Successful blogging is a long term play. It is very unusual for a blog to attract any notable level of traffic in its first few months. The fact is, you need four things to produce a successful blog:
- Great content
- Stellar Marketing
If you are brand new to blogging, you could feasibly nail the first requirement – but the other three are likely to be more of a challenge. However, it is the serial bloggers who get things off the ground quickly, as they can utilize their network and prior experience.
Having said that, there is still a lot to be said for momentum, and you can’t force that. You can’t force a snowball to roll down a hill any faster than it already is – you just have to wait and watch it go.
You may be wondering where trackbacks come into this. In fact, you may be wondering what trackbacks are. Don’t worry – I am going to address both of those points shortly.
What Are Trackbacks?
Trackbacks are a bit of a mystery to many newbie bloggers, and are completely underutilized (or even ignored) by many blogs. Some off the biggest blogs you read probably don’t even have them enabled.
A full definition of trackbacks can be found here, but the concept is simple:
- Link to an external blog post in your post
- Inform the blog that you have linked to it
- A link back to your post will appear at the bottom of the external post
In case it is not clear, steps 2 and 3 are automated.
What About Pingbacks?
I am not going to go into specifics here, but pingbacks are very similar to trackbacks. In WordPress, pingbacks are enabled by default, and do not require you to manually notify a blog of your link (which you have to do with trackbacks). So if you have pingbacks enabled, and the blog you are linking to does as well, the link back to your site will be automatically created on the external blog post.
Although pingbacks sound great, there is a reason why being forced into producing trackbacks is better. I’ll explain why shortly.
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Why Use Trackbacks?
There are immediately obvious benefits to using trackbacks. In theory, if you get a trackback listed on a blog with a good level of traffic, you will receive a steady stream of people checking out your link. Furthermore, trackbacks can be great for Search Engine Optimization – although many trackbacks are declared “nofollow“, it is theorized that search engines still weight such links and take note of them. And if a trackback isn’t declared nofollow, it is a free backlink.
This is why you will no doubt come across trackback spam. Spammers will submit trackbacks to your blog in the hope that a link back to their post will appear on yours. Fortunately, using a plugin such as Akismet will prevent the majority of these from getting through.
The biggest benefit to using trackbacks is however a little more out of left field, and takes me back to the four requirements of a successful blog, mentioned above. Most specifically, your use of trackbacks can dramatically boost your connections. And as the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
How To Use Trackbacks
Using trackbacks is a piece of cake. You just need to locate the trackback URL on the external blog’s post, then submit that URL via your WordPress Post screen. I covered how to do it in my recent article on Additional Screen Options In The New Post/Page Screens.
Using Trackbacks To Build Your Blog’s Traffic
First of all, you need to find the big players in your blog’s niche. This is something you will want to do regardless of whether or not you follow this strategy. Getting to know the big players is almost a necessity if you want to produce a successful blog.
You will no doubt discover posts of value within the blogger’s archives. What you need to do is craft a post that includes a reference to that post in some way. It doesn’t have to be the focus of the post (in fact, it is better if it isn’t), but you need to link to the post in a seamless manner.
If the blogger already has trackbacks or pingbacks enabled, you are about to get a free link back to your site, which is obviously great. However, if the blogger doesn’t have them enabled, you can take the opportunity to make your presence known to him or her.
A lot is said about how to approach big bloggers in your niche without it seeming manufactured and clearly intended to promote your own blog. The quick email I am about to walk you through can be fired off to any number of big blogs, without fear of the blogger opening it and thinking, “Here we go…”
It is very simple. If trackbacks and pingbacks aren’t enabled, just drop the blogger a quick email:
I really enjoyed your recent post on [topic]. It actually aligned really well with a post I published earlier today, so I linked to your post in it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a trackback link on your post – could you tell me what it is please?
Great to meet you by the way! :-)
Now you can of course change the content of the email to suit your own style, but you get the idea.
The above email is possibly the most non-aggressive means of introducing yourself to a blogger that you could hope for. Most bloggers will feel compelled to reply to such an email, in which case they will probably inform you that they don’t have trackbacks enabled. It is then your turn to acknowledge this and thank them for getting back in touch. And that, with a couple of simple emails, puts your foot in the door.
So What Have We Achieved?
The aim with this strategy is that the blogger will “take pity” and share your post around his social networks, in lieu of the fact that you didn’t get a trackback. When you are a startup blogger, just one share such as this can make a big difference. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could even ask for a share in the email, but at that point you are wandering into the realms of being too pushy.
But even if you don’t get a share, you have now established a line of communication with the blogger that you can (gently) nurture over the coming months. It may sound like a long play, and it is – but that is how you grow a blog. You cannot force yourself upon a successful blogger who probably has tens of people trying to connect on a daily basis.
I have personally used this tactic on a number of bloggers in my niche, with positive results. I have ongoing lines of communication open with some of the biggest in my niche. My posts have been retweeted by guys with 50,000+ Twitter followers, and my blog’s popularity has steadily risen as a result.
All from a simple trackback request!