I’ve been experimenting with StumbleUpon for the past few months and have had several pleasant experiences. It’s simply an incredible viral means to drive a large amount of sustained traffic to any website over a period of time.
I wrote this mini guide on StumbleUpon because I thought StumbleUpon had enormous potential in maximizing brand exposure while fitting nicely with a long term site building strategy.
Included are some personal observations on using StumbleUpon to drive traffic to your website, as well as some strategies you can adopt to retain StumbleUpon visitors while monetizing your website.
What is Stumble Upon?
Stumble Upon is a social website which allows its users a new way to experience the Internet. Instead of searching for specific items on search engines like Google, Stumble Upon users only have to tag specific personal or professional interests and then ‘channel surf’ the web by simply clicking on a button on Stumble Upon tool bar.
Upon doing so, they will be randomly directed to specific websites which adhere to their lists of interests. Users can then choose to tag the webpage they are on or give it a ‘thumbs up‘ or ‘thumbs down‘ to indicate if they want to see it again.
Users can also use the Stumble Upon toolbar as a form of social bookmarking. By surfing the web and tagging or submitting specific websites, each user can keep track of which websites they like and share it with others.
How do I get started with Stumble Upon?
You can get started by installing the toolbar, which is compatible with I.E. and Firefox at Stumble Upon’s website. After which, you can check to see if your website is already listed on Stumble Upon. You can do this by visiting this page and typing in your site’s URL.
If your website is not listed, you can start using your newly installed toolbar to tag and review it by clicking on the blue thumbs up symbol which has “I like it!” next to it.
This will open a pop-up panel which allows you to categorize your website, write a short description and tag with specific keywords. Following which, your website will be included in Stumble Upon’s database and will show up when other users with interests similar to your tags use the Stumble Upon toolbar to surf the internet.
Why should I use Stumble Upon?
Stumble Upon is known for its ability to generate massive amounts of traffic to a specific webpage or website that’s been stumbled. If you just wrote a great article or created a website which offered creative and useful content, you’ll want as many eyeballs on it as possible.
Once your website gets stumbled, it’ll usually start to immediately receive visitors from all over the world.
This allows you:
- Generate rapid exposure for a specific website, brand or concept.
- Establish a reader base for your blog very quickly.
- Gain numerous backlinks from StumbleUpon visitors with websites.
What type of traffic can I get from StumbleUpon?
StumbleUpon is different from a search engine, which offers very targeted traffic that matches keyword searches with the content on your blog.
On the other hand, the very nature of Stumble Upon invites open exploration of various websites which are loosely tagged by other users and hence may produce weak targeted traffic with specific characteristics.
My experience over the past few months has led me to the following conclusions on traffic from StumbleUpon:
- Diverse demographic. Visitors from StumbleUpon come from many countries from all over the world, though 40% of my traffic came from North America.
- Very low Adsense or contextual CTR. Why click on an ad when you can stumble to the next site in a few seconds?
- Good web design is important for StumbleUpon visitors. The average time spent on a web page can be less than 10 seconds. They tend to look more than they read.
- Fickle RSS subscribers. My feed subscription doubled when certain posts received a lot of traffic but 50% of the readers unsubscribed over the next few days. This will vary depending on your website.
- Not all websites are made equal. Video, Humor, Web 2.0 and eclectic websites do extremely well with SU. Some friends with video websites and Boing Boing-ish blogs usually retain at least 25% of Stumble Upon visitors after a spike in traffic.
- Traffic is long-term. I’m still continuing to receive traffic for specific webpages that I’ve stumbled several weeks ago.
How can I ensure repeat visits to my website?
The very nature of channel surfing is to assess with one glance and determine if the channel is worth watching. Similarly, Stumble Upon visitors are people who will evaluate your website instantly and decide to either continue browsing or stumble ahead to the next site.
Stumble Upon users are generally attracted to interesting news, good site design and unique content/concepts. Making sure that these elements are all present can ensure that you receive a thumbs up as well as repeat visits to your website.
Here are some points which may help you to improve the rate of repeat visits from Stumble Upon visitors.
- Content Depth. Your website should be full of content that cannot be digested in one single visit.
- Ad Saturation. Your website should not have too many poorly blended ads, which makes it look amateurish.
- Site Design. Your website should be visually appealing, with an attractive site design.
- Exclusive on-site materials. Your website should offer tools or in depth material which can only be accessed from your website.
- Feed/Newsletter Subscription. Your website must prominently ask visitors to subscribe to your blog feed or newsletter for updates.
- Branding. Your website should have memorable branding or an easy to remember URL.
How can I use Stumble Upon to increase my blog feed/newsletter subscribers?
It’s very likely that your blog will experience a mini spike in feed subscription, which may decrease gradually with time. Your goal is to retain these subscribers and make them a part of your reader base and community.
While there is no definite method that guarantees success, here are some ways which will increase the likelihood of converting Stumble Upon visitors into feed subscribers.
- Ensure content quality. Try to only stumble the best content available on your website.
- Enable and offer email subscriptions. Providing an alternative subscription option can be very helpful for different types of visitors.
- Offer subscriber-only benefits. A classic trick to use if you want to build up your marketing list or feed subscribers. Give away free videos, eBooks or other materials that are only available to subscribers.
- Welcome new visitors. You may want to include a welcome message to all stumblers if you notice that your web page is being heavily stumbled. Wordpress users can install the What Would Seth Godin do Wordpress Plugin which encourages all new visitors to subscribe to your feed.
- Use signature links. Include links at the end of your post which push for readers to subscribe for updates.
- Produce great content after stumbles. It’s very important to put out great content after you’ve been stumbled. Perhaps something similar to what received a large number of stumbles will be appealing.
- Increase the comments on your blog. A blog with a large community will encourage participation, which motivates a reader to return to your blog.
- Hold a contest. Everyone loves winning free stuff or money. By offering tangible benefits, you can convert one-time traffic into a continuous stream of repeat visitors.
How many visitors can I get from Stumble Upon?
Expect an average of 100+ to 8000+ daily unique visitors for a specific web page that is stumbled. I’ve stumbled several post pages on Dosh Dosh as an experiment and the best performance was 2000+ visitors in 6 hours for a very short post on Dovetail.
The number of visitors slowly petered out as the day went on. I’m actually amazed that it received so many stumbles because the article in question was only a short news piece. Perhaps this indicates that brevity appeals to Stumble Upon visitors.
According to this article at SEOmoz, Stumble Upon outperforms Netscape and all other social networking websites by sending 12000+ visitors to a specific webpage in one day. The article in question was buried in Digg so there wasn’t a way to make an actual comparison.
A graph of the number of visitors to SEOmoz in the early half of 2006.
What determines how much traffic I receive from StumbleUpon?
There are so many factors which may have an impact on the number of visitors you receive from Stumble Upon.
StumbleUpon does not openly reveal the traffic algorithm they are using and these are just some factors which I think will positively affect the amount of traffic you receive.
- No. of StumbleUpon users who thumbed up or tagged your webpage. This is by far the most important factor, in my opinion.
- No. of users in your network. A wider reach might translate to more influence when it comes to tagging or thumbing webpages.
- No. of StumbleUpon friends you have. Perhaps this increases the authority or strength of your stumbles.
- No. of profile reviews and thumbs up you currently have. May legitimate you as a user.
- Types of users who tagged or submitted your website. Are they power users with a lot of Stumble authority?
One can assume that the easiest way to increase the number of visitors you receive Stumble Upon is to exponentially increase all of the above factors.
Here are some of my observations following various experiments on several websites.
- You need other Stumble Upon users. The traffic you receive partly depends on other users submitting and reviewing your website. I’ve noticed that when other users review or submit a specific post, it usually receives traffic immediately.
- Self-submission and review does not necessarily lead to SU traffic. A blog of mine did not see enormous traffic until it was thumbed, reviewed and tagged by other users as well.
- Your Stumble Upon profile plays a role. Hypothetical, but perhaps the number of SU friends, the range of your network, the number of stumbles you’ve done and the number of profile reviews you’ve gotten determines how much traffic directing authority you have.
- Broad tagging helps. Try using tags that are more general and less specific. For example, some tags which have worked for me are ‘weblogs‘ , ‘internet‘ and ‘money‘.
The fact that you’re limited to five tags per submitted item suggests that you should use terms that are more general, and hence more likely to be searched for or stumbled by SU users. Very unique tags may work but I’ve not gotten much success when I used them.
Are there any ways to game StumbleUpon and increase the traffic I receive?
Update (October/07): I have used StumbleUpon extensively in the months after this guide was written and I would like to announce that I no longer fully endorse the tactics listed after the dotted line.
Although some of them may still work to get you some visibility or traffic, they are limited in many ways and do not fully utilize StumbleUpon’s potential.
Instead, I highly recommend reading my article on why it’s not important to become a top stumbler along with my piece on StumbleUpon networking to learn how you can more effectively use StumbleUpon for your personal or professional needs.
Always remember that focusing purely on getting traffic out of StumbleUpon is a limited perspective. It is enormously powerful networking tool. Also, instead of trying to game StumbleUpon, focus on how you can create content that works well with it.
Wanna find out what I’m stumbling these days? Here’s my StumbleUpon profile.
Tactic #1 - Building your network, personal and site profile.
One way of doing this easily is to use StumbleXchange, a website that allows users to exchange stumbles for each other’s websites. You’ll need to sign up and stumble other member’s websites in return for other members thumbing and tagging your website.
This expands your reach and social profile on StumbleUpon and number of reviews for your website. I’ve noticed that this can help to increase the number of visitors to your website, but the effects may die down after some time and so the benefits of participating in StumbleXchange are not consistent.
Do note that StumbleXchange’s model potentially violates StumbleUpon’s TOS. It has also been said that StumbleUpon is aware of users exchanging stumbles and has oddly enough, approved of the StumbleXchange website.
Do also bear in mind that StumbleUpon explicitly forbids reciprocal stumbling (stumble me to get a stumble in return) or incentive-based stumbling of any sort.
More details from their Help FAQ:
StumbleUpon does not allow personal accounts to be used for the purposes of incentivization or promoting sites. This would be considered a breach of our Terms.
The practice of sending PM’s encouraging or inviting other stumblers to rate/review sites in exchange for reciprocal reviews/ratings, monetary, or any other form of reward is strictly forbidden.
The practice of actively soliciting a rating or review for a site is also forbidden. Should you receive a PM, or encounter forum postings that breach this rule, you are encouraged to report this via feedback.
Accounts participating in such practices will be deleted and banned, and the related sites deleted and banned from the system.
A cleaner and simpler alternative would be just to network with high profile StumbleUpon users by adding them as your friend or reviewing their profile. This can help you win a few friends while increasing your social profile on StumbleUpon.
Tactic #2 - Collecting Stumbles and getting listed on Stumble Buzz.
Another point to consider is that you want to get your site on the Stumble Buzz webpage, which is something like the Digg homepage. Websites which consistently receive positive stumbles will move onto this homepage.
Here’s a screen grab of Stumble Buzz:
To get on this homepage, you’ll roughly need around 300+ positive stumbles. Here are two ways which might help to increase the number of visitors you get.
- Form a Stumble team. Get fellow bloggers to seed your webpage by stumbling, tagging or reviewing it. This is more focused and faster than using StumbleXchange.
- Include a Stumble Upon button on your webpage or blog post and encourage your users to use it. Like the smart Digg buttons, visitors can choose to stumble the webpage if they like it. Might be redundant because most stumblers will surf with the toolbar on.
Tactic #3 - Stumbling websites that link to you
Loren Baker from Search Engine Journal wrote about how to build super links and traffic with StumbleUpon and mentioned this very cool trick.
Let’s take a recent example. Say someone like John Chow linked to me yesterday in a post, what I’ll do is that, I’ll visit his website and stumble his post and get other users to do the same.
Thousands of StumbleUpon visitors will visit his blog and read the specific post. They’ll then visit my blog through the link in his post. The end result is that I’ll eventually get traffic by pushing stumbles towards his website. Sweet.
How do I monetize Stumble Upon Traffic and make money from it?
From my experience, Stumble Upon visitors are known to be averse to contextual ads, hence the low CTR and ad earnings. There are however, a few other ways which you can monetize the massive amount of visitors.
- CPM advertising. Idiot-proof and easiest way to monetize your website. Get a good banner company that pays you a good CPM rate. Also try private ad arrangements and negotiate for specific CPM rates.
- Use affiliate banners or affiliate text links within content. I would suggest cloaking the links to improve your CTR.
- Video advertising. Revver allows you to put up videos and get paid whenever anyone clicks on ads within the video. GUBA will also pay you money if anyone signs up with their website through your embedded video. These are just two examples of numerous video-based affiliate programs you can use.
- Monetized image hosts. Several image hosts allow you to earn money whenever anyone clicks on a thumbnail which leads to the full image on their website. Great for picture intensive sites or blogs. Here’s a list of image hosts that pay.
- Use subscription based monetization. An example of this is an online magazine, business networking community or forum which offers a premium section for paying members.
- Buy sponsored stumbles. You can run an advertising campaign with StumbleUpon and pay 5 cents for every targeted person they send to your website. You can target according to personal interest, history of rating similar sites, location, and demographics such as age and sex. Very useful if you’re focusing on long-term monetization strategies and plan to build a community such as a social networking site or niche forum.
One should also take note of StumbleUpon’s suggestions on content monetization in their advertising FAQ:
Some content doesn’t work well with StumbleUpon. A hard-sell offering little introduction or supporting information will seem out of place to StumbleUpon’s community members. Remember that they’re using the service to find something new, something different. Pages that contain little more than a list of ppc or affiliate links also will not perform well.
What are some other essential resources on StumbleUpon?
I have written two other articles that will be useful if you’re interested in using StumbleUpon for your website. I highly recommend that you check them out:
The number of StumbleUpon users who stumble your webpages has an effect in how much traffic you will receive in the long run.The other obvious benefit to having many friends is that your StumbleUpon experience will be enriched and more fulfilling.
This article on photo stumbling will offer some detailed tips on how you can use and optimize your images in order to increase the potential of receiving more stumbles and hence, visitors to your website.
The internet marketing and SEO community have come up with a steady collection of great articles about StumbleUpon. Some of them focus on how to increase traffic through StumbleUpon and others have examined how StumbleUpon’s sponsored stumbles compare to Pay Per Click campaigns.
Randy Fish on Stumble Upon’s Fantastic Ability to Drive Traffic.
Stumblers tend to have accounts at Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit and others and more than once, I’ve seen Stumble traffic lead to a re-surgence of traffic to a particular site or page that Stumblers have given high marks.
Garrett French has a post on The Why, How and Who of Marketing in StumbleUpon:
If youâ€™re launching a site and have invested in branded content thatâ€™s intended to convert viewers into linkers, subscribers or buyers then SU should ABSOLUTELY be on your list of places to advertise.
Allen Stern from Center Networks made a short study of StumbleUpon Sponsored Stumbles vs. Google AdWords:
I think StumbleUpon is a great alternative to click based traffic in the sense that you get a continuous stream of interested visitors. The traffic is qualified in the sense that the visitors said they were interested in your topic or category.
Tamar from 10e20 writes about How to Use StumbleUpon for Your Business: The Definitive Guide
Why should you look at into directing StumbleUpon traffic to your site? Beyond the obvious benefits of extremely targeted traffic, the traffic doesnâ€™t come all at once compared to a site like Digg. Thereâ€™s the inherent benefit of having that â€œ15 minutes of fameâ€? on Digg until it crashes your server. StumbleUpon traffic is generally much more gradual.
Neil Patel has a short post on Increasing your StumbleUpon audience:
Each user is given an audience number. The number could be 1 or it could be in the thousands. The overall goal is to get your audience number as high as possible because then when you stumble stories more people will see them, thus increasing your traffic.
Dan Grossman writes about his experience buying sponsored stumbles on The StumbleUpon Experiment:
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 isnâ€™t immediately interesting to them with StumbleUpon will simply move on and click the â€œStumble!â€? button again.
Muhammed Saleem tells us that what content works best for StumbleUpon in I Wouldn’t Submit That to StumbleUpon:
While Digg, Netscape, and Reddit are socially driven news and content sites, StumbleUpon succeeds more in delivering content (i.e. media) than it does in serving important news items. The news items that I StumbleUpon are often old and outdated..
What I learned from this, and from my own voting habits on the content that was displayed to me is that photography, videos, humor, and other types non-temporal content generally tends to do better and has more of a chance of creating long-term traffic
Mike Bogo has created an Ultimate StumbleUpon resource:
Since Stumble has been sending many of us a huge amount of traffic, I thought it would be useful to find some resources on how to best make use of this traffic. This list will be kept updated with the best articles found.
Final thoughts on StumbleUpon
I love Stumble Upon for what it’s worth and it’s really the easiest way anyone can get hundreds of new visitors who are eager to learn more about your website.
While monetization is something that I am concerned with, I think StumbleUpon works best as a brand and link building tool. It’s ability for exposure across a wide demographic can also help to build online communities or a blog’s reader base.
Remember to stumble the websites or blogs you like because it’s a great way to help them get some much needed exposure.
Have fun stumbling!