Blogger Hacks, Categories, Tips & Tricks

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Haloscan Trackback: What? Why? How?
In response to a couple of reader e-mails this week, I thought I'd get into Trackback a little bit, & walk through the what, why, how for anyone who wants to add this feature to their Blogger Blog. So, some questions about trackback...

Update 10/11: The installation details apply to "old school" Blogger & not to Beta. For links to beta-approved code, see today's post.

Read on for a general intro to trackback:

1. What is Trackback?

Trackback is a system for letting someone know that their post inspired you, and that you wrote a response to it on your blog. This works by sending a "ping" to a specific post's trackback. Most trackback setups will then display an excerpt of your post, and a link to it, in the footer of the source post. This is a way of tying your content to the material that inspired you, and letting readers of the source post know that you've added to the conversation. True trackback also adds a little something to your blog's search engine profile, because the trackbacks count as additional inbound links. Read on (or find the **) to see why this won't help us at Blogger. For more, see Wikipedia.

2. I have Google Backlinks already. That's trackback, right?

Not so much, no. Google backlinks is a useful tool that reformats Google's inbound-link search results, displays them in your post footer, and shows you the inbounds to that specific post. However, it doesn't allow a user to choose to ping your post, and doesn't allow you to ping a post that inspired you. Trackback is backlinks that is made of people.... (Phil Hartman doing Charleton Heston doing......) Trackback allows readers to choose to make a connection, and to choose the extract of their post that will get the job done, independent of whether a given search engine can see the link.

3. Why use Haloscan?

Haloscan is the only way I'm currently aware of for a Blogspot user to receive trackbacks. You can send them using a number of stand-alone tools, including:
Forrett has the added feature of specifying a one-click send link that will pre-populate parts of their form automatically from your post, which is great. So, we have sending trackbacks covered!

Now sending trackbacks is good. That builds your presence on the web and helps you to open a dialog with your source blogs. Being able to receive trackbacks, though, is better. Imagine for a second that there are blogs out there responding to your stuff. Wouldn't it be great if they pinged you too? You can shout Marco all day. Eventually you're going to need someone to come on back with a Polo!

This brings us back to Haloscan. If you're on Blogger, there's no way other than Haloscan to generate trackback URL's for your posts. Blogger does not support trackback or generate trackback URL's by default, and in order to be pinged, you'll need to have trackback addresses on your posts. Haloscan gets you there.

**The one thing Haloscan won't do is help you with your search engine ranking. As Fritz pointed out in the comments on Freshblog last summer, & as Phydeaux3 has confirmed in another context, search engines won't follow links that are generated by a script, & so they won't see Haloscan trackbacks as additional inbounds. This is still worth doing, though, because blog readers will see the links with their good old-fashioned eyeballs! Are you convinced yet? Good.

4. How do I Add Haloscan to my Blog?

Head over to the Haloscan create new account page and, er.... create a new account.



You'll need your new username shortly, so keep it to hand! After you log in, the first page you'll see is the installation instructions. Now ask yourself a series of questions.
  • Have readers already left comments on your blog?
  • Do you like Blogger's commenting interface?
  • Have you made any custom edits to your blog template?
If the answer to any of the above questions is "Yes!" I recommend that you go the manual route for installation, and that you install trackback functions only, & not the Haloscan comment system. If you have a new blog, a "clean" template, & no comments, by all means try the auto-install. Both sets of instructions follow:

Manual Installation:

So, you like your commenting service, or have comments that you don't want to erase, & we're going to go the "trackback-only" route, as described in the Haloscan Forums. You'll need to make two template edits, and customise the code that goes in your template head so that it contains your Haloscan username.

1. Log in to Blogger & select the template tab.

2. Add this code to your template head:
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.haloscan.com/load/username"></script>
3. Edit the code to replace username with your Haloscan username.

4. Locate the post footer section of your template, where the timestamp, signature, and comment link is located. Add the following code next to the comment count.
<a href="javascript:HaloScanTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>');" target="_self"><script type="text/javascript">postCountTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); </script></a>
5. Preview your blog, then save and republish the whole thing.

You should be good to go. To see the Haloscan code in context, with some neighboring code for context, check out Shamalama's post on the forum.

Auto-Installation:

If you have a brand-new blog and no comments that you're concerned about losing, and if you want to add both Haloscan Commenting and Trackback, you can select the Automatic Install Link from the Installation Instructions page.


Provide your Blogger Signon and Password. Select "Next"

If you have multiple blogs on Blogger, choose the one that you want to install Trackback & Comments on. Select "Next"


You will see your template, & be given the chance to back it up. Select the "Yes, Back up this Template checkbox." Then select "Next"


The required template edits will be made automatically. Any errors will be reported at this stage. Select "Next"

Finally, Haloscan requires that you go to Blogger, log out, log back in, & republish your entire blog to ensure that the modifications are saved correctly.

5. How do I send a Trackback Ping?

To send a ping, log in to Haloscan, and select the "Manage Trackback" tab. You'll see a list of any inbound trackbacks that your blog has received, and you'll be able to report any bogus trackbacks as spam.


To send, select the tab labelled "Send a Trackback Ping." Complete the form, and submit. Be sure to provide a permalink to your post (rather than the URL of your blog's main page,) and to enter the trackback URL of the post that you're pinging. This will be different from the permalink.

6. How do I know if I've been Trackbacked?



The count in your post footer will change. To view the text of the trackback, click the link. A pop-up box will appear containing the trackback URL for your post, as well as information about the linking post, and an excerpt.

7. Can I Make it Easier to Ping a Source?

You can, if you're comfortable using Firefox & Greasemonkey. Stephen's Trackback Script, or the new consolidated superscript that he whipped up w/ Johan, will add a text box to the create post page that allows the input of multiple trackback URL's. These URL's will be pinged when you publish, & will save you the bother of logging in to Haloscan after the fact.

So fire up the trackback, and let your sources know that they inspired you! Readers will follow the links back to your blog... you know they will!

Filed in:
Posted at 8:30 AM by John.
10 Comments:
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Blogger Efendi said...
hmm... so, after i used this haloscan, will the blogger's default backlink turned off ? or should i exclude the backlink.js from the script ?

coz mine have some bugs on the backlinks, and i don't know where it went wrong,

if using this haloscan would fixed that, i would gladly move to haloscan

since you have provided details on what why and how :)

thank you

<    >
Blogger John said...
Efendi,

As you see on Freshblog, we use both Trackback & Backlinks. I explain the difference in the post above as follows:

"Google backlinks is a useful tool that reformats Google's inbound-link search results, displays them in your post footer, and shows you the inbounds to that specific post. However, it doesn't allow a user to choose to ping your post, and doesn't allow you to ping a post that inspired you.... Trackback allows readers to choose to make a connection, and to choose the extract of their post that will get the job done, independent of whether a given search engine can see the link."

Trackback lets readers make a connection, and (at least in my mind) has more value than a backlink because it indicates a conscious choice to ping etc. If you have the choice, I would use both. I can't promise they'll both work in blogger beta, but I can't think of a good reason why they won't!

I wouldn't drop one in preference for the other. They are different tools. Backlinks will show all the inbounds that Google can see. Trackback will only show posts from readers who have pinged you, & that's quite a process, & will probably only be followed-through by a very small number of your readers. Good to offer the option, though! Let us know what you decide!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Useful post. Do you have any comment on integration with latest version of blogger.

<    >
Blogger John said...
Holly,

Update 10/11: The installation details apply to "old school" Blogger & not to Beta. For links to beta-approved code, see today's post.

Looks like the Haloscan forums are down today... I guess they're working on their new help section, but the source posts ought to still be up!

<    >
Blogger rabbi sedley said...
Thank you for your blog, which is detailed and clear.
I don't remember ever signing up with haloscan, but my comments seem to be with them (and thereby ignore all the setup rules of blogger). I want the comments to be inline, because I don't like the popup, but can't seem to do anything about it. can you help?
www.rabbisedley.blogspot.com

<    >
Blogger Christoph Dollis said...
Thanks, Greg, as I said under the Hearsay post, I added trackbacks tonight.

Now I'm at the point of stopping fiddling with my blog and using it!

<    >
Blogger Khris Loux said...
Hi!

Thank you for taking the time to explain HaloScan!

If you ever need help or have ideas for the service please email:

support@haloscan.com

Also, check out the new Rating service at HaloScan!

Best,

Khris

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Anonymous arra said...
nice info

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Anonymous Jason said...
Great, Thanks!
I spent two whole nights (!) looking for this tip and finally you gave me the most simple, effective and elegant solution.
Best regards.

Jason

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Anonymous ramen said...
Haloscan is pretty good, it really does help with trackbacks. Great article, i think too many people don't know about these small things that end up being very useful! We're always hungry for more with a blog, but sometime we forget small things!

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