Monday, January 12, 2004

Trackback - what it is and how it can help you

You blog about other blogger's posts. We all do it, its what makes Blogging tick. I am sure you agree with me that its really flattering to discover that someone has blogged about one of your posts. That first time you discover someone giving you props on their website can make it all feel worthwhile - you are making an impact people are actually reading and enjoying your blog. Even if you don't get so excited about it, you sure get excited at the prospect of the quality traffic this can bring. The only downside to all this is that you have to seek out these posts, either by trawling through your site statistics, or going through the backward links to your site. Likewise it is difficult for readers of the posts you have blogged about to know about your continuation of the topic, unless you leave a comment on the post referring back to your own blog.

There is a solution to help bridge this gap: Trackback. Trackback enables you let other blogs know you have posted about them and for readers of that blog to know you have blogged about the post. The same system allows you to do the same for your posts, giving your own audience links to blogs that have blogged about your post. You can see an example of trackback in action by reading my previous post Time to get Personal - click on the link to the post I refer to at the start and at that page click on the trackback link. Anyone reading this post can see that I have continued the discussion on my blog.

Sounds great doesn't it? Well, there is a drawback - not all blog services provide trackback functionality including Blogger. Movable Type (the guys that dreamt up the trackback system) does support this, and I urge you to use this feature if you are using Movable Type to run your blog. If you are one of the unfortunate users of a service that doesn't use Trackback (like this blog), there is a solution for the more technically inclined although you need to be running your own server. On the other hand, it is simple to send notes to blogs to let them know you have blogged about one of their posts (a "trackback ping"). Go fill out the form at Simpletracks, a utility provided by Kalsey Consulting Group. In order to fill out the form you need to know the ping URL for the other blog this is normally shown the page displayed after clicking on the trackback link - each post has a unique ping URL. The fields marked "entry xxx" refer to your own post. This is the form I used to ping in my previous post, and it is simple to use.

Use Trackback, get more visitors to your site. Use Trackback, get your visitors to more similar sites. What could be more simple?


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