Understanding the Stumbleupon Monster

Understanding Stumbleupon

New writers and bloggers ask me all the time how I’ve used social media to advance my reach since the launch of Brendan’s Adventures last year.

I constantly tell them that I treat social media use like any business would treat advertising.

You have to decide if the cost of the advertising is worth the reward in the use of your product. In the realm of social media our cost of investment is our time. So we need to decide how much time is it worth spending in return for traffic gains (use good analytics like Clicky Stats to gauge this value).

When it comes to time vs. reward, Stumbleupon can be a very successful marketing tool.

Deciding on time use is ever more difficult when thinking about StumbleUpon.

I know many website owners who have abandoned StumbleUpon over the past little while, basically not believing in its value.

However, if you understand StumbleUpon, and the power of its returns you’ll soon realize its value.

How it works

StumbleUpon is basically a boredom tool. People that use StumbleUpon have a tool bar which includes buttons including “Thumbs up,” “Thumbs down,” and of course, “Stumble.”

Users decide on a couple of topics that interest them then simply click the Stumble button. They will then be taken to a random site which reflects their interests. Readers will then be given the option to give that site a thumbs up, thumbs down, or simply move on by Stumbling again. The StumbleUpon system takes into account the sites that you have given thumbs up to in the past and continues to generate similar sites and different pages from the same site. Within a “favorites” window of StumbleUpon, readers will also get the chance to review the page they saw if they like.

What does this mean for my site?

Obviously, if one of your pages – whether it’s a photo or an article – starts to get Stumbles it will drive traffic to your site. To have one of your pages go viral could result in a very large percentage of your year’s traffic.

For example, one of my posts “The Last Time I ever got Robbed” went viral a couple of months ago. In total it has brought 15,000 stumblers to my site. To be honest, many of them stayed for only a couple of seconds before moving on. But, 3,500 of those stumblers stayed on my site for over a minute. And a total of 1500 visited a couple pages beyond that post. That article has made up a great percentage of my traffic this year. To this day, StumbleUpon still generates about 10 real visits (visits of over 10 seconds) to that post each day. In total, over the past year StumbleUpon has been the second top referrer to my site, second only to Twitter.

How do I get my page into the system?

There is no magical way of getting your site into the system. Basically Stumblers have the option of submitting a page when visiting. If just browsing the internet on your own, you can click the “Like” button on a page. In doing so, StumbleUpon will prompt you to review the site and give it a category. As soon as that site is “Liked” it will be in the system. However, that doesn’t mean that it will get Stumbles, only that it is in the system.

How do I get Stumbles?

To be quite honest, the algorithm that StumbleUpon uses has changed recently. Mostly due to the fact that their former algorithm was leaked to the point that it could be manipulated. It should be noted that StumbleUpon does not want people to use Stumbling as a marketing method by websites.

Any activity that outwardly indicates the use in a business means will hurt you chances of being stumbled. That being said, StumbleUpon generally turns a blind eye to many of those who do use it as a business platform because a large part of their support comes from these websites.

There are ways, and methods, to give your site a better chance to be stumbled, here is a list:

  • Use Su.pr
    Basically Su.pr is an automated posting website linked to Facebook and Twitter. When you post a page here the link will be shortened and posted to either Facebook or Twitter. It also allows you to choose which site you would like to promote. It does have its downsides, however. For one, the traffic stats are shown are total traffic and not real, also when delivering people to your site via the link it will re-direct them through su.pr which causes a delay in the load time.
  • Stumble
    It is commonly assumed recently that those who Stumble often gain points in the algorithm, which leads to more Stumbles of your own site. I would agree with that. I see a nearly direct relationship with the amount I Stumble and the amount of traffic sent my way. StumbleUpon knows which site is connected to your Stumbles via the promotion of your site on su.pr, as well as the site you choose as your favorite in your StumbleUpon profile settings. I make a habit of Stumbling for about 15 minutes a day. A small price for such huge amounts of traffic. If waiting for a site to load, sometimes I’ll open a new window to Stumble sites on while I wait.
  • Review too
    Many people simply Stumble and Like, Stumble and Like. In fact, many people click through at a rapid pace “Liking” sites because they believe it will up their StumbleUpon score and drive more traffic to their site. In my opinion, a like does very little. By reviewing a site it proves that you read the article, and have a comment about it. You are automatically prompted to review a site if you are the first to “like” a page. However, if you Like a page after the initial like the way to review is by clicking “favorites” on the toolbar, and then clicking edit below the title of the “Liked” page.
  • Share
    This is a great way to pass along pages to your followers on StumbleUpon, whether they are your pages or others’. What basically happens in “Shares” is quite simple. If I see a page I think someone will enjoy I click “Share” on the toolbar and share it with my followers. There is a catch, however. Not only does someone need to be following you, they also need to click the box that reads “accept shares” under the follow button. If you would like, go to my StumbleUpon page: http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/brendanvanson/ right now, follow me and accept shares.
  • Don’t submit too often
    If you begin submitting sites (meaning you are the first to Like) at a rapid pace you will be seen as a promoter, which as you know is not encouraged. I learned the downside of this first hand. At one point I liked about 50-100 pages in a day, and I never saw another Stumble to my site for a month as a result. Submitting a page or two a day, however, is recommended as it shows your participation.
  • Don’t stumble yourself
    It can be very tempting to Stumble yourself, but those who do are punished. Obviously, that breaks the rules of self-promotion. However, over time I have stumbled my site on occasion to mixed results. Some believe that as long as you’re Stumbling enough, submitting one of your pages a month or so won’t hurt at all.
  • Use a plug-in
    The most popular tool used by bloggers is a plug-in called WP Greet Box. This plug-in shows on every single post you make. What it does is encourage (or remind) readers to submit your page to a certain site.

    The brilliance of the Greet Box is that you can choose the reminder, or you can have it automated. For my site, I have it set up in a way that reflects the method of entry to the site. If someone enters the site via Stumbleupon or Su.pr they will be reminded to “Like” the site. If they come in via Twitter or Facebook they will be reminded to “Tweet” or “Like.” And if they come in directly they are prompted to subscribe to your RSS feed.

  • Advertise
    You can also advertise using StumbleUpon. In doing so you are paying 5 cents per hit to your website. The effectiveness depends on your page for the following reason. If you pay 2 dollars to get 40 stumbles to a certain page, you may not get a single like or review and it will be essentially for naught.

    However, if a couple of these people “Like” and review the page you might essentially draw hundreds of free hits to your site via proper, unpaid, Stumbles. I have used this method in the past, and have generally been happy with the results. If I am having a really bad traffic day, paying a dollar for 20 visits that may translate into 50-100 or more and can be very beneficial. Just don’t overdo it. Also, if you’re using WP Greet Box you’re advertised pages won’t be accepted because “campaigns” for Stumbles are not allowed.

  • Provide good content
    In the end it all comes down to this. If you have great content, people will begin to Stumble your pages. Even if you don’t do any of the things I mentioned it is possible to gain StumbleUpon traffic. However, doing a combination of these things will increase your potential.


In the end, it takes very little time to take proper advantage of StumbleUpon, and can result in huge levels of traffic. Put in a little bit of time each day and stick with it and you will see results. Many people give up after a couple of weeks because they haven’t seen any Stumble hits to their site. Stick with it and follow the mentioned “formula” and you will eventually start to see hits to your pages.

When it comes down to the business time vs. reward frame of success, StumbleUpon can be a very successful marketing tool.

~ Brendan

What results have you seen with Stumbleupon? Share your experience!

About Brendan van Son 1 Article

Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Rocky Mountain House, Canada. 

In addition to being published in a number of different travel related magazines, he also runs one of the more popular travel blogs on the internet “Brendan’s Adventures: The World is my Jungle Gym”.  Brendan lives by his own personal words of wisdom, "...in the world I live in, the world of travel, I try to find the moments that make me feel insignificant in a greater world, and I hope my blog gets that message across.” 

You can follow Brendan on Twitter, or find him on Facebook, or follow him on Stumbleupon.


  1. Nice post Brendan – StumbleUpon is still something i haven’t worked out how to maximise so your tips here are gratefully received.

    I’ve noticed a lot of blogs with a pop up Stumble bar at the top – is that a WP plugin or something done via StumbleUpon itself?

    Will look to put in some more time to make it a successful channel like twitter and FB!
    .-= Tom ´s last blog post: Top Backpacking Destinations Top 5 of 2010 =-.

    • Thanks Tom,

      The pop up is a plug-in. If a pop up goes above the page, I wouldn’t use it because it’s annoying. WP Greet Box is the box you see at the bottom of this post. I think that it’s be best, because it doesn’t over do it, and it’s flexible.

  2. Excellent post Brendan….I have to confess that I’ve also been struggling with understanding how to use Stumbleupon, so this helps tremendously!

    I have to agree with you that I prefer the pop-ups and bars to be at the bottom of the page, not the top, since I’m more likely to use them after I’ve actually read the post, not when I land on the page.

    Thanks again for contributing!

  3. Stumble Upon is my greatest source of traffic as well. Closely followed by Facebook. The trick with Stumble Upon is just to read the small print,they tell you how to use the site properly there. They also state that if you submit the same site all the time, they will regard you as a spammer. That is is where most people fail as they submit every single post they make.
    .-= Natalie´s last blog post: Sunday Snap – The Boats Of Bird Island =-.

  4. Thanks for the advice on the WP Greetbox at the bottom of the page. I think ours is at the top. I am going to change that. I thought that it should be at the top because that is where I saw everyone’s. Just following the pack I guess:) But going to fix in n ow.

  5. Thanks, Brendan, for the valuable advice on how to effectively use StumbleUpon. I’ve struggled with exactly how to make it work for me. Also, the Greet Box plugin is definitely something I’ll be adding to my blog. Locating it at the end of the post makes sense to me. I hate trying to read a blog post where the greetings box is in the way.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog post: Exploring the Cote d’Azur on a Seabourn Cruise Excursion =-.

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