Jul 15 2007

Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon

Published by at 8:59 pm under StumbleUpon

To write a completely authoritative guide on the nuances of StumbleUpon would take a week – not to mention tons of screen shots! So as a compromise, I’ve outlined what I think are the most important features to understand as a beginner, and you can start exploring from there.

I purposely haven’t researched any other posts about StumbleUpon, as I wanted this to be from my perspective, but when I’m finished I will do so and add some relevant links.

The Overall Concept

StumbleUpon is all about discovery, sharing, and “peer recommendation”. The idea is that you are randomly served up web pages according to one of a number of options – such as pages on a particular area of interest or those of your friends (you get to select how you want to stumble and can change this easily). There are currently over 2.7 million people using the service, which reflects its popularity.

People who join up to StumbleUpon (herein “SU”) are called “stumblers” and will have a nickname – for example mine is “MegT”. My SU page is therefore megt.stumbleupon.com.

If you come across a webpage you like, the idea is that you “stumble” it (aka give it a “thumbs up”). Similarly you can also rate a page with a “thumbs down”, though I don’t know that this is widely practiced (well I don’t anyway). These are known as your “stumbles”.

I don’t think anyone is *really* sure exactly how the “system” works, but there are many theories. The general idea is that the more people who stumble a page (vote positively), the more it gets “offered” to other stumblers as being a quality recommendation (and of course the more traffic it generates for a web page).

Signing Up

The first thing to note, is that in order to add stumbles you WILL need to download a toolbar – there’s no way around it. If you’re not prepared to do that, then you might as well stop reading now!

I can’t remember the exact Sign up steps (and I don’t want to create another account, as that’s frowned upon). But it looks like you create your user name and then download the toolbar. I’m gathering it will run you logically through the steps.

What IS important, is that you take time selecting all your interests (called topics). This is how you get to meet “like minded” stumblers. If you don’t get to add them all during the sign up process, you can update them in your preferences (Preferences / Stumbling / Update Your Topics).

StumbleUpon Preferences

You’ll notice there are quite a few pages in the preferences, it’s a good idea to go through and make you profile as complete a possible. I think it’s “acceptable” to have a link to your blog (if you have one) on your profile page.

General” – this covers your biographical data – age, location, about me blurb, name, and the obligatory avatar (I say “obligatory” because without an avatar your functions are greatly limited).

Stumbling” – where you choose the topics you’re interested in.

Interests” – Books, music, movies, tv (I haven’t been overly bothered with these)

Personal” – personal info, ie, work, education, sexuality, politics, etc (these are optional)

Settings” – What your profile looks like, colours, and content filter (eg restricting R rated content)

Other Menu Options

You’ll see other menu options to the left of the “preferences” tab.

Home” (MegT) – This is your “about” page, which displays your interests, personal details and groups you’ve joined.

Pages” – By default this displays your “blog”. It isn’t a blog in the traditional sense, but includes any entries you’ve made here and pages you’ve reviewed. You can add an entry by clicking on the “post to blog” button. Clicking “all thumbs” will display any pages you’ve stumbled. “Discovered” shows pages that you discovered (ie were the first to stumble). Tags give you a cloud view (where text size reflects popularity) of all the tags you use when reviewing pages.

StumbleUpon Pages

Friends” – the friends page displays three types of friends.

Mutual Friends Unreciprocated Friends Fans

Mutual friends, are people you’ve added as a friend who have also added you as a friend.

“Friends showing you pages” are friends you’ve added, who haven’t added you back (unreciprocated friendships).

“Fans” are people who have added you, that you haven’t added back.

SU have this to say about friends:

“Adding a friend is essentially subscribing to their content. You will stumble upon pages they have rated, filtered according to the shared [topics] displayed on that person’s profile.”

You can only have 200 mutual friends, so it’s good to chose people who like similar topics, as this will influence the pages you may get shown (similarly, the pages your friends get shown and perhaps their likelihood of “thumbing up” your pages). You can always remove someone from your friends down the track.

Inbox” – when you get a message this little icon has a flag on it. You can access the message by clicking on the icon.

Network” – this shows who has recently visited your profile, and will display the last 10 stumblers to visit.

Matches” – this displays people who are interested in similar topics. You can filter the results (e.g. females from Sydney interested in weblogs who are between the ages of 35 and 40) .

Forum” – displays discussions in any groups that you join.

Your Reviews” – you’ll notice in the screen shot below, that there may be reviews on your profile. If you click this button, you’ll not only see what other people have written about you, but also which stumblers have given you the “thumbs up” (the most recent will be displayed first). I think it’s nice to reciprocate these where possible. The process is the same as “how to stumble a web page below”. Every one loves a first review when they’re starting out – it gets the ball rolling, and only takes a few extra seconds. These stumbles are usually submitted with the tag of “stumblers”.

Stumbler Reviews

The Toolbar

This is what my toolbar looks like (I’m not sure what it looks like by default). You can customise what is shown by clicking on the last option “tools”.

StumbleUpon Toolbar

The first thing you’ll notice is a red number “1” next to the Stumble! button. This indicates that a friend has sent me a page directly that he or she thinks that I might be interested in. By clicking that button I’m taken to the page. You’ll notice a “send to” button with a drop down box – this is how you chose a friend to send it to. BE VERY CAUTIOUS of overusing this function. It’s nice to ask someone if they mind first, particularly if referring your own posts or website.

Generally, clicking the Stumble! button, will take you to a random page, depending on the preferences you’ve set. You can Stumble many ways including; by topic, channel (web page, video, friends, news or images), a particular friend, tag or all your favorites. Explore a bit!

How to Stumble a Web Page

Firstly, if you see a web page you like, click on the “thumbs up” button. If it has already been discovered the thumb will turn to green. You have two options, leave it at that, or click on the little speech box (which I think now looks a bit like an ear! – it’s the one on the end).

SU Review

Clicking on the speech box will show you people that have stumbled that page, and any comments (reviews) that have been left. Your stumble will be at the top (directly under the avatars of people who have stumbled it). You can add your review by clicking “edit review”, and here you can also add tags to describe what the page is about (separate these with a comma, but if it’s a two word tag just separate with a space eg “blog, internet, social networking, StumbleUpon”). Using tags (relevant tags) really adds value to the whole experience.

SU Edit Review

How to Discover a Web Page

So if you click on the thumbs up and the site hasn’t already been discovered you’ll get a dialog box which will pop up. It’s nice if you can take the few seconds to fill it in properly. Here’s an example:

SU Discovery

The URL and Title are automatically added to the discovery page. You’ll notice that I highlighted some of the text from the web page. This text is automatically added to review area as a quote (note: sometimes the formatting goes a bit wonky with apostrophes and quote marks, so you might need to tidy it up).

Next you select a topic, the most popular ones are already there so you can just click on one, or chose a more appropriate one from the drop down box. Add a few tags, and don’t forget to click the corresponding button as to whether it’s an adult site or not and the language, if other than English. Hit “submit this site” and you’re done!

Other Places to Explore

There are lots of places to explore on StumbleUpon. They’re not always easy to navigate to from your profile.

The Buzz section lets you see what’s popular at the moment, and you can filter this by topic. You can also search by a particular tag.

You can explore people currently online, and popular videos (and they have a terrific selection of Australian videos). Also you might like to see if there’s a group that appeals to you. You can find out a little more about the technology and they also have a comprehensive “help section

Other Resources

Tim Nash has a post about the “send to” function being more effective than when your friends stumble – “Organic Stumbling Tip“. He has a few other posts too, which are a good read; Stumbling Voyeur, Reputation Management and Digg vs StumbleUpon.

A Comprehensive Guide to StumbleUpon – doshdosh

How to Use StumbleUpon to Promote – Webby Online


The reason I put this guide together was because a lot of the feed back I have been receiving here is that many people don’t quite “get” StumbleUpon. It’s like any social networking site, in that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. I hope this might have helped.

One question that was raised by AgentSully in comments, is the following

Regarding StumbleUpon, I’d be interested to hear everyone’s opinion on this:
what if you send a post link of your own blog which is relevant to stumblers who are in a specific SU group? If the post is relevant and the message offers to review material that the recipient might want to share in return, could this not be ok? I’ve actually met some great folks this way on SU. For people who don’t like this messaging can be set to “off” or “only messages from friends” (I believe).

What do you think?

So I’ll turn that question over to you. And I’d love to hear of any tips, questions or feedback you have regarding StumbleUpon :)

69 responses so far

69 Responses to “Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon”

  1. Tim Nashon 15 Jul 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Great post and certainly the most comprehensive write up I have read in a long time. Well done Meg and thanks for including some of my Links too :)

  2. Megon 15 Jul 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Hey Tim

    Thanks for that! You’re welcome for the links – you’ve got some excellent posts about SU.

  3. Karen (Miscellaneous Mum)on 16 Jul 2007 at 9:39 am

    I adore StumbleUpon – being the lucky recipient on many occasions of the traffic jolt, I like bestowing it upon others. It’s good karma.

  4. Megon 16 Jul 2007 at 11:04 am


    I agree, it is good karma, and certainly creates a buzz when you look at your stats and say “what the…” :)

  5. Gavin Heatonon 16 Jul 2007 at 1:26 pm

    This is a great introduction to StumbleUpon! Thanks.

  6. Snoskredon 16 Jul 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Excellent work! :) Now I am going to stumble more..


  7. robon 17 Jul 2007 at 2:48 am

    Great write up Meg. That’s a pretty nice and concise introduction.

    I’m a fairly active stumbler, its a great tool and a great way of sharing and helping and networking amongst ones blog friends.

    Its always good to see those little traffic spikes and track them back to someone who reads your stuff, warms me cotton socks so it does 😉

  8. Brown Baronon 17 Jul 2007 at 4:02 am

    StumbeUpon is my favorite. Great crowd. They actually take the time to read your posts. Very nice post :)

  9. Alister Cameron // Blogologiston 17 Jul 2007 at 9:34 am

    Great work, Meg. Excellent write-up and I think it highlights some steps I may have missed along the way :)


  10. Megon 17 Jul 2007 at 10:59 am

    Thanks to you all for your lovely comments.

    @ Rob – I don’t know about concise ;). I agree it’s nice when you track a stumble back to a reader. Great karma.

    @Brown Baron – yes they do appear to take more time – it’s pretty good quality traffic that way.

  11. jenon 17 Jul 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks for this overview. I’ll have to read it of course. The trouble with all these social networking sites is finding the time to explore them properly. I did register sometime ago now so if I could just remember which username and password I used…

  12. Megon 17 Jul 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Jen

    Hehe – it DOES get a bit like that, doesn’t it! I’d be really stuck if I had to change computers – most of the sites just remember me.

  13. […] I just came across Meg of Dipping into the Blog Pond’s post entitled Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon when doing research for my post about the new Social Networking SEO Site Sphinn. Be sure to read […]

  14. Matt Keeganon 18 Jul 2007 at 5:24 am

    Thanks for the overview of SU. I was a bit confused about the whole “friends” angle and you have cleared that up with your post. I am already at the 200 friends limit!

  15. Sharonon 18 Jul 2007 at 8:09 am

    Thanks so much for this, Meg, it will be a big timesaver when I eventually find some time to explore SU.

    I do wish that SU would provide a way to use their service without downloading yet another toolbar – I’ve already asked them and they have no plans to do this unfortunately.

    Thanks again!

  16. […] Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon – the most important features to understand as a beginner, and you can start exploring from there […]

  17. Megon 19 Jul 2007 at 2:11 pm

    @ Matt – it’s not that hard to do, is it? Everyone’s so friendly!

    @ Sharon – thanks for you comment. I know what you mean about the toolbar, mine take up about 20% of my screen!

  18. Taking Sphinn for a Spinon 20 Jul 2007 at 1:31 pm

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  23. Kangkidon 24 Jul 2007 at 9:59 pm

    This is a great introduction to StumbleUpon. Alot easier to understand
    From an old time Stumbler

  24. Megon 24 Jul 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks Kangkid! You certainly are a seasoned stumbler – thumbs up here :)

  25. Katieon 27 Jul 2007 at 8:17 am

    Great post, thanks for the info! Makes a lot more sense now. :)

  26. Megon 27 Jul 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks Katie – Glad it helped!

  27. […] StumbleUponOverview: StumbleUpon is a Social Bookmarking site with some slight differences. The best way of describing it would be to say it’s like channel surfing on the Internet. When you setup your profile you are required to enter a number of areas of interest and then you are served pages that fit this criteria. You can also tag pages that you come across in your general web browsing which are then added to the list of pages that other people can StumbleUpon. The more Stuble’s received, the more traffic StumbleUpon will send your way.Other resources: Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon […]

  28. […] know more about StumbleUpon? Meg Tsiamis of Dipping into the Blogpond wrote a great post Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon. In her post Meg writes up what she believes are the most important things you will need to know to […]

  29. Aureliuson 06 Aug 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks. I’ve been wondering about StumbleUpon, and now, I might give it a try.

  30. Deborahon 07 Aug 2007 at 6:11 am

    Excellent job on your write-up Meg. I ran across it earlier and bookmarked it to come back to read in detail, and I’ve sent others your way that have asked me many of the questions you’ve answered here.

    I was much confused about the friends issue myself, particularly Friends Showing You Pages.

    It’s not an easy site to figure out on your own.

  31. Megon 07 Aug 2007 at 8:47 am

    Thanks Deborah, I agree SU can be a bit hard to navigate. Glad you found the guide helpful :)

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  35. Rubabon 03 Sep 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Meg has quite helpfully guided beginners.

  36. Megon 04 Sep 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks Rubab :)

  37. Stephen Croninon 04 Sep 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Firstly, fantastic article. I haven’t tried StumbleUpon yet, but I’ll give it a go soon.

    I have one question though: I’ve heard reports about people getting in trouble from StumbleUpon for stumbling their own content. I can’t remember where I read it, but apparently it’s against the Terms and Conditions. Can anybody verify whether this is true?

    I came here from PixelHead’s site and I left a similar comment there as I’d really like to know the answer.

  38. Megon 04 Sep 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Stephen

    I don’t think that it’s specifically forbidden. I have stumbled my own content before. Mind you, if that is ALL that you’re stumbling, and other stumblers don’t give it the “thumbs up” chances are it’s not going to have a lot of effect. In the SU Terms:

    “Accounts created with the primary intention to promote a product or service are considered SPAM and subject to termination unless expressly authorized by StumbleUpon. We reserve the right to remove content that we determine in our sole discretion is primarily intended to promote a product or service.”

    The intricate workings of SU are kept “secret” from what I can tell. But I don’t *think* “all votes are equal”. It’s well possible that the total number of (quality) sites referred by a particular stumbler may give that stumbler “influence”, for example.

  39. Tim Nashon 04 Sep 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Based on the research we have done stumbles work pretty much like a reverse log.

    When you first stumble a domain you pass your full authority or weight (this weight is determined by number of friends, number of thumbs up and number of sites discovered and how many thumbs up those sites received)
    The second time you stumble you pass far less of your full authority and so on dwindling till it gets to nearly nothing.

    So the more you stumble a specific domain the less use it does, but and there always is a but you do seem to regain some domain authority if others vote on that url as well.

    So lets take a simplistic example and make up some numbers (this is just demo not real numbers)

    I have an authority of 100
    I stumble example.com/url1 It receives 100 visits but no one else thumbs it up I then stumble example.com/url2 it receives just 50 visits again no one else thumbs it up. I then stumble example.com/url3 it recieves 25 visits from my authority but another stumbler with an authority of 200 thumbs it up so the site recieves 225 visits.
    I stumble example.com/url3 and it gets 37 visits.

    Now if I stumbled another domain say example1.com I would send a 100 visits.

    Now that was over simplified and their are loads of other factors but ultimately if some one with a low authority stumbles every single one of their pages it won’t make a differnce stumbleupon will just ignore it as the system has taken care of it

  40. Megon 04 Sep 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Wow Tim

    That’s an excellent overview :)

    Is that something you’ve determined from looking at patterns, as opposed to advice from SU? It’s always been somewhat of an enigma to me. It would be great to know what’s “good” to improve Stumble Karma (as opposed to wanting to “game” it).

    Do you have a post about this? If so, please feel free to link to it here.

  41. Tim Nashon 04 Sep 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Basically we created and followed an account using 4 domains where could count stats, and then looked at the effect of my account which is a slightly above average account following that user and vice versa.

    I keep meaning to write a more in depth report but lack of time so no post yet hey maybe I will write a really dodgy ebook :)

    The key to stumbleupon is to engage with it there is not an easy way to game it particularly, though I’m sure many will try.

    Also its worth remembering that while asking for the occasional stumble will do no harm using stumble exchanges often will provide no benefit in the long term and will just ruin your account. This is because while stumbleupon expects friends to stumble each others finds it does reduce their authority when they do so, not totally and on a sliding scale this is the same if the stumble is non organic.

    So for example
    I have 40 friends and I ask each to stumble a site
    the first friend stumbles with his full authority, the next with not quite his full authority, the one less and less and less.
    So the obvious answer is don’t make friends with people you want to game the system with, but I’m pretty sure the system is capable of spoting common patterns so that people who routinely stumble are considered friends when it comes to the algorithm.

    The second issue is the “organic stumbling” issue when I talk about organic stumbling I mean arriving at the site from the toolbar the user actual stumbles on to the site. If you don’t arrive at the site your stumble also seems to loose some of its authority again in a sliding scale much like your friends.

    Therefore the worse thing you can do on stumbleupon in terms of gaming it is to create a email list or similar and send the url to people and ask them to stumble 😉 it works for small groups or individuals but get a large group (or a forum like DP) and you quickly will find that their stumbles are worthless.

  42. Megon 05 Sep 2007 at 11:46 am

    Thanks again Tim – that’s really valuable information. Dodgy ebook 😀

  43. Stumbleupon list of articleson 20 Sep 2007 at 9:13 am

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  44. pelfon 25 Sep 2007 at 2:35 am

    The thing is, most stumblers either:

    (a) rate a post/page, OR
    (b) stumble the next post/page

    and they do not normally take time to drop a comment or two. People would say that they use SU to “find great content”, but when they’ve found it, they just give it a “thumb’s up” and then proceed to stumble the next page.

    Which brings us back to square one: Who will benefit from all these stumbling? Definitely not the bloggers because what good would it do to bloggers if visitors merely “pass by” their posts/pages without leaving a comment, or subscribing to the blog?

    So to all stumblers, if you stumbled upon a post/page you like, why not leave the blogger a comment? I’m sure it would make everybody’s experience better :)

  45. Do You Want To Make Money Online?on 25 Sep 2007 at 5:29 am

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  46. Invect Haspon 25 Sep 2007 at 11:45 am

    How do you remove a tag from the list of tags people see in your profile?

    As an example, let’s suppose you end up with some blands tags plus one you don’t want: your tags are astronomy, biology, chemistry, terrorism, zoos. You don’t want the terrorism tag to show to other people. How do you make it go away?

  47. Megon 25 Sep 2007 at 12:08 pm

    @ Pelf – I’m addressing your comment in a new post.

    @ Invect Hasp – it’s a little hard to explain without screen shots but I’ll give it a go.

    I’m assuming that you’re talking about when you go to your “pages” and click on “tags” that the offending word is showing up. It would be because you labelled one or more pages with that tag.

    If you click on the word in your tag cloud, you’ll then see the page or pages with that tag. You’ll see to the right of the page title there is a link which will take you to the StumbleUpon page showing all the reviews. If you find your review, you can edit the tags that you originally labelled the item with, and remove the tag that you don’t want to show up. This will get it out of your “tag list”.

    If I’ve misunderstood your question, please don’t hesitate to clarify it.

  48. Megon 25 Sep 2007 at 8:00 pm


  49. […] Beginner’s Guide to StumbleUpon […]

  50. […] to be some kind of profound statement. Today I would like to mention that Meg wrote a great Beginners Guide to StumbleUpon which is worth a read, and ya’all should seriously think about getting on the StumbleUpon […]

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  55. Chess Openings Guruon 12 Dec 2007 at 8:15 am

    My favorite thing about StumbleUpon is how inclusive it is. A website like Myspace usually sticks to promoting their own music, video, and blogs, but Stumble Upon involves the whole web. It’s like one giant Internet message board!

    Great beginner’s guide. It was very informative.

  56. Pablothehaton 12 Dec 2007 at 10:19 am

    I have been finding SU a bit weird to get to grips with. I hope reading your article a couple of times will make it a bit clearer for me.

    Pablothehat’s last blog post..RSS? what’s RSS Precious?

  57. […] Beginner’s Guide to StumbleUpon A basic introduction to Stumble Upon. […]

  58. […] A Beginner’s guide to StumbleUpon: This article by Meg gives a fairly good introduction to StumbleUpon for bloggers. […]

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  61. Useful StumbleUpon Tips - ZePyon 05 Mar 2008 at 4:31 pm

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  62. jameson 11 Apr 2008 at 8:30 am

    Good post some useful stuff there

    add me on stumble

    james’s last blog post..More twitter

  63. […] Single Grain has a great article on how to do well with StumbleUpon. You can also read a beginners guide to StumbleUpon for more […]

  64. […] BlogPond – Become an active member in SU groups that interest […]

  65. nepspeed82on 17 Jul 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I don’t usually use the stumble button when stumbling blog posts. Usually, I stumble things through my reader and when I’m surfing through entrecard. Stumbling through your rss reader especially helps to avoid that habit of just thumbing up a site without leaving a review because when you stumble things that way a pop-up appears that requires you to drop a review before your vote could be cast. It also helps in stopping the addiction to just stumble your whole day through with your toolbar.

    nepspeed82’s last blog post..How to Generate StumbleUpon Traffic to Your Site

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  68. Lioraon 27 Sep 2008 at 2:03 am

    Thanks for simplifying the StumbleUpon world for newbies like me. I didn’t know that a user was limited to 200 friends, which is a very important point. Choose wisely!

    Liora’s last blog post..6 Easy Ways to Put Money Back in Your Wallet

  69. willon 31 Oct 2008 at 2:38 am

    Ive been stumbling for some time now, and would like to clear out some of my older “liked pages”. Ive searched around and cant seem to find out how to do that. Does anyone know if it’s possible, and if so, how to do it?