Reasons Why StumbleUpon is a Dead End

A ded end street leading into the sea on a gray day

The venerable social site StumbleUpon is a dead end. Read my story first and then the actual reasons. I advise bloggers not to use it at all.

It was long ago, probably several years already, that I have stopped recommending StumbleUpon for business users or “getting traffic”.

Don’t use StumbleUpon when using means actively participating on the site and sharing content. It doesn’t work that way if it ever has.


StumbleUpon, the unfriendly “social” site

Unlike on Facebook, Twitter or any other modern social site neither self submission nor friends’ engagement count on StumbleUpon.

It’s actually better not to join or to engage with others on the site in order not to render your and their likes worthless.

StumbleUpon only sends stumblers your way when a random complete stranger having no connection to you whatsoever votes for you.

This is how the system works. In short: Your own activity on StumbleUpon does not matter or rather backfires.

Now I’m a man of habit. I just get used to things. Also I like sharing so I still used StumbleUpon privately for discovering and sharing things. I liked the idea of being able to share

  • environmental
  • artistic
  • self improvement

finds with a lot of subscribers (I still have over 1000 of them) plus automatically with the followers of my followers. At least this is the way StumbleUpon was meant to work. It doesn’t.

After the new design has been introduced SU started to display how many views your stumbles get.

I noticed that most of my discoveries got only one view, yes, that’s a “1”. That made me kind of sad as I discovered content quite often. Why? I wanted to make it known and to support the respective

  • activists
  • artists
  • bloggers

Instead I basically sabotaged their sites as they never got any visitors from SU after I discovered them.

I was actually throwing them into them dumpster instead of of getting them in front of an interested audience.


“1 View”: bug or feature?

At first I assumed that I did something wrong, like writing not enough reviews or not including images or discovering the wrong content or topics.

I changed everything in trial and error and even tried some highly popular content from elsewhere, to no avail. Most of my submissions got just 1 view.

Why should I waste my time submitting stuff to a site that does not send any of it to my followers at the same time penalizing webmasters for being submitted to it?

Then I suspected a penalty on my profile due to being a writer for a SEO blog as that topic by itself is still considered “evil” on StumbleUpon even after the introduction of an SEO category.

Everybody writing about SEO is a suspected spammer according to this misguided opinion. Also

I have been very vocal in the fight against the omnipresent content theft on StumbleUpon.

StumbleUpon is full of stolen images, indeed stolen images tend to be the most popular discoveries there. Content theft runs rampant!

Maybe the many content thieves I thumbed down and gave a bad review to warn others have flagged me or something?


The more you give them the less they give back

I kept checking other people’s profiles and looking at how many views their discoveries get. I expected people who actively discovered content to be rewarded by the algorithm.

I was surprised to find out that most people who have many views on their discoveries rarely discover anything.

The more you discover fresh content the less visitors your discoveries get it seems. Plus the number of stumbles or friends has no positive impact on the power to reach people.

I have 18k stumbles and 1000+ subscribers but nobody seems to be able to see discoveries.

It’s the other way around, the more friends you got the less other non-related strangers are there to push your discovery.

In some niches there aren’t many at all so subscribing to most of them means StumbleUpon suicide. You basically shoot yourself in the foot!


Common StumbleUpon problems

  1. Most discoveries get buried by the system and won’t get seen anybody beside yourself – “1 View” phenomenon
  2. In a bizarre logic the more friends you have the less traffic your discoveries get, only votes by strangers count
  3. Content theft abounds and stolen photography gets most popular while the sites of the original artists or photographers get no credit or traffic
  4. Business usage is officially banned in the TOS, as a business owner you are only allowed to advertise not share content
  5. Sites you like the most get the least traction as sharing the same source more than once gets your vote devalued for that site
  6. You actually hurt people by discovering their sites or blogs as they can’t get any traffic in most cases
  7. For inspiration there are far better sites, e.g. image bookmarking services We Heart It and Pinterest
  8. For business use and to spread the message Twitter is by far the better choice, for sharing Tumblr is far better
  9. Old, often completely outdated posts get pushed by the algorithm while new ones get ignored
  10. You can’t block the infamous StumbleUpon trolls via .htaccess anymore as everybody uses the same home URL now
  11. The StumbleUpon categories are broken. Content often ends up in the wrong category (like business news on the sports channel on TV). A wrong categorization means in most cases the death of a submission


StumbleUpon alternatives for business and inspiration

This is not a post to whine about StumbleUpon treating me bad or something. It’s just a post that warns you not to follow my advice from a decade ago.

When I started this blog I hailed StumbleUpon as the next big thing on the Web. I expected it to become an alternative to Google.

By now Pinterest has become one of the most important social sites and sources of traffic. StumbleUpon is a dinosaur.

StumbleUpon punishes business users and has an algorithm that effectively stifles both sharing and socializing. You are meant to buy ads instead as a business person!

StumbleUpon is a dead end and I personally switched to Twitter for business usage ages ago while I switched to Tumblr and Pinterest for

  • inspiration
  • community
  • social discovery
  • and sharing.

I won’t make the same mistake again using Tumblr for business so that my account there will remain completely private.


Strangers share, friends waste time

Now you might say: I still get traffic from StumbleUpon. Me too, but it doesn’t have anything to do with me.

I get visitors to posts shared by complete strangers. Engaging there doesn’t make sense. Instead I ask you to follow me elsewhere:

  1. Twitter
  2. Google+
  3. Mastodon
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Pinterest

I could have come up with more than 12 reasons to abandon StumbleUpon but I don’t want waste any more time with it.

Read my other posts on the broken categories on StumbleUpon which still haven’t been fixed to a large extent, content theft and other annoyances. Also make sure you know how to use Twitter instead.


Solely private use?

Does StumbleUpon still work you for business or private use? In case you aren’t in the insane content theft business tell me how you do use it.

I’ve been fond of Tumblr and Pinterest privately in recent years and never really missed anything.

Many other former fellow stumblers and other long time users tend to agree with me:

Last but not least: I apologize all the green activists, bloggers, artists and designers for discovering their content and basically banning these pages on StumbleUpon. Such a waste!

Mea culpa! StumbleUpon is a dead end. In short: I’m simply sick and tired of all the content theft crap and discovering content nobody ever sees.


Last updated: April 19th, 2017: Improved readability, clarified here and there. Added new image. December 7th, 2015: Added subheadings, changed headline from “dead” to “dead end” and from “12 reasons” to “reasons”, other minor changes and fixes.; June 18th, 2015: Removed broken links. Improved text formatting.

* Creative Commons image by Benny Lin