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What Are Trackbacks and How Do I Use Them?

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.

  1. Mary Blog writes an article on cheese
  2. Joe Blogger writes about Mary Blogs new post saying it is really cool
  3. Joes blog sends a trackback to Marys blog
  4. 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.

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Comments

  1. And trackbacks give you the warm fuzzies. I love logging into my wordpress account and seeing that someone has posted about me! It’s right up there with snail mail on the make you feel good meter (assuming of course that the post about you was positive).

  2. And trackbacks give you the warm fuzzies. I love logging into my wordpress account and seeing that someone has posted about me! It’s right up there with snail mail on the make you feel good meter (assuming of course that the post about you was positive).

  3. I use trackbacks whenever available, but notice that many people just ignore trackbacks altogether. When I first started blogging trackbacks were a big part of the blogging process, but it seems to have subsided.

  4. I use trackbacks whenever available, but notice that many people just ignore trackbacks altogether. When I first started blogging trackbacks were a big part of the blogging process, but it seems to have subsided.

  5. I’ve been wondering lately if trackbacks are worth it.

    I understand you get a reciprocal link from one site to another, which is golden, but you also get spam coming through almost daily.

    Peter Freitag posted a topic about trackbacks a while back and he talks about using a better trackback filter in case anyone is interested.

    http://www.petefreitag.com/item/545.cfm

    Hope this helps anyone interested. :-)
    JD

  6. I’ve been wondering lately if trackbacks are worth it.

    I understand you get a reciprocal link from one site to another, which is golden, but you also get spam coming through almost daily.

    Peter Freitag posted a topic about trackbacks a while back and he talks about using a better trackback filter in case anyone is interested.

    http://www.petefreitag.com/item/545.cfm

    Hope this helps anyone interested. :-)
    JD

  7. Trackbacks let other bloggers know you’ve joined the conversation ;-)

  8. Trackbacks let other bloggers know you’ve joined the conversation ;-)

  9. Thanks Chris. I always find your blog so informative and useful. Now if you’d only address the meaning of life and the universe, we’d all be happy!

  10. Thanks Chris. I always find your blog so informative and useful. Now if you’d only address the meaning of life and the universe, we’d all be happy!

  11. Trackbacks also attract visitors, visitors to the first blag can see your trackback and realise that you have something to say on the post topic. They may then follow the link to your blog.

  12. Trackbacks also attract visitors, visitors to the first blag can see your trackback and realise that you have something to say on the post topic. They may then follow the link to your blog.