Monday, November 21, 2005

More About TrackBacks

BlogTipsBasilYes, we've talked a lot about TrackBacks recently. And we want to cover a little more today. A lot of this is repeated information. But some is new or expands of something that needs expansion.

Briefly, here's some background about TrackBacks.

You see something on another blog and it inspires you. So you write about it. And, in your post, you link to that other blog's post.

You can notify the other blogger about your post, and notify the readers over there, and get a link back to your site, if that other blog accepts TrackBacks.

If you use MovableType, TypePad, or WordPress, you can easily send a TrackBack by using the form that's used to write your post.

If you use Blogger and have HaloScan added on, you can use the HaloScan form.

If you use another blogging system, there may be a form as part of the system. Or, you can, regardless of your platform, use the Kalsey form or the Wizbang form.

But they all essentially do the same thing.

They send information about your post to the other blogger's server.

It sends the name of your blog, the name of the post you wrote, the URL of the post you wrote (so they can link back to you), and an excerpt from your post (probably around 40 words or so). The other blog's system takes that information and puts it in a format the readers on the other site can use. How it looks varies from site to site.

Now, remember we said there were different methods you can use to send the TrackBack? MovableType, TypePad, WordPress and other platforms automatically send the URL, your blog's name, and the excerpt. On HaloScan and the forms, you have to provide that.

But there's one piece that, no matter what the method, you must provide. That's the TrackBack URL of the other site.

Now, don't make the common beginner's mistake of using the TrackBack URL for the link in your post. The link to the other post is the other post's Permalink.

This might seem obvious, but to a beginner, it's not. Remember, this was once all new to you, and to some of you, it may still be new.

Anyway, the link in your post should be the other post's Permalink.

But when you send a TrackBack, you need to use the other post's TrackBack URL. Sometimes, it's called TrackBack URI. Actually, a URL is a type of URI. And the details we won't go into today. For now, think of a URL and URI as the same thing ... even though they aren't really.

So, you send the TrackBack ping to the other post's TrackBack URL (URI).

Here's another common beginner's mistake. And experienced people can make this mistake, so you might want to pay attention.

For many sites, particularly WordPress sites, the TrackBack URL looks almost exactly like the Permalink. The difference is usually that the TrackBack URL often ends with "/trackback/" while the Permalink doesn't.

For example, a post's Permalink might be:

But the TrackBack URL might be:

Now, follow this next bit carefully.

Many sites, not just WordPress, have bookmarks to the TrackBack section of the post.

For example, remember the Permalink:

It might have a link directly to its comments that looks like this:

It also might have a link directly to its TrackBacks that looks like this:

Now, notice that the link to the TrackBacks and the TrackBack URL look a lot alike. The only difference is the "#"

That makes a huge difference.

If a link contains "#" that is a link to a specific spot on a page, called a "bookmark". In our example:

is the link to the TrackBack section (bookmark) of the "My Post" page. It is not ... I repeat, NOT ... the same as the TrackBack URL:

So, if you try to send a TrackBack and get a really odd response, check the URL. Make sure you are using the TrackBack URL and are not using a link with a bookmark.

One final word about TrackBacks.

If you haven't linked to that other blog, do not send a TrackBack. The safest thing to do is include the link in your post when you publish, then go back to your post form (or to your HaloScan, Kalsey, or Wizbang form) and send TrackBacks. But always make certain you have already included a link to the other blog first.

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