Social Media

StumbleUpon: Social Bookmarking Traffic Generator

StumbleUpon is a social bookmarking tool that allows users to share a website with others in their network. People use the tool to “stumble upon” web pages recommended by others that are matched to their personal preferences.

How Does it Work?

StumbleUpon uses a “thumbs up, thumbs down” rating mechanism to form collaborative opinions about the quality of a particular website. When users “stumble,” they only see pages that friends and like-minded stumblers have recommended. The tool filters content — to help web surfers find relevant resources and, therefore, reduce the time needed for research.

StumbleUpon offers nearly 500 topics. Users can choose their interests and preferences so each stumble produces the most relevant content. The tool uses an algorithm to “learn” what content the user has liked in an attempt to increase relevance and ensure an even higher quality of returns. (As you will see later, based on our experience, it does not always deliver on its promise.)

According to a StumbleUpon blog post, it drives more traffic than any other social media site, globally speaking.

StumbleUpon says it drives more web traffic than any other social media site.

StumbleUpon says it drives more web traffic than any other social media site.

Consumer Benefits to Using StumbleUpon

More Relevant Returns Than Search Engines. Finding relevant content is the goal of search engines. Normally, however, that requires the searcher to filter through pages and pages of results with no guarantee that helpful sources will be found. The premise of StumbleUpon is that members are taken directly to websites matching their personal interests and preferences.

Combats Information Overload. Because information on the Internet changes rapidly, StumbleUpon utilizes a dynamic approach to stay on top of this ever-evolving pool of knowledge.

StumbleUpon filters through the firehouse of information on the web to direct Stumblers to higher quality websites that are relevant to their personal interests. Sites that consistently receive higher ratings are elevated in rank and are seen more often, while lower quality sites can be removed if ratings drop.

Uses People as Curators. Using a combination of human opinions and machine learning to deliver more relevant content, StumbleUpon presents websites that have been suggested by other like-minded Stumblers.

Benefit to Merchants

The chief benefit to ecommerce merchants is the amount of traffic StumbleUpon generates. If the tool is true to its promise, traffic will not only increase in quantity, but quality as well.

However, our experience has been that, while StumbleUpon does produce the highest quantity of traffic as compared to other referral sources, especially from new site visitors, the bounce rate is also very high – over 90 percent in some cases – which indicates Stumblers are not delving deeper into the site to view additional content. From my research in the StumbleuUpon help files, that appears to be the experience of other site owners, as well. That’s not the only disadvantage, either, as time spent on site can also be minimal.

Ways to Use StumbleUpon

Create an Account. An account must first be created to use StumbleUpon. Overall, some 20 million people have done so and the number grows at a rate of 500,000 new users per month, according to an article at Mashable.

StumbleUpon Toolbar. The application has a toolbar that can be integrated into the user’s browser to allow for one-click access to websites.

StumbleUpon provides a toolbar for most web browsers.

StumbleUpon provides a toolbar for most web browsers.

Mobile Application. StumbleUpon offers mobile applications for iPhone, iPad and Android.

Tools for Publishers. StumbleUpon provides a variety of tools that website owners can incorporate on their sites including widgets and badges and sharing buttons.

Merchants can incorporate StumbleUpon sharing tools into their websites.

Merchants can incorporate StumbleUpon sharing tools into their websites.

StumbleUpon also offers paid advertising.


Where Practical eCommerce is concerned, StumbleUpon has proven itself to be a reliable source of traffic. However, due to the high bounce rate, there is an apparent gap between the quantity produced and the relevance to the Stumbler.

Merchants should determine whether the quantity versus quality and time spent on site issues are sufficient enough a priority to maximize its use on their ecommerce website. Consumers will continue to use the tool regardless and, if the current growth rate is any indication, at ever-increasing numbers.

Paul Chaney
Paul Chaney
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