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Many bloggers end up having a love-hate relationship with StumbleUpon. They love the amount of traffic that the service – which now boasts over 10 million members – can send, but they hate the conversion rate on that traffic. ViperChill received 12,040 visitors from StumbleUpon in May, yet their average time on site was just 26 seconds (overall site average is 2 minutes and 24 seconds) and they each viewed around 1.22 pages.
Simply put, compared to other traffic sources, StumbleUpon is terrible. However, because the service sends so much traffic, even leveraging just a small percentage can see a decent increase in your comment count and subscriber numbers. Today I’m going to give an in-depth guide to the service and then give my tactics for getting the most out of it.
StumbleUpon is a system that allows you to find new and interesting websites based around your favourite subjects. The more you use the service, the more the system “learns” about your interests which in-turn provides you with more relevant, fascinating content.
This is very different to the usual method of finding news by going to your favourite blogs or entering a search query into a major search engine. Here you’ll find content from all over the web which you know other people have enjoyed, so it can lead to some great discoveries. With StumbleUpon, it’s all about the users and the content that the community enjoys.
Traditionally, StumbleUpon utilises a toolbar that you install in a browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. More recently however, they have came up with a toolbar that you don’t need to install, which shows at the top of the pages you are viewing.
I prefer using the toolbar option as you can customise it and it doesn’t take up any additional screen space. Here’s how it looks (note that my version has been tweaked based on my preferences):
The three main buttons that you should be aware of here are the ‘Stumble’ button and the up and down thumbs. The Stumble button will load a new page in your browser that is based around your interests. The thumbs up button signifies that you like the page and of course the down thumb signifies that you don’t like it.
There are two aspects of this thumbing up and down that affect the system. The first aspect is that StumbleUpon learns about what type of content you like and what you don’t, and then tries to show you more of what you do like when you click Stumble. The other use of the ‘thumbs up’ button is that StumbleUpon tend to show that page to more people if a lot of people are enjoying the content of that page.
With over 10 million active users on the site there is a lot of potential for certain content to get viewed thousands of times. In fact, I had a blog post I wrote for DumbLittleMan receive over 100,000 views from the service. Instead of trying to explain how the system works in just text, I’ve created this small graphic that should help to clear things up:
If you’ve never used StumbleUpon before, let me warn you now that the service can become very addictive and a huge drain on your time. In fact, images that have said “Stop Using StumbleUpon” and shown up while browsing with the toolbar have become a thing of humour because people know how fun the service can be.
The following points are applicable whether you are just starting out in the service, whether you’ve used it and want to get more out of it or you’re an internet marketer looking for more website traffic. Either way, it’s good to take full advantage of all the features available and become a genuine, helpful user of the community.
When you sign-up to StumbleUpon you will be asked what topics you are interested in. Of course, it’s important that you select subjects which you are actually interested in so that you’re shown content that you care about you when using the toolbar. When I signed up I entered ‘web development’, ‘internet’ and ’self improvement’ as my favourite topics.
Although StumbleUpon will “learn” about your interests based on your usage of the service, it’s still good to pick topics that you’re highly interested in so you’re not just shown random content when you start using it.
No matter what your reasons for using the service are, I believe everyone should at least take a minute to update their profile with a picture (also known as an avatar). Your profile picture will of course show on your profile, but it will also show on any pages where you have reviewed content and it may show on review pages which show users who ‘thumbed up’ content.
In other words, your avatar is going to be seen in a lot of places on the service so pick something memorable. Here are some examples of popular avatars in the social media space:
It is up to you whether you want to use an ‘avatar’ style picture like this or a picture of your face. Both are acceptable and about as popular as each other.
Every user on StumbleUpon gets their own profile page which they can customise. Yours will be located at http://StumbleUpon.com/stumbler/username/ (of course, substituting username for whatever username you chose). Your description is there simply to tell the world a bit about yourself. I recommend that you fill this with relevant, honest information, so if people like your Stumbles then they can find out more about you.
Here is a slightly crazy but very honest bio from one of the top users of the site:
A nice touch in the description section is that you can add a link to other websites so other users may check out the links to see what you are about. I’ve made some great relationships through StumbleUpon and turned many of my ‘friends’ on the site into blog subscribers and Twitter followers.
I’ve already mentioned that when you sign-up to StumbleUpon you get to pick your favourite interests which StumbleUpon will use to show you relevant content anytime you click the Stumble button. The Stumble button is not the only way to find great content on the site though. You can also find it via your connections.
When you Stumble upon a page, you will be able to see the user who submitted it via the toolbar like so:
If you like what they are submitting you can both add them as a friend and subscribe to their submissions. This means that when you go to your home page on the site then you will see all the recent reviews by your friends. My own profile has 41 people subscribed to my updates.
Note: I have not used the service as a normal user (at least on the ViperChill account) for a long time, though I am going to get back into it. You don’t need to be an active user of the service in order to get a lot of traffic to your website.
Once you start really getting into the site, you’ll notice that you want to speed up certain aspects of the features available. My current set-up (for the browser extension) is as follows:
This means that I can browse around and find great new content without having to keep clicking on the toolbar with my mouse. You can change your shortcuts by going to Tools >> Toolbar Options >> Shortcuts. If you like the idea of auto loading a new page when you click the down or up thumb then you can change that in the configuration tab.
If you are not a webmaster and simply want to find awesome content, then the information above should be more than enough for you to get started. However, this is an internet marketing blog after-all, and StumbleUpon happens to be one of the easiest ways to get thousands of eyeballs on your content.
StumbleUpon is known to have the ability to send a flood of traffic to a page in the span of just a few hours. I remember the days when traffic from the service would only have a 30% bounce rate, and while it’s around 80% now, a percentage of visitors still leave comments and sign-up to your RSS feed which is what most people want them to do.
Though the 12,000 visitors ViperChill received from StumbleUpon last month is tiny compared to months where I’ve received over 100,000+ visitors from the service, I thought I would just show some proof of that traffic:
In the early days of StumbleUpon, being one of their “power users” helped you massively in getting traffic to a page. In fact, I could pretty much guarantee that any page I promoted would receive thousands of visitors. If you had a large network on the site you could also use their ‘Send to’ feature to share a page with all of your friends and get more traffic that way.
Nowadays, the power of your profile has very little (if anything at all) to do with getting traffic from the toolbar. It’s all about the content – which is great for you and me.
Although your content should be good, it isn’t nearly as important as the headline it’s wrapped in. The title of your article or blog post is the first thing people see so if it doesn’t entice them to read on then they aren’t going to review or thumb-up your content which would send you more traffic.
The types of titles that work well on StumbleUpon include:
A title like ‘Some snails in London get painted’ is nowhere near as interesting as ‘Graffiti Artist Uses Snails as His Canvas’ which was in fact an article which received thousands of views. Of course, don’t write a great title if you don’t have the relevant content to back it up. Just remember that the title is without a doubt the most important factor of whether people will read your content or not.
Want proof? Look at the top rated pages in any category and they will all have great titles. Or, test it out for yourself. Dragos is a great example of someone who knows exactly what the StumbleUpon audience wants — just check out the post titles in his sidebar.
Text isn’t the only type of content that works well on StumbleUpon. For a while in 2008 I ran a demotivational pictures blog and each day I would receive thousands of visitors from the toolbar. Don’t forget that most StumbleUpon users are just browsing around the web, looking for something interesting. Pictures and videos are great ways to catch their attention.
It’s important to note that while images or videos can be great at getting a surge in traffic from the site, it’s far less likely to convert in a way you want it to compared to text content. Unless of course, you’re trying to increase the view count of your videos.
It’s important that you do not simply keep submitting your own content to the site as I’ve noticed a lot of people do as this is a fast-track way to get your account banned or have your site banned. Even a huge blog like ProBlogger was removed from the service and while the domain was allowed back into the system after a huge uproar, it does show that nobody is exempt from their heavy hand.
You can submit a new page to the system by simply clicking ‘I like it’ and if the page has not been discovered before, a pop-up box like this one below will appear:
If the title of the current article is catchy then leave it; otherwise you can tweak it to help the page get more views. For a description I sometimes just copy the introduction of the article, or you can write your own short review. It’s important that you pick an appropriate category for the submission. If you choose a sports category for a financial article, nobody who it is shown to is going to like it and it will quickly drop out of the queue.
I mentioned earlier that it is no longer effective to send a page to all of your friends and ask them for a Stumble. In the past this kind of activity would guarantee you thousands of visitors but now it is rarely the case. If you do want to share a StumbleUpon link with lots of people I’ve found it to be more effective to use a re-direct like this:
This reason this works is that StumbleUpon can tell whether you just landed on a page directly and clicked Stumble or they actually showed you the page via the toolbar (much more natural) and you voted for it that way. However if you go through the re-direct – or keep stumbling and land on a page and vote for it – it looks a lot more natural and like a genuine recommendation.
One thing many people forget about receiving traffic from any site is that by nature, you’re going to turn people away if your site is overloaded with ads, pop-ups, or anything else that deters from your main content. The design of ViperChill is very minimalist because I either want people to subscribe to the RSS feed here or view the content clearly. That’s it.
The attention span of StumbleUpon users is very short so if they can’t see your headline and your post straight away, there’s a very good chance they’re just going to move on to the next article. Getting StumbleUpon visitors to stick around on your site is hard enough so don’t make things harder for yourself with a cluttered website.
A good way to get traffic from any social media website is to look at what is hot and is working well in that specific community. It makes sense that if you find out what people on a certain website and send them more of it, they are going to stick around on your site as well.
A good way to check what is hot on StumbleUpon is to check the top rated pages for each category. As an example, ViperChill is in the Internet Marketing niche so I would look at the StumbleUpon “hot” page for internet marketing, which you can find here. I can see articles on this topic that have received thousands of visitors from the site which could possibly give me inspiration for future posts
When I was writing for PluginID, I actually had 3 of the most popular self improvement articles ever written on StumbleUpon, all receiving over 50,000 visitors from the service. The number one thing that worked for me was simply writing great articles with even better headlines.
The rest of the advice here may be secondary to that, but don’t overlook it.