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Monday, July 31, 2006

Analyzing StumbleUpon

My friend and colleague Martin Waugh dropped by the other day to say that he had noticed a new Digg shadow effect. His fantastic photography site, LiquidSculpture gets dugg every now and then. This, of course, brings a lot of traffic to his site, but within a short time after, he is now seeing a lot of traffic from StumbleUpon. And it turns out, it is a lot of traffic!

StumbleUpon is a social networking service. You sign up for an account, install an extension in Firefox (and it's recently become available as a plugin for IE), select some preferences (what your interested in stumbling upon), and you're off stumbling.

It's actually very cool. You add to the social network by tagging sites or pages you come across. Like del.icio.us or other tagging tools, you can add your own tags to pages. But the real power is when you hit the "I like it!" button when you come across something you like, thus adding more substantial data to the network.

Now, when you want to just stumble upon something, you click the Stumble! button. Think of it as a feeling-lucky-reverse-search. You've already given your topic(s) of interest (say, Web Development), and StumbleUpon now takes you to a site you might be interested in seeing. The cool part is that you can Stumble upon a subset of a topic by also selecting a filter. So, I selected Web Development as a topic, then web-analytics as a filter (tag), and quickly stumbled upon Marshall's WebMetricsGuru, Pat's Conversion Rater, and others. I went to a few other WA blogs and hit "I like it!" so they would appear as well.

How do you know if someone has stumbled across your site? There are a few answers, but I'll just note the most frequent now. The primary use of the tool is through the Stumble! button. When someone visits your site using that button, you'll see one of the following referrers:
- http://www.stumbleupon.com/refer.php, or
- http://www.stumbleupon.com/refer.html

If an individual goes back to the StumbleUpon site to view the pages they've tagged (or those of another Stumbler), then select a site from list of tagged sites, they will show up as a referrer from their account name, like this:
- http://elbpdx.stumbleupon.com/

If an individual looks at a list of sites that all have the same tag, then selects a site, the referrer comes through with the tag name on it:
- http://www.stumbleupon.com/tag/web-analytics/

Note that there's a default setting that likely throws analytics off a bit as folks are using the Stumble! button. In the toolbar configuration, there's a setting to "Prefetch Stumbles". In my testing, the browser would actually prefetch a few sites at a time. Sites that I may not end up visiting. However, if I do visit them, they are downloaded again (except for objects that are cached), and a second view is recorded to the site. It would be nice if they would note the fact that this is a prefetch in the request (ala Firefox).

One final note. There is a commerce side to StumbleUpon via "advertising". It's not your typical advertising in that the customer will "stumble" directly to a landing page on your site. I've not spent much time with it, but you can setup "campaigns" with them. As they ask Stumbler's to note their location and age as part of the signup/networking process, they have do have the ability to target campaigns pretty well (given that folks are entering in accurate information of course). It currently costs $.05 per vistior.

Filed in: analytics, stumbleupon

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