Trackbacking Lies – How rel=”nofollow” Stops Spreading the Love

Published by 38 Comments

I’ve been touting the brilliance of blogging as a great way to get content indexed into search engines quickly. I’ve told people how I set up my first blog (which is now a PageRank 5), how Google ate up the pages and consequently I had top ranking for phrases I had merely mentioned in a blog post or two. For example I twice mentioned the phrase iTunes Australia when the music service was about to launch down under and then was stopped at the last minute because one of the record labels pulled out. Due to my two entries including the phrase iTunes Australia in the title my blog received a first page result for a search on iTunes Australia in Google Australia. This happened fast too, only days after adding the blog articles.

There was one thing in particular that I was convinced made blogging more powerful than your standard website, the trackback or pingback.

Before I go on let me explain what a trackback is. Not too long ago I was just starting to blog and the whole trackback system had me very confused. I read the instructions and it said a trackback was a way for bloggers to talk to each other and easily refer to other blogs. I still didn’t get it. Of course as with anything once I experienced initiating and receiving a trackback ping I had a better understanding of how it worked. I also spent a bit of time reading other blogs and learned the different ways blogs ping each other.

Now let me see if I can explain it to you in simple terms and pass on this wonderful knowledge I have gained.

Trackback URI ExampleMost blogs allow trackbacks and you will see a link in every blog entry with a trackback URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) that other blogs can use in entries they make. At the bottom of this entry you will find a link to the URI to trackback this blog post. Now if another blogger read this article and decided to reference to it on their blog they would insert the trackback URI into a special box on the input form where they create new blog entries (see the image as an example of the trackback entry box in WordPress, the blogging software I’m using to run this blog). When they publish the entry their blog will send a ping to this blog and provided I approve the trackback (I have all comments and pings set to be manually approved if the person has never commented or pinged before at Entrepreneur’s Journey) then in the comments section a trackback entry will be made to this post. The trackback ping is usually a truncation taking the first few lines of the post from the source blog along with a link to the blog entry. See this entry in my blog that was trackbacked for an example.

Chances are you still don’t get trackbacks and to be honest you may never understand it until you try it. I didn’t. In a nutshell a trackback is a simple way to create a reciprocal link between two entries in two blogs. They encourage bloggers to reference to each other and exchange links easily.

Now we all know how good reciprocal links are for search engine optimisation. My thoughts were if you trackbacked to other blogs, especially blogs with high PageRank and relevancy to your own blog that you were creating this awesome system of backlinks. The same went for making comments on other blogs because if you choose to you can leave a link to your site whenever you make a comment on a blog. You could pick and choose which blogs to swap links with simply by creating new entries trackbacking to other blogs and making comments in other blogs. You couldn’t go too crazy with this idea, abusing other blogs by effectively spamming, but as long as you kept on topic and contributed something relevant it didn’t take much to manipulate the system. So I was out there telling everyone how great this blogging thing was.

Just recently I noticed this little bit of code in some of the comments made on my blog rel="nofollow". It’s contained in any comment or trackback link. I saw it and then went out and checked some of the other blogging software such as Movable Type and TypePad and saw the same code in any outbound link in a comment or ping. In WordPress it’s an automatic setting for any comments made that include links.

The code rel="nofollow" is a relatively new piece of code created for search engine spiders or bots. Basically it instructs search engines not to follow the link. There went the idea that trackbacks and comments were good for SEO. I had been spreading lies.

It make sense though. You don’t want to encourage PageRank leakage from comment and trackback spammers hitting your blog. By including this code it means that people will leave comments and complete trackbacks purely to add some value and not “steal” PageRank. Well in theory at least.

The good (and bad) thing is that trackbacks and comments are being noticed by humans (they have humans using the Internet now? Wow!) and those humans might just follow the links and discover your website. You shouldn’t expect any PageRank jumps because you have been trackbacking every PR 6 blog you could find but you will get some traffic. Unfortunately spammers realised this and went to work to take advantage of the blog commenting system and steal eyeball traffic using automated trackbacking systems.

Trackback spam is a real problem for the blogosphere. It’s become a common thorn in the side for many bloggers much like email spam is for the everyday Internet user. Blog software is getting much better at stopping trackback spam, but like email spam all you can do is filter and control, it adds yet another chore to your Internet day. One of the features I love about WordPress is that out of the box the software comes with some great tools for blocking spam. Yet another good reason I had for switching away from Movable Type.

I won’t be telling everyone how amazing trackbacks are anymore as part of an SEO strategy but they still play a very important role in the development of a blog. I will never stop pitching blogs as a great way to run a website. The evidence still shows that blog articles are being indexed really well by the search engines, in particular Google, so I have no problems strongly recommending a blog as part of almost any online business strategy.

Yaro Starak
Blogger

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38 Comments

  • Good Info.Still trying to understand the trackbacks myself.

  • It also took me a long time to get what trackback was all about and it seems now it’s losing some (only some) of it’s lusture with the “no follow” issue.

    But from my point of view, when I trackbacked or commented at another blog I never saw it as a way to piggyback on high PR sites to get some to rub of onto mine. It was firstly to comment on a post of interest and then secondly as a branding tool of somesort: Hopefully people reading a post and then my comment would check out my site from the link.

    I don’t really mind the “no follow” technquie – a little annoying, as you think why punish the good guys beacuse of the spammers. But if they stop a simple link to my site from my comment then I simply wouldn’t comment and trackback any longer.

    It’s sad but true – we are all time poor, and business essentially is all about marketing – so if I get nothing in return for trackbacking/commenting (even if it’s the possibility of a few click throughs) then I wouldn’t bother.

    Looks like I’ll be checking (into the source code as they won’t state this) on all the blogs I comment on regualrly and see their no follow usage.

  • Ah gee thanks Yaro,
    now I have to design this to be integrate into http://www.myweblog.com, its all fun and games for you to talk about trackbacks cause you already have it :| I have to code it in now :(

    Don’t know how many 15 year olds (my youngest member is 8) would have any use for it though.

  • Hi Al,

    You might want to check out the legalities of having members under 13 years old. I know there are special considerations in situations like that.

    Wouldn’t want you breaking any laws at myweblog.com :)

  • Hmm I didn’t even think of that, I guess I better have a TOS

  • Good article Yaro…I havent explored the world of trackbacks yet with WordPress, but maybe I will start with this article :-)

  • “Chances are you still don’t get trackbacks and to be honest you may never understand it until you try it.”

    So true. The trackback concept was driving me crazy until I figured out I needed to customize by New Post page in Typepad. (Create a new post, click “Customize the display of this page” > Post Screen Config > Check TrackBack URLs to Ping.)

    Good post Yaro.

  • An update on this – There are some WordPress plugins you can install which will remove the rel=”nofollow” code from links in comments.

    See here – http://wp-plugins.net/

  • [...] The first plugin I installed was one to make the rel=”nofollow” go away. It is automatically inserted by WordPress in links in comments. There has been a little bit of discussion on the nofollow directive around the place lately and I’m siding with the dofollow camp. My reasons for siding with dofollow are explained much better by others around the place, including the authors of the various dofollow plugins that are available1. I went with this one, for no particular reason. It does the job. [...]

  • [...] I wrote an article titled Trackbacking Lies – How rel=”nofollow” Stops Spreading the Love which outlined how the rel=”nofollow” line of code is placed on all comments and trackbacks on many blogs, including by default on any blog running WordPress, such as Entrepreneur’s Journey. [...]

  • [...] As a comparison, Google currently gives this blog 170 backlinks. Yahoo! reports more than 1600. Part of this is because of my blog commenting activities. Many blogs use the rel=”nofollow” tag so the comments I have left on other blogs with a backlink to Entrepreneur’ s Journey will not be followed by Google and won’t count as a backlink. No I’m not sure but I don’t think Yahoo! and MSN are taking notice of the rel=”nofollow” tag as yet so blog commenting is showing up in their backlink indexes. [...]

  • [...] A note about blog commenting – thanks to the NoFollow tag which many blogs have on by default, your comments will not be followed by the Google spider. Read this article – Trackbacking Lies – How rel=”nofollow” Stops Spreading the Love – for information about – for information about the NoFollow tag. [...]

  • CG

    I noticed that the links on Yaro’s blog are rel=”external” rather than “nofollow”… any ideas?

    And what’s the difference between a trackback and a pingback?

  • Hey CG – Join my blogtrafficking.com newsletter and you will find out about trackbacks and pingbacks – in issue 4 I think if I remember correctly.

    Regarding the rel=”external” on links – I installed the “dofollow” wordpress plugin so all links are followed by search engines and pass on pagerank. The default in wordpress is to use the nofollow tag.

  • [...] If you are a blogger you may want to use the trackback feature found on some blogging software as opposed to leaving comments. Let me explain or rather let me give you a link to someone who has already explained it. Of course you need to have your own blog with the ability to include trackbacks. I like this concept because it encourages the true interconectivity the web was designed, participation and the value of giving. [...]

  • dsw

    But Nofollow tag can be very useful sometimes, like you can add nofollow tag to affiliate links, because Google don’t like affiliate links.

  • I recently had a former client who had set up an affiliate program with Shareasale write and ask how he could more actively promote his affiliate program. Again, it made me realize that a program will only be as successful as it’s affiliates, and the pareto principle definitely comes into play (meaning 90% of your sales will come from 10% of your people). If your program doesn’t stand out, you won’t be remarkable. Attracting the right people and keeping them motivated is critical to the success of an affiliate marketing program. Creating working relationships with good synergy is key as well. If you sell peanut butter, partner with a site that sells jelly. Make it EASY for those around you to make money, and they will often try to reciprocate. Work with your affiliates to get rankings and sales

  • Nice…

    The computer revolution is over. The computers won.

  • Good news…

    “One world, one web, one program” — Microsoft promotional ad
    “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer” — Adolf Hitler

  • Good news…

    Yes, I’ve heard of “decaf.” What’s your point?

  • Hi Yaro,
    I just read your newsletter of Nov 20 and arrived here. Thanks for explaining this – I’m using WordPress and as a non-tech person I had to interact quite a bit with plugin writers to figure out installation details for some plugins.

    My blog is still new so I haven’t really exchanged links or registered for directories yet, but when I used the software Good Keywords and saw that there were no Google links for my blog I was mystified – I knew I had inserted a blog link in my comments!

    The funny thing is, I have Alexa and MSN links – seems they’re easier to get than Google’s. I’ll look around your archives to see if you’ve written anything about this… If not, here goes a suggestion for a post.. why is that so?

  • I’m not sure what you mean Ana when you say you have Alexa and MSN links but not Google? Do you mean you have links from these sites or that you mean you use their link checking tools and they show links from other sites but Google doesn’t show any?

    If the latter is the case then don’t worry – the Google backlink checker is not a comprehensive tool and it’s widely known that it doesn’t provide any authoritative data on backlinks to your site.

  • Hi Yaro

    Sorry – I meant MSN and Altavista links. Yes, measured with their link checking tools.

    I guess I’ll just have to be patient… Thanks again

  • thanks for the post about trackbacks but they don’t seem any different from ‘comments’ just more work.
    Yours, the technically challenged one!

  • [...] seems that all blogware – WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, Movable Type, etc – inserts a little piece of code in all outgoing links that come from comments. In an attempt to stop comment [...]

  • didn’t understand what’s “PageRank leakage” means. If you ahve 5PR and I have 2PR, does this mean that if I place my link to your site and many other 1-2PRs will do the same, your own PR will drop from 5 to 4?

  • irc

    Wikipedia ist ein Community-Projekt, welches ohne Werbung auskommt und extrem davon profitiert, dass es von anderen Seiten verlinkt wird. Man kann sicher darüber streiten, ob Wikipedia überhaupt noch einen Pagerank benötigt, da die großen Suchmaschinen ihre Artikel ja eh anders als normale Webseiten behandeln.

  • [...] had read a book about it but I had no idea how it all worked with syndication of content. Just as I learnt how trackbacks work by actually using them I did the same with syndication. I also took the time to read the [...]

  • [...] etc these are pages that probably dont make you money, so why have them rank. Find out more at: Trackback Lies and Link [...]

  • I still haven’t decided whether I like trackbacks being present on my postings. Yes I see the usefulness in linking similar subject posts together but often it seems like it’s a one way street. I accept their trackbacks but nowhere on their postings do they accept theirs as well. Perhaps it’s a selfish way of viewing things, but being someone who works in the online marketing world, I can spot a lot of people doing it for the sake of SEO and that really bothers me.

  • Yaro, thanks for this post. I have been noticing this nofollwo thing lately and was looking for an explanation and decided to come here to se if you blogged about it. sure enough.
    I would think though that some of the older WP blogs may not have this nofollow thing turned on by default.???

  • In germany many bloggers have the fear to loose linkjuice if they mark the outgoing links as dofollow. This is sadly. For me every link I am linking on my blog is dofollow because I think if I set up this link this blog or website is really good informatione. Many bloggers in germany set up a trackback to get a link back but if they mark it as nofollow they are being marked as spam

    Sadly but its true,

    Cheers,
    Volksphone!

  • [...] example.  I found that none other than Yaro Starak had posted on this very same topic on his blog http://www.Entrepreneurs-journey.com .  Here Yaro talks about backlinks, pingbacks and backtracks … yes, I know, just thinking [...]

  • [...] you want to know more about nofollow tags and structure, read here. (you’re welcome [...]

  • Yaro, it’s very disappointing to be linked to this page to find the content is not what the link text “How exactly Yaro makes money from the Internet” promises. In addition, your “first blog” link at the beginning of the artile is not working.

    • John I’m not sure what you mean – did you find a mis-directed link?

  • Your Message Thank you Yaro on your article on Trackbacked and Piggyback. I’m a newbie and trying to figure out what is what in internet marketing.That’s why I join your blogtrafficking.com newsletter.

  • I know this blog is 6 years old (just stumbled across it), but do people still pingback etc?

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