Unleash The Power of StumbleUpon (The Social Networking Experiment)

This is part two of The Social Networking Experiment series, where I’m going to examine a wide variety of social networking sites, evaluate their ability to help you succeed with your muse or business, and show you how to use them effectively.  Click here to read the introduction post for The Social Networking Experiment and click here to see all posts related to The Social Networking Experiment.

There are an awful lot of social bookmarking sites that surround the internet today, but none is as unique as StumbleUpon.  As you may or may not know, StumbleUpon can be a tremendous source of traffic for your website or blog, provided you follow a few relatively simple tips (and you better believe I will discuss them in this post).

Disclaimer: Before I begin with my findings and analysis, I will be perfectly honest and point out that someone else has recently written an awesome post about StumbleUpon.  After I mentioned two weeks ago that I would cover StumbleUpon next in the Social Networking Experiment, I came across this post last Monday on Glen Allsopp’s blog, Viper Chill.  Immediately, my heart sank, because I knew that there was no way I was going to top his “definitive guide” (it’s really great, and you should check it out).  I did my best to not repeat the same information, but there will be some overlap as I had already begun this post before his was published.

Social Networking Experiment

The Basics of StumbleUpon

At the risk of sounding like an arsonist, I will say that StumbleUpon much like lighting a match in a dry Arizona forest.  One tiny flame can spread like crazy, and before you know it, you’re looking at an extreme wildfire.  The Arizona forest isn’t the best analogy, because forest fires can be devastating and by no means do I ever want this to happen.

The StumbleUpon wildfire has a much different outcome: massive traffic to your website.  Essentially, StumbleUpon users can “stumble” a website (similar to bookmarking it, “Digging” it, retweeting it, etc.), which sends it into a queue to be shown to StumbleUpon users who have interests that align with the website’s content.  If you like to read sites about passive income, you might stumble across my blog through StumbleUpon.

Once a user stumbles across your page, they are given the option of giving it a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”  Websites who receive mostly “thumbs up” will be shown to more users, and websites receiving “thumbs down” will be shown to less users or perhaps taken out of the queue altogether.  Here’s what my StumbleUpon toolbar looks like that I have installed on my Firefox browser:

For more information about StumbleUpon basics, you can check out the post that I referenced above.  There’s no point in me rewriting something that someone else has already written well.

How to Get Traffic and Capture It With StumbleUpon

My guess is that generating traffic is really what interests you, with respect to StumbleUpon.  The one caveat I’ll mention first is that this traffic is not high quality.  By its very nature, StumbleUpon caters to people who want to jump around online, and the service makes it easy to do so.  While your average visitor (outside of StumbleUpon) might spend anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes browsing your website, it’s quite possible that the average StumbleUpon user will only spend 5 to 10 seconds on your site.  If nothing catches the visitor’s eye immediately, he or she will simply click “Stumble!” (or thumbs up/thumbs down) and move on.

The reason why StumbleUpon is still a good source of traffic is not the quality of the traffic – it’s the quantity.  You might get 1,000 visitors within an hour, and while 950 of them might move on after 10 seconds, 50 might stick around, read your content, and even sign up to your RSS feed or newsletter.  This is what we’d like to maximize with respect to StumbleUpon traffic, and it’s why we not only care about generating traffic, but also capturing it.

Unfortunately, getting the StumbleUpon fire started isn’t as simple as submitting your own website.  Let’s take a look at some ways to generate StumbleUpon traffic and capture it effectively:

1) Ask your friends and family to help. This isn’t the most effective way to get StumbleUpon traffic, but it’s a start.  If your website or blog currently doesn’t receive much traffic, you can ask your friends and family to visit your page and stumble it so that it’ll find its way into StumbleUpon’s queue.

2) Call to action on your page. Sometimes when you want people to act, the best way to do it is to simply ask for it.  You’ll notice at the bottom of all of my blog posts (and you’ll see this on just about every blog on the internet), it says “Share and enjoy!” with buttons for various popular social networking and bookmarking sites.

My experience is that these buttons haven’t been terribly effective thus far.  The “retweet” button at the top of my post stands out much more, and therefore it seems to receive more activity than the buttons at the bottom.  As part of the Social Networking Experiment, I’m going to add a separate StumbleUpon button or link to my posts in order to see if I can grab more StumbleUpon traffic (and you can help by clicking it!).

If you’d like to add StumbleUpon buttons to your blog or website, you can see what StumbleUpon offers here.  There are several different badge styles (pictured below) and StumbleUpon will generate the necessary HTML code that you’ll need to add to your website.

3) Add a creative and/or eye-catching title to your post. If you’re a blogger, this is going to be key to not only getting StumbleUpon traffic, but capturing it as well.  This is probably the best advice I’ve received, so I’m definitely passing it onto you.  The title is the first thing someone reads when they come to your page, so naturally it’s going to be what causes them to either read your post, or move on.

Even if we assume everyone will read your post (which we know is an unrealistic assumption, but hear me out), the title is still very important.  Aside from drawing the reader in, your title sets expectations.  The body of your post is of course the most important part of the reader’s experience, but your title sets the mood.  “How to COMPLETELY Change Your Life in 5 Simple Steps” gets a reader much more excited than “How to Change Your Life.”  Even if the main content is exactly the same, the title will affect the way the content is perceived.

You’ve drawn the visitor in, and you’ve influenced their perception so that they enjoy what you’ve written.  The final step in the process, and the reason why all of this is important for StumbleUpon traffic, is that it’ll compel visitors to click the “thumbs up” button, which will determine whether or not your post spreads like wildfire.

4) Always include an image at the top of your post.  This is something not only relevant to StumbleUpon traffic, but blogs and websites in general.  For whatever reason, I still come across many websites and blog posts that contain no images.  Images, similar to your title, will help draw the reader in and influence the way they perceive your content.

StumbleUpon as a Social Network

Because this post is part of my Social Networking Experiment, I think it’s important to examine how StumbleUpon is more than just a way generate traffic or have fun browsing random websites.  Like other social networking sites, StumbleUpon allows you to select a profile picture, fill out your profile, and follow other people.  It’s nice to follow people who have similar interests because StumbleUpon allows you to see websites that these people have recently reviewed or added to their list of favorites.  I’ve found this to be a great way to find new content and inspiration.

Previously I used a personal account with StumbleUpon, but I just created one for My4HWW, which you can find here.  Feel free to subscribe to my StumbleUpon profile (which is similar to “friending” or following someone).  This will allow you to see the websites I’m enjoying and currently recommending online.

My Experience Advertising with StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon allows you to advertise with them by paying for each user who views your website through StumbleUpon.  The idea is that you can get targeted traffic for less than most pay-per-click services like Google Adwords.  StumbleUpon charges $.05 per view.

On one of my mini-muse/nice websites that is currently inactive, I experimented with paying for StumbleUpon traffic, to see if there would be any lasting effect after I was done paying for advertising.  After all, I would expect that if you pay for your website to be shown to StumbleUpon users and your website is of a high enough quality, you’ll receive some positive feedback (“thumbs up”) that will allow your site to receive organic StumbleUpon traffic once the advertising period ends.  I spent $50, which allowed my site to appear 1,000 times.

Unfortunately, this didn’t go well for me.  I will say that this site is one that appeals to StumbleUpon (it’s driven by mostly humorous images, not written content), so I don’t think that poor StumbleUpon content is the reason my experiment didn’t go as expected.  In fact, my rating at the end of the advertising period was 100% (i.e. no negative feedback).  Here is what my traffic looked like around the time I paid for StumbleUpon views:

As you can see, this experiment failed pretty miserably.  After four days of exposure to StumbleUpon, there was no residual effect.  There are some points to keep in mind though:

1) This was a small sample size, which is probably the most important point.

2) Most StumbleUpon users don’t explore your site at all (during this experiment, the average time spent on my site from StumbleUpon users was a paltry 6 seconds per visit).

3) I didn’t attempt to optimize anything (time of day the website was shown, etc.).

I’m not saying StumbleUpon advertising is always a waste of money, but you are probably much better served trying to get your website into StumbleUpon organically by creating high quality content that people feel compelled to rate positively.

Conclusion

Although StumbleUpon doesn’t stack up well as a place for paid advertising (in my opinion), it’s an excellent way to capture high volume traffic in a short period of time.  Although you may be able to get a lot of views at once, you’ll need to optimize your site or blog post in order to actually capture those visitors and convert them into repeat visitors.  If you have other suggestions related to using StumbleUpon effectively, please share them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this post, please support it by clicking the StumbleUpon “Submit” button at the top of this post.

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7 Responses to “Unleash The Power of StumbleUpon (The Social Networking Experiment)”

  1. I think your way of using stumbleupon is pretty awesome. Very informative and useful. Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Justin!

    [Reply]

  2. Glenn’s post was indeed very good, but this is very informative as well with real life examples and results. I always believed that you would be lucky if you get a 1-5% return rate on Stumble Upon traffic (based on other things I read about it). Looking forward to your Delicious write-up (the logo was mentioned in your first initial post) and see if you get a better return on that one.

    Great write again.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, René, I appreciate it. I haven’t begun looking into Delicious yet, but it’s definitely on my list of social networking/bookmarking sites to examine and review.

    [Reply]

  3. Eric,

    Very useful information, despite Glen’s definitive guide. It’s nice to see your data here esp with advertising.

    Keep up the good work.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Moon, I’m glad to see you liked it!

    [Reply]

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Unleash The Power of StumbleUpon (The Social Networking Experiment) | My 4 Hour Workweek -- Topsy.com - June 29, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lauren Nelson, My4HrWorkweek.com. My4HrWorkweek.com said: Check out my massive post on how to get traffic from StumbleUpon and use it effectively – http://bit.ly/cV6M9W #4hww [...]

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