StumbleUpon has made a lot of changes lately, many of which have changed the core functionality of the site. They redesigned the site last year, re-focusing the site based on topic features. But there was a very interesting sneak change the other day, one that was unannounced and that changed the way stumbling itself was done. The update has made it impossible to get the direct links for the pages a user is stumbling, unless they opt to not sign in to the site with their standard account. What? Remember Digg? They tried something similar with their toolbar. How did that work out for them?
If you consider the point of StumbleUpon from a user perspective, the idea is to build up a taste graph that will find stories that the user will like. When looking at it externally from a marketing perspective, many websites are dependent on StumbleUpon’s referral traffic, which is something beyond the StumbleUpon user’s direct stumbling experience.
When asked about the new user experience, StumbleUpon’s VP of Business Development and Marketing, Marc Leibowitz, said that they are working on “things in mind to address this concern.”
StumbleUpon’s intention was to “improve the user experience.” And apparently only two-thirds of users would use the Web bar.
So signed-in users will have the Web bar but can’t exit it and visitors can easily close the bar. So if you want to see direct links, you don’t sign in.
This would make sense if..no, it doesn’t make any sense. So for users who want to see direct links and sign out, not only will StumbleUpon be unable to get a sense of that user’s taste graphic, but the user will also miss out on the social and community aspect of the site.
Apparently users would accidently click on the “X” button on the Web bar. This was StumbleUpon’s main reason when deciding to get rid of the Web bar entirely. When users would accidentally click, they wouldn’t be able to go back to their Stumbling unless they want to StumbleUpon.com.
Removing a major feature of the site seems like a drastic solution to a simple problem. Here’s an idea: when the user clicks the “X”, create a pop-up that says something like, “Are you sure you want to leave StumbleUpon.com?”
Given the removal of the web bar, StumbleUpon has had to alter the actual URL, changing the way it’s displayed. This is a benefit for users, but a big hit for those who receive a ton of referral traffic from the discovery engine.
What Does This Mean For StumbleUpon Referral Traffic?
For those sites that are dependent on StumbleUpon’s referral traffic, there really aren’t a lot of alternatives.
In one case, a website who previously generated 70-80% of referral traffic from StumbleUpon now only receives 40% due to the redesign. Now that StumbleUpon is hijacking the pageview, this will likely drop even further.
There is some hope, however. Pinterest.
Sure, the above is an isolated case, but publishers are getting hit, no question about it. Marketers will more than likely begin shifting their content strategy from StumbleUpon to Pinterest given the responsive nature of the users, as well as explosive platform growth. If you haven’t looked into Pinterest from a content marketing perspective, you should, because StumbleUpon won’t be backpedalling on the web bar decision anytime soon.