What’s More Valuable – A Comment Or A Trackback?

Steve Pavlina’s blog is the first one I’ve ever encountered that only allows trackback links. Steve has said that because of the volume of monthly traffic that he enjoys, it’s quite a task to manage the comments that he would typically get for his incredibly popular and valuable personal development site. He also indicated that it’s rather draining to moderate large volumes of comments. Instead, he has turned off comments and turned on trackbacks.

Trackbacks are mystery to many bloggers, but their value will grow on you. In fact, it took me about 3 weeks since reading about Steve’s use of them to truly understand their full value. Now this is only my own interpretation, but here’s a brief explanation and a list of positive reasons for using trackbacks on your blog:

  1. Say that you write a blog entry that references one of my entries. If I have trackbacks turned on, an excerpt of your post will appear in my entry as a trackback comment. The text that appears typically starts and ends with an ellipsis (…). The actual excerpt text both surrounds and includes the anchor text with which you linked to my entry. The exact specifics of trackbacks vary from one blog platform to another, but with WordPress at least, I’ve found them to be on automatically.
  2. While getting comments is an important aspect of building a successful blog, there is also the problem of getting unwanted comment spam. On one weblog that I called a hiatus on recently, I started getting 4-8 spam comments daily for several days. Now while I already had moderation turned on for comments, it was still a nuisance I had to deal with. I may yet have to deal with it more strongly in the future by blocking a list of IP addresses, if necessary. Steve Pavlina didn’t spell out his specific reasons, but he did say that comment moderation was a draining activity.
  3. Trackback comments, on the other hand, are generated when someone writes their own blog entry that references your site. Since spambloggers don’t generally write content, you will not have  spambacks. (At least not that I’ve seen so far; fingers crossed.)
  4. Enabling trackback comments encourages people to write posts that reference you, more so than if you only allow regular, manually-submitted comments. This arguably adds a bit more weight and credibility to the trackback comment, and thus might encourage other readers to visit the linking site.

Now here’s where I think that Steve Pavlina is even more of a genius than he already is, whether by design or not. By allowing only trackback comments, he’s either intentionally or unintentionally guaranteed that if you really want to comment on something he’s written, you’ll write your own post linking to him. Not only does he get you to write something possibly more lasting than a comment, but he also gets you to link to him.

Let that sink in for a moment. Some sites do not allow your comment to link back to your site. Some do. So comments are one-directional at best. Trackback comments, on the other hand, produce bi-directionality: links in both directions. The value of this is that many search engines and blog directories (such as Technorati) give your site more visibility as you gain an increasing number of links. I’m not talking about PageRank; if Nick says that links don’t matter, he needs a cyberspanking 🙂

That said, what Steve’s site does not have is an interactive discussion between readers. So while the linking is bidirectional, the conversation is not. Thus, disabling commenting in favour of just trackbacks might not be something you want for your own blog. However, if your blog does not have trackbacks enabled at all, I highly encourage you to turn them on to supplement commenting. Unfortunately, some blog platforms just do not support them. This includes Blogger.com and some platforms that do not fully support XMLRPC functionality.

Technorati Tags: blog comments, trackbacks, site promotion

11 thoughts on “What’s More Valuable – A Comment Or A Trackback?

  1. I’m disappointed to learn that Steve has nofollow on. I didn’t think to check. I guess I’ll have to check Seth Godin’s blog as well.

  2. At the linked page (“How to Build a High-Traffic Web Site (or Blog)”), all of those trackbacks have nofollow tags.

    I’ll bet if I checked all those tracking back, only one or two at most will have put a nofollow tag on their link to his post.

    So, 33 people are giving him good links, and he’s giving them a junk link in return.

    BTW, I ditched trackbacks on MT several months ago because mt-blacklist didn’t seem to stop spam tbs, and I was getting a flood of them. If someone comments on something I write, they can leave a (real) link in comments.

  3. LOL! When I read ‘the first one I’ve ever encountered…’, my first thought was Seth Godin’s blog. I see others thought the same!

  4. I gave up with TB’s in drupal based sites almost a year ago now. Drupal just isnt up to the job of handling and adminsitrating the spam.

    Sad, i used to like TB…

  5. Anyone here at performancing having these problems? How are you dealing with the nuisance?

  6. I’m not sure how long this has gone on, but Seth Godin has had the same situation for quite sometime. Only, he has enabled pingbacks. No comments allowed there as well.

  7. I should point out that Steve never said his site was incredibly popular and valuable. That’s me talking ;L

  8. I guess I wrote this from an emotional point of view rather than technological. Now despite what I’ve written, I actually prefer having both, especially because the cross discussion is important to me. But I didn’t realize comment spam was generated by trackbacks.

    What I actually have found, however, are numerous blogspot blogs listed as backgammon or chess sites, but which actually have “posts” that consist of fake text that almost reads like Latin or even Olde English. Of course, each post also has the obligatory link to a gambling site.

    Ingenious, but why not put that same effort into real content? This continues to prove my theory that it isn’t necessarily the “path of least resistance” that people follow, but the “perceived” path of least resistance.

  9. Comment spam and trackback spam are the same thing. I am pretty sure that someone out there is working on an XLM-RPC spam bot right now. It shouldn’t be too difficult.

  10. Inbound links are important, of course they are. There is such a thing as trackback spam though, and don’t be fooled into thinking you would get inbound links that way. And if you did, they wouldn’t be of the sort that you or Google would want. With trackbacks turned on you would be linking out to spammers. Linking to bad pills, pr0n and “enhancements” neighbourhoods. So trackbacks are great but are as much of an administration task in some cases as comments.

    IIRC scoble turned off trackback because of all the crap he was getting just trying to get links off his blog. He now uses technorati to see who is referencing him.

    Personally I like both. It is nice to have a proper conversation in the comments but leave people the opportunity to have a fuller answer in their own blog.

    I have heard many people say if they have a choice of two blogs to link to they will link the one that shows trackbacks….

Comments are closed.