StumbleUpon v. Reddit

I’m looking at StumbleUpon and Reddit as key networks to expand into over the next year. The reason for that is simple: if you’re looking to bring visitors to a website as efficiently as possible, building a viable presence on one or both of those networks is probably a good move. The problem: They require a lot of engagement, and they step on sharing one’s own stuff pretty hard.

This means figuring out how much time you can get by with spending on them and knowing how often to put your own links out there are tricky. I have no idea how either of those networks decide what counts as “affiliation,” and I publish at and promote several blogs I do not own. I don’t want to be demoted before I even get started, and I don’t have a lot of time. So I’m proceeding slowly and cautiously.

But I have been experimenting. I have a StumbleUpon account I don’t use very often and no Reddit account at all. We’ve seen some success with both over the last couple of weeks. I’ll share a few numbers with you today and then explain the differences between these two networks as I understand them.

This spike happened here the weekend of Aug 10. I’ve included the mouseover info for the peak day. This is a good four-day spike from Reddit. It started on Sunday and trailed off on Wednesday. We still got a little from it on Thursday, and continued getting odd views last week.

15_08_10_spike

Most of this traffic went to a Tolkien post and a Batman post that were shared on various subreddits by a friend of mine who is not affiliated with the blog on Sunday, Aug. 9. The Tolkien was shared early and the Batman was shared late. The Batman post generated about 100 views, and they came in over a shorter period of time than the views on the Tolkien post, which brought us visitors for days. I’m assuming the difference is explained by the relative sizes and activity levels of the subrreddits where the posts were shared.

Overall, we received around 240 documented referrals from Reddit from this. That’s two or three days’ worth of traffic for us, depending on time of week and how we’re set for content. So, totally worth the minimal amount of time it took to drop those links.

Just to put those 240 views over a 4-day period into perspective for you. In the last 30 days we’ve received 195 views from the WordPress Reader, 115 from Facebook, and 75 from Twitter. And we’ve only gotten a little over 1,000 from search engines.

As I was putting this post together Friday evening, this happened. These are stats from Part Time Monster. The Friday/Saturday spike represents almost 800 views. A few came from StumbleUpon, but most came from Reddit. The info in the mouseover is for Saturday, which turned into Diana’s best day ever.

PTM spike 15-08-23

This one was a surprise. Diana’s Girls and Gaming post was shared spontaneously on Reddit by a blogger who as far as I know, we’ve never talked to. That post received more than 307 views on Friday and we recorded 168 Reddit referrals that day. I stumbled the post around midnight and it got another 53 views from StumbleUpon between midnight and 2 am on Saturday morning.

The StumbleUpon traffic trailed off, but PTM received another 179 Reddit referrals, and by the end of the day on Saturday, the gaming post had been viewed another 298 times. Out of the total of 780 views at the Monster on these two days, 605 were on the gaming post. We’re sure that 400 of those came from Reddit and StumbleUpon.

Again, just so you have some frame of reference. In the last 30 days, PTM has received 204 views from the reader, 57 from Facebook, 57 from Twitter and 604 from search engines. It’s also worth noting that Part Time Monster’s previous best day was a 400-view day in mid-March, and 85 of those views came from StumbleUpon. Our best day here at Sourcerer is 391 views, and 81 of those came from StumbleUpon. In fact, every time we’ve set a new best-ever record in the last 18 months at either of these blogs, StumbleUpon has been involved.

This is real progress for us for a couple of reasons. We’ve seen handfuls of referrals from Reddit before, but never anything like this, and these numbers are comparable to all the StumbleUpon spikes I’ve ever seen aside from the two or three very best. The 50 views I got for Part Time Monster from StumbleUpon is also the first time I, personally, have had a successful stumble. Up to this point, it’s always been other people stumbling our posts that got the views.

So which is better, Reddit or StumbleUpon? That depends on how you like to play on the internet, and on what you’re looking to get out of it.

Reddit is basically a huge forum with sub-forums (called subreddits) for just about every topic you can think of. People chat and share links related to specific topics. Reddit users can vote things up or down. Enough up votes will land a link on Reddit’s front page. Enough down votes can disappear a link entirely from Reddit.

StumbleUpon is a network for sharing and curating links. Users follow topics (called “Interests”) and can follow up to 100 other Stumblers. StumbleUpon sends content from your interests and from the people you follow into your feed, and you can like/dislike things. StumbleUpon saves all your likes and allows you to build lists of things you like. You can also share pages to StumbleUpon and categorize them for other users to find.

Reddit strikes me as easier to use — I find the StumbleUpon interface difficult. Reddit is also probably a more predictable source of traffic if you can learn to share there effectively, but StumbleUpon probably has higher traffic potential. (I’m saying “probably” here because I’m not well-versed enough to be sure). StumbleUpon was one of our top five referrers here in 2014 and brought us almost as many views from two or three lucky stumbles as Facebook did from every link we shared there.

The value of both to bloggers is simple. If you generate enough views on a single post in a short period of time, that helps the post get into Google searches. I’d say 80 percent of the the search traffic we get here is from people finding posts that were put into those searches originally by StumbleUpon.

I plan to eventually use both of these networks, but I am starting with StumbleUpon because I have more friends who use it than use Reddit, and because I already have a StumbleUpon account set up.

What about you? Do you use either of these networks, and do you have any advice for us newbies?

Happy Monday!

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On Blog Traffic and Engagement: WordPress Tags

This issue has come up one too many times in conversations over the last month for me to not address it. Tags and categories. If you want people to find your blog and read it, you need to understand tags and categories.

One of the first things I did when I started blogging again was figure out how tags work. I have an entire page titled “Tags Are Your Friends!” but when I created that page, I only had about 30 followers. Not many people have seen it, and this is important. You bloggers want to read the rest if you don’t already know this.

First, the difference between tags and categories:

  1. Categories are internal to your blog. You use them to create topic indexes.
  2. Tags are the way you get your posts into news feeds. There’s a feed for every tag on WordPress. If you create a tag that’s never been used before, WordPress creates a feed and puts your post in it. I’m pretty sure tags also influence search rankings.

Now, the important bit.

You never want the tags + categories on one of your posts to exceed 14. If you hit 15 tags and categories combined, WordPress does not include you in the feeds. This is a way of controlling spam. Doesn’t matter how we feel about it – that’s just the way it works.

I am not 100% sure about the number, or that it removes you from every feed, but I am pretty confident. I got this info orginally from a WordPress support forum.  I have seen, multiple times, posts with 18-20 tags + categories not get included in the tag feeds. I’ve also seen posts from people I follow with too many tags not appearing in my reader. I try to use 11 to 13 tags + categories. That’s the best way I’ve discovered to take full advantage of the feeds, but not to lose anything if I miscount.

WordPress has a tag cloud for the whole network that you can use to see what’s hot and tag your posts accordingly.

Here’s my tag strategy:

  • Tags absolutely must be relevant. If you tag something art, and the post has noting to do with art, people will not only decline to like or comment from the reader, they will decline to visit your blog.
  • I start with half a dozen general tags. Things like music, books, news, writing, blogging, etc.
  • I include three or four more specific tags – authors’ or bands’ names, series titles, etc.
  • I have a handful of “anytime” tags that I use for situations when I need more tags but run out of ideas. All, thoughts, random, and musings are all good for this. I’m changing this part of my strategy, for awhile, though. When I run out of tags that are good for news feed placement, I’m going to start using three or four tags that might be good for searches, even if no one’s looking at them on WordPress.
  • Something to keep in mind. The more popular a tag is, the larger the potential audience is when you first post it, but the less time it’s going to get at the top of the feed.  That’s why a few specific tags are as important as the more popular general tags.

And that’s the extent of it. My two hard-and-fast rules are:

  1. Never use more than 14 tags + categories.
  2. Never use fewer than 10, unless I’m really just talking to my peeps, in which case tags don’t matter. Because my peeps have me in their readers, or bookmarked, or are following by email, or actually click my links on twitter.

Have a great week, and I hope you find this helpful.

Addenda:

This just came up in the comment thread. I should have included this info in the post

  1. Posts are added to the tag feeds at the date and time of the original timestamp, no matter when you tag them. So, if you forget to tag them and do it two days later, you’ve missed the top of the tag feeds forever with that post. It still might be worthwhile to add the tags when you notice, because search engines. But not worth your time to correct a month’s worth of posts. It makes more sense to adjust what you’re doing and see if you get better results going forward. I’m sure about this because we’ve had posts we forgot to tag and corrected them a day later. Seen it happen.
  2. That first item makes reblogs more valuable than they seem. Reblogs put a link to the post back in the feeds at the date and time they are reblogged. This is why, if I don’t have anything to post, I always reblog something from a friend. You have to edit/tag reblogs after they post because they only post to your default category when you publish them. I always edit and tag reblogs immediately.
  3. This is one of those topics where it’s best for us all to have the most accurate info possible. So, if you see something here that’s not-quite-right, or have a piece of info that important, but I haven’t covered, feel free to correct me or share what you know.

 

 

 

Twitter for Bloggers III: What Do I Want?

One more thing for today. Before you embark on an effort to gain a large Twitter following, ask yourself three more questions:

  1. Why do I want a large twitter following?
  2. What sort of following would I like it to be?
  3. Who do I know that I can tweet with?

It takes time and attention to build and maintain a large account. To each their own, but bragging rights aren’t a good enough reason to justify the effort to me.

The click-through rate on Tweeted links is so low, it’s not going to affect your traffic very much for a long time. If you think you can build a following of two or three thousand and make a big difference in your daily blog visitors, think again. I suppose it’s possible, but it isn’t likely.

I tweet because I enjoy it, and because I find it useful for a few very specific things.

My answer to the first question is that it helps me find bloggers, writers, people who work in visual media, and activists who are looking for folks with similar interests to engage with. Twitter-icon-the-bird

That makes my answer to the second question self-evident. I want my following to include a lot of people who share those interests, but I don’t limit it to those interests.

I’ll follow just about anyone back, provided their accounts meet a few very reasonable standards, which I’ll discuss in a future post.

My answer to the third question at this point is that I know dozens, if not hundreds of people to tweet with. It wasn’t that way in the beginning, though.

I transitioned from just publicizing links and tweeting an occasional joke to growing a following of exactly the sort I’m looking for by tweeting with two other people who are invested in my success as a blogger.

In December, during the Christmas break, I started tweeting status updates about the blogs to @parttimemonster and @quaintjeremy every night after I finished the next day’s posts. I shared links to other blogs with them occasionally and used #blogs, #writers, #artists, #creatives, and #wordpress. I tweeted with Jeremy to #comics and with Diana to #equality.

I retweeted a few other bloggers. I started following the twitter accounts of blogs I was following on wordpress. I also learned to hashtag judiciously just for effect. After about a month of that, bloggers started noticing us and my follows picked up a tiny bit.

Mid-January, @halfeatenmind added me to my first list of bloggers. I followed the whole list. About half followed me back over the next week or two, and my account hasn’t really stopped growing since.

IMPORTANT: If you’re new to Twitter, or just have a small account, don’t go following hundreds of people from lists just yet. Wait for the next couple of installments before you do that. If you don’t understand Twitter’s spam policies at least a little, you can get your account suspended that way.

Note – This series will get more advanced, but I had to start at the very beginning. Most of it is drafted, and I’m not going to string it out for a month. I’m posting them as close together as possible because I think they’ll be more useful that way, but obviously not going to post three a day again. And tomorrow is a special day, so think about all this stuff and look for another installment sometime in the next week. In the meantime, Part Time Monster has several Pinterest boards that you might find useful.

image: I am pretty sure that little bird is property of @Twitter, but I snagged it from Molly-Greene.com.