StumbleuponIn my previous post I made a introduction to Social Media, in which I dwelt a bit into it’s basic principles and functions. One of the key component of the web 2.0 is composed of the hundreds of social bookmarking websites, scattered across the web.

Basically social bookmarking is a way for internet users to save their favorite web pages, without the hassle that comes with browser bookmarks. Most web bookmarks, like the first one, offer advanced features like categorizing and tagging, that makes content very easy to find and share. The grand majority of social bookmarks work by the voting system, that means that the larger the number of votes, saves or simple thumbs up a story has the grander its exposure.

My clear favorite out of the bunch of social giants is none other then the user friendly Stumbleupon and at over 4 million registered users, I’d say I’m not the only one. What makes Stumble so popular, is it’s easy to use and unique “channel-surfing” system.

Getting Started with Stumble

All you have to do is install their Firefox or Internet Explorer toolbar and obviously register a account, after which you’ll fill out your profile and chose your desired categories of interest. The toolbar contains a lot of great useful features, that makes stumbling more easy and efficient, but you’re probably gonna use just 3 buttons.The ‘Stumble!’ button, will direct you to a random web page of interest, here you can chose to ‘Thumps Up’ or ‘Thumps Down’ the respective content, depending on whether you like it or not; or if find that it doesn’t deserve any of the both, you can always hit Stumble again browse through other pages.

When stumbling pages via the toolbar, you’ll always encounter posts that are already stumbled by someone else, but if you’re just doing casual browsing and decide to hit ‘I Like It,’ then if it hasn’t been stumbled by anyone else before, you’ll have to ‘discover it’. This will open a pop-up window where you’ll be prompted to complete the title and description field, as well as categorize and tag the post.

Stumble discover

That sounds all great and all, but what can Stumble do for me and my blog ?

Well, how good of you to ask such a question. Well how about the following:

  • Traffic and tons of it! Well that was obvious, you probably heard by now that Stumbleupon can bring a lot of hits to your blog, due to it’s huge user base, but opposed to digg or reddit, just one or a few thumbs up can bring a lot of traffic.
  • Ideas for your posts. Quite often there comes a time in every blogger’s career when he’s in complete creative blockage, thus quite often sources of inspirations come like a breath of fresh air. In this case, Stumbleupon provides the perfect solution as you can channel through pages, that are related to your needs, and more then certainly you’ll find something interesting there.
  • Exposure. Stumble will help your blog brand itself better, by providing the necessary means to get it out of anonymity.
  • Expand your reader base. If they like what they see, stumblers have the habit of bringing their friends as well. Stumblers have a notorious low bounce rate and high returning ratio, so you should succeed in turning a lot of them into faithful readers or subscribers.
  • Simply have fun! Stumble provides countless means of entertainment, relaxation and over all chill out. When I first joined Stumbleupon I only used it for marketing and traffic building purposes, I soon discovered how fun and great it can be. The most popular fun categories are humor, internet, videos, photos, movies and a lot more. Beware though, it can be pretty addictive.

Well, how much traffic are we talking about?

Here’s a traffic report from a pretty popular blog of mine.

Stumbleupon traffic
As you can see Stumble accounted for over 50% of the total vistiors and I know people that rely on it for over 90% of their total traffic. Also notice the incredibly low bounce rate, compared to those from digg, reddit, or Worth considering is also the fact that just 1 Stumble vote can bring from 100 to 1000 eager stumblers, which in term, if you content is good, are likely to thumbs up as well, thus bringing even more traffic. This makes Stumbleupon one of the most viral markets on the web. Here are what I consider the most important principles, the Stumble algorithm goes by, which if speculated correctly may lead to tons of targeted traffic:

  1. Number of thumbs up your post has. This is pretty obvious, the more votes you have the more people will get to see your post. The key here is great content, that will determine stumblers to thumbs up you.
  2. The so called organic bonus. This means if a user coming via the Stumbleupon toolbar, thumbs up your post, then it will have a greater value then a regular reader who just thumbs up. Also I think it’s worth mentioning that those of you who rely on a network of friends or mailing list, should know Stumble catches on really fast and penalizes (flags) users.
  3. The level of the stumblers that vote your posts. Every stumbler has an audience score (which used to be displayed), that helps rank users among each other. Thus there are “power users” and regular users. A power user thumbs up can weigh more then 10 regular users thumbs up. It’s Stumbles way of enforcing the quality over quantity principle, if you may.

As I see it, there are few factors that are taken into consideration by the algorithm, when evaluating users. Among others:

  • Number of votes. That’s the sum of all your thumbs up or down, you’ve ever made with your account. (i.e. I’ve currently made 3,396 stumbles)
  • Number of fans. Fans are people that add you as a friend, the more you have the higher your profile score will be.
  • Number of reciprocal friends. That means that if you have a lot of mutual friends, your profile will be even stronger. Be careful when adding friends like crazy, as the limit is 200.
  • Number of profile views. Whenever someone hits your profilepage, it’s viewcount (located on the right) will increase.
  • The Diversity. The more subjects you focus on the higher your audience score will be. Stumbling photos and video is a great way to build diversity.
  • Number of thumbs up and reviews your profile has. As well as regular webpages, Stumble offers the possibility of thumbing up or down users and reviewing as well. Again, the more you have the stronger the account.
  • Number of pages you’ve discovered. Do not confuse this with the first point (# of votes), discovering and stumbling are two different things.

The idea of “top-stumbler” and “power-users” has been discussed endlessly on blogs, many arguing that it doesn’t even exist, but I believe one’s thing certain: the stronger your profile the higher your thumbs weight is. My profile is considered by many pretty strong, visit it and try to build your profile in a similar way.For more info and how to build your stumbleupon profile you can read Tim Nash’s mathematical explanation of the algorithm.

Leveraging the Stumbleupon traffic

Although those numbers might seem sweet to some of you, please take in consideration that I took a few vital steps to ensure that my stumbleupon visitors actually ready my content and even maybe return. What you basically have to do is put yourself into the stumblers skin and take a good look at your blog. What makes it special enough so that I actual read you content or I’ll just push the “Stumble!” button and never to be seen again.

This is important as you need to analyze and understand the pattern under which stumblers operate. They more or less work under the “remote control” principle and switch through “channels” (blogs, videos, photos etc), until they find something that catches their eye. That means that in general you have about 2-3 seconds to catch the stumbler’s attention. Getting in stumbler’s “grace” is no difficult task, you just have to avoid some fatal mistakes and ensure you take a few steps to increase your blog’s stickiness. Read my previous guide to making your blog sticky and you should half the way to building a stumble friendly environment.

I addition to the already present list in the guide liste above you should take the time to complete the following steps as well.

To do’s:

  • Attractive design. This is a must, the most common stumblers will be turned off by any horrific design they might encounter and will not spare a second before moving on. Make your design isn’t cluttered and that your content is clearly visible.
  • Well researched and quality content. Building stumble friendly content is much like linkbait: if you’re work is remarkable people will link to you, or in this case thumbs up, if not they move along or even thumbs down.
  • Easy to read text. Stumblers aren’t readers, they’re scanners. They’ll often analyze and skip whole paragraphs, because your post’s key points and features aren’t highlighted or easy to spot, thus making it hard to read fast.
  • Well placed RSS subscription options. Stumble traffic is very tech and internet savvy, so most of them know what and how to use RSS feeds. It’s imperative you don’t miss the opportunity to gain some extra readers, so what you need to do is provide the necessary means, so that subscribing is as easy as possible. A highly visible RSS icon in the sidebar and some subscribing options right after the content, when the stumbler finishes reading, should do the trick. The problem however is that, much like digg, your RSS count will skyrocket but will fluctuate for the next few days.
  • Remind people to stumble your post. Stumblers will often read your content, but even though they like or appreciate your post, won’t thumb up, because they simply forget. Do well and remind them to stumble your post, by adding a simple line at the end of the post, like “If you enjoyed this post, then please consider stumbling.Thanks

To Don’t’s

  • Never stumble your homepage! Never ever do that, because your just gonna present your stumbler with your latest and most general content, not your best.
  • Don’t exaggerate with advertisement. Stumblers will often associate your blog with spam, when faced with never ending and annoying ads. Try to place your adsense or whatever other affiliate you’re using, as non intrusive as possible, while still providing a honest buck.
  • Bad tagging/categorization. When discovering a post you’ll be promoted to, besides reviewing, to categorize and tag the respective post, accordingly with it’s content. If your content is about cars and you’re submitting it under “accounting,” you’ll not only gain little to no targeted traffic, but also a lot of thumbs down. Be careful.
  • Product reviews. If you’re looking to make some quick affiliate sells, then stumble traffic will simply not convert, as most of them know how to spot paid or favorable review post and will most of the time hit the thumbs down button. I know I do :D

Well, that’s about all I can think of that might help you better understand how Stumble works and how profit (not abuse :D) from it. A fellow blogger told me I should include some blackhat tactics into the guide, like buying and trading stumbles. Although I’m highly familiar with the techniques I prefer no to mention them as they might get you banned, just produce quality content and traffic and loyal readers will come, one way or the other.

That concludes my guide to StumbleUpon, if you found it to be a good read, then you might consider giving it a thumbs up, a digg or a sphinn. Thank you!

Further Reading:

A Comprehensive Guide To Stumbleupon: How To Build Traffic To Your Website
Ultimate StumbleUpon Resource
A Definitive StumbleUpon Guide: Driving Traffic To Websites
The Ultimate Guide To Leveraging StumbleUpon
The StumbleUpon Experiment

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