March 3, 2010

Linkbacks and Blog Traffic


Hostway Team

By Simon Wright

There are almost as many new blogs created every second as there are babies born around the world, with the relative stats being four babies per second versus two blogs per second.

I mention this not just because these are mind-blowing stats, but also because many people view their blogs as being like their babies. They are their pride and joy, their passion, and they hope to see their blogs grow up and become hugely successful. And, for many, linkbacks (trackback links and pingbacks) are regarded as essential to ensure this success.

So What Are Trackback Links and Pingbacks?

We’re all familiar with how traditional hyperlinks work. They provide a means for Web users to navigate from one page of content to another. Trackback links also serve this basic navigational function but with an interesting twist.

Let’s say I write an article on, “Is mobile phone banking secure?” and include a trackback link from it to your blog. Clearly, from a user’s perspective, this enables people to navigate from my blog to your blog. However, what benefit does it provide to me?

Well, when I submit my article through my blog management system, I enter your link into a trackback field, and it notifies you that a link has been pointed to your blog, providing you with the author's name, post title and an excerpt. This is clearly useful for you as you’re interested in who is linking to your articles.

However, trackback links have one other use which also makes them extremely worthwhile for the person who creates them. When your blog system receives notification that a trackback link has been detected, it will automatically create a link to my article at the end of your article (if you've enabled these links). This tells users of your blog that I’ve written an article that is either a response to your article or at least references it.

A pingback is similar, but it's much simpler. Depending on what blogging system you use, you will automatically be notified via a "pingback" when another site links to your blog. It doesn't provide as much information as a trackback link, but it it still useful for finding out who is linking to your blog.

Distinguishing between Genuine and Spam Links

When used correctly, it’s easy to see how trackback links create a win:win outcome for both blog owners. However, there’s a very real danger that you may find your articles being targeted by spammers, especially if your blog is an established entity that is known to attract good traffic. Some blog owners, therefore, choose to turn off trackback capability rather than having to manually remove bogus links.

How to Find and Use Trackback Links

As a Web user, you can find trackback links at the bottom of blog articles, where they will be indicated among the blog article’s “Comments” section. They will help you identify other articles that may cover the same subject as the one you are browsing. As a blog owner, these trackback links may help to generate extra traffic to your Web site and you can start to establish mutually beneficial relationships with other blog authors. The key when creating trackback links, though, is to make sure that you link to relevant articles and aren’t just creating spam.

Still Want More?

For more information on the usage of trackback links, check out Jack Humphrey’s excellent video tutorial, Using trackbacks to get more links and traffic.

About the Author

Simon Wright works as mobile delivery manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and has extensive experience across ecommerce and mcommerce, including the launch and promotion of Web sites.

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