Pinging and Pingbacks
If you’re not blogging for a select few — family or friends — you probably want other people all over the world to read your blog. You could submit your blog to a search engine (like Google) but there’s nothing to differentiate your blog from any other website on the internet.
Specialized services have been developed to help track blog postings and topics on the internet.
Basically, when a post is made, if your blog is configured to do so, it notified or pings a blog service called a ping server which then automatically visits your blog (like a search engine) and checks for new content. The difference between a search engine and a ping server is that a ping server also picks up the tags (or labels or categories) a post has been labeled with, as well as links to other blogs. Technically, I would say a blog does not exist ‘officially’ until it makes its first ping, because ideally, the first post on a blog should make the first ping.
Most websites that run ping servers also have a blog search engine (Weblogs.com and Technorati for example) while some (Ping-o-matic for example) exist only to ping other ping servers. Ping servers frequently exchange data — if your blog pings Weblogs.com, you can expect your content to show on Bloglines and Technorati as well.
Let’s leave the mumbo-jumbo and get down to the practical aspect of pinging.
Most popular blogging platforms support automatic pinging. Blogger pings Weblogs.com and WordPress pings Ping-o-matic by default.
Note: In older versions of Blogger, pinging used to be on by default but now I think it’s automatically disabled. To enable pinging, go to your blog settings. Under publishing, follow the instructions in this Blogger configuration screenshot. Due to space constraints I won’t post any of WordPress, but you can contact me with questions.
I mentioned earlier that ping servers analyze other blogs linked from your post. If your blog supports and has pingbacks enabled, when you make a post the blog software attempts to look through all the links and discover which ones point to blog posts, then send a pingback to the blog with the post. Pingbacks are different from pings in that they’re essentially a blog-to-blog communication tool. In WordPress, pingbacks show up as comments with a link to the referring post. In Blogger, they show as a list of links at the bottom of the post.
Technorati, one of the biggest blog search engines, has a ranking system that calculates the number of blogs linking to the ranked blog, as well as the number of blog posts. In some cases, the numbers are inaccurate (especially when some blogs linking in don’t have pings or pingbacks enabled). Technorati also indexes the posts that are tagged with certain keywords.
Recently, Sokari and Imnakoya talked about the dearth of blogs showing up with the tag ‘Africa.’ The problem was, and still is, that a lot of African blogs are appropriately tagged but don’t do any pinging. Hopefully, if you’re reading this you’ll realize why it’s important. (Aside: These two links should send pingbacks to the two posts mentioned here, and you’ll get to see the pingback principle in action).
What’s the next step after this? I really have no idea. I’m not ‘advanced’ and I still think there’s a lot more bloggers (including me) need to know about blogging.
The flesh and bones of the blogging series ends here. I’ll post a conclusion and hopefully field questions in the last part of the series.