Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Check out her new blog Anywired if you’re interested in earning an income online.
Since yesterday, StumbleUpon has sent me around 20,000 page views. It’s the single biggest referrer for both my blogs, despite one of them having been on the Digg front page three times! You could say that StumbleUpon traffic (and lots of it) is one of the main reasons I’ve been lucky enough to become a pro blogger.
In this post, I want to share all the trade secrets I’ve learned about how to craft posts that set StumbleUpon on fire. These are tips and ideas I use on a daily basis to get anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand (or more) StumbleUpon visitors every day.
I should note before we start that, while StumbleUpon use is heavier in some niches than others, these principles should help you to tap into SU traffic regardless of whether you’re blogging about blogging or Mexican walking fish. SU is arguably the most powerful promotional tool niche bloggers can use.
Learn the new rules
Your efforts will be hampered if you try to write posts to appeal to social media ‘in general’. Each service likes certain types of content and dislikes others. Digg likes mass appeal. Del.icio.us likes anything its users like, but an item won’t go popular unless the source page gets thousands of hits.
If you’re in a niche without mass appeal, SU can help you where the other services won’t. Digg’s categories are deliberately broad to avoid diluting its power to send waves of traffic. StumbleUpon’s categories can be much more specific. While the traffic is not always as targeted as you’d like, it’s still much more targeted than Digg’s.
This also fundamentally changes the way you approach ‘writing for social media’ when you’re writing for StumbleUpon. You no longer have to worry about pleasing everyone. In fact, sticking within the confines of your niche — even if it’s a small one — can mean the difference between badly targeted traffic vs. highly targeted traffic.
My first piece of advice on writing SU optimized content is to write posts for your target market, not for the many. This increases the chances that your post will be submitted to a more specific category yielding better targeted traffic.
Stumble no-go zones
Before I discuss the types of content that tend to do well on StumbleUpon, it’s worth outlining a few types of posts that rarely go popular on the service. I’m not suggesting that you cut out these content types, but it might be worth thinking about how you can make them more attractive to StumbleUpon.
- Weekly link round-ups. One solution is to change your link round up to a weekly themed resource list.
- News. Time-sensitive content is favored by Digg and Reddit, but StumbleUpon will generally only pick up timeless content. If it’s not going to be relevant in a month, it’s probably not going to get Stumbled much.
- Posts that don’t make sense out of context. If your post doesn’t make sense without context it probably won’t get picked up by SU. Potential voters know that the visitors they send won’t ‘get’ your post.
- Short, breezy posts. A short, value-packed post can do well on StumbleUpon, but breezy content without pithy tips is usually bypassed.
- Posts that don’t sell themselves properly. New visitors don’t have much patience. If your mind-bending, life-changing post takes 500 words to really get going, your loyal readers will probably love it, but StumbleUpon will yawn. The value inside your post should be made clear as soon as possible.
- Overly personal posts. Sorry personal bloggers, but this one is tough. If you’ve ever re-told a story about a friend to someone who doesn’t know them, you’ve probably noticed that the story doesn’t entertain them nearly as much as it entertained you. Highly personal content can be met with a fanatical response from readers who know you, but your average SU visitor won’t know why they should care.
Each of these content types may have a home on your blog and not everything can be optimized for StumbleUpon. The main reason I want to share these no-go zones is so you don’t pour unnecessary effort into one of these post types, only to find that it doesn’t send the traffic and potential readers you’d hoped.
Photo by swruler9284
Stumble-friendly post types
Just as there are certain content types that rarely sizzle with SU traffic, there are certain types of content that seem to be particularly well-loved by SU users.
- Posts that look as if they took a long time to craft. SU users respect carefully crafted content. If your post is chock full of detail, examples, images, links or otherwise looks as if it took some time to put together, they’ll generally reward your efforts.
- Unique how-to guides and advice posts. Certain topics have been done to death, but if you can tap into something people want to learn how to do but haven’t yet been told, SU will probably reward you.
- Unique, novel and useful resource lists.
- Pithy posts with poignant take-home points. If you can find the right words to say something important, or think of an apt metaphor, your post is likely to be popular even if it’s quite short.
- Visually interesting posts. Captivating images can be a lot more gripping than a wall of text. I start each post I write on my blogs with an interesting image from Flickr and this always appears in the above-the-fold area of the screen. I think this might have a big part to play in my success with SU traffic. A gripping headline and a gripping image help to draw SU visitors into each post.
- Treasure-trove content. Posts containing cool rarities and free stuff are usually highly popular.
There are other types of content that do well, but the above represents the most common formats for blog posts that fare well on StumbleUpon.
SUO: StumbleUpon Optimization
There are a few things you can do to optimize any post for StumbleUpon.
1. The Value/Curiosity headline formula. The two most effective ways to encourage someone to read your posts is to a) promise value that will make the time-investment worthwhile or b) make them curious. For option A, pick a headline that makes your post sound unmissable. For B, pick a headline that begs an explanation. For example: What’s the scariest fish in the Amazon? Hint: It’s not the Piranha. It’s far, far worse (source). Another simple hack is to make your headlines really big and eye-catching, so they gather more attention.
2. Start with an image. Our eyes are drawn to interesting images. Once you can bring a StumbleUpon visitor’s eyes down into your post, it’s a tiny step for them to make the move into your text.
3. Sell each post. Dedicate the first paragraph of each post to making it sound like something worth reading. Tell readers what they stand to get in return for their time investment.
Having a core base of active SU users who read your blog is all you need to tap into a steady stream of SU traffic. If you haven’t yet developed this core base yet, here’s what you should do:
- Start using StumbleUpon and voting up content from other blogs and websites in your niche.
- Friend those who Stumble your articles and thank them. This will start a dialog that could turn them into a loyal reader of your blog.
- Write about SU and encourage readers to add you as a friend.
- Swap Stumbles with other bloggers.
- Link to your SU profile on your About page.
- Befriend active StumbleUpon users and stumble and review some of their content if they have a blog or website. Active users command more traffic and they’re more likely to repay the favor because they’re Stumbling all the time anyway!
- Add a Stumble button/link under each of your posts.
- Add a Stumble link to your Feedflare (find it in your Feedburner control panel).
Points to review
- When writing for StumbleUpon, focus on writing value-packed posts for your target audience. Don’t try to accommodate everyone.
- Be mindful of the post types that tend to receive little interest on SU.
- Remember the post types that SU loves best.
- Practice SUO.
- Work hard at turning active SU users into loyal readers of your blog.