August 26, 2008

Blogging Tip #10: Using StumbleUpon to Boost Blog Traffic

For the tenth tip in this series, I'd like to do something special and let you in on a little secret. Learning how to use StumbleUpon effectively has been the single most effective means of increasing traffic to my blog. That's right, nothing else has even come close. The catch is, you have to do it right or you'll not see the sort of benefit I'll describe. Don't worry, I'll tell you what you need to know here.

Stumble It!

What StumbleUpon Has Done For Me

Looking at my Google Analytics data for 7/22-8/21, I see that StumbleUpon has resulted in 49,048 visits to Atheist Revolution. Not too shabby if I say so myself. In fact, StumbleUpon is responsible for roughly 59% of my traffic.

But what good is this sort of traffic if it doesn't convert to regular readers, you ask? Well, that is the thing about StumbleUpon - if used correctly, it is going to bring you highly targeted and relevant traffic. You will likely gain more readers and subscribers to your feed via StumbleUpon than any other social networking service.

Getting Started With StumbleUpon

Getting started with the service is extremely easy. By itself, StumbleUpon will not do much for you, and the advanced techniques I'll present in a minute are where you are going to get your real benefit. But first, we have to get StumbleUpon installed and properly configured.

To use StumbleUpon, you'll need a browser toolbar. Open your favorite browser and head to StumbleUpon.com. Click the Join button, and you will be walked through the free registration and installation procedure.

Once you have the toolbar in your browser, you'll see several buttons. Many of these will be important, but we'll save the advanced techniques for the next section and address the basics here. Starting on the left hand side of the toolbar:
  • The "Stumble!" button will take you to a random page submitted by the user base to StumbleUpon. Since you haven't configured anything yet, it will feel extremely random.
  • The "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons are for rating the random pages you land on. Thumbs up means you like the content, subject matter, etc. and would like to see more of it. Thumbs down means the opposite. The pages you rate up are going to get more traffic.
Before you do much with these or any other buttons, I encourage you to set up your profile. From the StumbleUpon home page, click the Home tab and then click on your StumbleUpon user name. This is your profile, and you should complete it right away. You can see my StumbleUpon profile here. From your profile page, make sure to click Preferences in the upper right corner of the page and complete all this information.

Your next step is to go to StumbleUpon's Atheist-Agnostic Websites page and click the "I like..." button in the upper right corner. Now you are ready to roll.

Look at your StumbleUpon toolbar again. Find the button just to the right of center labeled "All," and click on the down arrow. One of the options listed in the pull-down menu should be "Atheist/Agnostic." Select it. You are taken to a random page in this category. Now when you hit the "Stumble!" button, your random pages are not so random - they are those tagged by users as belonging to the Atheism/Agnosticism category.

I strongly recommend that you spend considerable time stumbling and rating pages in this category before doing much of anything else. For now, do not "thumbs up" any of your own blog pages. We'll get to that, but doing it now can actually hurt the reputation you will soon work to cultivate. For now, you want to stumble hundreds of pages in the atheist/agnostic category. This will help establish you as a top stumbler.

Advanced Techniques: StumbleUpon for Blog Promotion

Now that you are building a valuable reputation in the StumbleUpon community, it is time to start reaping the true benefits.

Go to your blog's home page and click the "thumbs up" button. If someone else has already submitted your blog to the system, nothing much will happen and this is fine. If your blog has not already been submitted, a window will pop up asking you for information. Make sure the title is accurate and write a clear but concise description of your blog in the Review field. Be descriptive and don't think of this as an actual review. Under topic, use the pull down "other" menu to find the Atheist/Agnostic topic. Finally, use the tag field as appropriate. Accuracy is far more important here than listing everything you can think of. Don't use more than 3-4 tag words and be very selective.

Now that you have made sure your blog is in the system, it is time to add some friends. From your StumbleUpon profile page, explore the "Friends," "Network," and "Matches" sections. When you consider adding someone as a friend, you should ask yourself whether the person is actively stumbling material you would find interesting. If not, find another candidate. If so, friend them. Shoot for friending 25-50 users for now. Be selective, and make sure that what they are doing is really going to be of interest to you.

Now whenever you are surfing and come across a page you like, regardless of whether you are stumbling, give it the "thumbs up." Many of the pages you do this with will not be in the StumbleUpon system yet. This is especially true of new blog posts. This is your chance to really make your reputation. Follow the same entry procedure described above when we were talking about your own blog. Bloggers notice when you submit their posts; they are more likely to return the favor, friend you, etc.

Now you are ready for the cardinal rule of StumbleUpon: avoid submitting your own blog posts. Why? You will receive far more traffic from a post someone else submits for you than one you submit. Feel free to vote up your own posts, but only after someone else has submitted them. If you submit your own posts excessively, StumbleUpon will penalize you through reduced traffic, and your reputation will suffer. The advantage of stumbling others' posts regularly is that StumbleUpon will be more forgiving on those occasions where you simply cannot resist submitting your own post. It is almost like they'll tolerate you submitting one of your own for every 10-20 of others you submit or vote on.

Now go forth and stumble!

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