Social Media

StumbleUpon: The Antithesis of Google?

With over 3.5 million registered users (up from 600,000 two years ago), StumbleUpon has left the techie niche and has become mainstream. But unlike Google which makes its billions from helping you find what you’re looking for, StumbleUpon helps you discover content that you may not be looking for but will probably find interesting.
How Google Works
If you look at Google, it seems that the site is laid out so that you can visit the search page, type in a query, and click the result that best fits your need. So in most cases (and if Google works according to plan), you don’t even spend a whole minute on Google before leaving for the site you were looking for. In a way, there is a conflict of interest at Google: the better the search engine, the quicker you find what you’re looking for, and the less time (per query) you actually spend on Google.
How StumbleUpon Works
Unlike at Google, StumbleUpon doesn’t help you find something specific that you may be looking for, rather it helps you discover new content (often content you didn’t know existed) based on your general preferences. Furthermore, the more you use the StumbleUpon toolbar, the better it understands your interests and what specifically appeals to you within your interests, and the better the pages the toolbar sends you. In effect, the toolbar gives you a reason to use it frequently because that will make it improve, and over time, you want to use it more frequently because you enjoy the content you discover.
ms stumbleye StumbleUpon: The Antithesis of Google?
To be fair, Google also has similar functionality with Google Web History, but most people I know aren’t using that because of the privacy issues involved. Web history aims to deliver more relevant results by recording every single website you visit and every single query you conduct (through Google). StumbleUpon, on the other hand, works based on the category and tag surfing/submitting habits of you and your friends.
The Google Business Model
A majority of Google’s earnings are dependent on a single source: revenue from advertisements. By serving up ads next to search queries, and making sure that the ads are contextually relevant, Google hopes that if the ad is relevant enough, you will click on the ads to visit the featured service/content instead. One issue with this is that many tech-savvy people are either simply blind to these ads or block them using Ad-Block Plus (not to imply that this is making a significant dent in Google’s pocket).
The StumbleUpon Business Model
Just like Google, StumbleUpon also relies on a revenue model that relies on contextually advertising other people’s content next to freely served content. However, advertisers can choose the exact demographic that their content appeals to and based on your Stumbling habits (i.e. if the content is something that you would even normally be interested in), the advertiser’s content will be served to you along with your regular Stumbling. Unlike Google, where ads are contextualized to a single query, content marketed through StumbleUpon takes into account your general Stumbling history (i.e. what categories and tags you like to Stumble and so on).
The model is better for advertisers as well as the users. For advertisers, it is good because there is no action required on the part of the users (i.e. they don’t have to specifically click on an ad). The advertised pages are served up just as other content, and in fact, StumbleUpon recommends that you use regular content pages to market yourself rather than ad-pages. As for users, this model is good because the more you use StumbleUpon, the better the toolbar understands you and will serve you relevant, advertised content pages. In fact, even though there is an option to pay and opt-out of advertised content, I have yet to encounter content that I thought was blatantly spammy/advertised and not relevant.
Conclusion
Ultimately, the people behind StumbleUpon have managed to create a service that is incredibly sticky (in terms of people enjoy using it daily and for hours) and a great marketing platform at the same time. The service avoids the pitfalls of other services like Digg by avoiding ads and directly marketing content to the users. The fact that you can even rate the marketed content makes sure that this will also improve over time.

 StumbleUpon: The Antithesis of Google?
Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs about marketing and entrepreneurship at Quick Sprout.

Comments are closed.

24 thoughts on “StumbleUpon: The Antithesis of Google?

  1. This is very true. I’ve been experimenting with SU quite a lot recently and I’ve started using it like a search engine more and more. You just know that you can’t possibly get spammy sites back in the results because nobody would give them thumbs up. On the other hand, for it to work well you need to have ‘trained’ the StumbleUpon toolbar quite well so it’s not so good if you’re brand new at SU.

  2. I too have been using Stumble Upon as a viable search engine means. I can get very frustrated with google becuase if I dont put in the correct keywords, the exact keywords, I will never find what I want. Recently, while doing a search about earthquakes, I was specifically looking for some sort of visual quake simulation… maybe something someone made in flash or something… well, it didnt take more than a few clicks with “earthquake” as the keyword until I found exactly what I was looking for… not to mention so other pertinent earthquake sites along the way!

  3. As a “little guy” blogger, I have found that StumbleUpon is by far the best way to reach an audience who shares my interests. When I post a new story I always give it a thumbs up, a Digg and a reddit yet 95% of my traffic comes from Stumble. Currently I get 10-30,000 unique visitors per day from stumbling but am lucky to get 100-200 total from Digg and reddit alone.
    In fact stuff I have posted long before other sites and have dugg myself fails to get picked up because I am not a “big guy” blogger. Digg and reddit users do not like the “little guy” blogger and most of the users tend to be more into technology and business stories anyway. Stumble is far more fair and is my favorite tool on the internet (and not just because it brings me traffic).

  4. Google and SU are complements to each other – which is best depends on what you’re after at a particular moment. Google will always have the advantage if you’re after something really specific.

  5. Since eBay bought stumbleUpOn, I was wondering if eBay will use it to compete with Google to create their own ad network.
    I believe eBay will use stumbleUpOn like they were using Skeype to promote their services.
    I like StumbleUpOn. At least, I get to see a lot of great photos that I won’t be able to find on Google.

  6. “Unlike Google, where ads are contextualized to a single query, content marketed through StumbleUpon takes into account your general Stumbling history”
    Much like Google Web History. (which people don’t like because it records your history)
    Stumbleupon records your history, and may, too, be turned off.

  7. caroline wrote:
    “This is very true. I’ve been experimenting with SU quite a lot recently and I’ve started using it like a search engine more and more. You just know that you can’t possibly get spammy sites back in the results because nobody would give them thumbs up.”
    i have started using su for certain searches instead of google myself.
    but i wonder – as su becomes more popular, will it see automated stumbling robots that thumbup spammy pages so they get into the rotation?

  8. The best aspect for me is I’m able to search my own stumble history thru my own categorized pigeon-holing, finding sites useful in today’s work/play/study (I need a new word.)

  9. i wish stumbleupon would make it easier to see what I’ve viewed..like a full one page history of what I viewed (regardless of thumbs up or down) for any particular day.

  10. I came upon stumble upon through a newspaper review and i really like it! rather than giving us umpteen sites to a query, SU gives me interesting websites!

  11. Interesting article. I also found this site thru SU . I’m new to it and had been wondering how the advertising worked. The comments by Dan the “little guy” blogger are pretty interesting too. The possibility of automated stumbling robots thumbing up spammy sites is a sad thought. Oh well its great for now.

  12. Yes, like your article. Using stumble upon is adding new creativity to my researches.
    One thing has to be mentioned:
    A google research is less ‘traffic intensive’ than stumbling.
    You need broad band for stumbling, google just needs modest resources.

  13. I am also using not only as search engine type of needs but it includes much more advantages:
    I can visit my interest related quality websites which I would never come through google.
    It gives my extra time a very good informative hobby.
    I can make my own blog which can show my personality and could gather things, picture quotes from all over the internet and just like an online advance diary.
    Though there is one thing I want to know from anyone, if some can explain and help me. As you know everybody wants to earn money and most do from their websites. How can one earn some extra bucks from our blog on stumbleupon which gives us kindda our own site I mean us the stumbleupon users can earn some extras with their stumbleupon blog. and HOw?

  14. @AMY: I was just skimming through the comments after reading the article and I just happened to notice yours.
    You complain about stumbling upon an article about Stumble Upon, but this is actually in the StumbleUpon category. This category isn’t automatic either, so you are basically going to thumb down every article in a category that you selected just because you decided that you no longer want to see articles from that category?
    It would be much easier (not to mention no longer having the need to leave negative comments on great articles) to simple remove the Stumble Upon category from Tools>Update Topics on the SU toolbar. Simple solution and then, unless an article is accidentally miscategorized, you should should have very few reminders of what network you’re on whilst you’re stumbling about.

  15. @AMY: I was just skimming through the comments after reading the article and I just happened to notice yours.
    You complain about stumbling upon an article about Stumble Upon, but this is actually in the StumbleUpon category. This category isn’t automatic either, so you are basically going to thumb down every article in a category that you selected just because you decided that you no longer want to see articles from that category?
    It would be much easier (not to mention no longer having the need to leave negative comments on great articles) to simple remove the Stumble Upon category from Tools>Update Topics on the SU toolbar. Simple solution and then, unless an article is accidentally miscategorized, you should should have very few reminders of what network you’re on whilst you’re stumbling about.

  16. My blog is a few months old. I think it’s good and well designed. I get compliments form the few people that have visted it, but I desperately need to increase my traffic flow.
    From the comments here, I’m going to try StunbleUpon, participate and see if I can get some visitors to review the site.
    I find the variety of comments here in relationship to StumbleUpon vs. Google interesting. There are some good points that I can explore and learn from.
    http://www.razingthegrotto.com : Exposing Political Deceit, Prejudice and Intolerance.