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March 14, 2012 | Mac Bartine

Trackbacks vs. Pingbacks: What Are They?

You Are Your Pingbacks

You are your pingbacks.

Before I elaborate, it probably behooves me to explain what pingbacks are, since I claim they define you, or rather your blog presence.

Trackbacks vs. Pingbacks

"Way back when" in the early blogging days, people wanted to be notified when someone linked to a post on their blog. Enter the trackback, an automated process using HTTP POST that sends authors notification when someone references their blog post using a special tracking link.

It was pretty cool. You could share comments back and forth between posts, and the person who wrote the original article received a link to the replying article, which showed up as part of the comment.

But issues with the authenticity of trackback comments quickly surfaced, since the person being linked to originally could edit the trackback to make the comment say whatever they wanted. So the original article may have been referenced and criticized by the second author, but the first author could edit the text to make it a glowing recommendation.

Also, you had to use a special tracking link, which was an extra step. Who needs extra steps in their life? Not the average blogger.

Enter the pingback. It simplified the linking process by only requiring that you linked to the original post within the text of your blog post. All you have to do to make it work is just enable pingbacks in your WordPress dashboard.

Pingbacks cut out the comments that came with the links, so people couldn't edit the nature of the reference. They could only approve or deny the link.

Some people like trackbacks better because they give context to the link, some like pingbacks better because they're harder to fake.

Ping-MAY-toe - track-MAH-toe. Now you know.

Back to the pingbacks metaphor...

OK. So I was saying that you are your pingbacks. Here's what I'm getting at:

A genuine pingback - or trackback if you prefer - is evidence that you're doing something right. You're talking about subjects that interest people enough to make them want to link to you, to discuss you and what you're thinking about.

If you're not getting pingbacks and you've been at blogging for a while (spam pingbacks don't count - and you should be able to tell the difference quickly by visiting a pingback link), you need to re-evaluate what you're doing.

Have you done keyword research to determine if your subject matter is popular with others? Are you working to hone your writing and your "voice"? Are you staying on topic so people can begin to understand your brand through your blog?

All these and other factors are affecting visitors' willingness to reach out to you, to discuss you in their own space. Their time and resources are limited, just like yours are, so you have to give them good reasons to want to give you that pingback.

A final note on SEO and Pingbacks

Keep in mind when you're linking to someone else's post in your blog entry that they're going to receive a pingback notification. If they visit your site, what will they see? Will they want to leave that link up in their comments, or delete it?

Even though Pingbacks and Trackbacks are no-follow links by default, they're still an effective method of building your link love, which is all-important to your SEO efforts.

So make sure when you link to someone that you do so in a thoughtful manner that will entice them to leave the link, and maybe even write about you in return.

One other thing about pingbacks and SEO—don't enable both pingbacks and trackbacks on your blog. If you get both from the same reference, it can make your blog look spammy, which—as you should know—Papa Google doesn't like. Pick which one you prefer and stick with it.

You are your pingbacks. Make them count!

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Mac Bartine

Mac Bartine

As one of VIEO Design’s four owners, Mac Bartine served as our COO and web strategist until July 2014. Today, he advises VIEO as a partner and uses his considerable skill as a digital strategist in his positions as CEO of several startups.

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