This week, StumbleUpon launched a new iOS app with some big changes to the homepage and how users stumble through content, among other things (see our full review and interview with the company here). While the changes have only come to the iOS app so far, some, if not all of them will come to the other mobile versions and the desktop version in time. We don't know how long it will be, but the company tells us that features will make their way to the greater StumbleUpon experience. They just wanted to start with iOS as the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 launches are generating a great deal of consumer interest right now. One feature in particular could have an impact on the traffic StumbleUpon sends to your site.
Do you consider StumbleUpon to be an important source of traffic? Let us know in the comments.
It really does make using StumbleUpon more enjoyable. It speeds up the whole experience, as you don't have to wait for a page to load before determining whether or not you want to read it or look at it longer. At the same time, that's where things might get a little trickier for content providers hoping to get some traffic from StumbleUpon.
It's possible that this feature could decrease StumbleUpon referrals for publishers, as Stumble-happy users quickly browse through previews, sidestepping the actual pages.
“The page needs to fully load for it to count as a page view (and the page starts to load the instant the Slide appears),” StumbleUpon’s new VP, Product, Cody Simms, tells WebProNews.
The page does start to load with the preview, but it's quite easy to "slide" away from a page well before it's fully loaded. To me, this means publishers hoping to maintain or acquire traffic from StumbleUpon will need to pay more attention to their titles and imagery than ever before.
That's exactly what the preview consists of - an image and a title (and the category to which the page has been submitted). Titles and images have always been key factors in StumbleUpon success. Not the only key factors, and not necessarily factors in all cases, but let's put it this way: having a really catchy title and a really visual page is usually not something that has hurt content on StumbleUpon in the past. It's just that now, these elements are pretty much the only way to grab the user's attention from the preview slide.
Still, the title's the only part you'll really have full control over, when it comes to the preview (unless you submit the article to StumbleUpon yourself - then I suppose you have control over the category as well). As for the image, Simms tells us, "We use an algorithm to determine the best image/thumbnail to display. If there isn’t a quality image we generate a screenshot of the page. Content providers have no control of this.”
It's hard to say how StumbleUpon's algorithm determines which picture is the best, but some guesses would be actual image quality, relevance to the title, and perhaps alt/title text. Again, these are just guesses, as they are obvious elements that can be applied to images. In general, it's good to implement these elements into your content anyway. Still, if your content has multiple pictures, it's anybody's guess which StumbleUpon might choose to display.
So that leaves the title. Having a compelling title has always been important in grabbing users' attention regardless of the channel from which the audience is consuming the content. It just happens to be more important to the StumbleUpon channel now. In the past, you could actually get a way without having an obvious title on your page, as long as the page was interesting enough to catch the user's eye. Now, it's one of the only things you have to catch the user's eye before they swipe on to something else.
Now, if all of that sounds like StumbleUpon is going to become less useful to publishers as a traffic generator, I'm not going to go that far. There's still plenty of traffic-driving potential here.
On our previous article on the new StumbleUpon, a reader commented, "Stumbleupon used to be a big traffic driver that has become less relevant over time. This new page preview feature will make them even less relevant to online publishers. I think stumbleupon is forgetting that publishers are one of their core constituencies as well. They can help promote StumbleUpon. Do I want StumbleUpon buttons on my web pages? Not sure if I do anymore."
My response to that was that I disagree that StumbleUpon is less relevant, as plenty of sites are still getting a great deal of traffic from it. While I do wonder what impact the preview feature will have, I don't think it will render StumbleUpon irrelevant. As long as StumbleUpon can keep users around, sites generating good content will benefit, and StumbleUpon has actually improved the user experience in this case (granted, there are other elements missing from the new app, such as the Explore Box, but the company assures us that it will be back in a future update).
Simms makes a great point about StumbleUpon referrals as related to the new preview feature.
“We believe that Slide helps ensure users have intent to view the page they clicked on and could potentially result in higher engagement," he says.
StumbleUpon referrals have faced criticism in the past regarding the quality of the page views, due to the semi-randomness of StumbleUpon. For example, if you're serving ads or selling something, how many of these random viewers are actually going to convert?
This was already debatable. I say “semi-randomness” because content is targeted based on users’ interests, sometimes more specifically than others, depending on what exactly the user is stumbling through). We had a discussion about the quality of StumbleUpon traffic with social media consultant Brent Csutoras from Kairay Media a few weeks ago. Here's an excerpt from what he had to say:
“You have to remember that the way StumbleUpon’s system works, when your content gets traction, it will get waves of traffic for years to come,” says Csutoras. “For instance, if one of your articles gets a 15,000 visitor spike, you will see that the trail off on that traffic never really goes away. This is because as your content gets popular in StumbleUpon, it queues up for the people who have subscribed to the category applied to your content. Users are only shown the content one time each, but some users may not be that active or their queue is really full.”
“Fast forward a few months when there might be another 10,000 people who have signed up for that category,” he adds. “As those inactive users log in over time and vote up your content, it will again start to gain traction again and potentially go popular showing to all those active members who have signed up since the last time it was popular. So you might see another 7,000 visitor spike months later.”
“This cycle has the potential to repeat for all your content forever,” Csutoras says. “In addition, if enough people tag the content with another category, it can cross over and become visible to a whole different segment of people. This is the beauty of StumbleUpon and why people who have been using it regularly love it.”
“Lastly, StumbleUpon has done a great job over the last year in defining associated categories, allowing more people who might likely appreciate your content see it, even if they are not subscribed to the exact match category.”
As far as the Slide feature goes, you can still thumb up/down content based on the preview, without having to wait for the actual page to load. So, even if you don't get a page view out of it, its still possible that the user can give it a thumbs up (presumably based on your title/imagery), and give it a chance to be shown to more users, which could actually lead to more page views.
By the way, while the new StumbleUpon is only on iOS so far, consider that Apple just broke its own record for iPhone pre-orders.
Do you think the Slide feature will have a negative or positive effect on your StumbleUpon traffic? Share your thoughts here.