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How to Use StumbleUpon to Promote

StumbleUponA few months ago, I signed up for StumbleUpon. I downloaded and installed the toolbar on Firefox and started surfing. Pretty cool. However, I had seen a few people talking about using StumbleUpon for promotional purposes on their websites, with apparent success. Some were talking about driving thousands of visitors PER DAY to their sites using the system. But, I could not find any clear information on what needs to be done to make that happen. I mean, I can use StumbleUpon as an end user all day long, but what do I really need to do to use it to drive traffic to my own site?

I did some research into this and I thought I’d pass it along.

What is It?

StumbleUpon is a social website which allows users to share and recommend websites that they find in a networked setting. When you sign up for the service (for free), you will install a toolbar to your browser. The network of sites is organized by user-generated tags, not by a search engine spider. So, it provides a way for you to view what others have found cool, organized by tags so surfers can find sites in their own interests. The primary way of getting around is the “Stumble” button in the toolbar. When you press that button, you are taken to a random website that was “stumbled” by others and that fall within the areas of interest you define at StumbleUpon.

From an end user perspective, its a huge time waster. I can spend hours “stumbling” around the net randomly and discovering all kinds of great sites I knew nothing about previously. Getting started is easy. Just head on over there and create an account and install the toolbar. Nothing more to it.

What About Promo?

StumbleUpon is known for being able to generate massive amounts of traffic to a website. It all starts with somebody “stumbling” your website. Essentially, this is done by one of your readers clicking the “I Like it!” button on the toolbar while on your site. They’re giving you a thumbs up when you do that, and that puts your site in the network. If they are the first ones to vote for your page, then they will get a dialog box saying that they discovered the website. They will be prompted for a quick review and for a series of tags which best fit your site. Once they have “discovered” your site, your site is then available for other StumbleUpon users to surf into using the toolbar.

It should be noted here that because of the somewhat random nature of the network, visitors that you get from StumbleUpon are likely to give you a high bounce rate. The toolbar essentially allows the reader to “channel surf”. And just like on television, you tend to flip quickly through the channels until you find something that grabs your eye. Well, its EXACTLY the same with the Stumbleupon toolbar. You will find that StumbleUpon visitors are:

  • Fickle as hell with a very high chance of moving on quickly (but you can minimize this with some work…see below)
  • From all over the place
  • Won’t really click on any ads

So, I’m certainly not saying that StumbleUpon viewers are high-value, qualified traffic. But, its still traffic and you can do what you can to make them more qualified once they arrive. A couple of things you have going for you are the fact that SU users come in based on interest. Plus, unlike one trick ponies like Digg that are good for a spike of traffic, SU can actually provide a pretty steady stream of traffic.

How To Make Your Site “Sticky”

Given the fickle nature of a StumbleUpon viewer, you obviously need to do what you can to make your site stand out. Such things include:

  • Having a nice web design. Viewers are most attracted by professional web designs. Its just like channel surfing, remember.
  • Having craploads of content. You want to have a lot of content to offer so that they cannot see all your site has to offer on one, short visit. You need to WOW them and cause them to want to bookmark you and come back (or hit that “I like it” button).
  • Limit the Ads. Advertising is necessary, but don’t make it outweigh the content. That’s asking for a sure bounce.
  • Prominently ask for the subscription. You want it to be extremely obvious how to subscribe to your newsletter or RSS feed. For many, that will be the only way they remember your site once they’ve stumbled onto it.

What To Expect

Some report some awesome numbers. This article from SEOmoz.org discusses how he seeded StumbleUpon with a linkbait article he wrote and got over 13,000 visitors to the article in 5 days. Wholly crap, batman.

Now, don’t expect those kinds of numbers easily. There’s nothing magic about this. I am not writing to you from the perspective of having gotten thousands of visitors from StumbleUpon in that amount of time. But, in looking at this, there are some things that you can control and do that increase your exposure and likelihood of seeing nice traffic spikes.

How Can I Rake in the Visitors?

Well, like Google StumbleUpon does not just come right out and say what to do to get favored. It’s like the PageRank algorithm at Google. If the exact formula was known, there’d be no mystery to it. We can kind of figure it out, though, based on observation. So, based on my research thus far, here are the things I see that can be done to get the most bang out of StumbleUpon.

  • Get a bunch of users to click the “I Like It” button on your page. But, really work for that rather than cross your fingers and hope. Offering up some serious linkbait is your best change of getting that to happen. Do something to WOW the viewer and you have a much higher chance of getting them to click the magic button. And the more people that do that, the higher “ranked” your site will be with StumbleUpon and the more traffic you get.
  • Get others to “like” your site. You can seed StumbleUpon by submitting your own site, however don’t expect to get any serious traffic until others begin to stumble your site.
  • Build up your network. The more “friends” you build up for your StumbleUpon profile, the more stumblers will notice your stuff. When you check out your own profile, you will get a list of “suggested friends”. If you don’t have this, its likely because you have not been very active and thus have not trained StumbleUpon on your interests. But, once that is defined, you will get suggested friends based on your interests. And, you can add them as a friend at the click of a button.
  • Participate. Don’t just submit your own sites. Get out there and vote on other people’s sites as well. Remember, this is a community based on interest. So, when you “stumble” a site, you are putting that site in front of the eyeballs of other people that share your interest. If all you do is submit your own sites, the community will catch on. But, if you stumble others, your value and weight as a member increases.
  • Choose good tags when you tag a site. Try to keep the tags broad. More specific tagging probably won’t work very well.
  • Put a Stumble button onto your site to remind people to vote for your site.
  • You can form a group of like-minded webmasters who can stumble each other. Remember, votes by people OTHER than yourself are better, but there’s really nothing keeping you from exchanging stumbles with other webmasters and bloggers.
  • You can always go the paid route if you’re up for it. It starts at 5 cents per lead.
  • Take advantage of some StumbleUpon tools like buttons and WordPress plug-ins.

If you get enough positive stumbles from your visitors, your site can make it onto the StumbleBuzz site. That’s a good, PR7 site that will post a direct link to your site if you get onto that page. Like Digg, its based on user votes.

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