What does a trackback DO for me?

You may recall that not long ago, I asked what trackbacks were. I did it because I had enabled my blog for trackbacks, but I hadn’t gotten any bites yet, and I was wondering what the point was.

Laurin was kind enough to give me a brief lesson in how they work, for which I am appreciative. And I notice Tim has set up a couple of trackbacks to his site (or would that be, from his site? Obviously, this still confuses me).

But the last 13 trackbacks I’ve gotten have been spam — links to sites that sell cheap watches, gambling, and various unmentionables. It’s like wandering through a bazaar in Juarez.

This came up because Phillip mentioned an interesting post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and I went to it, and I noticed the trackback option, and I thought about trackbacking to it, but then I wondered: What on Earth does that accomplish that Phillip’s link didn’t accomplish? I can make links as prominent as I want — so can other people who want to link to stuff I’ve posted.

So what good is the trackback option — especially when it’s mostly being exploited by spammers? Laurin? Tim? Anyone?

Wait… it just dawned on me. Trackbacks enable me to go to Andrew’s site and place a link to mine there, right? And that depends on whether he has enabled the function, no matter what I’ve done on my site. Right? Well, I want to be generous, too, but should I be letting advertisers use my site for free promotion? I guess I’ll have to decide that.

What do y’all think? Should I keep it enabled, or what?

7 thoughts on “What does a trackback DO for me?

  1. Brad Warthen

    OK, now that is pretty cool, I’ll admit. I just put a link to one of my posts onto Andrew Sullivan’s blog as a trackback. It’s right there for the world to see, and maybe some of his readers will actually click on it.

    I feel a little like a trespasser, though. I feel like Andrew Sullivan might wander back into that post, see me, ask me what I think I’m doing there, and toss me out. At any moment.

    But for the moment, I’m there. Maybe there IS something to this trackback thing.

  2. Tim

    Trackbacks serve a few functions, mostly mercenary. First, the blog ranking services tend to use links into your blog as at least part of a measure to judge your popularity. To use your Andrew example, Technorati or one of the other services “sees” that link on Andrew’s site and you get credit accordingly. Like search engines, they all have their own algorithms, but generally speaking, if Andrew actually mentions your post in one of his, it’s assigned a higher value than the trackback.
    Speaking of search engines, trackbacks also help your rankings there, at least in Google, where sites linked to frequently appear higher in the search results.
    The original purpose of trackbacks, I think, was to foster conversation. Blogs aren’t unlike the old message boards that dominated the ‘net early on. But because they’re spread out on different URLs, you don’t get that cute little “tree” look and the linear nature of discussion groups. Trackbacks fill in that gap, linking disparate sites on related topics together.

  3. Ready to Hurl

    I think Andrew is a little too conservative to be dating married men.
    Being married hasn’t seemed to slow down conservative Republican Newt Gingrich.
    Gotta love those “family values” Republicans– always worried about other people’s sexual practices.


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