How Stumbleupon Works with Tim Nash

An interview with Tim Nash, of Venture Skills.

Stumble Upon TrafficI know ‘any’ website can be ‘Stumbled’ – that it’s indicative of a sign of quality posts – and it leads to a ‘traffic burst’ of visitors to parts of a site – but who’s doing it? Tim, WTF is StumbleUpon all about?

StumbleUpon is a social media community with a difference – it is much less about the StumbleUpon website – and more about the StumbleUpon Toolbar. To get started you are going to need a browser. Sadly, they do do a version for IE but ideally use Firefox and then grab that plugin. Stumblers also need to create a Stumbleupon account to use the toolbar at which point it asks for some interests web development, knitting and that sort of thing.

I didn’t know you were into Knitting, Tim

I suppose its as good a time to admit the knitting thing, of course I’m in good company :) Lucia (Big Bucks Blogging) is a known knitter plus it gets you the ladies and keeps you warm all at the same time :)

You digress….

Once the Toolbar is installed you are presented with a range of buttons the two useful ones for most stumblers are the stumble and thumb buttons. Hitting the stumble button takes you to a seemingly random web page if you like the content on the page you thumb it up if you don’t you thumb it down.

Behind the scenes StumbleUpon is choosing sites based on your previous stumbles (what you thumbed up or down) those interests you told StumbleUpon about. StumbleUpon sends visitors to a site based on a number of factors but the important one is how many times people thumb up the content, the more thumbs up the more people StumbleUpon will send.

OK – So somebody discovered one of my stories and gave it a thumb’s up?

Web site owners normally notice they are getting traffic when their stats start to go off the wall, StumbleUpon sends traffic in waves anywhere from 10 to 10k at a time. 10k visitors crashing on to your server over a period of an hour can be quite an ordeal so for some lucky people the first sign of StumbleUpon traffic is their hosting company phoning.

It’s easy to track what stories have traffic, there are numerous plugins out there but the simplest way is to have the StumbleUpon toolbar installed, visit a page and click the little speech bubble this will bring up a page indicating who thumbed up the story and any reviews they left.

Visitors From Stumbleupon

Alternatively in your stats package you should see referrals looking something like:

Quite obviously the second part refers to the page currently on StumbleUpon

Is there rhyme or reason to Stumbleupon? Didn’t you “work out” the algorithm, Tim? Can StumbleUpon be gamed?

StumbleUpon uses several factors to determine how much traffic to send to a website my self and a crack team of slave researchers studied and modelled stumbles to create a “model” that reflects historical data. It wasn’t quite reverse engineering and I have no more or less of an idea of what will be popular then you but we can with some accuracy model historical stumbles within a small error margin.

The results of this experiment were simplified to the point of being passed via normal human conversation and not uber geek and made available on the Venture Skills Blog as the popular StumbleUpon Mathematics.

Great article! What’s The Most Important Thing To Take Home About StumbleUpon?

The important things to take away is every Stumbler has an audience score this score determines how many visitors they on their own would send if they were the first stumbler, every stumbler that follow brings more visitors based on their own score.

The audience score itself is based on a mix of popularity (number of fans) and number of pages stumbled. The research showed that the first Stumbler and their relationship to the site is pivotal to how many stumbles you receive.

StumbleUpon has a pretty robust anti-gaming system, that’s not to say it can’t be done or is not done just you have to be more subtle then simply buying thumbs from people.

What’s better – getting a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘review’?

A thumb. A review does not effect the amount of traffic StumbleUpon sends through the toolbar, rather it shows on the reviews favourites page on their profile and on the reviewers friends home page which can often bring in a few more visitors.

Another feature that gets misused is the “Send To” button which allows you to send a page to friends (Like ‘shouts’ on Digg) but if you have not first thumbed up the page you are sending it can cause the page to be stumbled with no initial stumbler which results in little or no visitors. Its also worth noting that Send to’s no longer carry any weight so use it wisely – one of the more popular tactics has been to use it as a global vote box.

Is there a key to success in Stumbleupon, apart from good content? Or is it just a popularity contest?

Good content is always a good start, you have about 15 seconds at most to impress, so you need to get a hook early on. Pictures and movies do well as do the standard ubiquitous lists it always helps having few friends pushing your content as well. Though people thumbing up content on the same domain over and over cause diminishing results so your friends are no substitute for good content!

Is everybody looking for free stuff on Stumbleupon? What’s the traffic like for converting visitors to sales, and whats the benefits of getting stumbled?

Like all social media sites its difficult to sell things to stumblers, many however are bloggers and so it’s a great place to garner links it’s also good stomping ground for user testing. Where Stumblers vary from diggers is they are passive if you imagine a party a Christmas party they would be the Carol singers standing at the door while Diggers would be gate crashing your Christmas gathering and dancing with your nan!

Stumblers tend to comment less but when they do they tend to be more polite making 1000s of them on your blog or site a less scary prospect.

You’ve wrote about Stumbleupon on your blog haven’t you?
Far too much :D I have been trying to write about other social media pieces as well but people seem to have me pinned down as ‘the StumbleUpon guy’.

I think I was lucky – it seemed natural to write about the traffic, and in turn, this increased my traffic! Does being nice about Stumbleupon drive more traffic, or can being nasty about it still deliver results?

Stumblers love StumbleUpon and love learning about StumbleUpon so on the whole writing about your experience will return positive results. There is a small but growing vocal minority who troll and write negative reviews but you get that everywhere.

I gave up gaming Stumbleupon ages go – is it any good for SEO purposes, today?
Many stumblers are bloggers so if they like your content they may well link to you, the StumbleUpon site itself extensively uses Nofollows and even though it has popular lists for each tag few scraper sites pull those lists. Being popular on StumbleUpon doesn’t automatically result in links unlike a front page on Digg for example but I think possibly it does provide higher quality links but given most users use more then one social media site to promote their content its hard to tie down links.

How Can I play nice with Stumbleupon?
Become a Stumbler, press the stumble button, vote up things you like, make friends find new interesting content that people will be interested in and build up a profile. The thing not to do is submit every page on your site to StumbleUpon for 2 reasons;

  1. your account or site will eventually be banned
  2. it won’t bring any traffic and will ruin the possibility of future traffic on that domain. Let others thumb up your pages and then only give them a thumb up if you come across them organically (i.e by pressing the stumble button and the page returning) for maximum effect.

As if I would!? I’m a marketer, what’s The Campaign feature on StumbleUpon all about and is it any good?
The campaign feature allows you to put your page in front of users, it provides a way to create a dedicated marketing campaign. This basically guarantees a certain number of viewers to your page it’s a great way to judge how popular a piece is going to be. It’s also a great way to target a very tight demographic but this has to be handled with care. One of my favourite techniques is to run a $10 campaign to see how many negative thumbs it will receive (only through the advertising features are these statistics available to you) as well as up votes this will give you a general idea of how much promotion to put behind a piece.

You recently wrote about shady seo companies too? ;)
Thankfully the onslaught education campaign seems to slowly working and we are getting less requests for help with reinclusion into Googles index. However there are still some snake oil sellers out their peddling their ebooks and where possible I try to reach to both them and their customers to help educate them, this is very much mining country so we have our own unique education system should that fail ;)

My perfect job would be to work at SETI looking for the next WOW signal. That’s right, unending funded research with no deadlines. What is your perfect job? Where do you want to be this time next year?
I think I probably have it, though I keep my eyes open for an SMO/SEO at the BBC but I’m not sure I could work for some one else again.

Did you know you once helped me out, about a year ago, when I was building a Digg clone with Drupal? I remember because you were surprisingly open and helpful!
As I recall you were racing off to parties in between emails, I remember having a social life once.

That’s sad you remember parties I went to a year ago – although they probably did rock (I obviously can’t remember). What’s the use of working 20 hours a day on this stuff when you get the chance not to party till you drop? Live the dream.

Playstation 3 or Xbox 360?
I haven’t played on a Playstation 3 so will have to go Xbox 360, though I don’t game as much as I use to I still have a long running Civ 4 game going online which has been running for over a year with some friends the highlight of which was a near nuclear holocaust about 4 months ago.

I’m a bit of an obsessive – I just about went mad the last 2 years during my (ever increasing) study of Google (as bad as looking at the SERPS for 6 hours when I should have been doing something constructive) which only got worse as 2007 drew to a close.

You name it, I’ve been addicted to it.

Should I stay away from StumbleUpon?

Yes! Its incredibly addictive and you will find your self stumbling, thumbing and reviewing everything. You start worrying when people stop reviewing your profile and get excited when someone befriends you even if you never met or seen them before. It’s quite sad really.

What was the last thing you were addicted to?


StumbleUpon Drives Over 50% of US Social Media Traffic

Aug 23, 2011 – Stumbleupon ‘drives Over 50% of US Social Media Traffic Referrals’, apparently (via Statcounter).

It’s a fair amount of eyeballs, but I couldn’t get all that Stumbleupon traffic to convert at all, a few years ago.

Perhaps it’s worth re-exploring in more ‘Stumbleupon friendly’ verticals….

StumbleUpon Traffic Frenzy – What Happens When You’re Stumbled?

StumbleUpon Frenzy Rattles Our Website!

A few of the articles on this site have proved popular in the search marketing industry network this week, the result being a lot of traffic to our seo blog.

One Of Our Stories Hot on Sphinn

The articles like our interview with expert seo geek Sebastian about robots.txthow top bloggers started their blogshow top bloggers use Robots.txt, the Unethical SEO Company Handbook and my Google Links & Lasers Analogy has also led to this – a traffic bonanza from StumbleUpon users (thank you very much!); :)

Look At The Free Traffic StumbleUpon Is Currently Sending Here

Visitors From Stumbleupon

….and it’s been like that for days. Traffic from Stumbleupon has been non-stop and hammering away at our website bandwidth – which is nice. Average time spent on site is still about 2 minutes per visit so people seem to genuinely like what we’ve put out recently and stayed around too, as the unique visitor graph below details;

Visitor Traffic To The Hobo SEO Blog

StumbleUpon is an amazingly fun tool and having the StumbleUpon Toolbar installed, I often play about with it myself, the result being it leads me to great sites I’m interested in and excellent articles I might not have found otherwise. From a business point of view, StumbleUpon is an excellent Branding mechanism, that can send hundreds if not thousands of visitors to your site in one day – it gets you noticed. It’s also proving to be a neat networking tool to hep me touch base with some of the best SEO/SEMs in the industry.

Of course everything we do is for ultimately IBLs and good visibility in Google and other search engines – in return, getting good, qualified leads for our seo and website design services. But Brand Visibility and Eyes On Corporate ID is nice too.

The aim of course, is to give up blogging for a while and get back to work as we get too many leads from our site as it is because of a ton of good serps. Actually, so much so we’re introducing a minimum fee for seo work, to save visitors the shock of finding out over the telephone what the ‘best seo company in Scotland’ charges for SEO. ;)

The job at hand in 2008 is to take what we’ve learned in latter 2007 and drive more traffic to clients’ sites, after all.

Cheers! :)

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20 Responses

  1. Shana Albert says:

    Another great interview with Tim Nash!! Which is really cool because I can’t get enough of him. He’s brilliant and funny. A truly great combination!! Shaun you deserved a great StumbleUpon Review and you should have TONS more….. Everyone should be checking your StumbleUpon Profile out. Great interview, Shaun. Thank you both for the mention. Shana

  2. Shaun Anderson says:

    Thanks Shana & Congratultions on what surely is the first Double Hot Interview on Sphinn, Tim!

  3. Martin Bowling says:

    Wow another great Tim Nash interview, the second one I have read to day and it was a pleasure to read both. Thanks Shaun and Tim. And I am going to really start to utilize the Stumble Campaign feature until now I really didn’t know that they even had such an option.

  4. Shaun Anderson says:

    Thanks Martin :)

  5. Brandon says:

    Good interview! I definitely took away a few new tips for using SU. :) Ciao, Brandon

  6. Tim Nash says:

    Cheers guys, the StumbleUpon Campaign is a great tool, but needs to be used carefully particularly if you are using it for a marketing domain with a tight demographic. When you stop paying that tight demographic is lost to the more generic subject areas.

  7. Matt Ridout says:

    Great Post, great content! Bad choice about the 360 lol

  8. Tim Nash says:

    Tell you what Matt send me a Playstation 3 and I will give you a fair comparison :D

  9. Martin Bowling says:

    @matt I am going to have to go with Tim on the 360 he surely made the right choice :)

  10. Matt Ridout says:

    @ Tim – Sure thing, you just have to wait a few years until I can afford to hand out free PS3’s lol @ Martin – Each to their own, but in my eyes there’s no comparison :)

  11. Martin Bowling says:

    @Matt although the 360 did pick the wrong HD format to support hehe :)

  12. Martin Bowling says:

    Tim I was trying to leave a suggestion for your new member site over at the square oak interview but my comments keep disappearing; but I was saying that Namibia allows foreign registration and that the obvious choice is it’s priceless :)

  13. Tim Nash says:

    It’s a great name, but everything has a price and trying to find a site that will sell it to me at a reasonable rate is proving futile. Still I like the idea.

  14. Tim Nash says:

    RE: Some Spam Crap I removed – Nice to know but I bet someone bless with a first name like SEO must have no problems getting rankings ;)

  15. Shaun Anderson says:

    LOL – Glad to see you’re policing things, Tim

  16. Salman says:

    I love this article, truly a great insight on StumbleUpon, thanks.

  17. iain says:

    stumbleupon is a great way of advertising i think but if you become popular it can cause you problems with your hosting comp lol

  18. simon says:

    Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

  19. Adrian says:

    Just came across your post. I think before embarking on any social marketing campaign you need to consider whether the traffic will be of value to you. If you’re building a profile all well and good but trying to promote/sell something even indirectly can prove unproductive, bandwidth-busting and not that useful. Great Piece.

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