The Truth about Self Promoting on StumbleUpon

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Truth About Self Promoting on StumbleUpon

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Self promoting on StumbleUpon dos and don'ts + access to a group for bloggers to get more StumbleUpon traffic from Anyonita Nibbles  
I've never been shy about the main sources of referral traffic for Anyonita Nibbles. For a long time Pinterest and Google waged weekly wars over sending the most traffic to my blog. Recently, StumbleUpon edged its way into the mix, with impressive results.

I've not been the only one shouting about the footfall boost StumbleUpon provides. In light of Facebook's blatant refusal to make posts on pages visible to people who have liked the page, a number of bloggers are slowly tapping into the StumbleUpon honeypot. 

As more people use StumbleUpon, more questions and myths crop up about its services. One of the biggest questions I've come across is regarding self promotion. So, I've done some research to uncover what StumbleUpon really says about self-promotion on their website. Read on to see what they have to say.

Find more blogging tutorials to pin:

The Truth about Self Promoting on StumbleUpon
First, some hard facts: 
  • StumbleUpon will send traffic to your blog.
  • StumbleUpon might refer more traffic to your blog than your previous top referrer.
    For the month of March 2014 my top three referrers were:
    Pinterest 3,556 referrals
    StumbleUpon 2,636 referrals
    Google 1,644 referrals
  • StumbleUpon works best when it is used as it was intended to be used.
  • StumbleUpon has best practice techniques that will make the platform more beneficial to you; it's up to you to apply these.
  • StumbleUpon practices ghost banning on accounts that are used inappropriately.

What makes StumbleUpon so unique? 
StumbleUpon lets it users recommend pages. It hasn't built an arbitrary algorithm that indexes pages based solely on tags, SEO or reader activity. Instead, StumbleUpon relies on stumblers, ordinary people like you and me, to tell it what to recommend to other ordinary people. StumbleUpon calls it "natural selection for the internet" but it's more than that: it's the very best type of word of mouth there is. Your readers see something they like on your blog. They stumble it and StumbleUpon shows that to other people who have previously liked similar things. It matches them with content and sites that they'll love based on what they already said they like.

And it's amazing. In all my days using StumbleUpon, I've only had to "thumbs down" pages once or twice. They pretty much consistently lead me to pages that I genuinely like. When you use StumbleUpon properly, it's brilliant for increasing traffic easily. 

StumbleUpon's main rule about self-promotion
Of course, bloggers and web site owners would want to tap into that honeypot. Since it finds people who are likely to love your content, StumbleUpon effectively does the marketing for you. But that's not it's purpose. Their useful tips page is littered with this one idea repeated about a dozen times: StumbleUpon is not a platform for excessive self promotion.

StumbleUpon says: "Don't self promote too much. Recommending too many pages from your own domain can be considered spam. [Disproportionately] recommending pages from a domain you own or with which you're affiliated is frowned upon by other members of the StumbleUpon community, and can actually result in those pages being recommended by StumbleUpon even less frequently to other users."

Ouch, but it fits in with the purpose of StumbleUpon. Of course any blogger or company owner is going to harp on and on about their own content or products. That's natural. But what StumbleUpon and stumblers want to know is what you like and what you recommend that has no direct relation to you. They like variety and they want to see your varied interests!

How StumbleUpon treats inappropriate users
How does StumbleUpon know that I'm recommending my own content?
StumbleUpon may not be able to definitively say that the content you recommend is your own or is closely affiliated with you on the surface. But if you stumble 100 pages a day every day and 80 of them come from the same domain, StumbleUpon is likely to assume that this is self-promotion. 

Does StumbleUpon use data from the toolbar to check up on me?
Yes and no. While StumbleUpon's toolbar is aware of the webpages you visit, it is most likely not storing this information to check up on you. Using our first example, if you are spending a good portion of your time on the same site that you are heavily stumbling, it would be pretty obvious that you are doing so because you are in some way affiliated with the site.

What happens if StumbleUpon finds out that I've been recommending only my own content?
StumbleUpon has stated that excessive self-promotion can result in your content being shared with other stumblers less. Your StumbleUpon account isn't likely to be blocked and you will not be banned from their site, but you will be the victim of a practice commonly referred to has ghost banning.

What exactly is a ghost ban? 
A ghost ban is a secret way for web developers to control spam techniques without the unnecessary drama of confronting a spammer or the hassle of closing spam accounts. A ghost ban allows a user to continue to use an account in the way they have been doing but it does not display that information on the site for other users. Ghost banning is kind of like a two-way mirror at a police station. The criminal or spammer can see their own reflection or the content that they are promoting as if it were actually being shared across the site to everyone. The police officer or StumbleUpon can see the spammer and the spam, so they can divert it away from the accounts of authentic users like you and me without the spammer even noticing.  So if you were to get ghost banned, you could still recommend pages but those pages would not be shown to other stumblers although they would still be shown to you. 

How can I avoid getting ghost banned on StumbleUpon?
Quite simply, play by the StumbleUpon rules. Recommend a variety of pages; not just your own. Use StumbleUpon organically and not just for promotion. Instead of only liking pages as a part of a group or StumbleUpon boosting scheme, you should sign in every now and then and use StumbleUpon on your own accord and with no ulterior motive. StumbleUpon is a community built upon honest referrals and it is best when it used this way.

I belong to a secret or closed StumbleUpon promotion group and we consistently like one each others content. Can I get banned for this?
The short answer is no; the long answer is possibly. If you are in a secret group with only a handful of pages and you are consistently recommending pages from the same three or four domains day in and day out, you might be considered a spammer. If you are in a StumbleUpon promotion group, the best advice I can give you is to vary the pages that you recommend. Of course you may recommend a page from the same domain sometimes and there is nothing wrong with this. Remember that it's not so much where you are recommending from but the quantity in relation to your other recommendations. Variety is what StumbleUpon thrives on. Keep it varied and you'll be fine.

I heard that if I share links in a secret or in a closed StumbleUpon promotion group, I should not share them as a hyperlink and should remove the "www" from each link. Does it matter?
In my opinion, no. And I haven't been able to find anything in any of the terms on StumbleUpon that stipulates they are concerned with how people find pages to stumble. Does it matter if someone said, "Here's some really great content that you might like to put on StumbleUpon" or if you just found the content on your own? I don't think so. If you like it, you'll stumble it; if you don't; you won't.

Update as of 29 May 2014: I spoke with a representative from StumbleUpon today and he gave the impression, in no uncertain terms, that facilitating and encouraging people to thumbs up your content is strictly against StumbleUpon's terms of use and could result in your account going into suspension. If you would like more information about this or to see the actual transcript between our conversation, then please contact me and I will make this available to you.

The thing to look out for that I can safely say StumbleUpon would FrownUpon (see what I did there? lol) is groups that have requirements to stumble every link shared even when it doesn't naturally reflect your interests. Let's say your biggest interest is food & cooking. You would be more likely to naturally stumble recipes or food related content as opposed to pages from boxing websites. If you do belong to a StumbleUpon promotion group make sure that you only stumble links from it that fit in with your genuine interests. Avoid stumbling something you are not interested in just because someone asked you to or offers to stumble your content in return.

I heard that I should stumble 10 pages for every 1 of my own. Is this true?
StumbleUpon does not give actual numbers for this type of activity. Remember, the purpose of it is not to be a self-promotion machine. That said, if you are hellbent on self-promoting then you might want to consider a system like this where you are sure you are keeping your recommendations varied enough to not be ghost banned.

What is a StumbleUpon promotion group and how can I join?
StumbleUpon promotion groups are simply ways for bloggers to share content that they think is worthy of being stumbled. There shouldn't be any requirement or expectation for anyone to stumble any content that they do not honestly find interesting. Email me or get in touch via social media if you'd like help finding a group.

As of 29 May 2014, I no longer promote nor support this type of activity as it is a direct breech of StumbleUpon's terms of use.
More blogging resources:
How to Have a Successful Blog without it Taking Over Your Life
How to Drive Traffic using StumbleUpon  
What Every Blogger Should Know about Copyright Protection


  1. G'day! Thanks Anyonita! Great read! Always enjoy keeping up with social media!
    Cheers! Joanne

  2. Awesome material, learned a lot concerning Stumble from reading this. Thanks, because I was pretty confused before discovering your blog post!

  3. This is such great info, Anyonita! Thank you!

  4. Fantastic article Anyonita! Much needed... sharing you everywhere. You are a great find! And... love your page look.

  5. Great info! I'm fairly new to StumbleUpon but I've been doing a lot of reading to make sure I'm doing this right. I think I'm doing pretty well with my practices. I'd love to join your group...I'm already following you on SU.

  6. Thanks, I have been thinking about how i can make stumble upon work for my blog but I have not been very successful so far. This is a very useful article

  7. Thank you for all the great tips about Stumbleupon... I just recently started using it and I had a post that got wver 2000 pageviews in 2 days - I am a small blogger and this was a biggie for me... I am sold on Stumbleupon and was needing some much needed insight into it... Thank you so much. Cathy

  8. Thanks Anyonita for all the great info. I've decided in the last couple of weeks to go the StumbleUpon route. I'm tired of Facebook and am turning more towards Pinterest and StumbleUpon. Thanks Again!

  9. You're a magical, wonderful, amazing, and generally awesome person Anyonita! :D
    Thanks for all of your hard work and research!

  10. Great post, and very helpful information! I sort of stumbled upon (haha) StumbleUpon and started using it without knowing what it was all about. I'm still a smaller blog, but it's consistently my #1 referrer.

  11. Thank you for sharing.
    Very helpful. I've always wanted to learn more.

  12. Thanks for all the help, I had no info and you really gave a great list!

  13. I regularly share my post on SU because it's on my share menu and I normally share my post to about 10 social media sites, but I can honestly say Google+ is my highest source of referrals, somehow my G+ page has over 4 million views and think this is because my G+ profile is below every one of my posts... an option Blogger gives us if you choose to show it.

  14. Thanks Anyonita! I was invited to a StumbleUpon group, where you were supposed to stumble all links for that day. However, I baulked at stumbling posts which didn't interest me in the slightest, so didn't join in. A very informative post.


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