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How a Trackback after a Comment Can Start a Relationship

The following post has been contributed by Liz Strauss from Successful Blog.

I was working today, answering comments and writing a post, when in came a trackback from a blog I didn’t know.

It immediately got my attention.

I went over to see who was talking. Of course, I knew the name of the blogger. He had just been on my post and written two comments. I could remember what they said, but I really didn’t know him. I had been planning to visit his blog later, but you know that later sometimes just doesn’t make it.

With a trackback – something about answering Liz’s compelling question — that blogger made sure I went to see him. His trackback had captured my full attention. What question? What was his answer? I had to find out. I wanted to solve the puzzle. I was at the point in my day when I needed some fun.

That’s the power of a well done trackback. It’s an intriguing invitation to visit, and I knew the place I was visiting was a blog where they knew me because the trackback called me Liz. Trackbacks are a great to begin a relationship, especially if you’ve left a comment first. Here’s why:

  • Leaving a comment or two makes your name familiar and lets the blogger know that you read his or blog. You become a person, a person who is interested and interesting. Leaving a trackback before you ever comment can look like you are standoffish or too busy to comment.
  • Leaving a trackback on the same post where you’ve left a comment can work really well, if you are truly interested in the dialogue and the topic. Think of it as a real conversation, that you might have had with a fairly new friend. If you were truly engaged and thought of a new point on your way home, you might shoot him an email or IM to pass it along.
  • The track post that you write shows that you took the conversation at the original blog one step further. Almost everyone would think that’s a compliment, sending a trackback is a lot like saying “You’ve got me thinking, and I’m telling others good things about you.” Who wouldn’t like to hear that?

It’s not the link that makes the trackback enticing. It’s the mystery of the excerpt. It’s the fact that someone took my conversation further. It’s the conversation with a new person. I follow the trackbacks home and I find myself wanting to leave a comment. The comments always come naturally out of the experience. I never have to stop to think one up.

Somehow I feel like I know the blogger from this interaction around that one trackback. A relationship has naturally happened. I go back to my blog aware of a person, not just a guy who comments on my blog. Maybe its because the trackback brought me into his natural habitat and I went for a reason, not just to explore. I know I’ll be looking for opportunities to link back to his blog now that I’ve had a chance to get to know some of his content.

Try a comment and trackback to introduce yourself to a blogger in your neighborhood. When they follow comments these short interactions can be more meaningful than you might ever have suspected.

Read more from Liz at Successful Blog.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the great advice, Liz! I can’t say this is anything I’ve ever realyl touched on, or even thought about, but I know for a fact that I always check out my trackbacks anyway. Looking forward to reading more from you!

  2. Maki says:

    Good point on the trackbacks… I love getting trackbacks that expand or even critique my position on a specific topic. The interaction is certainly stimulating and one of the best things you can get from blogging (aside from money and fame lol).

    Thanks, Liz!

  3. Adam Ostrow says:

    I just finished writing a mini-rant about people leaving trivial comments on the popular blogs in hopes of getting traffic. Then I found this entry and updated my blog with a link to this one as you offer a much more appropriate and meaningful way to start a conversation in the blogosphere. Thanks for the great advice.

  4. Ray Dotson says:

    Great points, Liz. This is something that I’ve generally been doing for a while now as it just makes sense. Sometimes, though, I tend to get too busy and forget to leave a comment, but this article underscores the importance of completing the circle of communication between bloggers. I think I might have to link to this one…

  5. the one big problem Liz is the growing number of top level blogs that are – shall we say – being selective in which trackbacks they are allowing if they allow them to begin with.

  6. I was blogging for quite a while (using wp) before I even realized exactly what trackbacks were.

    Darren mentioned “simple posts” here recently. Maybe a simple overview of exactly what trackbacks are, maybe that would be useful for less experience bloggers.

    I know it would have come in handy for me, as recently as a month ago.

  7. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi Everyone!
    What great conversation sorry it took me so long to get over here. SOBCon meetings are crazy today!

    Hi David! The very first post Darren every linked to of mine was one called “Think Before You Link” and I went back to it when I thought about my guest post for this occasion. It was amazing to see how much the blogosphere as well as I, myself, had grown in our look at link strategy. Relationships are what’s important. : It’s so good to be sharing the “guest spot” with you!

    Hi Maki! I love trackbacks too. They always raise my curiosity and make me want to read someone else’s point of view. I find it so interesting when a person sees something that I’ve totally missed. I can be so clueless sometimes. :)

    Hi Adam. Wow! Thank you for telling me that. I can’t wait to go over and read what you wrote. I so support folks who understand that blogging isn’t just about passing on information they found on other blogs and link strategy that raises their Technorati score. I want you on my team.

    Hi Steven, You know, I don’t have time for bloggers who don’t have time for me. It’s not good conversation to be selective in your listening. I can take a blogger who doesn’t do any trackbacks. I’ll email him or her to get a relationship conversation going, but to be shut out because I’m not known. I have trouble with that. You’re totally right to call it a problem. I’m frowning just to think about it. Thanks for poiinting it out, though, because email is an alternative venue for when trackbacks are down. :)

  8. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi Ray!
    I was sure I wrote this once. Where did it go? I’m delighted to meet another blogger who takes relationships seriously. Thanks for the support and for the reminder. :)

  9. 127001 says:

    I just left my own thoughts on this subject at Adam Ostrow‘s site, but I have a question hopefully someone may be able to answer:

    Inappropriate comments and trackbacks that are not subject-relevant are bad enough, but how to keep the sploggers from using trackbacks to hit a site.

    I love trackbacks because its also an easy way to reference what I’m talking about (if the design of the page shows the trackbacks). But deleting over 200 trackbacks that were meaningless by some sploggers made me question if there isn’t another way to do that (or a method like the captcha system).

    I’ve hopefully solved my problem by tweaking the .htaccess file and updating some of the IP blocking, but I haven’t found a solution equal to captcha’s.

    Has anyone?

  10. Jacob Share says:

    This just happened to me 5 minutes ago.

    Someone left a comment on my blog, to which I responded. I then checked out his blog, saw something interesting and updated a relevant past post to ping him. He then came back to my site and left comments on two of my posts.

    Good tip!

  11. 127001 says:

    Ooops…

    Just an added thought to the subject here too…

    Two sites I specifically follow and comment on have one service that helps generate and maintain commenting turning into “dialogues” and I’m looking for that as well.

    The “Notify me when someone comments” function is a wonderful tool and helps me follow where I’ve posted something without having to bookmark the specific article (assuming site is already bookmarked). It helps me follow the responses to my comments, and read the opinions of others’ as well.

    Truthdig has this feature, and if you take a look at the interaction of their site you’ll agree its awesome! (They use Expression Engine).

    Also, Blog4Brains has that feature, and although they are a smaller group, it is a reason I keep reading and following their articles.

    When I do get my comments and trackbacks up and moving again, I’ll be adding that feature as well. Just have to remember give the subscriber the chance to opt-out of the subscription. (Truthdig does this well; I haven’t had to use it at Blog4Brains … WordPress based … yet.)

  12. Great article. I agree with everything in there. When I first started blogging, I didn’t really believe this. Then recently, I had some people leaving comments on my site who came from Google searches. I was glad for the comments/criticism and checked out their sites as well.

    I have made a much larger effort to get involved in the community and check out other blogs. Everyone benefits from it from an educational and “community encouragement” aspect.

    Writing a post to expand on the first post works well, as long as it offers something new and isn’t just plagiarizing.

  13. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi Rick,
    You are so right. One of the best posts I’ve seen on trackbacks is this one by Joe Pisano. It tells everything. Thanks for the reminder!
    http://www.mustech.net/2006/09/trackbacks-ping-bud-a-bing/

  14. jhay says:

    That’s why I disabled the Matriphe’s keycode plugin to allow trackbacks once more in my blog. Though I have to sift through tons of comment spam everyday, it’s worth it as long the trackbacks from other blogs get through.

  15. Great to see everyone’s comments being personally replied to.

    I can understand that people are too busy to do this all the time, but it’s something I make extra effort to do on my own blog.

    Kudos Liz.

    Ciao for now,

    David Airey

  16. Sure.. Trackbacks are great. But I have seen some of the top blogger trackbacks does have a nofollow option.

  17. Liz says:

    As a ‘still’ new blogger, so much of the language is very foreign, including what a trackback is. But looking through the comments, I see that that has been asked (Rick in China) and answered (Liz with a link to post about trackbacks). Have just been visiting the trackback post by Joe Pisano and now I understand. Thanks everyone for helping to educate those of us who are technology challenged. Now I’ll have to try out all my new found knowledge.

    Cheers,
    Liz from New Zealand

  18. Vinod: don’t bother with that, people who interested with your comment eventually clicking your link :D.

    I am still wondering how to make trackbacks?, sorry I was new with all this blogging world :D

    Thanks,

  19. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi 127001!
    I’m so with you about sploggers! I woke up to over 859 comment spam this morning, and I went through it all — just in case someone was there with a thought that might have been meant in sincerity. Boy howdy, if you find the answer, you’ve got a link and hug from this blogger that’s for sure. . . . I also use and rely on the comment notification feature. Boy are you right, there’s a moment at which folks need to be able to unsubscribe gracefully. :)

    Hey Jacob! Isn’t fun?!! I get so jazzed when another blogger instantaneously sparks my imagination and gets me writing about an idea. THAT’s when the word conversation really means something special. :)

    Thanks Neil! I think back and when I first started blogging I don’t think many folks thought of trackbacks as much more than long-distance comments. Relationships were things that were kept in small communities, at least as far as my inexperienced eyes could see. Now, like you, I so enjoy a chance to “answer” a blogger’s writing with some thoughts of my own. I get my finest ideas from listening to what other bloggers say and being truly inspired to take the idea further.

    All right, jhay!! You are a rrlationship blogger! Boy I hope you’re thinking about coming to Chicago to the conference in May. I swear I read more spam comments than the spammers who write them. I’m beginning to think that WE are their market. :)

    David, thank you so much for saying that. I’ll be up late tonight doing my work. But I can’t NOT answer, in fact, a couple of times the guys on my blog have challenged me not to — that took a lot. Whew! It was like arm wrestling. You can’t have a conversation with only one person talking. :)

    Hi Vinod! I understand the importance of “follow” to keeping the web connected, but I stand by a blogger’s decision to make a choice about that. The conversation keeps the web connected people-to-people, yet I still have room for information bloggers.

    Andika, Hi, check out comment #13. That link will give you the basics. Then building a track depends on the platform you’re working on. Drop by my about page and email or phone me, and I’ll walk you through it. :)

  20. Darren,

    I wrote an article to Liz (see above), awhile back, when I was starting to sort out the whole trackback business. Just yesterday I found a new use for trackback when I received a “trackback” from a blogger. Naturally curious as any blogger is, I searched their site to find what was said about my article on OpenID. I didn’t find any link to my site or mention about my site.

    So like any good tech., I searched open the “source code” and did a “find”. I still didn’t find any link, etc. So after awhile of pondering finally figured it out. The person wrote an article about the same “topic” OpenID, had found out that I had written an article about it, and wanted those who read my article to know they had a similiar topic without really crediting or sending them to my site. :(

    This is tricky business as no one in particular likes to be “taken advantage” of in this way (is this being taken advantage of?). Engines like WordPress and others allow you to send a trackback very easily without having any mention of the “source” in the actual post by using the trackback line. While this is an easyway to get a one-way trackback I wonder how often this “tactic” is used and whether it’s acceptablce as the whole idea is to start a conversation and share information. Don’t know…

    Love to hear from you or any of your readers about this.

    Joe Pisano MUSicTECHnology.net

    http://www.mustech.net

  21. Andika, I’ll try to explain the basics of how to make a trackback.

    1) If you are reading someone’s blog and you like a particular post, click on the title of the article.

    2) That will bring you to a page that is exclusively devoted to that article. Look in the address bar of that page and copy the link (that link is called a PERMALINK).

    3) Now go to your own blog and paste that link into an post that you write. For example, you might write “I was just over at Sally’s blog reading her excellent post http://www.sallysblog.com/the-permalink-to-the-post-you-like/.

    4) In most blogging software that’s all you have to do. When you publish your post it will automatically “ping” Sally’s blog and leave her a message saying that you did a trackback to her.

    5) Watch your screen the first time you do it to see if there’s a message that says something to the effect of “pinging http://www.sallysblog.com/the-permalink-to-the-post-you-like/

    6) If you don’t see a message to this effect, then it means that your blogging software doesn’t do trackbacks automatically. In that case, you’ll have to an extra step: look on the page where you composed your post for a place that says “trackbacks”. In the blogging software that I use, that place is down in the lower right corner. Paste the PERMALINK (http://www.sallysblog.com/the-permalink-to-the-post-you-like/) in the trackback box and publish your post.

    This is a really simplified version of how to make a trackback. There are, of course, finer points that you can learn by reading posts such as one by Joe Pisano that Liz mentioned above
    http://www.mustech.net/2006/09/trackbacks-ping-bud-a-bing/

    I hope this helps!

    Barbra

  22. Excellent post. I recently turned trackbacks off to counter spam, but have just turned it back on because you’ve reminded me of the undeniable benefits. Blogging just doesn’t seem the same without it.

  23. MJ Ray says:

    I’m not using glitzy blogging software (inertia is a wonderful thing) but I can leave trackbacks – I have an unpublicised rudimentary script at http://mjr.towers.org.uk/blog/trackbash which can be run from a Unix command prompt and it then does a question-and-answer session to generate a trackback (works with GNU bash and wget). One frustration is the growing number of blogs which hide their trackback URL in javascript, metadata or similar, but it works well enough most of the time. I really should polish, package and publicise it.

    My own blog also has another script that lets people leave trackbacks but I don’t link it any more because of all the trackback spam out there. I prefer people to use the comment form.

  24. I agree, Trackbacks are a great to begin a relationship, I have seen it myself. What I didn’t think of was about leaving an interesting question that would make visitors go to the blog to check for the answer, great tip, thanks.

  25. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi Joseph!
    As you can see from this line of comments, I still think your article is one of the best there is on the topic of trackbacks. Great to see you again!

    Hi Barbra!
    Thanks for taking the time to write out the detail on how to leave a trackback. Your article on trackbacks is another staple in the wisdom on the subject. Kudos to you too!

    Hey Benjamin!
    I can see exactly why you turned your trackbacks off . . . and even more why you turned them back on again. I’m so smiling. One more relationship bloggers is always a good thing to hear about! :)

    Hello MJ,
    Trackbacks are tricky in that every system seems to have a different of doing them. I know when I first learned about them I probably missed out on half the chance to use them, because I ddin’t know ho to tell a Typepad blog from one from WordPress or another system.
    I’m sorry you won’t let us trackback to you . . . . that means that some of our potential conversation would always be in private. :)

  26. J. Pisano says:

    Liz and all,

    I was just re-checking some trackbacks that I should have received that “mysteriously” were sucked up into oblivion and found an interesting interaction happing with Askimet and WordPress 2.1+ (more after the next few blurbs about this mystery)….

    Many times Askimet will “intercept” your trackback and put it in the SPAM “bucket”. Initially, I thought the culprit might be the “Bad Behavior” plugin- but after numerous checks it indeed was Askimet.

    So… before you “dump all” of your Askimet Spam, you might want to sift through your SPAM and see if there are any REAL trackbacks in there. The good news is that if you are running a plugin like Bad Behavior you shouldn’t have “much spam” to go through…. If your just running Askimet or another Spam Filter you may literally have hundreds per week.

    “The Mystery” continued…. So as I was trying to troubleshoot all of this, I turned off Askimet and found that my trackbacks were still not getting through… They just were being “sucked up to nowhere”. Then I turned the Askimet Plugin back “on” and “poof” there the missing trackbacks were… back in the Askimet SPAM “bucket”. I’m going to bug the Askimet people about this and see if it’s supposed to work like that. Previously, when you turned off Askiment it was just off… It now appears to be still on, even after the plugin is turned off but you can’t access the Askimet options.

    Maybe it’s because Askikme is “built in now” and I have the remnants of the old plugin still there… Don’t Know. Has this happened to anyone else?

    Joe Pisano ~MUSicTECHnology.net

    http://www.mustech.net

  27. Shane says:

    The “Cliffhanger” trackback. What a great concept.

  28. Liz Strauss says:

    Hi Joe!
    Thanks for taking the time to let us know about the exact nature of where our trackbacks could be ending up. I know I find plenty in my Akisment . . . I also find lots of splogger trackbacks there. So I don’t want folks to get too excited by what they find. :)

    Shane, you’ve got me smiling tonight. Thank you for that. :)

  29. If it wasn’t for the trackbacks from sploggers, my sites would still be inactive and ‘broken’ in the technorati indexes.

    I just don’t believe one has to have the last word all of the time and answer every comment or trackback received.. (of course Liz will probably disagree with that statement :D). Soimetimes it’s okay to just comment, without a conversation. And, it’s nice to get that comment and trackback too .. I’m no different from anybody else. It boosts our ego that someone is not only reading your stuff, but perhaps it affected them in a way to effect a response – and that’s good.

    know that the ones interested in reading and getting comments and trackbacks .. like me .. also appreciate it and I do try to comment when I can relate to the words and feel that I can either contribute to the conversation or just have an opinion. But – you don’t have to thank me for the comment and response to it – just to acknowledge me that I commented…. I know you’re listening .. Even DARREN – who probably eventually reads every single non-spam email he receives! (and clears my messages that sometimes gets moderated :D)

  30. J. Pisano says:

    Shane,

    You know if that “cliff hanger” comment becomes “big” and becomes the next Huge SEO tip for people leaving comments, I want you and I to get joint “coining” rights to it! :) :D

    Joe Pisano

  31. Doris says:

    Another great article, Liz… trackbacks are powerful. I believe that brought you over to my site when SOB was mentioned. Can’t agree more that this is a fun way to build a relationship on the Web.

  32. Mani says:

    Can someone also explain well how to track back too? I think there are many who really don’t know how that is done.(including me :D)

  33. Mani, look at comment #21 above :)

  34. angie says:

    Trackbacks are excellent way to make a relationship, I’ve seen it myself.

  35. I totally agree. Trackbacks are a great way to not only generate traffic, but build relationships, which leads to joint ventres.

    Stanley

  36. Digit-8 says:

    Interesting post. im new here so i don’t understand how this system work.

  37. When to apologize and when you shouldn’t. In the right circumstance just one good apology will land you back in their arms…other times an apology will blow up in your face and hurt your future chances.

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