What Does The New StumbleUpon Mean For Your Referrals?

By: Chris Crum

This week, StumbleUpon launched a new iOS app with some big changes
to the homepage and how users stumble through content, among other
things (see our full review and interview with the company here).
While the changes have only come to the iOS app so far, some, if
not all ofthem will come to the other mobile versions and the
desktop version in time. We don’t know how long it will be, but
the company tells us that features will make their way to the
greater StumbleUpon experience. They just wanted to start with
iOS as the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 launches are generating a great
deal of consumer interest right now. One feature in particular
could have an impact on the traffic StumbleUpon sends to your

Do you consider StumbleUpon to be an important source of traffic?
Let us know in the comments.

This feature also happens to be, in my opinion, the best part
of the new StumbleUpon in terms of user experience. It’s called
“Slide”. StumbleUpon’s description of the feature is as follows:
“An innovative new feature that adds another dimension to the
Stumbling experience. Every time you Stumble, you’ll see a
small preview ‘slide’ of the full Stumble that loads in the
background. You can decide to immerse yourself in a Stumble
longer or swipe through multiple Slides to quickly browse
content recommended for you.”

It really does make using StumbleUpon more enjoyable. It speeds
up the whole experience, as you don’t have to wait for a page to
load before determining whether or not you want to read it or
look at it longer. At the same time, that’s where things might
get a little trickier for content providers hoping to get some
traffic from StumbleUpon.

It’s possible that this feature could decrease StumbleUpon
referrals for publishers, as Stumble-happy users quickly
browse through previews, sidestepping the actual pages.

“The page needs to fully load for it to count as a page view
(and the page starts to load the instant the Slide appears),”
StumbleUpon’s new VP, Product, Cody Simms, tells WebProNews.

The page does start to load with the preview, but it’s quite
easy to “slide” away from a page well before it’s fully loaded.
To me, this means publishers hoping to maintain or acquire traffic
from StumbleUpon will need to pay more attention to their titles
and imagery than ever before.

That’s exactly what the preview consists of ??? an image and a title
(and the category to which the page has been submitted). Titles and
images have always been key factors in StumbleUpon success. Not the
only key factors, and not necessarily factors in all cases, but let’s
put it this way: having a really catchy title and a really visual page
is usually not something that has hurt content on StumbleUpon in the
past. It’s just that now, these elements are pretty much the only way
to grab the user’s attention from the preview slide.

Still, the title’s the only part you’ll really have full control over,
when it comes to the preview (unless you submit the article to
StumbleUpon yourself ??? then I suppose you have control over the
category as well). As for the image, Simms tells us, “We use an
algorithm to determine the best image/thumbnail to display. If there
isn’t a quality image we generate a screenshot of the page. Content
providers have no control of this.”

It’s hard to say how StumbleUpon’s algorithm determines which picture
is the best, but some guesses would be actual image quality, relevance
to the title, and perhaps alt/title text. Again, these are just guesses,
as they are obvious elements that can be applied to images. In general,
it’s good to implement these elements into your content anyway. Still,
if your content has multiple pictures, it’s anybody’s guess which
StumbleUpon might choose to display.

So that leaves the title. Having a compelling title has always been
important in grabbing users’ attention regardless of the channel from
which the audience is consuming the content. It just happens to be
more important to the StumbleUpon channel now. In the past, you could
actually get a way without having an obvious title on your page, as
long as the page was interesting enough to catch the user’s eye. Now,
it’s one of the only things you have to catch the user’s eye before
they swipe on to something else.

Now, if all of that sounds like StumbleUpon is going to become less
useful to publishers as a traffic generator, I’m not going to go that
far. There’s still plenty of traffic-driving potential here.

On our previous article on the new StumbleUpon, a reader commented,
“Stumbleupon used to be a big traffic driver that has become less
relevant over time. This new page preview feature will make them
even less relevant to online publishers. I think stumbleupon is
forgetting that publishers are one of their core constituencies
as well. They can help promote StumbleUpon. Do I want StumbleUpon
buttons on my web pages? Not sure if I do anymore.”

My response to that was that I disagree that StumbleUpon is less
relevant, as plenty of sites are still getting a great deal of
traffic from it. While I do wonder what impact the preview feature
will have, I don’t think it will render StumbleUpon irrelevant. As
long as StumbleUpon can keep users around, sites generating good
content will benefit, and StumbleUpon has actually improved the user
experience in this case (granted, there are other elements missing
from the new app, such as the Explore Box, but the company assures
us that it will be back in a future update).

Simms makes a great point about StumbleUpon referrals as related to
the new preview feature.

“We believe that Slide helps ensure users have intent to view the
page they clicked on and could potentially result in higher
engagement,” he says.

StumbleUpon referrals have faced criticism in the past regarding
the quality of the page views, due to the semi-randomness of
StumbleUpon. For example, if you’re serving ads or selling something,
how many of these random viewers are actually going to convert?

This was already debatable. I say “semi-randomness” because content
is targeted based on users’ interests, sometimes more specifically
than others, depending on what exactly the user is stumbling through).
We had a discussion about the quality of StumbleUpon traffic with
social media consultant Brent Csutoras from Kairay Media a few weeks
ago. Here’s an excerpt from what he had to say:

“You have to remember that the way StumbleUpon’s system works,
when your content gets traction, it will get waves of traffic for
years to come,” says Csutoras. “For instance, if one of your articles
gets a 15,000 visitor spike, you will see that the trail off on that
traffic never really goes away. This is because as your content gets
popular in StumbleUpon, it queues up for the people who have subscribed
to the category applied to your content. Users are only shown the
content one time each, but some users may not be that active or their
queue is really full.”

“Fast forward a few months when there might be another 10,000 people
who have signed up for that category,” he adds. “As those inactive
users log in over time and vote up your content, it will again start
to gain traction again and potentially go popular showing to all those
active members who have signed up since the last time it was popular.
So you might see another 7,000 visitor spike months later.”

“This cycle has the potential to repeat for all your content forever,”
Csutoras says. “In addition, if enough people tag the content with
another category, it can cross over and become visible to a whole
different segment of people. This is the beauty of StumbleUpon and
why people who have been using it regularly love it.”

“Lastly, StumbleUpon has done a great job over the last year in
defining associated categories, allowing more people who might
likely appreciate your content see it, even if they are not
subscribed to the exact match category.”

As far as the Slide feature goes, you can still thumb up/down
content based on the preview, without having to wait for the actual
page to load. So, even if you don’t get a page view out of it, its
still possible that the user can give it a thumbs up (presumably
based on your title/imagery), and give it a chance to be shown to
more users, which could actually lead to more page views.

By the way, while the new StumbleUpon is only on iOS so far,
consider that Apple just broke its own record for iPhone pre-orders.

Do you think the Slide feature will have a negative or positive
effect on your StumbleUpon traffic? Share your thoughts here.


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About the Author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry
Network of B2B Publications since 2003.

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