Writing for StumbleUpon:
High Impact Content “Above the Scroll” in Four Easy Steps


Most Copyblogger readers are likely familiar with the concept of “above the fold,” which refers to placing the most important or most attention-grabbing content on the upper half of the front page of a newspaper. When applying the same concept to content published on the web, we can think about it instead as “above the scroll,” since we make traditional “above the fold” content visible to readers without requiring them to scroll down.

With StumbleUpon, an under appreciated yet extremely powerful socially driven content discovery site, staying above the scroll is more important than ever. That’s because “Stumbling” is very similar to channel-surfing on television.

As a user of the site, you repeatedly click the Stumble button to see random pages based on your preferences. You give either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” based on your opinion of the value of that page. Just like channel-surfing, however, StumbleUpon users are surfing the web for content that is instantly captivating, making it more important than ever to use your above-the-scroll real estate wisely.

Here’s a quick comparison between two sites that I have a lot of respect for and read regularly (both images are of an article in single-post view):

Copyblogger on StumbleUpon

Channel surfers will give a site 2 to 3 seconds to see if something interesting is going on before they Stumble away. In this first case, you can see that Chris Garrett’s Copyblogger article starts with a visual that grabs your attention immediately and compels you into the content. Beyond the image, the article includes an opening question, some elaboration, and three items from a list of seven, all above the scroll.

Freelance Switch on StumbleUpon

With Freelance Switch, however, (even on my screen, which is bigger and higher resolution than your average reader’s and can accommodate more content) you see the site’s header and byline which take up 50 percent of screen space and the post meta-elements taking up another 25 percent, leaving only 25 percent for actual content, in which you can barely see the first two lines of the article and can’t make out the image at all.

Here are some things to keep in mind when writing specifically for Stumblers:

1. Put serious thought into your title: When you start writing a post, you obviously have an idea in your head. If you can’t start with the headline first, write a temporary title when you start but once you’re done, make sure you rewrite it so it stands out.

2. Start with a striking visual cue: A picture is worth a thousand words, and Stumblers really take that to heart. Nothing grabs their attention more than a striking image. StumbleUpon users seem more likely to be drawn in by the smart use of images, and there’s no better placement for a great image than at the top of your article.

3. Have substance above the scroll: When my cursor is on the Stumble button in my toolbar, I don’t want to take it all the way to the scroll-bar and scroll down to get to the content. Lay it out for me so I can decide whether I want to invest time in your article or not with minimum effort on my part.

4. Make an engaging opening splash: So far so good, but to make me scroll down you have to make a splash with your opening. Simply having content above the fold isn’t enough. Ask me a thought provoking question or tell me you’re going to help me make millions (but if you don’t deliver in the body content, I’m giving you a thumbs down and never coming back). Add extra effort into your opening because this is what’s going to make me read the rest of your article, lead me all the way down to the comments section, and give you a big thumbs up and perhaps a nice review on StumbleUpon.

Get more social media analysis from Mu over at his blog.

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Reader Comments (86)

  1. says

    although i didn’t stumble a lot, but this make sense, but then again, my preferences is like this :
    above the fold + 1 scroll

    say like in the Freelancer Switch case, since the header already got my attention, i the content isn’t too visible at the first time, i usually give it another 1 scroll 😉 to skim the content :)

    nice article as always mr. saleem :)

  2. says

    Wow – I never realized that! We’re just about the launch a redesign so I’ll make sure we take that into account.

    Thanks Muhammad :)

  3. says

    I have recently earned a nice bit of traffic from stumble upon. I think it helps that my design is simple and straight to the point. I also use the wordpress more tag which helps force me to write an informative introduction on all my articles in order for it to draw people in from the homepage.

  4. says

    Coming from the guy who Stumbles EVERY SINGLE ONE of his own stories, how can we trust you?

    Kidding. You’re right though, the key to a good stumbling page is the same key to any good writing–a good hook. If you have that, you’re halfway there.

    And SU is really amazing right now. At Rudius we’re doing 15,000 new visitors a month just from unsolicited stumbles. The best part–the part that really matters–is that almost 100% of the visitors are first timers and the bounce rate is under 30%.

  5. says

    Very good article, but you forgot to mention a few points: too many ads distract from the message.

    Also: when you make it impossible for the readers to find what they are searching for (cluttered pages, with too many graphics and inconsistent design) you lose page views, thus you lose SE points…

    And, you might find Blasting the Myth of the Fold very useful for future reference.

  6. says

    The quickest way for a site to earn a thumbs down on SU from me is when it has more AdSense above the fold than content.

    I know many people want to make a buck online (myself included) but if I Stumble onto your site and can’t see any content I’m not going to give you a thumbs up!

  7. says

    Hi Muhammad — I wrote a similar article a month or so ago for ProBlogger, called ‘How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog‘. We had a few points the same, a few points different. Thought you might be interested in seeing my take on the subject :).

    My points were:
    1. Make your core mission statement unmissable
    2. Insert powerful visual cues
    3. Push your content above the fold
    4. Create an eye catching design

  8. says

    Great article. I’ve been trying to find ways to make my content more appealing to StumbleUpon users. I like the service in that it allows me to flip through sites at a fast pace and find interesting stuff to read.

    I just need to work on my titles….

  9. says

    Stumble really can bring on some massive traffic. The most recent of my stumbled posts is past 18,000 views in the last seven days.

    There is also almost 80 comments due to a debate that started up in my comment section. Heck yes.

    After all of that traffic though, not a penny earned. Only one click on one of my affiliate banners. yarg. The traffic is a nice change though 😉

  10. says

    These principles are true no matter where you bookmark. As a former newspaper editor, I realize the importance of “above the fold.” It’s just as important online where the top half of any page you visit is visible. So I’d say this is an important principle for web pages as well as blogs and for any social bookmarking site, social networking, or any other marketing method.

    Good article.

  11. says

    Good point, Graywolf.

    And it never fails, if you want to get traffic about a particular social site, write about that site. There’s a nice collective ego at most of them.

  12. says

    I’ve been starting to use bookmarking sites more to generate more traffic and am really happy to have stumbled onto your article and blog..thanks for all of the wonderful, insightful tips!

  13. says

    I wonder how many people joined stumble upon, upon reading this article.

    I did. And in my stumbles it was hard to find good ‘content’ in my niche.

    maybe i’m just not good at stumbling

  14. says

    StumbleUpon is a great source of traffic. As you said in the post. Visitors from their spend very little time on your site unless you catch their interest. Stumble is just channel surfing for the net.

  15. says

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m in the process of redesigning my blog right now.

    Where does copyblogger get all the awesome photos?

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