged.
But the high bounce rates & effective CPV throws a bit of a quirk in that conventional wisdom. I only had a 7.93% increase in visitors (where your remarketing audience will come from) with the unengaged campaign. That is something, but not as much as I would want given the 31% increase in pricing. Once you factor in the effective CPV, it’s really only an extra cent to get the significant decrease in Bounce Rate & Time Spent on Site with engaged visitors.
I’d say that unless you have a specific reason to go with unengaged visitors, it’s worth the premium to pay for engaged visitors in StumbleUpon. But don’t take my word for it – go run a small test here and check it out!