StumbleUpon Traffic IS Worth Something: Links

Ian Lurie

StumbleUpon can provide a valuable boost to an internet marketing campaign: It can indirectly lift link building efforts. A lot.
Read on and I’ll explain how it works, how I researched this, and how you can get the same benefits.

What Is StumbleUpon?

Skip this section if you already know this.

StumbleUpon is half site, half toolbar. You create an account online, then download their toolbar. From then on, you can give sites you visit a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘thumbs down’:
You can also click the ‘Stumble!’ button to see what other folks liked. As you like/dislike those sites, the service figures out your preferences and narrows things a bit.
There are also channels by topic and media type, and you can add friends and comment on the sites you stumble. And, you get your own page. You can see mine here.
But at its heart StumbleUpon is a tremendously addictive traffic generator. Download the toolbar and click ‘Stumble!’ once. I dare ya. You’ll find yourself sitting there an hour later, your pointer figure aching, wondering how you never found all those cool sites.
Links from don’t help with SEO. They ‘nofollowed’ everything a long time ago to prevent spammers from overrunning the place.
But, if lots of people give a website or page a thumbs up in a short time period, the ‘Stumble!’ button will display that site more and more often. That generates a snowball effect: More folks see the site, more folks vote on it, it shows more frequently, it gets more traffic, and so on.
That traffic looks lousy. Lots of visitors, but their average time-on-site is so low you wonder if the visitors have their eyes open.

How StumbleUpon Builds Links

But some of those visits must be high quality. There’s a clear connection between Stumblefests and link growth.
March 19th, I started seeing a huge influx of StumbleUpon traffic. Within a few days I’d received nearly 7500 visits from toolbar users:
My Technorati links surged a few days later:
And my Yahoo! inlinks surged almost exactly 4 weeks later.
I checked against 12 other bursts of traffic from StumbleUpon over the last year. Same pattern: Surge in traffic, then surge in Technorati and Bloglines links immediately, and a surge in Yahoo! links within 4 weeks.

Well, Duh!??

Now you’re sitting at your desk wondering “Why did I read this article?! More visits equals more links?! It’s obvious!”
It’s actually not. A lot of sharp internet marketers have relegated StumbleUpon to the trash heap as something that’s gratifying but has little long-term value.
I don’t agree.
Success on StumbleUpon can mean more links, which means success in the search engines and a broader web of folks bragging about you.
Include it in your social media and SEO strategy. It’s well worth the 2 minutes it takes.

Using StumbleUpon

Some people have made a science out of gaming StumbleUpon to get more traffic. You can if you want, but I’ve had good success by simply:

  1. Downloading the StumbleUpon toolbar.
  2. Stumbling stuff I like about 10 minutes per day.
  3. ‘Friending’ a few people who share similar browsing interests.
  4. And then stumbling my own stuff if I think it’s really worthy.

That last is important. Do not try to spam StumbleUpon. And don’t get 50 friends to stumble your articles every time you post one, either. The site has filters for this kind of thing, and you’ll find yourself dinged or banned.
But follow those four steps and you’re bound to start seeing more traffic on your site, and more links. StumbleUpon is worth the time.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Thanks for the article. I’ve been using Stumble already for about a month. I twice stumbled a page and within a couple of hours had around 300 visitors. Thanks for going into detail on how Stumble works!

  2. I agree that Stumbleupon is great and can provide traffic but I’m a little skeptical about the link value. I’ve noticed that Site Explorer frequently lists links that have been nofollowed. In other words, just because there were more links listed in Yahoo doesn’t mean that will translate to better rankings and more traffic, does it?

  3. I have been using StumbleUpon for quite awhile now. I actually enjoy it for a few reasons — one of which is the traffic (though the traffic only comes in spurts, it doesn’t remain consistent, though usually I pick up two or three new feed subscribers during each spike) and the other of which is the cool new sites that I have discovered. For both reason, I think it’s a great tool.

  4. Do you think StumbleUpon has worked so well for you because your blog readers (and potential blog readers) tend to be very web savvy? This savviness may mean they’re more likely to:
    a. Use StumbleUpon
    b. Use other social sites like Technorati
    c. Have a website of their own from which they’ll link to good material.
    I wonder if there are case studies of the positive impact of Stumble on websites in other verticals.

  5. @Casey: Definitely. All of these sites offer different audiences. I HAVE seen Stumbleupon work very well for a variety of e-com sites, though, that sell very untechnical stuff, like salt.

  6. @Marjory A valid point. I’ll be watching traffic over time. But note I also got a boost in Technorati links.

  7. I can say StumbleUpon is without a doubt one of the most useful sites out there. I get a good chunk of my traffic from StumbleUpon sometime it out ranks the traffic I get from Google,Yahoo, and MSN Live Search. I like the new feature that allows you to see a thumbnail of the site that your friends are stumbling as well as others who are not your friends.
    My famous last words are “Never Underestimate the Power of a Stumble” When timed effectively it can get you great results. As with so many other social networking/bookmarking sites out there the power of StumbleUpon has yet to be fully realized.
    I also like the fact that when I am stuck for blogging inspiration I have the little Stumble icon in my toolbar and I can go Stumbling until I find some ideas or inspiration. Stumble also allows you to have different channels such as images,video,people to stumble as well. There has been many times I have stumbled just images to get design ideas.
    Happy Stumbling awaits 🙂

  8. I agree 100% that StumbleUpon builds links. I also agree that…

    Success on StumbleUpon can mean more links, which means success in the search engines and a broader web of folks bragging about you.

    However, one problem I’m seeing is a problem with an influx of visitors and my CPU limits with the host service I’m using – Bluehost.
    What hosting options are better that can take the type of influx traffic that SU and other social sites brings, but doesn’t max out CPU limits?
    Thanks for the feedback. I wrote an article on 5 Strategies to Maximize StumbleUpon. Let me know what you all think.

  9. I think it’s logical to think that Stumble equals more traffic and exposure and therefore more links. Thanks for the post. A Stumble for your efforts.

  10. Ian,
    I completely agree. StumbleUpon has to be one of the most underrated social media tools available at the moment. Marketers need to remember that sites submitted to StumbleUpon remain there indefinately. As such, there is the ongoing potential for users to simple ‘stumble upon’ the site. With other tools, including website aggregation services such as Digg, the likelihood of a page being dredged by up is substantially lower. Seems to me that the Stumble tool represents a far more valuable tool for anyone looking to create value through the social media.

  11. I never could understand the people who were turned off by Stumbleupon because they say the traffic is useless. Sure, many of the visitors will be somewhat untargeted and may click away after a second. However, the rewards in the form of potential publicity far outweigh any of those concerns. It does take great timing and coordination to get your friends behind you in order to really get massive results. But, it’s well worth it.

  12. Okay you saved them. I’ve been recently considering ditching my StumbleUpon efforts, wondering if the traffic is not worth it in the long-term.
    But okay.
    After all, I like StumbleUpon. So I’ll keep pressing my articles into it too.
    I wonder: do you think it makes sense to advertise on their network. (I doubt it.) A thumbs up or two might be just as good as 5 cent ads, eh?

  13. Hi Ian
    Thanks for sharing this traffic tip, I am all set up and ready to roll.
    Guest which site is getting my first stumbleupon…..yours lol.
    Sally 🙂

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