At its very essence, StumbleUpon is a content discovery tool tailored to your personal interests. If you haven’t visited the site in a while, you’ll most likely be impressed — and overwhelmed — by what you find. The latest redesign integrates brand channels, lists and a “StumbleUpon DNA” in an effort to make the site more social and customizable.
Since its start in 2001, the site has gained over 25 million users, but within the past few years it’s had some trouble competing with newer content discovery sites like Pinterest. With a new mobile app and its most recent redesign, however, stumbling has renewed its dynamic appeal.
If you or your brand has an online presence, you might have already tapped the the power of StumbleUpon for driving traffic to your site. StumbleUpon pages categorize anything from interactive computer games to online services, and can help people outside of your immediate reach discover your content.
This beginner’s guide will break down StumbleUpon for you bit by bit, for a comprehensive review of one of the web’s most dynamic sites.
1. Setting Up Your Profile
You can log in to StumbleUpon either through your StumbleUpon account, or through your Facebook. If you don’t want to create a separate StumbleUpon account, you can sign in by authorizing the StumbleUpon app for Facebook. You can also create a separate account by entering your information manually. If you have already set up a StumbleUpon account, you cannot log in to StumbleUpon through Facebook unless you’ve linked your two accounts.
These interests will dictate what content shows up while you’re stumbling. Later on, StumbleUpon will suggest other interests it thinks you might like. You can always go back and add or delete interests from your account by clicking on your profile, your interests, and then the “Add Interests” button on the right-hand side.
Your Stumble DNA summarizes the type of interests you enjoy stumbling. For example, if you like a lot of pages that fall under the Internet, Video Games and Computer Graphics interest categories, these will all be summarized on your DNA as a strong interest in Computers (No. 14 in the DNA Category list).
While the Interests you choose to stumble can be extremely specific — from Ambient Music to Computer Security — your Stumble DNA condenses these interests into broader categories that explain your stumbling habits.
My personal Stumble DNA denotes an affinity for the Arts-History category, which I found surprising at first because I don’t normally “like” stories in the history category on StumbleUpon.
However, after a closer look at the DNA key above, you can see that Quotes, Photography and Design all fall under this general DNA category, thus accounting for the 36% Arts-History section of my Stumble DNA.
2. Navigating the Site
The Top Gray Toolbar
If you’re looking to get in some serious stumbling, this toolbar (pictured above) will be your best friend. Here’s a breakdown of what each icon allows you to do, starting from the Stumble button on the far left and ending with the Settings cog on the far right:
- Stumble new pages by clicking the dark orange “Stumble” button.
- Like a page by hitting the thumbs up. This means that you would like to see similar pages in the future. It will also store the page in the “Likes” section of your profile.
- Add a page to one of your lists by selecting the plus sign. This is one of the best features of StumbleUpon. It helps you organize and save the pages you find particularly interesting all in one place. You can also add the same page to multiple lists.
- Dislike a page with the thumbs down. To say why you don’t like the page, you can click the drop down arrow to improve your user-specific stumble algorithm.
- Share the page to Facebook by clicking the f-icon. This option also lights up when you “like” a page.
- Share the page on Twitter, LinkedIn, email or through StumbleUpon. In order to share a page with another stumbler, he must be following you.
- See who has commented on or liked the page by clicking the speech bubble. Click the “view all comments” link to open a new tab with all of the user feedback the page has received, including likes, comments and the lists it has been added to.
- Stumble specific interests, edit your current ones or stumble a different stream (like the recent activity of the people you follow, or posts that are trending on StumbleUpon) by clicking the drop-down menu on the right-hand side (this will show up as “Recommended” by default).
- Check your shares, messages or Stumble updates. If you have anything new, it will show up as an orange number. The number will stay orange until you open the page. If you don’t have any new shares or messages, the number will be a white zero.
- Return to the homepage by clicking the house icon.
- Access the Settings option by clicking the cog icon. This will give you access to the Profile, Help, Settings and Sign Out options in the drop-down menu.
The Secondary White Toolbar
This toolbar appears when you’re not stumbling content, meaning if you’re looking at the homepage, your profile or any other internal page, you should be able to see the white toolbar pictured above. The options it links you to (Home, Profile, Follow, Shares) are all portals to pages with separate tabs. Here’s a breakdown of these pages along with their tabs:
- Home: For more information on the “Home” page, refer to Section 3, “The StumbleUpon Homepage.”
- Profile: From your profile page, you can access:
- Likes: This tab shows you every page you’ve “liked” or thumbs-upped while stumbling.
- Lists: Here you can access both the lists that you have created and the ones you are following. The lists function is similar to a Pinterest board in the sense that it helps you organize and save the pages you find particularly interesting. You can edit or delete a list by clicking the pencil icon at the bottom right-hand corner of the box. To share a list to another social media site or a Stumbleupon contact (remember, they must be following you), click the box with an arrow. The more pages a list has, the more followers it will receive; however, don’t substitute quantity for quality. People can easily see which pages are included in your list because of the new format, so make sure the pages you include have strong descriptions and thumbnail images.
- Comments: Any comments that you’ve shared with the StumbleUpon community on a page will show up here. You can edit or delete these comments by clicking on the pencil icon.
- History: This tab allows you to review any page that has ever appeared in front of you while stumbling. Did you forget to like a recipe that you remember seeing on StumbleUpon? No worries, you can recover it in this history tab.
- Following: These are the people you’ve decided to follow. The people you follow affect the content that appears in your “Recommended” and “Activity” tabs on the homepage. To unfollow someone, click on the “Following” icon in the lower right-hand corner. There are a lot of ways to find new people to follow. You can learn about the “Follow” function below.
- Followers: This tab shows you who is following you. These are your StumbleUpon “Contacts,” the people you can share pages with internally on the site. Although StumbleUpon made changes to create a more social form of discovery, the “follow” function isn’t one of the site’s stronger features. You can only follow a maximum of 500 other StumbleUpon users.
- Interests: Browse the interests you follow here. Unfollow an interest by clicking the “Following” button on the lower right-hand corner. Browse and follow new interests by clicking “Add Interests.”
- Channels: Channels were added so that you can also stumble websites, people, and brands in addition to your expressed interests. Although StumbleUpon experimented with a beta version of channels, they have currently closed the testing period so people can no longer add new channels.
- Follow: This is the discovery hub for every Interests, Stumblers, Lists and Channels page on the StumbleUpon site. Browse through these tabs to discover new people, interests, lists or brands to follow.
- Shares: “Shares” refers to the pages that you have shared internally with your StumbleUpon contacts. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t include your social shares to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
3. The StumbleUpon Homepage
After logging into StumbleUpon, you will be redirected to your homepage. You can always return to this page by clicking the home icon on the right of the top gray toolbar.
The “Recommended” section can be found on the homepage, denoted by a checkmark. The Recommended section shows you pages that have received a lot of likes or shares in an area you’ve expressed an interest in.
This page is a good way to stumble content without having to reload the page every time. You can browse through the content in a Pinterest-style format and click links to content that strikes your fancy.
The “Activity” section can also be found on the homepage; it’s the tab to the right of the Recommended section. It is denoted by an icon with two people. This page is similar to the Facebook newsfeed.
If you follow other Stumblers, this page lets you see what content people are liking, adding or adding to lists. It also factors in the activity of StumbleUpon Experts. Experts are people who have significantly contributed to a specific interest, either by liking pages related to the interest or by adding pages into the interest category themselves. (See how to add a page in Section 4, “While Stumbling.”) The experts that show up in your Activity feed will likely be experts in an interest you’re following. The “Recent Activity” news feed for StumbleUpon looks like the image below.
The “Trending” tab can also be found on the homepage, between the Activity and Lists tabs. It is denoted by the upwards arrow. The pages shown under this tab are the ones that generate the most buzz on the StumbleUpon website across all interests. This means that you can see which pages people are interested in overall, regardless whether or not these pages align with your expressed interests.
The “Lists” tab is the farthest to the right on the homepage, next to Trending and is denoted by a plus sign. The Lists function is much like a Pinterest board, and helps you collect content into lists that you title and curate yourself.
From the homepage, you can only view Recommended, Recently Updated or Popular lists. When you discover a user’s list that you enjoy, you can stumble only content in that list by clicking “Stumble Through This List.” You also have the option of “Following” the list so that you receive a notification when new content is added.
In order to view your personal lists, you must go through the profile link on the white toolbar (again, see Section 2, “Navigating the Site”).
To create a list, simply click the plus sign on the left-hand side of the top gray toolbar and begin typing a name. You will then have the option to add this list.
4. While Stumbling
Once you’ve set up your profile, there are a few different ways you can discover new content.
- Stumbling many interests: Simply click the orange Stumble button to browse through your personalized interests.
- Stumbling one interest: If you’re only in the mood to search content related to a specific interest, click the “Recommended” button on the right-hand side of your gray toolbar and click the interest you’d like to explore.
- Add a page: Do you know of a website or blog that you think would be popular in the StumbleUpon community? You can add it into the mix yourself. Click on the drop-down menu next to your profile picture, and click “Add a Page.”
If you own a website or brand, you can encourage people to add the page with the StumbleUpon badge.
- Stumble lists: Personally, this is one of my favorite social aspects of StumbleUpon. When you find a list with a particularly interesting title or “about” section, you can exclusively stumble the pages within the list. Every page you stumble upon was handpicked by the creator of the list.To stumble a list:
- Click the “lists” tab on the homepage
- Click the title of the list (eg: “Design You Space”)
- Click the orange “Stumble Through This List” button. (For more about lists, see Section 3, “The StumbleUpon Homepage.”)
This is another venue for brands to use StumbleUpon. “Sponsored” content shows up with a badge next to the comments icon. Brands have the option to use Paid Discovery to insert their page into StumbleUpon content.
5. Best Practices
- I’m a big fan of StumbleUpon’s tablet and mobile app, almost more so than the site itself. Your fingers get a lot of fun flicking pages up and down, and it’s much more intuitive than the website layout.
- Create lists, and fill them with tons of epic content. Even if you only have a few lists, this is a neat new way to stumble and can bring you tons of new followers.
- Don’t add time-sensitive content. This tends to quickly become outdated on StumbleUpon. Aim to add “evergreen” material, meaning content that is timeless and won’t grow old once tomorrow’s headlines arrive.
- Don’t worry about followers! StumbleUpon has made moves to grow more social, but it has not developed into a social network in and of itself. It’s a great way to find new content for other sites like Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter.
- The search function can be very frustrating because it doesn’t let you search site-wide. Instead, whatever text you enter in the search bar only searches the category and sub-category you’re on. For example, if you’re trying to search for a StumbleUpon user you must be in the Follow > Stumblers tab. If you’re in Follow > Lists, you won’t find what you were looking for.
- Share pages with other Stumblers. No other social network site has such a great way to internally share pages with one another. Sure, you can post a link onto someone’s Facebook page or tweet out a shortened URL, but the StumbleUpon Share feature allows you to engage with the content and the people who are following you. However, don’t inundate your followers with too many pages until they begin interacting back. In order to clear a new share from your inbox, you must open up the page. If you flood someone’s inbox with too many pages, they are likely to unfollow you.
- Be sure to optimize your stumbling and check out StumbleUpon: Tips and Tricks for Power Users.
What’s your favorite function on StumbleUpon? Do you find anything about the site particularly confusing? Let us know in the comment section below.