Introduction to Trackbacks

Posted By Darren Rowse 26th of February 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments


The following post has been submitted by Andy Wibbels – a guy who is a good friend and associate. He and I run Six Figure Blogging together (something I enjoy because I think our skill sets complement each other very well – ie he knows what he’s talking about technically and I have no idea). I’ve asked Andy to write an introduction to Trackbacks – a topic I’m constantly asked for information about.

Summary: TrackBacks automate the interlinking of blog posts, but often don’t contribute to search engine ranking.

TrackBacks are notoriously difficult to explain and is an exercise that makes a great judge of the skill of any self-described ‘blogging expert.’ So here I go!

You get comments right? Easy enough. You write a post on your blog. Someone reads it and thinks you’re either sliced bread or vile ooze and comments accordingly. Just like having a mini-guestbook for each post.

What if I want to leave a comment about your blog post on my blog? That’s where TrackBacks come in.

Let’s say I read something pretty fantastic on your blog and so I write up a post about on my blog: “Hey you gotta check this out, here’s a quote from it and here’s the link to it.” And I link to that particular post on your blog. And I click publish.

Unbeknownst to most, your blog platform – whether it is WordPress or Movable Type or TypePad, scans all the links in a post each time a post is published. It finds my link to your post and then goes out to your blog and checks to see if your post is accepting TrackBacks. If so, my blog sends a little ping! to your blog as if to say, ‘Hey! Andy’s talking about you over on his blog.’ and your blog answers the ping and says ‘Alright, I’ll make a note of it.’ And then your blog makes a little note on that particular post that in effect says, “Besides all these comments under this post, here’s someone talking about this post on their own site – and here’s the link to it.”

So readers of your blog can see not just what the commenters are saying about it on your blog – but what other bloggers are saying about. I’ve seen a post’s list of TrackBacks described as ‘Other blogs linking to this post.’ Many blog tools, like WordPress, lump comments and TrackBacks into the same list.

You don’t have to know how TrackBacks work in order to use them, you can simply set a post to be able to receive trackbacks and set your blog to send them when you publish new posts. Your blog platform should do all the heavy lifting and email you when there are new TrackBacks – just like it does when there are new comments to a post.

TrackBack was first created by Ben and Mena Trott during the early days of Movable Type and has gradually been integrated into the features of most popular blog platforms. A similar technology is pingbacks which has the added security of checking to see if the pinging site actually exists.

Of course like anything fun or cool online, the evil bastard spammers got busy funneling their sewage into automated TrackBacks pingbots that left everyone’s blogs with dainty messages about mortgages, online poker and Viagra. Most comment spam blockers are now configured to also scan TrackBacks to help stem the tide of spammy TrackBacks.

One of the best parts about TrackBack is that it helped to increase your blog’s linked-ness and search engine ranking. With the introduction of the ‘no follow’ attribute, links in comments and TrackBacks are usually often not included in the calculation of your blog’s Google PageRank. I presume this applies to the other search engines as well. Still, the findability may not be in the search ranking – but links from other blogs is always a Good Thing.

In TypePad:

To enable TrackBacks by default in TypePad, go to Weblogs > (Your Blog) > Configure > Preferences > Comment and TrackBack Preferences: Check the checkbox ‘Hold comments and TrackBacks for approval.’ And set Default TrackBack Status set to ‘New posts accept TrackBacks.’ (for receiving TrackBacks)

In WordPress:

To enable TrackBacks by default in WordPress ,go to Options > Discussion: Check the checkbox ‘Attempt to notify any Weblogs linked to from the article.’ (for sending TrackBacks) Check the check box ‘Allow link notifications from other Weblogs. (for receiving TrackBacks)

In Movable Type:

To enable TrackBacks by default in Movable Type, go to (Your Blog) > Configuration > Preferences > Publicity/Remote Interfaces/TrackBack: Check the checkbox ‘Allow TrackBack Pings On by Default.’ (for sending TrackBacks) Check the checkbox ‘Email New TrackBack Pings.’ Check the checkbox ‘Enable TrackBack Auto-Discovery.’ (for receiving TrackBacks)

Andy Wibbels is an award-winning blogger and author of Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging. He has helped companies all over the world use blogs to market their businesses through seminars like Blog Your Way to a Bestseller, Easy Bake Weblogs, RSS Essentials, Podcasting Bootcamp and Business Blog Basics (co-creator). Andy is co-creator of the Six Figure Blogging seminar, with Darren Rowse.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Thanks! That was a great explanation! Now I understand it!

  2. Very well explained! Now I finally understand how Trackbacks work!

  3. Great explanation!

    It isn’t that hard for blogger. I found a post on some random site that walked me through it step by step.

  4. wow, i’ve been trying to figure out the whole ‘Trackback’ thing for at least a week now.

    i had mine disabled, i guess now i’ll enable mine to accept trackbacks :)

  5. This is a great explanation…I always wondered how track backs worked. Be sure to read “Monetize Your Blog”

  6. Now I understand the complicated track back process. It is one that I am trying to conquer now.

  7. I can’t find a Trackback address on the ProBlogger post.

  8. Thanks, I was wondering what trackbacks were after seeing them on a few blogs; I like the idea of the little pings talking to each other!

  9. The way I explain trackbacks is to say that they are comments on the commenter’s blog, rather than your blog, that have a link back to the post that they are commenting about.

    I think that about summarises it in once sentence.

  10. I was pretty excited to read this until I realized that Blogger.Com doesn’t support this feature. I suppose this could just be another tally for “get a new blog” for me

  11. What about trackbacks in blogspot ? I really need to know how to activate trackbacks on blogspot ? Can you help ?

  12. So readers of your blog can see not just what the commenters are saying about it on your blog – but what other bloggers are saying about. I’ve seen a post’s list of TrackBacks described as ‘Other blogs linking to this post.’ Many blog tools, like WordPress, lump comments and TrackBacks into the same list. nice word

  13. Thank you for the clarification that your post offered about trackbacks. It is well broken down and simple to digest and understand.

  14. I knew I would find a clear explanation one day and today is my lucky day. This actually makes my life easier and I will finally be able to sleep at night LOL.

  15. One more thing, how do you rate your own explanation of trackbacks, as it is such a complicated issue?

  16. Blog Hopper…

    Hi There. I’m blog hopping….

  17. damn, TrackBacks can be useful ? Who would’ve thought? ;) Thanks for the article…

  18. Boris, it’s kind of like hearing or reading a terminology over and over and not quite admitting to be missing the point. Then, one day, you come across an article like this one and finally, enlightenment is attained.

  19. Thank you for really useful informations and advices related to trackbacks. Really informative article for all bloggers!

  20. Thank you very much – I was looking for a good explanation and you’ve provided that.

  21. I always tought trackbacks were such a difficult matter… But now I can see the wordpress does all the work for me :) uff

  22. Trackbacks are really allowing to me… for some reason. It always seems like spammish sites are the one using trackbacks to my posts.

  23. i meant… ‘annoying’ sorry

  24. Thank’s for the idea . . . I was looking for good explanation for a long long times.

  25. Andy,

    I am a new blogger and have been trying to figure out what the heck is a trackback and how does it work. Now I understand a little more. Even so, I’ll come back to this blog and read it again.

    Thanks

  26. Not too sure how it works. I am still confused. lol.:)

  27. I am a little bit confuse for Trackback before. Thank for your post . It helps me much

  28. Andy,
    you have explained this in a way that is very easy to understand. Before reading this I never really understood Trackbacks and how to use them. After reading this I think I have a better understanding of how I can utilize them on my own blogs.

    Thanks.

  29. I’m always wondering what exactly they are… I’ve had a vague idea and seen it working with my own posts, but you explained it perfectly.

    Thumbs up!

  30. Daniele says: 07/16/2008 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Darren,
    very interesting post (and blog!).

    I need to know if I’ve understood the concept of pingback and trackback.

    A pingback is only a communication between blog platforms; a trackback, instead, is a communication between bloggers.

    Is it correct?

    Thanks.

  31. hi, Darren,
    your article really helps! it’s easy to understand, even though i’m not very good at english, but i still can get it. great job!

  32. hello…nice posting about trackback…..very helps me…thanks

  33. Didn’t have a problem understanding that at all. I had no idea what trackbacks were so as you might imagine I was definitely a little leary about pushing that button. It sounds like another great way of letting people know what you’re blogging about is being talked about on more than just your website. Thanks! There are a lot of great tips, ideas and general information here!

  34. hi.. i’m beginner,

    Does blogger blogspot support trackbacks feature?
    I’m confuse here????

    any one can help?

  35. I thank you I now I understood what trackback is all about.

    Same with AlexL and others please let us know how to put this into the blogger platform?

  36. So let me get this straight… If i create a link to a high quality, high traffic website in my blog, then assuming that the trackback is accepted i should get a link back to my website, in the comments section that will effectively drive traffic to my website.

    So why not find related websites with great quality traffic and get a little to your own website?

    Have i lost the plot here, or is that the main benefit of trackbacks?

  37. nice detailed explanation

  38. Oooo that’s trackback!

    Hehehe… I’ve been trying to figure out what it is for so long. Thank you so much for the explanation. Now I know how and why I should use it.

    Thanks!

    Chetz
    ChetzTV.com – My blog on Love, Money and Fitness

  39. Nice information.I’M still confused about the difference between tracebacks and ping backs

  40. Thanks for the info. I was actually confused between trackbacks and pingbacks. This helped me clear the doubts.

    Cheers.

  41. thanks Darren for explaining trackback …

  42. Trackback spamming is real. I saw it happen on a blog. Better watch out. So, I suggest that one should look closely at them.

  43. I also use blogger and would like to know how to set up trackbacks. Great post by the way, thanks.

  44. Great job on explaing this one in a simple to understand article. I think a lot of people do not understand trackbacks. It’s one of those subjects that is actually so simple that it’s confusing LOL

  45. Excellent. Clear and concise without making all us beginners feel like we need a PHD. to understand the lingo!

  46. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for your explanation about trackbacks.

    I left a comment yesterday on my blog, asking a commenter if he was getting my replies. No answer :(

    But at least now I know why!

    Now that I’ve turned on my “attempt to notify blogs” and “attempt to notify links” in my WordPress, everything should run smoothly.

    Warm regards and thanks again from a newbie blogger,

    Rov.

  47. Hi,

    You tips are just great. Each article gives a new idea to me! Thanks

    Korikkar

  48. In the new version of WordPress, the trackback panel is located in under “Sections>Discussion”, not “Options”.

    And thanks for the great post.

  49. Trackback spamming is real. I saw it happen on a blog.
    Thanks for this post!

  50. Always had a notion that I knew what a TrackBack is!!

    But after reading this, Andy made it a sure thing that I understood what it means in the actual sense.

    Thanks for writting this article Andy, even if its a couple of years earlier post.

    I do observe lots of spam comments on my blog and had always wondered over how I can stop this. And now after taking a few minutes off my daily chores, I put a small plugin and it takes care of the spam comments thru CAPTCHA.

    Now, no worries. Rest in peace.

    But Darren, why isn’t there any captcha for your comments fields? Do you get spam or not? And how often do you check your comments?