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I’ve been spending some time this month getting up to speed with StumbleUpon and so far I’m impressed. favicon-results.gif It’s easy to see why this platform has attracted some many of the marketing crowd. As a basic summary, StumbleUpon (SU) allows you to recommend and review web sites that interest you. You can also stumble or view the websites that your friends have recommended.

As a user, I’ve really enjoyed viewing the sites other friends in the industry have recommended. As an SEO I am also starting to see the benefit that this system can offer my clients by driving traffic to their pages. We now see 25-30% of referrals coming from the system.

However this got even better with the release of their new toolbar last month. The plugin gives users a visible ranking of the site in Google, Yahoo and Ask. If a friend in your network has recommended the site, their name will appear next to the result. You can download the plugin for IE or FF from the StumbeUpon site here.

So take last night, I was searching for online favicon makers and lo and behold, two of the results have been rated by my industry colleagues Barry Welford and Matt Keegan. Of course, you’re going to pick these first. Even without the direct recommendations of friends in my network, I’m still finding myself drawn to the sites that have recommendation stars from the SU community

This is social search in action. You don’t need to go to the social network to ask these recommendations, they will be built into the searches you do every day. I’m sure these ratings improve click through from the results. Not only because you are more likely to trust or value a site with a recommendation but fundamentally, because we’re lazy. As Jacob Neilson writes, basic laziness is a human characteristic that might even be survival-related (i.e. don’t exert yourself unless you have to). In any case, people like to get maximum benefit for minimum effort when searching for information.

Users follow the information scent. They will estimate a given hunt’s likelihood of success from the clues along the way. We look for these clues, even subconsciously, to help us choose the right path. You can see marketers put this theory into action for PPC conversion, they keep the advert text and landing page copy aligned to encourage the user to click on through. The trick is to keep giving signs that the user is on the right track for the information or service they want.

These ratings by StumblerUpon are one of these clues. They give us the impression that clicking this link will bring a positive result. That’s why our nature pushes us to chose these recommendations over the others and reason enough for me to give StumbleUpon my time.

If you want to join me on StumbleUpon, you’re more than welcome. My username is
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Lead SEO, Group Optimisation at Vodafone. Founder at E3 Business Incubator, a consultancy group helping enterprises and start-ups. Digital strategist and veteran SEO/SEM. Views are my own and not representative of my employer (more).

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