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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “What are pingbacks and backlinks?”

by Leo Wiles
27 March 2019

I just had an article published online and in print. I then got an email saying my article was now appearing on some random website – apparently a ‘ping back’. To me it’s using your work without your okay to do so.  Just wondering if this is common? P

Backlinks, Facebook likes, comments… it seems every day there’s a new way to find out someone has cited, referenced or linked back to your article.

And these alerts include the following: ‘webmention’, ‘linkback’, ‘refback’, ‘trackback’ and ‘pingback’, which is according to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘a message sent to a computer when a link has been created to a person’s blog post from another website, so that they can create a link to that other website’.

So are pingbacks a bad thing? Not really. It’s actually a handy notification that someone has linked to your published work. In fact, a lot of people track pingbacks and backlinks to they can see how their work is being shared or referenced online. It can be a good snapshot of whether a piece of your work has resonated with others.

Here’s how to track backlinks, for instance, via Google Analytics. (Of course, bad backlinks – where an untrusted or unscrupulous site links to your work – can damage your SEO, but that’s another post.)

However, if you do think an unscrupulous publisher has plagiarised and republished your work in full, click through to find where the unpaid version has appeared. Screen grab it, complete with URL in the search bar and email it to yourself – as proof of date and a record.

From there you are going to need to work out if a) you unwittingly signed over your rights and the original commissioning editor has now sent copy to their sister title or b) you have a case worth pursuing.

If it turns out to be b), at a minimum you can send them a cease and desist email and ask them to remove your work from their site. But depending on what country they are in and what laws they are operating under making them do the right thing i.e. pay you or remove your work could end up costing you a lot of time and money.

Do you track pingbacks and backlinks to your work, or are your eyes glazing over right now?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

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