That was all I could manage to say when I saw the traffic stats for my personal blog on Thursday February 1, 2007. I had looked at the stats earlier in the day and they were clicking along at their usual rate. There are a couple of articles on the site that turn a good amount of natural search traffic and also have some inbound links from a couple of blogs. But, around 11:00pm things went nuts!
I did a quick stat check before shutting down for the night and noticed a huge spike in traffic. Most of the inbound traffic was going to one single page which registered more than 400 page views by midnight. Every time I hit the refresh button on my browser, the numbers jumped again.
The following day I logged over 1300 visitors to that one single page (this is about 30 times my average daily traffic.) I had never seen anything like it on this site before. A little investigation revealed the cause of this new traffic.
My blog was recommended by a member of the StumbleUpon.com community. StumbleUpon is a social bookmarking type website where people rate sites they visit with a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. As groups of people see your site it gets rated higher. They also have a Stumble feature where they will recommend a site that you might be interested in based on your preferences and past recommendations.
One of my pages has 2 reviews and 25 thumbs-up. When a user recommended it in a relevant topic area on the site – BOOM!!! My traffic went through the roof.
This shows the power of a new wave of search tool. Sites like StumbleUpon.com and Squidoo.com are relying on the concepts of social proof and word-of-mouth to evaluate the relevance of a site. This is just an extension of what has been happening in the blog world with sites like Technorati and Digg.
So what did I learn?
I learned that I need to do more than add a few social bookmarking links at the bottom of my article pages. Now, I added a “Stumble This” link underneath the title of every article. It is part of the template for my pages, so when you read an article, the link is right there at the top asking people to give me a thumbs-up. It is important to be more aggressive and ask people for recommendations. (I do this at the bottom of the page using the Sociable Plugin for WordPress, but how many people actually read that far?)
I have also decided to make direct requests to my newsletter subscribers to recommend specific articles when promoting something new. (I plan to do this infrequently because I suspect if the same people recommend everything I do, the site will filter them out and devalue their recommendations.)
Never underestimate the power of social proof (the ‘everyone else is doing it so it must be good’ principle.)
If you like this article, please Digg it, Stumble it, Delicious it, and otherwise recommend it in any way you can. The larger my readership, the more time I can spend adding fresh content to the site.
The Go-To Guy!