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How to Write Posts That Set StumbleUpon on Fire

Posted By Skellie 14th of February 2008 Featured Posts, Social Media, Writing Content 0 Comments

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Check out her new blog Anywired if you’re interested in earning an income online.

Since yesterday, StumbleUpon has sent me around 20,000 page views. It’s the single biggest referrer for both my blogs, despite one of them having been on the Digg front page three times! You could say that StumbleUpon traffic (and lots of it) is one of the main reasons I’ve been lucky enough to become a pro blogger.

In this post, I want to share all the trade secrets I’ve learned about how to craft posts that set StumbleUpon on fire. These are tips and ideas I use on a daily basis to get anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand (or more) StumbleUpon visitors every day.

I should note before we start that, while StumbleUpon use is heavier in some niches than others, these principles should help you to tap into SU traffic regardless of whether you’re blogging about blogging or Mexican walking fish. SU is arguably the most powerful promotional tool niche bloggers can use.

Learn the new rules

Your efforts will be hampered if you try to write posts to appeal to social media ‘in general’. Each service likes certain types of content and dislikes others. Digg likes mass appeal. Del.icio.us likes anything its users like, but an item won’t go popular unless the source page gets thousands of hits.

If you’re in a niche without mass appeal, SU can help you where the other services won’t. Digg’s categories are deliberately broad to avoid diluting its power to send waves of traffic. StumbleUpon’s categories can be much more specific. While the traffic is not always as targeted as you’d like, it’s still much more targeted than Digg’s.

This also fundamentally changes the way you approach ‘writing for social media’ when you’re writing for StumbleUpon. You no longer have to worry about pleasing everyone. In fact, sticking within the confines of your niche — even if it’s a small one — can mean the difference between badly targeted traffic vs. highly targeted traffic.

My first piece of advice on writing SU optimized content is to write posts for your target market, not for the many. This increases the chances that your post will be submitted to a more specific category yielding better targeted traffic.

Stumble no-go zones

Before I discuss the types of content that tend to do well on StumbleUpon, it’s worth outlining a few types of posts that rarely go popular on the service. I’m not suggesting that you cut out these content types, but it might be worth thinking about how you can make them more attractive to StumbleUpon.

  • Weekly link round-ups. One solution is to change your link round up to a weekly themed resource list.
  • News. Time-sensitive content is favored by Digg and Reddit, but StumbleUpon will generally only pick up timeless content. If it’s not going to be relevant in a month, it’s probably not going to get Stumbled much.
  • Posts that don’t make sense out of context. If your post doesn’t make sense without context it probably won’t get picked up by SU. Potential voters know that the visitors they send won’t ‘get’ your post.
  • Short, breezy posts. A short, value-packed post can do well on StumbleUpon, but breezy content without pithy tips is usually bypassed.
  • Posts that don’t sell themselves properly. New visitors don’t have much patience. If your mind-bending, life-changing post takes 500 words to really get going, your loyal readers will probably love it, but StumbleUpon will yawn. The value inside your post should be made clear as soon as possible.
  • Overly personal posts. Sorry personal bloggers, but this one is tough. If you’ve ever re-told a story about a friend to someone who doesn’t know them, you’ve probably noticed that the story doesn’t entertain them nearly as much as it entertained you. Highly personal content can be met with a fanatical response from readers who know you, but your average SU visitor won’t know why they should care.

Each of these content types may have a home on your blog and not everything can be optimized for StumbleUpon. The main reason I want to share these no-go zones is so you don’t pour unnecessary effort into one of these post types, only to find that it doesn’t send the traffic and potential readers you’d hoped.

Photo by swruler9284

Stumble-friendly post types

Just as there are certain content types that rarely sizzle with SU traffic, there are certain types of content that seem to be particularly well-loved by SU users.

  • Posts that look as if they took a long time to craft. SU users respect carefully crafted content. If your post is chock full of detail, examples, images, links or otherwise looks as if it took some time to put together, they’ll generally reward your efforts.
  • Unique how-to guides and advice posts. Certain topics have been done to death, but if you can tap into something people want to learn how to do but haven’t yet been told, SU will probably reward you.
  • Unique, novel and useful resource lists.
  • Pithy posts with poignant take-home points. If you can find the right words to say something important, or think of an apt metaphor, your post is likely to be popular even if it’s quite short.
  • Visually interesting posts. Captivating images can be a lot more gripping than a wall of text. I start each post I write on my blogs with an interesting image from Flickr and this always appears in the above-the-fold area of the screen. I think this might have a big part to play in my success with SU traffic. A gripping headline and a gripping image help to draw SU visitors into each post.
  • Treasure-trove content. Posts containing cool rarities and free stuff are usually highly popular.

There are other types of content that do well, but the above represents the most common formats for blog posts that fare well on StumbleUpon.

SUO: StumbleUpon Optimization

There are a few things you can do to optimize any post for StumbleUpon.

1. The Value/Curiosity headline formula. The two most effective ways to encourage someone to read your posts is to a) promise value that will make the time-investment worthwhile or b) make them curious. For option A, pick a headline that makes your post sound unmissable. For B, pick a headline that begs an explanation. For example: What’s the scariest fish in the Amazon? Hint: It’s not the Piranha. It’s far, far worse (source). Another simple hack is to make your headlines really big and eye-catching, so they gather more attention.

2. Start with an image. Our eyes are drawn to interesting images. Once you can bring a StumbleUpon visitor’s eyes down into your post, it’s a tiny step for them to make the move into your text.

3. Sell each post. Dedicate the first paragraph of each post to making it sound like something worth reading. Tell readers what they stand to get in return for their time investment.

Strategic tips

Having a core base of active SU users who read your blog is all you need to tap into a steady stream of SU traffic. If you haven’t yet developed this core base yet, here’s what you should do:

  1. Start using StumbleUpon and voting up content from other blogs and websites in your niche.
  2. Friend those who Stumble your articles and thank them. This will start a dialog that could turn them into a loyal reader of your blog.
  3. Write about SU and encourage readers to add you as a friend.
  4. Swap Stumbles with other bloggers.
  5. Link to your SU profile on your About page.
  6. Befriend active StumbleUpon users and stumble and review some of their content if they have a blog or website. Active users command more traffic and they’re more likely to repay the favor because they’re Stumbling all the time anyway!
  7. Add a Stumble button/link under each of your posts.
  8. Add a Stumble link to your Feedflare (find it in your Feedburner control panel).

Points to review

  • When writing for StumbleUpon, focus on writing value-packed posts for your target audience. Don’t try to accommodate everyone.
  • Be mindful of the post types that tend to receive little interest on SU.
  • Remember the post types that SU loves best.
  • Practice SUO.
  • Work hard at turning active SU users into loyal readers of your blog.
  1. StumbleUpon: Marketing For Niche Bloggers?…

    Guru’s, irrespective of their field, are generally accepted to be, uh, well… guru’s… So if Skellie writes something about StumbleUpon, most bloggers around the blogosphere will sit up, take note and try emulate her formula. Her …

  2. this is a great post
    I tried SU several times but didn’t work for me.

  3. I’ve linking SU With my squidoo and its been getting me traffic.Great post great work…

  4. I already use Stumble but I never got more than 150 visitors per day from it. I didn’t knew that Stumble can genereate so much vusitors. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Good Article. I’ve been using Stumbleupon for quite some time and I already experience in the boost of traffic. But I also hope that i can use also as quality traffic and gain sales on those visiting me. Nice job on the article by the way thanks.

  6. @fto

    I dont think ads the main reason why visitor leave from your site. Just coordinate them on unobstrusive angle, and you will be doing just fine. It just a behaviour, u know. Social website user just looking who is popular on the net. They come, looking around and leave. If lucky enough, they subscribe. (correct me if i wrong) :-)

  7. I was able to get almost 2000 visitors to our CEO’s blog http://www.mxpressions.com in less than a week using StumbleUpon. You’ll notice the “thumbs up” feedback kicking the traffic into high gear, and any “thumbs down” slowing it a bit. I still think that SU has to create more granular categories so that the traffic can be more focused.

  8. Thanks for the great advice! I love stumbleupon…

  9. great post I am new to stumble upon and it is taking some time to get to grips with all the features.

    I’ve had a comment left on a forum saying that SU users like photos and I should submit some, but how would I do that?

    Could you point me in the right direction, Thanks

  10. Denise says: 02/20/2008 at 9:14 am

    Thanks for the great advice! I’ve only been blogging for two months and am looking for ways to promote “Blessings from Above.” Feel free to check it out, but remember it’s still in its infancy: http://www.blessingsfromabove2.blogspot.com

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. It’s so helpful!

  11. Thus far, I’ve seen no correlation with my web traffic efforts and anything else. I’m putting out what I think is great content and still get no love.

    I’ve been at it for 40 days exactly and have a total of 300 unique vistors (awstats and google give about the same number) and I think I might have 2 subscribers. Is this about right?

    Please someone tell me if this is what I can expect for the first month or if this is really low traffic.


  12. There are many sources for traffic. I have found that Stumble, EntreCard, and SiteHoppin have all contributed to my blog.

    Whereas EntreCard’s traffic has led to an increase in my bounce rate, SumbleUpon and SiteHoppin have porvided traffic that seems to stick around a little longer.

    I think Skellie offers good advice. I also think that each of us needs to tailor advice to fit his or her own situation.

  13. Are there any penalties on stumbling your own post?


  14. It’s pretty useful for a beginner like me.

  15. Good Advice! I’m not sure if SU traffic converts into clicks. 2,3 of my posts are getting stumbled everyday, every moment… but the click rate isn’t impressive if looking at the P-impressions.

    Maybe it needs more time =)


  16. My stumbles seem to have become worthless after stumbling one of my things. It’s kind of annoying that you don’t know how powerful you are. People are more likely to stumble things that are already popular, because it makes them more powerful, a vicious cycle.


  17. One thing that drives me CRAZY is when I stumble upon a group of photos. no description, no sources, no context, just pictures! Somehow people just keep “Thumbs Upping” these posts. If your reading this I encourage you to kill these posts. Especially the “Chalk artist” and “Freeze Frame” posts. Those ones drive me off the wall!

  18. Thanks for this breakdown. I had used StumbleUpon a little but it did nothing for traffic. I see why now. Most of our content is time -sensitve news, politics, and gossip.

    We get good traffic from Digg and Reddit. But out biggest traffic generator is google organic searches…go figure?!

  19. Excellent tips!
    I’ve been looking into Stumble Upon for a while now…knowing it’s a great social media tool for internet marketing.
    I’ve been using sites like Twitter and Delicious, but after reading your post, I’m feeling a kick in the pants to move in the direction of Stumble Upon…thanks! :-)

  20. Also making sure your page loads quickly helps the stumble traffic, they are a fickle crowd. For things like comics, stumble is gold.

  21. Thanks i tryed what you said and got 600 views in one day i am doing it your way from now on cause it works best for me.

  22. Thank you very much for revealing the basics of the StumbleUpon optimization for blogs. As a participant to the Seocontest2008 international webmaster competition with focus on SEO, I already can confirm the great weight of the stumbles for attaining high SERPs.
    My skinny webpage exists only since 7 days, and by using a couple of blog posts with links to my seocontest2008 site, and stumbling them it reached to the search engine result position #135 within 5 days, and to the SERP #84 on the 7th day on Google. I forgot to mention the keyword used is seocontest2008.
    I can’t wait to see the results of applying your valuable tips.
    I’ll start using your advices today evening, and I’ll grow the number of my friends on StumbleUpon.
    I hope they will help me with a couple of stumbles.

  23. Certainly I’ve added my thumbs up for your great blog post. Keep the good work on!

  24. Iam glad that you wrote this article because I did not know how to get started with Stumble.

  25. Stumbleupon users do not convert easily. They just enjoy going to a random site. I think they hit the thumbs up button if the site looks good and the opposite if they dont.

  26. Great information here. I’ve learned quite a bit while browsing around on your blog. I also love how organized it is. With so much information, you have made it very easy to navigate through it all.

  27. It is great if we can have CPM ads on our blog, since stumbler dont click on ads. What do you think? How to maximize our CPM ads?

  28. Agreed. The titles with excellent keywords really do set fire, I noticed that with a very good friend of mine at vigorouswriting.net

    This post is certainly a good reminder on how to write for the web.

  29. Great…. get people more lost in the belief that this is how to become successful online. Yechhh… ewwww…..

  30. Good experiment on StumbleUpon dude…

  31. Thank for sharing Darren, This post really clears up the whole process of stumbling. I have tried it and got some great results. Great post.

  32. Great ideas to better use SU.

  33. Thanks for the info, I’ll give it a try

  34. I’m wondering if the response you indicated is standard for SU or just in your case?

    It does sound almost too good to be true.

  35. Wow, thanks Tammy. Did you just coin a new term? SUO? Brilliant!

  36. A very helpul post. I’v just started this blogging thing. Between Technorati, Digg, Reddit, SU and the rest, there is much to learn. This entry will push me to focus on SU for now. Thanks!

  37. Wow! 20,000 hits! I think my biggest number is just north of 5000. Stumble buttons links are a good idea — something I need to include on my flagship blog again.

  38. Thanks….
    Always love your tips and strategy…

  39. I use stumbleupon quite often but there is one thing I have noticed. The people do not stay on the site for no time before hitting “stumble” again and if they do they almost never click ads or even come back. I have been told its the same with digg. Numbers are just numbers and people get all excited that they got 1000 page views a hour from stumbleupon but if they did not click one ad then what? I would rather have 600 page views a month and 2000 bucks sold of ads than to have 1 million page views and not a dime.

  40. I am receiving pretty much nothing in terms of SU traffic. Hope that it picks up in the following months.

  41. Have been tinkering with SU for a little while now. So far my biggest success has been driving 90 visitors. Well, gotta keep at it. Thanks for the tips.

  42. StumbleUpon tips are very good but I have question about this topic.Does anybody know how StumbleUpon index pages – many my posts are not indexed.How long it takes to index pages ?

  43. thanks for that

    stumbleupon is a major source of my traffic and thanks for the great tips

  44. […] How to Write Posts that Set StumbleUpon on Fire […]

  45. Thank you very much for the info. I was mainly using digg.

  46. I, too, realised that if I stumble upon some sites, my site gets a no. of stumbles too. I have been trying to find out how to optimize my site so as to get more stumbles and these useful tips come in handy now. Thank u.

  47. I totally agree about the images in the posts– good point, make them eye catching!

  48. Thanks, some great tips here that i will definitely implement soon enough :)

  49. Thanks a ton for these wonderful tips on Stumbleupon.

  50. oh wow really great tips i like this article very much

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