The Business Blogger’s Dilemma: Trackback? Comments? Or Both?

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I’ve been working on a blog project recently and one of the most vexing issues I’ve been grappling with is whether or not to allow the blog’s readers to comment on the blog postings via the “Trackback” mechanism or “Comments” mechanism or both.
The more I looked into the matter, the more I kept seeing contradictory signs.
Uber blogger Seth Godin, for instance, favours Trackback and Trackback only on his blog. Based on what I uncovered during my research into Trackback versus Comments, I can hardly blame him.


Some bloggers just offer the Comments option and omit the Trackback feature entirely. Other bloggers offer both options to their readers.
And others still, like my colleague Mitch Joel (who will love the fact I mentioned him in the same post as Seth Godin), offer Trackback and Comments BUT only accept comments that are submitted in ‘old-school’ style via email – no doubt to avoid being blog spammed to death; more on that in a moment.
Based on the admittedly unscientific survey I conducted of about 100 business blogs, most business bloggers offer readers the ability to comment on their postings via the Comment mechanism AND the Trackback mechanism.
Chances are that if the business blogger only allows people to provide feedback using one mechanism, that the feedback option most likely offered is Comments.
Very few business bloggers appeared to offer Trackback on its own.
Here’s why I think business bloggers are favouring Comments over Trackback:
Trackback is closer to the original spirit of blogging in that it helps link blogs (and responses to them) together based on similar topics. This also cleverly expose readers to new blogs and their authors and is great for search engine optimization. Because only people that have a blog and post to it can submit via Trackback – it requires a bit of work, in other words – there is less of a chance that feedback submissions will consist of manual or automated spam. The Trackback mechanism is not immune from spamming, however.
The quantity of responses available via Trackback is going to be lower than with the much easier Comments mechanism. On the upside, the quality of discourse via Trackback can be quite high because respondents have to be bloggers to begin with, which implies at least a modicum of commitment to the medium.
Unfortunately, the typical implementation of Trackback is not very user (reader) friendly, especially to a more mainstream readership. In fact, to Joe or Jane Public, Trackback can be downright confusing.
Comments, on the other hand, allow anyone and their dog to leave feedback on your posting. The ease with which the Comments mechanism allows readers to respond to a posting is both a blessing and a curse; the Comments mechanism is prone to being spammed.
While the quantity of responses via the Comments option tends to be higher than with Trackback, the quality tends to be lower – at least on the business blogs I surveyed. Many supposed “comments” were just thinly veiled attempts at getting traffic to the commentator’s blog or Website.
Is one option better than the other? No, they are two quite different approaches to soliciting and displaying feedback.
If you want to make it drop-dead easy for readers to post responses to a blog – especially when the blog is aimed at a mainstream readership – and you don’t mind having to weed out spam, then the Comments mechanism is the way to go.
If you want to raise the barrier to entry (responding) and feel that your readership is more likely composed of tech-savvy bloggers, implementing Trackback will accomplish this and give you ‘street cred’ with the blogging digerati.
So where did I net out on my blog project? Since it is aimed at a more mainstream readership, I chose to go with just the Comments option. Time will tell if I made the right decision. I promise to keep you posted … via (ahem) One Degree’s Comments mechanism.

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2 thoughts on “The Business Blogger’s Dilemma: Trackback? Comments? Or Both?

  1. Tim

    I think you made a wise choice. Comments are the way to go. Besides, if you want trackback functionality you can always use Technorati and put a link to blogs that link here.

  2. hans

    Hi Bill,
    I came across this post from another blog that covered the topic of comments and trackbacks. I just wanted to drop you a not along the lines of your thoughts on lower barriers to commenting. Even with traditional commenting 95% of a blog’s audience will never comment because of the barriers. With ClickComments we reduced the barrier to one click. Please check out our service.

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