StumbleUpon as a traffic source is like any other – used incorrectly, it can essentially serve as a thousand dodgeballs being thrown at a wall. Visitors, like dodgeballs, quickly bounce, and without another person to return the throw, they are extremely unlikely to return.

In the right hands, StumbleUpon traffic can be an extremely valuable traffic source – a method of building brand awareness, growing followers, and attracting links. The subtlety of one versus the other is small, but also large enough to send many people on a rollercoaster of emotion as it comes to the service.

First they experience the euphoria of traffic, then they realize that the traffic is doing absolutely nothing for them, and end up disregarding the service completely. Neither is necessarily warranted – StumbleUpon is a nice traffic source that you should expect to convert at a lower clip, but since the traffic volumes can be much higher than normal, the net benefit can still be solid – if you have your business properly aligned to take advantage of its visitors.

However, before we get to how to convert the traffic, let’s start at how to get the traffic in the first place – StumbleUpon Advertising.

Inbound Marketing Through Advertising

Huh? Inbound marketing through advertising? Isn’t that outbound marketing? Well.. sorta. But with StumbleUpon Advertising, their module allows you to generate earned visits quite easily, and at hardly any cost.

If you’re trying to sell people product, yes, it will end up being outbound advertising and you’ll burn through money. But if you have authentically good content, you will hardly spend any money, and you’ll generate visits in droves.

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This frame of mind might differ substantially from other guides you might read on StumbleUpon. Create a profile, pick your interest, submit.. yawn. These methods might work, but the process of StumbleUpon Advertising is so cheap (it should cost you $20 to determine if your content is good enough to succeed), in my opinion, it’s not worth wasting the mindshare on trying to figure out how to manipulate upvotes and otherwise, pray the first couple people who see your content like it enough to thumb it up.

I’d rather know get to know what works on the service, use good demographic targeting, spend $20, and find out in less than 24 hours if my content is going to do anything positive. Importantly, this $20 can also be the doorway to higher converting traffic because of the market research we gather, which we’ll get to later.

Market Research Before Content Creation

As I mentioned in our recent post on Reddit marketing, some of the most powerful uses of StumbleUpon come not from building content and then submitting it, but rather, doing demographic research on StumbleUpon’s interest groups and then building content around that.

StumbleUpon allows you to create a few powerful segments that give you the ability to dice up your target market and reach them exclusively. They also have their own unique interest groups, which allow certain content to succeed there that might not work elsewhere. You can mix and match the following variables to create extremely powerful demographic targeting for your work:

  • Target Demographics: Age Range, Both Genders or Male/Female Only
  • Location: Major Countries, State/Province (All U.S. States, Canadian Provinces), Cities (Major U.S. Cities, Some Major International Cities)
  • Browser: Desktop, Mobile, Tablet
  • Interest Bundles: Adrenaline Junkies, Animal Lovers, Artists & Creatives, Bookworms, Crafters & DIY-ers, Fashionistas, Financial Gurus, Fitness Fanatics, Foodies, Gamers, Health Nuts, Historians, Humor Seekers, IT & Programmers, Jetsetters, Music & Science Geeks, Movie & TV Buffs, Music Listeners, Outdoor Explorers, Paranormal & Conspiracy Theorists, Parents & Homemakers, Philanthropists & Homemakers, Political Pundits, Romantics, Shopaholics, Smartphone Users, Sports Fans, Students, Techies, Top 25 Most Popular, Treehuggers
  • Precise Targeting: List of All Interests

StumbleUpon is interesting in that it has several unique segments you can have success with that you won’t necessarily find elsewhere. For example, they have a “quotes” interest that you could build content around that you otherwise might not have much success with through cold outreach, but here, has the potential to attract thousands upon thousands of visits.

Creating Content That Works on StumbleUpon

A no-brainer rule of content marketing is that your work should be easily digestible. For the most part, your audience should be able to interpret content simply by scanning the page.

H2s, bolded copy, images and bullet points can all help create a post that can be interpreted quickly and without much work. The more friction to interpretation you create, the more likely it’ll be that you’ll lose a lazy reader mid-way through the post.

In no place is this more obvious than StumbleUpon. By definition readers do not want to work for their content, they want to be walked into it and immediately discover fun and informative posts to enjoy.

So, my recommendation for StumbleUpon is to build content that would would still be interesting if all normally formatted copy was removed. Your content should be carried by images and text that’s quick and easy to read. If it’s heavy on copy, it’s probably not meant for the service – you’d be better off not submitting it at all and saving your money for another day.

Example content that’s done great on StumbleUpon:

Of course, it would also be suggested that you create an account on StumbleUpon and stumble through several posts in your target interest to get a feel for what’s working and what isn’t. Your ability to develop a feel for successful content will make the difference between success and failure using this strategy.

The $20 Paid Discovery Promotion Formula


Twenty dollars is all you need to have success on StumbleUpon. Seriously.

We’ve seen consistent success with our content by setting up paid advertising campaigns with the following structure: $10 a day, spread out over two days, with a maximum spend of $20, as long as the price per stumble is somewhere between twelve cents and sixteen cents.

Your campaign budget, the final step in the Paid Discovery dashboard, should look something like this:

We believe in this formula for a few reasons:

  • It gives us a significant enough sample size to know whether or not our content is actually right for the service. An average of 142 visitors should give you (and StumbleUpon) adequate data to determine whether or not your content is worthy of earned visits. If your content is good, there’s a strong chance you’ll start seeing earned visits on day one, which means you’ll have a sample size of better than 142 visitors if you’re doing anything remotely right.
  • It allows us to keep tabs on the content over the two days in case it’s doing poorly. By staggering the advertising inflow, we can quickly determine if our content is doing well or if we need to make any quick changes that can become apparent once it starts seeing an audience.

The earned visitors you’re receiving is one good gauge of how your content is performing, but the best gauge is to keep an eye on the page info that can be easy to miss in the StumbleUpon URL dashboard.

This information will give you the number of likes you have relative to views. Every industry is different but when I see a ratio of 10% likes to views, I feel pretty good about the potential for our content to take off on the service.

Sometimes you can get thousands of views with less than a 10% ratio (and much more with a better one), but around that number shows that people like your content consistently enough for it to keep getting served to visitors.

If I’m sitting at 80 views and 0 likes after one day, I’m pretty worried about my chances of success. If you start seeing some earned visits, it’s likely that you had good engagement and few thumbs down – meaning that people actually read your content before stumbling, and also nobody hated it enough to give it a “dislike”. If your percentage is under 100 and you have no likes, you should probably re-evaluate continuing to spend your money.

On the other hand, don’t expect your content to instantly go hot the second two days have passed. Sometimes it takes a day or two days after that initial burst to see traction, but that initial paid burst should enable you to get enough organic visits to see more success. Your dashboard will sometimes look like this:

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This happens with less visits because you will get more thumbs up from organic visits – after all, nobody wants to feel like they’re getting advertised to, so when your content is not exposed with a “Sponsored” next to it, you’re more likely to get the thumbs up you need.

It’s very possible you could get some kind of burst by investing in more paid visits – but I am confident that your content isn’t destined to do extremely well for the long term on the service, so you would be better served to think about investing time and money elsewhere.

How to Build an Audience Through StumbleUpon

Now that you’ve got the content formula down, it’s time to maximize the return you get from your efforts. In my opinion, the best way to have success on StumbleUpon is to identify your business’ target demographic, and then re-market to them over and over again with new content that still appeals to their tight interests you’ve defined in the paid advertising channel.

By doing this, you can get in front of the same StumbleUpon readers over and over, therefore improving the likelihood you “hook” long term followers that are normally predisposed to bounce.

If you target in varied bursts and to different groups, your bounce rate will stay high and you likely won’t see a ton of ROI from these efforts, even if you get a ton of traffic from the platform. StumbleUpon readers are like any other – if they realize they frequently see good content from a certain site, they’re more likely to take action to follow them to get more of it.

Yes, it’s possible to go super-viral on StumbleUpon and get hundreds of thousands of visits. However, it’s unlikely this will happen to you and even if it did, the marginal benefit would not be great. You should aim to make StumbleUpon a strategy, not a tactic – or you’ll likely end up looking at your Google Analytics report and wondering what exactly that traffic did for you.

Strategies for Hooking Readers

The fundamentals that allow you to retain readers for StumbleUpon are no different than any other service – but they are more important to dial in than ever, because you will be lucky to get two to three shots at most of its users.

The strategies that will allow you to capture readers from StumbleUpon include, but are not limited to:

  • Including low-friction hooks on the page such as a Facebook like box or Google Plus hook midway through the page
  • Setting up your Tweet button to improve the probability people follow your account after sharing
  • Including e-mail signup CTAs above the fold and after after the post
  • Making damn-good content that makes people think about wanting more of it such that they seek out account hooks 
  • Utilizing retargeting to bring readers back to the site after their first visit
  • Including a compelling value-based offer at the end of the post, such as how HubSpot does
  • Adding popups to grab emails, while being cautious about them possibly causing thumbs down
  • Optimizing your blog landing page experience to maximize the potential of the above strategies

Additional Tactics To Maximize ROI

There are a few additional tips we’ve learned from using StumbleUpon over time that you might benefit from that can help you generate additional ROI.

  • Add social buttons above the fold, or consider custom coding above-the-fold share buttons into content that does well. Like any service, social proof can help build trust into a post before its ever been read. This is no more important than with posts you market on StumbleUpon, where users will rarely make it to the end of the post. For bonus points, use SU share buttons.
  • Use StumbleUpon as a proving ground for additional outreach. While StumbleUpon traffic is nice, sometimes its best use is to test a piece of content’s potential for future outreach. With StumbleUpon, we can get immediate feedback in the form of likes/dislikes that can give us a gauge of how the content is going to do, and therefore, how much time and energy we should commit to a piece outside the service. Be wary, though – great content can still be great content and simply not work on StumbleUpon.
  • Be cautious when oversegmenting your audience. Although StumbleUpon has lots of users, it still has market limitations, and is no Facebook in total size – nor in the sophistication of its advertising platform. You unfortunately can’t see your market size after segmenting, but you can see the original market size for an audience by searching for interests. The more you dice up the interest, the smaller your audience can become – which means it might go “hot” and only get you about 1000 total visits.
  • Know that female-focused content tends to do better overall. Both StumbleUpon and Pinterest’s audiences tend to enjoy images, so when you promote female-focused, image-heavy content on StumbleUpon, there’s a better than normal chance you’ll see a nice secondary effect on Pinterest with a female audience that you won’t get with a male one.

Success on StumbleUpon in Five Steps

In summary, success can be defined by having your business take the following five steps and then execute extremely well:

1. Make sure the site is properly engineered to take advantage of StumbleUpon visitors
2. Build content that can be enjoyed without reading most of the copy using image-rich posts that are easily scannable
3. Properly segment traffic in the advertising dashboard
4. Spend $20 to promote the content over two days
5. Remarket to the same segment to hook more readers

Although we like StumbleUpon a lot here at Siege Media, by no means do we recommended it as a primary arm of your marketing strategy. StumbleUpon is best used as a powerful arrow in your bow, used to accelerate your additional strategies – but not to define it. In that way, StumbleUpon will be a tool your company will grow to love.

Have any additional thoughts on how to leverage StumbleUpon for business? Let us know on Google Plus.

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