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Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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:

Pingback

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:

Trackback URL

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!

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  1. Thanks for this post! But I might not have read it right, being in a hurry, but I still don’t get how you pingback. When you say you link it, what do you mean! I could do with an idiot step by step because I do want to give it a go but I still don’t quite get it. Thanks x

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    1. If you have a WordPress.com blog and you link to another WordPress.com blog in one of your posts (a full link with the http:// at the beginning), the blogger you link to will automatically get a pingback – you don’t have to do anything. But this is only if they have pingbacks enabled in their Discussion Settings.

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  2. I still do not know how to create a pingback.. Is it done while you still haven’t posted the post or is it something created in the settings? I want to be able to add the pingback when I create a daily prompt post. Can you help?
    Thanks.

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  3. All I see is that pingbacks are often used to spam a blog with links. I delete 95% of pingbacks because their blogposts aren´t even related to my blogposts nor do they mention anything about my blogpost. There are only a few people who wrote a related post and then I let the pingbacks go through.

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  4. I feel like many of you, I don’t see much benefit in them. I’ve heard some SEO professionals refer to them as a great way to build backlinks, but I don’t quite agree with that. They can be extremely impersonal and are more often than not spam. Not to mention, many of them are no-follow and so there’s no “link juice” to be had from them one way or another. There is always the slim possibility that they might bring you traffic. However, that seems unlikely. I enjoy reading all kinds of blogs; I’m an avid reader. But I rarely ever pay attention to the list of trackbacks & pingbacks when I see them.

    There’s also something else to consider with trackbacks and pingback. Google is taking page speed very seriously these days, enough that it has become a regular factor in their algorithm. Slow-loading sites are now less likely to rank well, whether they’re relevant or not, because they provide a poor user experience. Trackbacks & pingbacks can clog up your server (especially the never-ending spam ones), which can seriously slow down your site. When you consider that most of them are spam and rarely ever deliver serious traffic, you’re slowing down your site and putting yourself on Google’s bad list for no reason.

    I’ve decided to completely disable mine. There are much better ways to build backlinks and drive traffic. Trackbacks & pingbacks might be more automated than other methods, but that automation doesn’t really mean anything when they don’t deliver much in the way of targeted traffic or qualifying backlinks. I’m also all for anything that can unclog my servers and increase my page speed. Just a thought from the technical side of things for those who may not have known…

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  5. ”Its always good to learn tips like you share for blog posting. As I just started posting comments for blog and facing problem of lots of rejections. I think your suggestion would be helpful for me. I will let you know if its work for me too.”

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