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How Much is StumbleUpon Traffic Worth?

According to this recent article, StumbleUpon drives more traffic than Facebook and Twitter.

I commented on that a while ago, in my “Why We Love StumbleUpon” article.

But how useful is that traffic?

Grading Different Types of Traffic

Not all visits are created equal.

Depending on what business you’re in, a direct visit is probably the most likely to represent someone who really wants to engage with your site. That means they’ve found your URL somewhere and typed it in, or they’ve saved your site as a bookmark/favourite.

Referrals are probably next best. They’re visits that come from clicking a link that points to your site. So they count as a recommendation, and you could expect that visitor to be warm, or at least interested.

The third type is organic search. The visitor has done a search and is clicking through the results to find what they need. They may be the least warm or favourable category of visitor, but they may become fans if they do find what they want.

Where do you fit StumbleUpon traffic into this? Because people are just passively browsing, it has to be lower-value than any of the regular types. But, like search visitors, they could still become fans.

StumbleUpon Stats

We get spikes of SU traffic periodically, and had one this week.

Here’s an interesting graph from Google Analytics, showing the traffic to this site over the past 25 days.

  • The green line is the total number of daily visits. You can see the “SUrge” last week, which lasted over the weekend and Monday. It settled down to normal yesterday (Tuesday). The last data point is today (half-way through).
  • The blue line shows the segment of visits over 5 seconds long.
  • The orange line shows visits where at least 3 pages were viewed.

I would expect the “cheap” StumbleUpon traffic to reduce the average length and depth of visits. But is it so?

Crunch Time

I sampled the data from 4 days: 2 non-SUrge days, and 2 where we were getting a lot of SU traffic. Here’s what I found.

Visits over 5 Seconds Long

  • Non-SUrge Days: 27.7% and 26.6%
  • SUrge Days: 27.8% and 26.3%

Minimum 3 Pages Viewed

  • Non-SUrge Days: 9.6% and 10.4%
  • SUrge Days: 4.6% and 4.5%

So the visit length seems to be unaffected. People are just as likely to read the page as if they had come via any other channel.

However, the proportion of visitors who viewed 3 or more pages was halved! I suspect that means that the majority of StumbleUpon visitors only viewed one page.

More Accurate Stats

Here’s a comparison from Google Analytics, showing the differences between SU traffic and all non-SU traffic (click image to enlarge):

  • SU users view far fewer pages (1.18 vs. 1.61)
  • SU users spend far less time on the site (48s vs. 2 mins 3s)
  • But, interestingly, they have a lower bounce rate (61% vs. 70%)!

What About Real Value?

One of the easiest goals or performance indicators to measure from this site is new newsletter subscriptions.

Here’s the chart from AWeber showing new sign-ups over the past month. Judge for yourself. I see no increase at all in the past week – when overall visits was double.

From this, I’d sum up that, while StumbleUpon users are just as likely to stay to read as anyone else, they will probably leave after they’ve read the stumbled page, and are not likely to engage further with the site.

Hmm. Shame.

About the author

Ben Hunt

Ben is the creator of Web Design From Scratch. He started writing articles about web design to kill time on a long train commute, and is now one of the most influential figures on the subject of effective web design. He has written three books and spoken at multiple conferences internationally.

Mark Generator - a couple of years ago

Stumblers don

Jordan J. Caron - a couple of years ago

That’s a great point Mark. However I did find Ben’s site through SU. I do use SU to find cool stuff to share but I also love it to find sites like this which will help me and my business.

Judging my own stats from SU, most don’t stay on your site for very long so the key is to try and grab their contact details.

Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

I’m also wondering, if Google is going to use engagement metrics as indicators of quality, could SU traffic hurt my organic rankings?

Linda Bradshaw - a couple of years ago

I am in the process of learning more about the Internet, and about SEO. I am interested in your website; I am learning some “good stuff.” One of the statements you made intrigues me – I really thought that a “hit” was a “hit” and it really did not matter how long a visitor spent on your website. Yet I am getting the impression from you that a longer visit will generate better page rank juice than a short one. I find it fascinating that Google would track that kind of information. So if I were to accidentally forget to leave your webpage here and go off to eat dinner that would give you more juice than if I were to just spend a few minutes reading it and then go to a different website? Is this just a theory, or do you have some independent data that backs that up?

    Ben Hunt - a couple of years ago

    No independent data, Linda. But an individual visit would have no impact. If Google uses “user engagement” data, it has to be a trend, and would use normalised data, which excludes edge results.

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