A pingback is a type of hyperlink that appears in the comments section of a blog, and is one of the ways that bloggers can link to each others’ posts and promote their own content online. When one blogger creates a live link to another blog, that other blog receives notification and usually also a comment on the linked post that contains the reciprocal link of the citing article. That comment itself is known as a “pingback” — in part because it provides a “ping” or “bounce” back to the referring source so that readers and authors know where a particular posting has been cited, linked, or otherwise referenced. These sorts of pings are automatic, but they will usually only appear if both blogs have specifically enabled them. If a blogger has turned them off, usually in the blogging dashboard or settings menu, they won’t appear. Some of the biggest advantages are increased readership and potentially better search engine rankings, though the medium has also been a target of spam and other abuse. Most blogs block these sorts of linkbacks by default, and writers usually need to weigh both the pros and the cons before deciding to enable them.
Pingbacks are exclusively used in blogs, which are web-based collections of articles, photos, and other postings. They are one of several different types of “linkbacks,” which basically means that they are a way of identifying instances in which content on one blog has been cited and linked on another. So, for instance, say Blogger A writes a post about apples on her blog, Blog A. She provides a link to something written by an apple farmer on Blog B. Anyone reading Blogger A’s piece can quickly and easily navigate over to Blog B simply by clicking on the link, but the relationship doesn’t end there. Blog B’s owner will receive a notification in the form of a linked comment that will both identify the link and where it’s located. The apple farmer article will also usually get a link back to Blog A imbedded in its comments section.
How They’re Identified
These pings almost always appear in a blog’s comments section. Most blogs feature robust comments sections, where readers and other bloggers can leave messages or thoughts. A pinged comment is usually pretty sparse; in most cases it’s little more than the link to the citing article. These links and references are sometimes also visible in a “ping counter” box, usually off to the side of the page or in a box at the bottom. A lot of this depends on the preferences and sophistication of the site owner.
How They Work
The most important thing to note about this sort of linkback is that it will only work if both the original citer’s blog and the blog being linked have pinging enabled. This is usually something that can be controlled in the setting or dashboard menu of a blog’s control panel. If both blogs are set to send and receive these notices, they will usually happen automatically.
Pingback software uses XML-RPC technology. It basically crawls the web for the linked material, verifies that the link is good, then leaves an auto-generated comment; in that comment, it verifies that the linkback is to the proper source.
Pros and Cons
There are reasons both for and against enabling these sorts of links. On the positive side, they can increase readership, and can also improve a blogger’s rankings in search engines, often known as “search engine optimization” or SEO. Popular articles and posts can get a lot more exposure, and people scanning the comments of a given post might be inclined to clink on the links in pinged comments. Bloggers looking to boost their readership sometimes link to a lot of other articles in order to get their content reciprocally featured in the linked blog’s comments.
It’s important to remember that pings go both ways and, once enabled, a blog owner will also receive comments any time his or her posts are linked elsewhere. Ideally, this is also positive — but it leaves room for exploitation, particularly amongst spammers and content generation systems. Ad-driven websites and pay-per-click sites sometimes set up illegitimate pings to ordinary content in the hopes that readers will click on them and drive up the spam site’s ratings. This sort of activity is abusive and sometimes illegal, but difficult to stop. In extreme situations, peoples’ blogs can be overrun by spam links and illegitimate pings. Preventing this usually requires vigilance and some degree of proactive monitoring on the blog owner’s part.