Have Trackbacks Become Too Spammy To Be Worthwhile?

Filed as Editorial, Features on November 24, 2007 8:56 am

You may have also discovered a surge in trackback spam recently as autoblogging software is being used by more and more spammers to reach out and cull RSS feeds.  This phenomenon has led to many disabling trackbacks, or raising the “blacklist” level so high that you might never see some trackbacks again.  Or, as some newer remotely-hosted commenting technologies like IntenseDebate and Disqus show, they simply do not show trackbacks because of the spam problem.

[As an aside, that's not to say that they will never implement it; I have it on good account that Disqus will probably implement it as soon as they *can* find a way to clean up the spam-detecting components in the trackback issue.]

The problem is that in my own blogging success, I have found trackbacks to be instrumental.

Here’s how.


Back when I was starting outas a blogger I really only did a couple things to grow my blog.  I wrote consistently.  And I linked aggressively out to other blogs in my community … consistently.  What ended up happening was that people noticed my blog (and started linking to Deep Jive Interests) as a result.  Water, prune, and grow said relationships and here I am.

In fact, one of my own strategies was to use the del.icio.us auto-post thingy, where every night it would auto-post to my blog about my favourite blogs / posts / news that day, with — obviously — a link to those blogs.

So, where am I getting at?

I think that trackbacks made it a _lot_ easier for those blogs to *know* that I was writing about them.  And more importantly, it made _other_ people who read that blog know that I was participating in the conversation.

And getting people to know about _your_ blog … well, isn’t that one of the cardinal things about marketing your blog should be about?

There’s a lot to be said for “comment marketing”, and that’s valid (you know, where you leave comments consistently on other authority-blogs to achieve a certain mindshare of your own).  However, I would argue is that if you have the time, use this rule of thumb:If you spend more than 5 minutes writing a comment — and particularly if its even marginally astute — take the same 5 minutes to write that into a pithy post.  It creates *easy* content for your blog.  It creates a sense that your blog *is* one of “those” blogs who are are participating in your niche in the blogosphere.  And lastly, it makes your blog stand out on the  hosting blog if they are publishing trackbacks.

Why?

Many people have set up trackbacks so it actually publishes your blog’s title.  People can see the name of your blog *on* the original blog.  If you’re just commenting they’ll just see your first name (unless you’re using your blog’s name — but that’s just not cool … I mean its asking for your name, right?).  Secondly, the number of trackbacks to *actual* comments is usually very low.  On highly commented blogs, you _may_ find they separate trackbacks first (before comments), and secondly, the actual number of published trackbacks is usually low compared to the number of comments.

More chance for you to stand out to get noticed.  Or, it will if you do it consistently.

Which is all the more sad that trackbacks are getting overloaded from a signal-to-noise ratio from spam.  I think they potentially provide a very valuable toehold into a blogging community for beginning bloggers.  And I would suggest that although they are a huge nuisance to the blogger and blog that is hosting the conversation because of the inbound spam, it is still worthwhile to the blogger who wants to participate in the conversation.

And that’s the point. 

Its still worthwhile for *you* to use your blog to participate in the blogging conversation.

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  1. DigMyPageNovember 24, 2007 at 10:07 am
  2. By Oryx Orange posted on November 24, 2007 at 10:47 am
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    Excuse me while I “comment market” on your post. I am following your advice, because this is taking less than 5 minutes to write, so I will do this instead of creating a pithy post.

    Reply

  3. By Tony Hung posted on November 24, 2007 at 12:36 pm
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    Oryx — no problem, although I think it goes without saying that if you want “comment market” “effectively”, then you may want to take down the “snark” down a few “notches”.

    :)

    Reply

  4. By Daniel Ha posted on November 24, 2007 at 8:29 pm
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    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for the mention. We recognize the importance of trackbacks with Disqus and we especially realize the drawbacks of the traditional implementation.

    I agree with many of the points you bring up here and we hope to be doing some good things around this.

    Reply

  5. By Ajay posted on November 25, 2007 at 9:35 am
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    Trackbacks are important, however I do rely on pingbacks as well.

    Spam will always be there, it is expected and simply unstoppable. But the use of a good anti-spam plugin will keep it off your blog. I do get tonnes of trackbacks, but I’ve closed down all my old posts and so don’t have to worry much about them.

    Reply

  6. By Girish posted on November 25, 2007 at 9:58 am
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    Trackbacks are pretty important considering the fact that it allows the bloggers to keep track of the various people who are linking back to their blog. This allows you to keep track of all those people who like your posts.

    however, this problem exists because of those people, as you rightfully mentioned in your post, who exploit this useful feature. As Ajay said a plugin could solve all problems.

    Reply

  7. By Bengt posted on November 25, 2007 at 10:17 am
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    I think trackbacks are important since they create inward links. But linking out provides value to my readers anyway.

    Reply

  8. By Tony Hung posted on November 25, 2007 at 4:29 pm
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    @Bengt: For most bloggers, they do have the “nofollow” set up, so you may not get credit from Google if that’s what you mean; if you rather mean visibility for your blog, irrespective of *what* Google thinks, then, I agree — right on! :)

    Reply

  9. By Tony Hung posted on November 25, 2007 at 4:31 pm
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    @Ajay — closing down old posts is one trick, although it means closing down comments (obviously) if your readers want to revisit old content. The problem I’ve found, personally and on this blog, unfortunately, is that trackback spam also happens with great frequency on *new* posts … as autoblogging software pulls RSS feeds to scrape stuff. Great point, though!

    Reply

  10. By Tony Hung posted on November 25, 2007 at 4:32 pm
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    @Daniel — I knew that you guys were in the works to figure something out! Let me know how it goes so we can help spread the word. ;)

    Reply

  11. By Tony Hung posted on November 25, 2007 at 4:34 pm
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    @Girish — no question … there are some older blogs who have dropped comments altogether in favour of getting internal trackbacks, and then publishing those comments on their blog … Jason Calacanis comes to mind, although every now and again he opens up his comments.

    Reply

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  14. By Jeremy Steele posted on November 26, 2007 at 8:15 pm
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    Tony – what do you think about those theme hacks to split up trackbacks and comments?

    Reply

  15. On Using Manual and/or Automatic Link Notification Systems : The Blog HeraldJanuary 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm
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  19. By moserw posted on September 29, 2008 at 9:35 pm
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    Totally agree with you. I have so much spam on just trackbacks its amazing. Thankfully I have been running Disqus on my blog for a while now so none of it is visible. All I get are the email notifications of the same…

    Reply

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