StumbleUpon: 7 Ways to Influence Stumble Traffic
Question mark is a CC image by Marco Belucci
With the meteoric rise of Twitter and Facebook the social discovery service StumbleUpon got almost forgotten. Many people still use it for casual browsing though. It's very difficult to use SU for business though unless you use the StumleUpon URL shortener. Any other business use is basically prohibited, especially self promotional stumbling.
While you would assume that at least the private way of using the StumbleUpon system is in a way desired by SU I was amazed to find out that the just for fun stumbles I submitted rarely got popular.
Popular SU submissions still get substantial traffic in the thousands which can work financially if you have CPM (cost per mille, paid per 1000 impressions) ads on your blog or publication.
Many stumblers by now send out their submissions to all of their followers to spread the word.
This can get quite annoying if the same person sends such "shouts" daily and even mediocre content gets send out. I use the "share this" functionality rarely (the last time I tried it was broken anyways). Also I preferred the old "pull" way of StumbleUpon. Pushing your submissions or favorites by sending them to everybody is just not the way SU was intended initially.
So after a while of looking closely at what happens or doesn't while discovering new pages on SU I came up with 7 factors that influence whether a submission will work on SU:
Which category do you want to submit your discovery? Is there a matching one (for SEO there is by now)? Is the category popular enough or should you choose a broader one (like Internet instead of SEO)? Submitting something about SEO in the SEO category will get you only a few visitors but in case it's SEO only you are off topic in the broader Internet category. Try "marketing" or "web development" then.
Is the submission of general interest for a wider audience or is it just valuable for o very small community? Is this community on SU at all (the SEO community is partly)? How can you make your submission interesting for a wider audience? You can make it humorous, bizarre, geeky to gain the attention of a larger group.
In order for a submission to work on SU you need friends but not just any friends but those who subscribe to the same topics as you. SU sends your discoveries to your friends first. Ask yourself: Are your friends interested in this topic? Mine are interested in SEO, search and marketing but most ignore my art, bicycling or feminism stumbles. Would it hurt a submission when you submit it due to your lack of friends in this interest group? Do you know somebody who stumbles often in this category? Maybe it's better to let someone else who has more friends.
Do you submit while most stumblers (in the US) are asleep? Do you submit on the weekend when most of the business stumblers are off line? Do you submit a story too late, when several others have already submitted other sources? While SU is not as US centered as some of the social sites still the largest part of the community are US users. On weekends most people interested in SEO and other business won't see your discovery. Also submitting a story after several have submitted it already will not lead to success.
Sometimes submitting a post in the "right" category won't make you succeed. For instance an article like "Why Feminism Sucks" certainly won't work in the feminism category. So ask yourself: Does the group of people subscribing to the respective SU channel approve of your message? Does a certain audience prefer images or videos? People interested in the "birds" category want to see images of birds not texts about birds. People subscribing to "animation" most probably like Flash files. Does a submission have the right hook for the audience you wan to reach?
Does your submission contain NSFW for imagery or strong language? Some people will disapprove of that or downright mark it as r-rated or x-rated content and it'll diappear. Does your submission display a certain political bias? Is the source you submit from a low quality site nobody trusts? Try to minimize such pitfalls and work with main stream topics and sources. I don't do that and that's one of the main reasons most of my submission don't get popular. I often submit radical art, weird bikes and pro-feminist articles from obscure sources that only a few people are interested in or agree with. Btw. Art is one of the most popular topics on SU.
Is the page you submit attractive enough to work by itself or does it need an initial push? In case it needs one send it out to your friends or just those you know are leaders in a certain category. Can you motivate your friends outside of SU to stumble a submission? Twitter or Skype might be your tools here. SU devalues stumbles by friends when they were informed through the system. Will the submission work after the initial push? You can ask dozens of friends to push you but with other people approving as well you won't succeed on SU, the traffic will rather equal the number of friends.
The SU system is very complex.
The right answers to these 21 questions do not guarantee that you get it right. In case you need a simpler tool for spreading the word try Twitter. SU also disallows actual business usage. You are not allowed to advertise your brand like you do on Twitter. StumbleUpon might ban you out of the blue for that and never disclose the reasons.
The best thing of SU is the longevity of your submissions.
Once you get a submission really popular it can work for years or get popular a few times. I still get a steady trickle of traffic from submissions that got popular in 2007. Discoveries that get hundreds of reviews basically stay popular all of the time.
Last updated: March 27th, 2011.