Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Backlinks for Blogger

{image right: "wonderland" from Theo Van Gogh web site}

Backlinks for Blogger

Blogger now enables what they're calling "backlinks" or what are more commonly known as "trackbacks": links to posts at other blogs that linkingly refer to your blog post.

You have to add some code to your template, at about three different places, from what I can gather.

I suggest all Blogger blog authors think about this new feature. I personally will ask a colleague blogger to write a brief post about one of my posts on the little blog Stinky Ugly Toys, after I've enabled "backlinks" on it. Then I'll see how it works.

I will test it on a little blog first, a blog with just a few posts. That way, it will be easier to monitor everything.


My opinion of "trackbacks" or "backlinks":

I never follow the "trackback" links on other blogs.

They seem to mainly just be "So and So Blog has a great article on the topic of blah blah blah. Check it out." and rarely more substantial. Perhaps a few remarks, but not much added value or relevance.

WARNING: trackbacks can be spammed.

So if you enable "backlinks", you are introducing one more headache for yourself, one more part of your blog to monitor for attacks, and just how does one monitor "backlinks" or "trackbacks" on all posts of a blog?

Blogger provides an answer: subscribe to BlogSearch (a Blogger service) searches on the name/URL of your blog. They state that this will act in lieu of Email Notification of new links, as is wonderfully available on new Comments.

Email Notification by Blogger, to my Gmail inbox, of each new comment on all my blogs enables me to easily monitor my blogs for abusive or spam comments, and quickly eradicate it, with a direct link to the exact post the offensive comment resides upon.

WARNING: subscriptions to searches on your blog name/URL are not reliable, complete, or timely. However, I do use Technorati, PubSub (poor results, yet Scoble raves about it, and it seems to work much better for him), Alexa, IceRocket, and other blog trackers as the mood moves me.

Here is the introductory text from the Blogger Dashboard.


What are backlinks and how do I use them?

Backlinks enable you to keep track of other pages on the web that link to your posts.

For instance, suppose Alice writes a blog entry that Bob finds interesting. Bob then goes to his own blog and writes a post of his own about it, linking back to Alice's original post. Now Alice's post will automatically show that Bob has linked to it, and it will provide a short snippet of his text and a link to his post.

What it all works out to is a way of expanding the comment feature such that related discussions on other sites can be included along with the regular comments on a post.

The backlinks setting can be found under the Settings | Comments tab, and consists of a single, simple option to turn it on or off.

Our default templates are already set up with the necessary code for backlinks.

However, if you have a custom template, or one of our templates from before this feature was launched, you will need to add the code yourself. Instructions for that are here.

Once everything is set up and you've republished your blog, you'll see a new link marked "Links to this post" next to the comment link for each post.

If you click that link you'll be taken to the post page, where the backlinks are all listed beneath the comments. Clicking the triangles next to each link will display a snippet of text from the page linking to you, as well as some author and date information.

If you want to turn off backlinks for individual posts, you can do so. The process is the same as that for turning off comments. Just edit the post in question and change the options that appear below the posting form.


* For the curious, this feature is based on the link: operator of Blog Search. So sites linking to your blog will need to be indexed by Blog Search and there may be a slight delay before the backlinks appear on your blog.

* The comment notification email setting does not apply to backlinks, so you will not be notified of new links when they appear. This is because these links are looked up on-the-fly each time you view an individual post.

* In lieu of comment notification, you can use Blog Search with a query such as link:your-blog-here.blogspot.com, and then subscribe to the results. That will have a similar effect.


Without copy and pasting any code from Blogger into one of my obscure blogs, I changed my Settings for Comments to Show Linkbacks, and Saved the change.

On the republish screen, I saw "we have made some adjustments to your template to accommodate linkbacks" or similar wording.

Does this mean that Blogger added all the required code to several spots in my main template and to all my posts? Must go find out.

And yet another interruptive project is added to my already long and wearisome list.

See why I haven't begun my 7 Blogs 7 Days project, merely announced it?

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


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