One of the most difficult parts of blogging for me to explain to clients is trackbacks. A major reason I'm writing this post is to clarify it for myself and provide a resource for my clients down the road (in the future I can just tell my clients, "Read my post on trackbacks," instead of trying to explain it to them on the spot, LOL).
What is a trackback?
It's best explained by telling you when you would use trackbacks...
Let's say you're reading someone else's blog. You find a post that you really like, and it inspires you to write a post on your own blog that elaborates on one of the ideas from the other blog. You will probably include a link to the other blog somewhere in your post that your readers will use to expand their knowledge of the subject and see where your inspiration came from.
But wouldn't it be cool if the readers of the other blog somehow knew you had written something further about that post's subject?
You could leave a comment on the other blog and link back to your new article to send readers to your story. That's very risky though, as this is often considered to be blog spam and may get you banned from ever leaving a comment on the other blog again.
Instead, you would use a trackback. A trackback places a short excerpt of your blog post on the other person's blog to let their readers know you have written further about this subject. The blogger at the other blog either approves the trackback, if they think it's appropriate, or deletes it. If they approve it, part of your blog post actually appears on their blog!
An example of a trackback
Des Walsh has added a trackback on my post titled A Perfect Blog Post. You will see the trackback at the bottom of the post, just above the comments. He wrote an article that linked back to my post, and adding a trackback allows my readers to know about it and read more at his blog.
How to use a trackback
First, keep in mind that the author of the other blog has the power to approve or delete your trackback request. For this reason, I recommend always linking to their post somewhere in your article. That's only fair, right?
Second, the trackback feature has to do with a blog's programming. Some blogs offer trackbacks, some don't. Typepad and Wordpress, for example, offer trackbacks. You will know if the blog you are writing about offers trackbacks if the word 'trackbacks' appears at the end of the post next to 'comments.'
Third, click on the word 'trackbacks' on the other post and it will show you other posts that are using a trackback with this article (if there are any), and it will also show you the trackback URL. Copy this URL.
Finally, add this URL to the trackback section of the post you are writing. Whether you are using Typepad, or Wordpress, or another blogging platform, there is usually a an area to type in a trackback URL. This is where you paste the URL you have copied.
In Typepad, this area is labeled "Send a Trackback to these addresses" and appears below the area where you type the body of your post.
After you submit a trackback, the author of the other blog usually has to approve it before it appears on the other blog. This can take 5 minutes or it may take months.
But once it's active, you have created a two-way street for your readers. Your readers find the other blog through a link, and their readers find your blog through the trackback. Very cool.
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