Infographic Of The Day: The Incredible Power Of StumbleUpon

The social bookmarking site is powerful. But you probably have no idea just how powerful.

Running a website is a nerve-wracking business, because traffic on the web is so fickle: At Co.Design, the difference between a superb month and an average one can be a single hit on StumbleUpon. So I knew the power that the social-bookmarking site has. But I had no idea that their influence was so unbelievably huge until I saw this infographic by Column Five. Simply put, StumbleUpon is a roaming traffic monster, able to make or break content all across the web.

For those you that don’t know StumbleUpon, it’s essentially a browser add-on, which adds a button allowing you to "stumble upon" a random site that’s geared to your interests. (These are built over time, as the add-on tracks which sites you liked and didn’t like.) Therein lies the power of the service: Unlike something like Reddit or Digg or even Facebook, StumbleUpon is like a web-based slot machine, where every pull of the lever should theoretically yield another jackpot. It offers instant gratification while eliminating the stress of choosing what you want to read.

And that little bit of social engineering has been unbelievably successful:

That’s right: StumbleUpon drives more traffic than Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Digg, and LinkedIn—combined. (Granted, the numbers for Twitter are probably artificially low, since so many people use outside URL shorteners and Twitter clients to manage their feeds.) And part of the magic is contained in that very last chart above: A link in StumbleUpon isn’t nearly as transitory as those on Facebook or Twitter. Because StumbleUpon keeps loading interesting links that you haven’t seen no matter how old they are, it revives older content in a way that Facebook and Twitter simply cannot.

The next part of the chart expands on that point:

Now, you would expect that because finding a site on StumbleUpon is simply a matter of pushing a button, people wouldn’t last very long on each site. After all, they’re expecting instant amusement, and if they don’t get it, they’ll just push the button again.

But the StumbleUpon algorithm is exceptionally good at finding things you’ll like—and that point is proven by the fact that people actually spend more time on StumbleUpon links than the average web page:

If I could sacrifice to the gods of StumbleUpon, I would.

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  • denysedd

    Thanks Cliff for another useful as well as interesting post. You just keep confirming why I still follow you and stop following others!

  • Jordan

    "If I could sacrifice to the gods of StumbleUpon, I would." You just did, Cliff

  • marc

    Sorry to burst the bubble a little here, but StumbleUpon (SU) has such long link/page life because they do not take links out of rotation. Although I have given SU another try or two recently, the reason I stopped using it a long while ago, is that I would see the same links/pages over and over and over again every time I "stumbled". I am not sure what their algorithm was, but it just did not seem that time or repetition was a big factor at all. Sometimes I would go "stumbling" and not "stumble" across anything that I had not already seen several times before. 

    It should be noted that I happened to notice this issue because I only "followed" few categories; which surely wouldn't be the case if you followed many categories, which would obscure the effect a bit.

    I will give it to them though, the visual discovery is the key. I can think of two better implementations though, albeit for specific elements of a page. One, Pinterest (mostly lady-stuff, but creative class stuff), and, two, TasteSpotting (Cooking, baking, and foodie dreams and the like).

    I would like gripe about a specific point that irks me about resources like SU, as with the iPad app Zine, Simple thumbs up and thumbs down does not really apply all the time. What does either mean. Will a story similar to the one that I thumbed up crowd out diversity? What part of the site will be the factor that weighs on what is served up next? If I "thumbs up" a picture of a field with ponies on it, does that mean I will end up getting my little pony pages served to me ad nauseam?

  • Guu

    James - read the entire article - he talks clearly about the duration people stay on the page - which clearly shows that SU still wins!

  • Durant Imboden

    The real question, I think, is how Stumbleupon referrals compare to referrals from the search engines in terms of both quantity and user intent.

    Also, the half-life of a link in Google or Bing can be years, which is a lot longer than the 400 hours claimed for a StumbleUpon link.

  • James

    The real question is, what are the quality of the leads? If I click a link on Facebook or Twitter I know I want to consume the content, if I StumbleUpon something, I might be on to the next link in a second. The reason SU gets so many referrals is because people just keep clicking on Stumble. It's quantity over quality.

    To get a more accurate view, the study should look into the bounce rate of the referrals.

  • Kate Digilio

    Basically SU is great for web page longevity and ad rates, not influence. 

    A link shared with a small "half-life" via a service like twitter may have more influential eyes looking at it, not sheer volume. What is the real value of someone discovering a page or article well after the industry chatter has moved on? How truly interested is someone who relies on an outside service to curate for them and plays "slots" with their interest?But I suppose, more hits is more hits at the end of the day.

  • Yuka

    Incredibly insightful information. I knew StumbleUpon was powerful but that's another level.  Thanks Cliff.