According to Wikipedia, trackbacks “enable authors to keep track of who is linking, and so referring, to their articles.” In other words, a trackback is a way for one blogger to let another blogger know that he or she is writing about the other.
Are you confused yet?
There are a many ways to describe what trackbacks are and how they work. But the topic of trackbacks leaves many bloggers confused.
In this article, you’ll discover the flip-side of trackbacks. You’ll learn what trackbacks are and how they work from the point of view of a curious blogger.
As a blogger, you’re probably familiar with comments, but are you familiar with trackbacks? Trackbacks are similar to comments, but trackbacks take comments to the next level.
At the bottom of most blog posts, you may have noticed small boxes or forms where readers can leave notes pertaining to the blog post. These are called comments.
Once you know what comments are, you’re on your way to understanding trackbacks.
What are Trackbacks?
Using a trackback is a different way to leave commentary at your favourite blog. Instead of leaving a comment at the bottom of the post, you do something different. You make a comment about a blog post directly in your own blog post. The trackback is the link connecting the two.
This can be a difficult notion to grasp. Try thinking about trackbacks from another angle. Consider the following example.
How to Recognize a Trackback
At first glance, trackbacks often look like comments, except there is a key difference. Here’s an example of how you might encounter a trackback for the first time.
Perhaps you’re reading gardening-guru Alice’s blog. She has written a post about losing her bumper crop of carrots to wild rabbits.
You’ve read the blog post, and now you’re reading the comments below the post:
Great post! I’m so glad I don’t have rabbits in my garden.
[…] hilarious story about rabbits eating the garden empty […]
As you can see, Brian’s comment makes sense, but Colin’s comment seems out of context. This is because Colin’s remark is not a comment; it’s a trackback.
In general, you can recognize a trackback because the words seem out of context or incomplete, and the text is encased in square brackets.
The purpose of this trackback is for a blog owner to let another blog owner know that their posts are linked. Specifically, Colin wanted to let Alice know that he’d written a blog post referencing Alice’s story.
Bloggers Love Trackbacks
The net effect of trackbacks is to join related blog posts throughout the blogosphere. Generally, bloggers love trackbacks because trackbacks are one more tool that helps bloggers increase traffic to their site.
Specifically, Colin wants Alice to know that he’s written about her, because it will increase the likelihood that Alice will visit Colin’s blog. And Alice is flattered that Colin thought her post worthy of linking, which will bring her more traffic.
How to Use Trackbacks
In order for trackbacks to work, both the sender and the receiver have to enable trackbacks. Once both sender and receiver have enabled trackbacks, the link between the two blogs posts happens automatically.