Ron Sparks Author, Poet

Why StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Sucks


I love using StumbleUpon.  You’ve seen the cartoons on the Internet where StumbleUpon kills productivity and is the anathema of sleep.  I agree with it 100% – it’s addicting.  You select your interests, press Stumble, and viola!  A page relevant to you pops up.

I wanted to drive Stumblers to this blog, so I tried an experiment.  I paid Stumble $50.00 to promote my blog in certain categories for stumblers.  Seems simple, right?


When I created my campaign for my cancer blog, I used the following keywords:  Health, Cancer, Diabetes, Doctors/Surgeons, Family, Medical Science, Writing, Weight Loss, Nursing.

Every single one of those keywords are relevant to my cancer blog.  Every.  Single.  One.

And yet the campaign was rejected.  I got this nice form letter from StumbleUpon saying:

The ad was declined for the following reason(s):
One or more of the selected topics were incorrect for this content. We recommend you resubmit using the Auto-Target option.

I did not WANT to use the auto-target option.  I wanted very SPECIFIC keywords to lead to my blog.  I don’t know what their “auto-target” picks up on, and if I agree with it.

So I complained.

To their credit, I got a response within 15 minutes.  Kudos to StumbleUpon for that.  Still, all the agent did was tell me to resubmit with auto-target on.

This went on through 3 different attempts at submissions and finally I threw up my hands and let the auto-target do it’s job – and my campaign was approved.

I am disappointed and will not use StumbleUpon for advertising my blog again.  This experiment failed.  The Stumble robot has pigeonholed my blog with a series of topics that I may or may not approve of and I cannot change it.  When I asked an agent to actually LOOK at my blog, they said my topics were too broad.

I know what kinds of people I want to drive to my site. I know what keywords are appropriate.  If Stumble had taken 2 minutes to LOOK at my blog they would have seen my suggestions were the correct ones.  Instead, they relied on an algorithmic robot and did not let me, the expert, set the rules of his own campaign.

I’m getting traffic sent to my blog – but is is the right KIND of traffic?  I just don’t know.

About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on

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  • Well the only reason I found your blog at all is because of stumble upon. And frankly dont hold youself all high and mighty because you wrote an article about cancer (Like thousands of other people) and expect now a major website to do what you want. To stumble upon you are a little bug and I bet they don’t care if your on their site or not. And their robot most likely put your article in the right place. Where no one will find it.

  • The big issue that Stumble faces is making sure that the keywords really are relevant so the adverting is pertinent and accurate. I understand their need to tightly control that, but I feel there has to be some element of flexibility here. A reader of my blog would know that these keywords are indeed relevant.

  • I don’t know what really happened to your campaign, but SU paid discovery worked for me.
    They are encouraging you to submit single posts not homepages. And also it’s best to use only one or two keywords (more is less).

  • I would like to critique the service eloquently but really the only thing I can say is this:
    StumbleUpon sucks ass. You have to pay before they approve your campaign so if they reject it (as they did mine) you’re out whatever you paid and they won’t give you a refund. And the reasoning behind why they don’t approve stuff is pretty lame. They wouldn’t approve my site (after I paid the $25 for my campaign) because they don’t like sites that try to make money? (The official explanation was a little more technical than that but still, that’s what it boiled down to). If your business is your website you should be allowed to pay for a service that would theoretically make it more money, I don’t see what’s unethical about that. I mean, I could see them rejecting my campaign if my site were a paid porn site but somehow a site that reviews old Transformers toys doesn’t scream unethical pornography to me.

Ron Sparks Author, Poet

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Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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