How to Use StumbleUpon: A Step by Step Guide

By Mihaela Lica
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Today I begin a series of articles that will teach you how to use StumbleUpon efficiently to maximize traffic to your site, and to all the sites you discover. I assume some of our readers are already StumbleUpon members, and for those who are not SU already has a page that helps as well – getting started.

The topic of today’s article is: Things that Kill SU Traffic

Stumbleupon LogoStumbleUpon is a browser based social media community. I use “browser-based” in the absence of a better term. Although SU has a site where interaction between members is possible, the StumbleUpon Toolbar is the lifeblood of the network – it helps you browse the SU bookmarks, search, send messages to your SU friends, vote for web pages and much more. The toolbar is available for IE, Flock and Firefox – other browsers are not currently available.

The most important thing you need to learn in order “not” to “kill” potential SU traffic is how to use the toolbar correctly.

Stumbleupon Toolbar

To better understand the terms below, here is a small glossary:

  • To vote/stumble: to click on the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” buttons to vote for a story; to click on the “stumble” button to browse the StumbleUpon database
  • To discover: when you click “thumbs up” (and a page does not exist in the SU database) a pop-up appears telling you that you’ve discovered a new page. A discovery is not complete without a review, proper categorizing and tagging.
  • To review: to write your personal comments about the page you vote for, or against; or to copy/paste a fragment of the content of the page
  • To send to: to share a webpage with your friends, via SU toolbar or email

Sounds easy? Well, things get tricky if you don’t know the following rules:

First Discover, Then Review and Then Submit

For maximum traffic potential a page needs to be “discovered” from the browser toolbar and reviewed. To “discover” a page you click on the “thumbs up” icon. A pop-up will then appear asking you to review your discovery, to select the appropriate category for it, to tag it, to specify whether it contains adult content and only then to submit it.

StumbleUpon Discovery

This is the first review, and it is critical for the traffic volume a page might get. The new discovery will only enter the StumbleUpon queue of pages shown to the SU community if it has a review. Not reviewing condemns the page you discover to a slow death, especially if no other stumblers after you bother to write a review. Chances are , if you don’t write a review, no other stumbler will ever see that page.

A Dead Page at StumbleUpon

Having these “dead” discoveries is also bad for your “Stumble karma.” The main interest of SU is to have active members. Simply clicking “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” does not make you an active member. The most popular stumblers have an impressive number of stumbles (votes), an impressive number of reviews, and also many subscribers (how to get subscribers in a future article). While it is not crucial to write a review each time you “stumble”, it is very important to write one when you “discover” a page obviously.

Pages that eventually receive reviews are “rescued”, but their chances of getting good traffic remain very low.

Don’t “Send to” New Pages without Discovering Them First

The easiest way to “kill” traffic chances for a page is to use the “send to” button in the StumbleUpon toolbar before discovering a page, and even before thumbing it up. SU allows its users to share (“send to”) pages regardless of their votes for the page. Sharing is a great thing, but not when you do it to the detriment of the page you want to share.

The page you “sent to” without reviewing enters the StumbleUpon database, but not the queue that will ensure that other SU users will see it.

The negative effects of "send to"

Don’t Add StumbleUpon Buttons to Your Site

Don't add SU buttons to your site.Social sharing buttons and widgets are great: they help your visitors to submit your stories fast to the social and bookmarking sites of their choice. But did you know that onsite SU buttons could be detrimental? They are detrimental for the site they are published on, and they are also detrimental for the unsuspecting SU users who click on them. Why You ask?

Because StumbleUpon wants you to use the toolbar. Sure, they have some buttons that you could add to your site, but it is better to link these directly to your SU profile, rather than using special widgets that “stumble” automatically.

The main advice SU gives to those who want to become “top stumblers” is:

To become a Top Stumbler, simply use the toolbar on a regular basis, clicking I-like-it at any page other members would like to stumble upon.

I would add: use the toolbar correctly if you want to enjoy a full SU experience with all its benefits. Traffic is directly proportionate to the proper methodology and practice of the experienced user in most cases. There are any number of other “techniques” to improve traffic we will discuss later, but for a start, at least avoid the mistakes described above.

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  • John

    I find it ironic that you say not to use a stumble button… Yet there is one in your post! :)

  • Interesting article. I have a stumbleupon widget on my site – I may remove it in the next update to see if that changes my traffic from stumble.

    I see this site has a stumble button too, though!

  • Bob

    But did you know that onsite SU buttons could be detrimental? They are detrimental for the site they are published on, and they are also detrimental for the unsuspecting SU users who click on them.

    The toolbar on your blog contradicts this which is a little confusing?

  • TDMV

    StumbleUpon is a great way of exploring the internet. And most of what Mihaela writes about it in this article, i agree. However, i use StumbleUpon in a specialised way. Not everything that interests me i give the ‘thumbsup’ nor do i always write a review. Why? because it’s personal, or pages that wouldn’t ‘fit’ in my profile on StumbleUpon. Sometimes i use StumbleUpon simply as a quick and easy way to bookmark pages or sites for myself. It’s not that i’m against sharing, quite the contrary, but i’m on StumbleUpon (and thee internet) for a purpose, not for exposing myslf to the world :)
    Having said that, it’s great that StumbleUpon offers a way for everybody to express themselves in their own particular way. And personally, i think, that’s one of the powers of StumbleUpon.

  • etali – yes, we have a stumbleupon button – it’s part of the social widget we have. It’s not very visible so it is not so bad for the site – not many users click on those icons.

  • TDMV, you made a great observation: who uses StumbleUpon to make personal bookmarks is not interested in the traffic potential of the network. SitePoint users however are interested in traffic, so for them a proper use of the toolbar is vital. :)

  • I have to say that I was not aware of the dead site issue. I did know about reviews (uber important!).

  • Laura Spencer

    Good overview of StumbleUpon.

  • GenesisDavies

    Thanks for this Mihaela, very useful information. I`m adding your series to my upcoming post of resources on At Home Mom.

  • Simon

    Good to know. Actually I didn’t know sending a page without your own review would hurt the submission process so much. On the other side you’re not supposed to submit your own sites, right?

  • Thanks for clarifying. SU can be very confusing.

  • There is a problem with StumbleUpon – unlike many other social bookmarking services, like Digg, Delicous, StumbleUpon doesn’t like the idea of stumbling your own content. In my case it leaded to being banned.

  • Thank you for all your comments.

    Mike, you are right about submitting your own content, but I don’t think Stumble banned you just for that. If you submit your own content rarely – let’s say once a week – they are willing to overlook. Also – it should not be commercial content – shameless self promotion, etc. But I will write about this in a new article.

  • Mihaela,

    I summited my own blog posts. At the same time I have never had any problems with any other social bookmarking service. Furthermore, I even was invited to participate in another social bookmarking website –

    Anyway, I don’t pay much attention to such services like Digg, StumbleUpon because the specialized ones, like, suit my blog and my taste better.

  • I also submit my own posts sometimes, Mike. I have a travel blog about Romania (I am a Romanian native) and whenever I post something interesting like “world’s second largest ice cave” I am not shy. I think that submitting content other users might enjoy is not detrimental for the community.

    I understand your point about using the social community that best fits your needs and your taste. :) It makes perfect sense. Thank you also for mentioning the networks that perform best for you.

    The point about StumbleUpon is that it still drives good traffic, much needed for website owners who depend on traffic ranks. Also, it might come as a surprise, but SU traffic usually converts better than traffic sent by other social networks – at least in my experience. So I think this article served its purpose well. :)

  • Yes, I remember SU brought me a lot of traffic, but…

    Well, then, I guess they didn’t like some of my content. I just got frustrated when for some reasons was unable to send them a link. Actually, as far as I remember it happened when I submitted a link to this article ( contained an affiliate Amazon link. They must have considered it to be scam…

    Btw, Mihaela, I have some Romanian acquaintances.

  • SU is owned by eBay, Mike. Amazon links are not welcome, as you imagine. ;)
    You also have many ads by google there – but the quality of the article is very good.
    Do you still have your SU account?

    We could talk more about your Romanian acquaintances if you want. I am @miguelstil on twitter.

  • Thanks :)!

    Yes, I confess I have many Google ads, their number varies from time to time. I just cannot get a decent CTR…

    Yep, I still have that account, don’t use it though…

  • Mihaela, Have you got any hard data on the tip about not putting SU buttons on your site beyond “Stumble Upon wants you to use their toolbar”? I’m not sure I completely buy that tip.

    That Sitepoint has an SU button on every post doesn’t help. Most all the WordPress social sharing plugins out there allow for customization so the button could easily be removed if it is such a bad idea. I know that the Sociable plugin that Sitepoint is using does.

  • This is what Tim Nash and other experts advise, Chris. I cannot give you a link because I don’t remember where I read it and when, but I can tell you that I’ve tested this on a few blogs and I ended up taking off the SU buttons.

    Also, the “tip” is what SU actually is all about: it cannot function without the toolbar. They want you to use the toolbar, they say so on getting started, on how to become a top stumbler, and so on.

    Keep in mind that SitePoint is not my site – I cannot remove the button from there. If it were my site, you wouldn’t see it, trust me. :)

  • Deborah

    Great write-up Mig. I have no idea why SU doesn’t have a page like this for new users, but it’s one of the main reasons why newbs drift away from using SU, the lack of info in using the system.

  • Happiness Is Better

    Thanks for the tips. I didn’t know that having an SU button was detrimental. Interesting!

  • jim

    I used to use SU until it took me to a site that ran some code and tried to infect my system. Thanks AVG for catching it. I’m done with SU. Too bad really, I was getting addicted. :)

    Jim, Former Stumbler

  • Chris

    Always been a big SU fan. As a user, I find better sites than on Digg and Reddit. As a publisher, it means far more reliable, better qualified traffic. WIN.

  • Kaushik

    Can you explain how having a SU button on a site be harmful? You haven’t provided any explanation exactly how.

  • Interesting. SU has been a great source of traffic for me so I always included an SU button in my social links on my sites & advise my clients who are looking for traffic to include it on theirs.

    I may have to re-think that.

    The good news is I’m using ShareThis and they give good tracking stats so I can see how many times my site has been submitted to SU or any other sites from the buttons. Thanks for explaining that a little more for me.

  • Anonymous

    After using SU since its inception I only just discovered, thanks to some helpful SU contacts, that “sending” a site via the toolbar, without having made sure it has been discovered first, damages its chance of doing well in SU.

    I removed the SU button at the bottom of my own posts after articles were regularly being given the thumbs up with no review.

    This article is very valuable for anyone wanting to use SU correctly. It would be good if SU users used the tags to their full potential too to categorize sites more comprehensively.

  • I find it ironic that you say not to use a stumble button… Yet there is one in your post! :)

    Ha-ha! In fact, it’s done by SitePoint, not by the author of this post!

  • @Kaushik – it’s a little bit difficult to explain. When you click the SU button from a website – for example SitePoint – you’ll be taken to a review page that doesn’t show you whether the page was discovered, or reviewed. It will not show you how many people like that page either. You’ll only see the URL link of the entry. and then you’ll get the opportunity to write your own tags and review. This happens regardless if you already used the SU toolbar to “thumb up” that page. So the toolbar and the SU buttons are not synchronized. You might end up overwriting reviews you already made.

    The rest is pretty clear: SU depends on its toolbar to function. You find more detailed explanation in the comments above.

    Now, SU buttons are not the worst thing – that’s why I placed them on the last “position” as importance. Many people use “ShareThis” (see Chris Cree) and the widget has SU by default. The widget has many other networks that don’t depend on a toolbar to function – so for many it is very useful. In my post I was speaking about stand-alone SU buttons – like the ones you find here:

    You will argue that if SU lists them, they must be good. They are only good if they send new users to SU – and the good is not for your site, obviously, but for SU.

  • briguy1

    I have to say..I really enoy and appreciate these types of articles! Sure makes the learning curve easier for a beginner like me! Thanks again!

  • I’ve been on StumbleUpon for a while, and am still trying to use it ‘properly’, as it’s not the most intuitive site to use. Thanks for the great tips and clarity on how to promote a site correctly!

  • Jeff Orloff

    Great advice. I have been trying to get more active with Stumble and this really helped.

  • i didn’t know about this but i have signup and i was unable to use this know i know how to use this thanks to give this information