We’ve talked a lot about comments here on The Daily Post, but we’ve never mentioned the comment’s cousins, the casual pingback and the formal trackback. A couple of you have asked what the deal is with trackbacks and pingbacks, so let’s give them some attention.
A pingback is a type of comment that’s automatically created whenever you link to another WordPress.com post (provided the blog the post appears on has pingbacks enabled). The way a pingback looks depends on your theme, but they look something like this:
When you link to another blogger’s post, your pingback appears in their comment section just as any other comment would. This lets them know that you liked their work (well, or hated it), and they and their followers might click through to visit your post and read what you had to say. Back when we discussed commenting etiquette, I mentioned that if your comment is going to be more than a couple of lines, it might be better to post your response at length on your own blog. Because of pingbacks, your comment will still register in the post’s comments section if you do this.
What if you want to comment on a blog that’s not a WordPress blog, though? You can still notify that blog owner that you’ve written something about their post by using a trackback. You can send a trackback to any site that offers a trackback URL in its post. The Trackback URL will usually be somewhere near the “Leave a Comment” prompt:
When you click that link, the full URL for the trackback will load in your browser’s address bar. Copy the entire thing. Then, in your own post, find the “Send Trackbacks” module below the post editing window, and paste that entire URL in there before you publish your post. That will send a trackback notice to the blog – they’ll get a brief excerpt of what you wrote and a link back to your post.
Because of pingbacks, remember that when you link to another WordPress.com blog, that blogger will likely be notified. So be sure that you actually want them to see what you’ve written. If you don’t, you might not want to put a full hyperlink back to their blog.
As far as trackbacks are concerned, since you actively choose to send a trackback to another blogger, the etiquette for sending them is similar to what we discussed with commenting. If you have written something substantial about a blogger’s post, send them a trackback. If you’re simply including them in a list of links without any real commentary on their post, maybe don’t bother.
If you feel that ignorance is bliss, and you do not want to receive pingbacks or trackbacks when other bloggers link to your posts, you can disable the option in Settings->Discussion. And if you don’t want anyone to be notified when you mention them, there’s also an option there to turn off your own outgoing pingbacks and trackbacks.
When used well, pingbacks and trackbacks are yet another way to get connected with other bloggers who share your interests and to keep the conversation going across the blogosphere.
UPDATE: I should have mentioned that you can see an excellent example of pingback use in the comment sections of the Daily Prompts here on The Daily Post! Because so many bloggers participate in the prompts, comment threads would quickly get overwhelming. Most of the comments would be bloggers leaving a link to what they’d written about the prompt on their own blogs, so we close comments on these posts and let pingbacks do the work for our commenters. In the comment section of every Daily Prompt, you’ll see a tidy list of links to posts by bloggers who have written something inspired by the prompt. Handy!