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.
Most 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.
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.