A few people have asked me to explain Trackbacks. I can understand the confusion, it is one of those things people assume you just know about but seem to be important somehow.
Trackbacks are ways for one site to notify another about an update. SixApart, the people behind Typepad and MovableType, invented Trackbacks as a way for blogs to inform another when it has been referenced in a post.
A trackback consists of a link and optionally a snippet of text. On many blogs you do not have to enable trackbacks and just like comments the trackbacks are moderated.
Here is how it normally works.
- Mary Blog writes an article on cheese
- Joe Blogger writes about Mary Blogs new post saying it is really cool
- Joes blog sends a trackback to Marys blog
- Marys blog receives the trackback and Mary sees the trackback in her comments moderation
In most cases this is all automatic, you just link to a post and it is all handled for you, in others you have to send trackbacks manually. If you use the scribefire firefox plugin you can send manual trackbacks for example. This involves pasting the special URL displayed in the other blogs post. If you look at the bottom of one of Seth Godins posts you will see a trackback URL.
So why bother?
Trackbacks are like a kind of commenting. You are saying “I have written about this post over on my blog”. The hope would be that the blogger would notice and also if the trackback gets published that people will click through to read what you have to say. Many trackback links are wrapped in “no-follow” condoms but in some cases you get a clean link.
While useful, trackbacks are not anything to get too excited about and due to spammers abuse very often disabled.