This is a guest post by Maria from Fitness Reloaded.
I have been a loyal reader of Corbett’s stuff for a few years. After launching my own blog Fitness Reloaded in late July, I had even more motivation to bury myself into his material.
Since my website was still a baby, I was experimenting with my content to see what worked. Up until October I was only posting videos, and maybe also some text explaining the video. I had never tried to follow the popular guidelines about tweaking your headlines to attract more people, creating list posts, etc. (Why? Because I felt that doing so would make me join the club of too much marketing).
However, as traffic was low, I felt I had to try more options. Video, video+text, just text, list format, shorter posts, longer posts, different headlines, etc.
I wanted to learn what makes posts really take off. I had read Benny’s article on the anatomy of a viral post after having his article “29 life lessons learned in travelling the world for 8 years straight” getting 220,000 visitors with Facebook and Stumble Upon being the major traffic sources.
These are the main points on what to do to go viral:
- Awesome content. Don’t take my word for that. Just read it.
- Including yourself in the post, e.g., with a pic.
- List format.
- Unique Title: Benny did not use a common birthday title “29 life lessons in 29 years lived”, but “29 lessons in travelling the world for 8 years straight”. Pretty different right?
- Bonus points for relating the post to your birthday
Up until October, I had barely ever used Stumble Upon. Still, I decided to experiment with it myself.
I got an account and started exploring the material. I wanted to see what gets hits vs. what doesn’t.; what attracted me as a user and what didn’t. This experience helped me understand how Stumble Upon users think. This is exactly what Benny was recommending in his article.
In the meantime, I decided to experiment with the content of my own site, and write a few really length posts. With Benny’s article in mind, I went on and wrote “The unconventional 26-step guide to go from exercise hater to exercise addict!”. Why 26? Because I posted it for my 26th birthday.
The Mechanics of Going Viral
This post adheres to all the above guidelines:
- At more than 3200 words, this post was epic. Again, don’t take my word for it – read it.
- I am in the post. The post started with a video of me welcoming people.
- It uses the list format.
- It has a unique title.
- It’s directly related to my birthday: The 26 steps were inspired by my 26th birthday!
Apart from running my own experiment, I also started submitting articles of my friends to SU. Would they take off?
One day, I remember coming across Tyler Tervooren’s post “99 quotes about risk to inspire you to do great things” … and thinking: “This article will go viral – I have to submit it!”.
Why did I think of that? Because it’s a list post that although it has nothing to do with Tyler’s birthday (hehe), it’s unique, and has awesome material. Plus, I had already noticed from my brief experience with SU that SU users looooved quotes. I just HAD TO submit it!
A few days later, I looked into my account on SU and realized that Tyler’s post …. was viral! It had already gotten 14k hits and went on to over 60k!
As for my own post, in the first two weeks nothing happened. I have to admit that I totally forgot about my experiment. Until, suddenly, two weeks later, I logged in to Clicky only to discover that hundreds of people were on my site at that time! The reason? A surge of visitors from SU for my birthday post!
With 15,000 SU visits a day, SU literally made my days. After all, I went from 50 visits a day to 15,000. Isn’t that purely amazing? I was in heaven..!
This is how my traffic graph appeared… (note, the scale on the side is 10,000 and 20,000 visits)
This is how my world looked during the “bliss”:
The bliss lasted for about 4 days, slowly fading off during the next few days.
Other Factors to Consider
According to these articles, a post has higher chances of going viral if the submitter:
- Is a regular stumble upon user
- Has lots of followers
- Consistently submits new material
- Doesn’t just uses Stumble Upon for his/her own self-promotion
Benny mentioned in the anatomy of a viral post that it does not matter who submits the article. However, he also mentioned that he is an active Stumble Upon user.
In my case, I was a Stumble Upon newbie when the “99 quotes about risk to inspire you to do great things” and the “The unconventional 26-step guide to go from exercise hater to exercise addict!” took off. I had zero followers. I had minimal account strength.
As a Stumble Upon user I have noticed that good quality pictures and videos rank high on SU. Thus, if you are into interior design and have awesome pictures, or are into film and have interesting clips, then Stumble Upon is your kingdom!
Of course how Stumble Upon actually works is a secret. Nobody knows for sure. I am just giving you the data so you can come to your own conclusions.
Posts that did not go Viral on SU
Along with Tyler’s post I also submitted a few others that did not make it to viral status.
Good content does not mean your post will go viral on SU. Here are a few posts that I considered to be pretty interesting but did not make it in SU:
- Be yourself, everybody else is already taken by Tim Brownson.
- The 8 habits of healthy living by Leo Babauta.
- Changes in the rearview by the Minimalists.
Thus, if your articles do not go viral, then do not be disheartened. That does not mean that your articles are no good. Nobody can predict what will make it on SU and what will not. See it as a game and just play!
To what extent does Stumble Upon traffic convert?
During the “bliss” I gained about 55,000 visitors. 90% of them bounced. Average time on site? 1 min and 24 sec.
Out of those 55,000 visitors, I gained less than 5 subscribers.
Thus, my site’s conversion from SU was pretty bad. Ok, that was an understatement. It was awful!
I did actually gain something though…
As a coincidence, during those days, I was running a survey on people’s exercise habits, barriers, and secrets of fitness success to produce the -now published- Exercise Habits Report. I was stressed because I wanted to get more than 500 submissions in three weeks’ time. The moment I saw that my post had taken off, I included a small box in it that led people to the survey in the Survey Monkey site. I removed that little box once the survey was closed.
In the end, I got more than 500 submissions for my Report with 50-100 submissions coming from SU. Not bad right?
Is Stumble Upon traffic worth it? Successful bloggers share their experiences.
As mentioned before, the actual Stumble Upon code is a secret. I am just one blogger, having a limited experience.
That said, I asked Marc Perry from Built Lean, Tyler Tervooren from Advanced Riskology, Benny Lewis from Fluentin3months, and Corbett Barr from ThinkTraffic, CorbettBarr, and ExpertEnough about their own SU experiences.
1. Who is typically submitting your articles on SU?
Marc: “There is not a typical submitter, but random stumblers.“
Tyler: “You are! I don’t really do any promotion with StumbleUpon, so I don’t really pay attention to who submits my articles there. The last time one of my pieces went really big, though, it was submitted first by you. So credit where credit’s due!”
Benny: “Anyone may submit it. The ones that go viral have no particular pattern. My own sister submitted my biggest viral article (she is an active Stumbleupon user). I really don’t think it makes much of a difference who does the submitting.”
Corbett: “I only occasionally submit my own articles to StumbleUpon if I think of it and think they might be a good fit.”
2. What should a post be like to become popular in SU (e.g., length, pictures, content, etc)?
Marc: “I actually never thought about it before until you asked! I don’t write articles for the purpose of becoming popular on SU, the goal is to make them useful and informative for my readers. Traffic is an afterthought.
With that said, I’ve noticed my most successful articles on SU are generally shorter around 700 words compared to some of my longer posts at 1500 words. In addition, articles that do well tend to be punchy, either list types of posts, articles that use bullets, and also generous use of photos. My guess is many stumblers want to absorb as much information as possible as quickly as possible, and then move on.”
Tyler: “Again, I don’t think about SU in any way, shape, or form when I’m creating an article because I find the traffic it brings me to be extremely low quality, but it seems like the most popular pieces there are typically technology, or news related and are primarily list posts of some type. Incredibly long lists seem to do well for some reason.”
Benny: “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog!
Oh sorry – you were asking for some other magic formula? All my articles are way longer than the recommended maximum word guidelines I’ve heard. There is no formula. Something is either good or it isn’t. Ask a human being, not a mathematical algorithm!”
Corbett: “I have only had one article become a big hit on SU. It was “50 Photos to Inspire Life as a Digital Nomad.” The post was also popular on Twitter and Facebook.
I’m no SU expert, so I can’t really recommend guidelines for content that works there, other than content that is generally especially sharable via any social network.”
3. I have found that traffic from SU does not convert well and has a high bounce rate (90%). What is your experience with it?
Marc: “My SU bounce rate in the last 30 days is surprisingly only 55%, but over the last 12 months it’s been 77%. Email opt-in rates/conversions are very low as a percentage of total traffic from SU. The conversion rate is 90% less than my site-wide average.”
Tyler: “My experience is the same as yours. The last time one of my articles went big on SU, it got about 60,000 visitors over the course of a week. Of those 60k, almost all of them stayed on the page for less than one minute, and about 6 signed up for my email newsletter.”
So, I think it’s pretty low quality.”
Benny: “Similar experience, but 10% of a big number is still a big number. When my posts go viral on SU, I get lots of short-attention-spanners, but I also get a decent amount that hang around.”
Corbett: “The traffic I’ve received from SU has similarly high bounce rates (around 90%). This is offset by the fact that hundreds of thousands of visitors have come to my sites from SU.”
4. What is your opinion on SU traffic? Should someone pursue it or not?
Marc: “I think it really depends on the nature of the site and the site’s goals. For a site that is a pure traffic play relying on ad revs, SU is essential. In my opinion, content heavy websites should have at least some presence on stumble and certainly have SU badges in clear view on all their articles. I look at Stumble as free call option. So if you get 30K stumbles on a given article, it sets off a chain of events – you’ll probably get 50+ tweets and 50+ likes helping you get even more exposure, which can help you get some in links from other sites, which in combination with the favorable search metrics can boost your rankings in the search engines for whatever keyword you are targeting on that post. So it’s really a win-win across the board.”
Tyler: “I don’t really have an opinion about it besides that I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing anything to pursue it. Basically, if one of my pieces goes big on SU and a bazillion people show up, I’m more than happy to have them—the more the merrier—but I’m not going to sacrifice my writing style to attract them.
I think of SU traffic as the “cherry on top.” Nice to have if it’s there, but I’m not going to complain if it isn’t.”
Benny: “Put the button on the top of your post or sidebar, and then forget about it and focus on good content. If you “pursue” going viral on stumbleupon then you simply don’t get it. Sign up for an account and use the bloody thing! Many of my articles have gone viral because I am a stumbleupon user and know what they want to see. This isn’t something I can quantify in terms of best photo, or number of words, but a general idea of what they like based on what I, as a SU user, like.
Expecting to go viral on any social networking site that you are not a member of is just being traffic-greedy. Understand the users properly, without faceless formulas, and you will go far.”
Corbett: “SU traffic converts very poorly, but in aggregate it can make a difference to a site. I wouldn’t necessarily pursue it directly, except by creating content that I feel has a great potential to be shared on any social network, and then to submit some of those to SU.
There are other tactics one might need to employ on SU to give your submissions a higher chance of going viral there. For example, gaining friends there and submitting articles from other sites and leaving comments. I’m not convinced this is worth a blogger’s time, but I do know some who have pursued this as a strategy with some success.”
As for my opinion, I agree with Tyler – Stumble Upon traffic is nice to have, “the cherry on top”, but I wouldn’t pursue it directly. Unless of course, I have another Exercise Habits Report to publish and need people to complete my survey.
What is your experience with Stumble Upon? Do you use it? Has it worked for you? What are your secrets?
(“Bliss” photo credit: Viahar24h.com)