Backlinking to sources: a dying art?

Has anyone else noticed that fewer bloggers are bothering to link back to the source of their blog posts? Back in the day, the hat tip to a fellow blogger for pointing out an interesting story or other blog post was considered standard blog etiquette. That doesn’t seem to be the case these days.

Here’s how it works. Say I find something of interest on another blog, such as or Marketing Pilgrim (two blogs that offer up a lot of interesting links), and I decide to share it with my readers. I post the link to the original story with attribution (aka the hat tip) to the source. Like this:

Google Analytics benchmarking goes live. A look at the merits of the popular analytics tool’s newest feature. Hat tip to Marketing Pilgrim‘s Linky Goodness for March 21.

That’s not so difficult, is it?

Maybe this is an old-fashioned sentiment, but I think attribution is important, even in the blogosphere. Am I wrong? Am I just being a cranky old blogger? Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

11 thoughts on “Backlinking to sources: a dying art?”

  1. That’s the whole point of trackbacks.

    I try and always link back. It lets the original poster know that your reading and find their content valuable along with introducing your readers to some other resources that you also find valuable. Not doing so is just lazy and possibly malicious… there really isn’t any good reason not to do it unless your stealing their content and saying it’s yours.

  2. I guess it means that blogging is really catching up and the blogger circle is becoming larger and larger, making it more necessary than it used to be to publicize the “hidden” rules of good blogging within a community.

    The blogosphere also makes the definition of the source a bit more blurry too.

    I remembered receiving an email from a blogger who posted about one of my UB articles before I wrote a post of my own (which I do for all my articles — all are sent to my editor 2 months before they are published). In his email, he hinted that I “borrowed” his post idea without attribution.

    Obviously, I’m not saying this is the same thing in your case, Andy, but it just shows that it can sometimes be difficult to “source” a piece of information or link nowdays.

  3. My How-To Tuesday tomorrow is actually about Trackbacks, haha! A reader emailed me last Thursday and said she doesn’t really know how/why. I’ll be sure to add a link to this on my post. :)

  4. Hit enter, and it ended my comment. Dang.

    Anyways, I would agree that sadly it is a dying art. There seems to be a huge decrease in attributing/acknowledging others. I’ve actually seen posts recently in the higher ed blogosphere that have been direct copies of AP articles, with no attribution, etc. It looks as if the blogger actually took the time to write the article, etc, but when I googled the subject I got thousands of copies of the exact words.

  5. I rarely do trackbacks, but I pingback sources. It’s just good blogging. At the very least, people can throw up a hyperlinked [via] at the end of their posts. Doesn’t take much…

    Brad–luckily on that, Google is getting smarter at catching and punishing those people… but it’s so, so obnoxious. I hate all the scraping that gets done from my site, too. : (

  6. Kyle – Good point about trackbacks. Built in trackbacking in some blogging apps makes it invisible, so we don’t even realize it’s happening.

    Brad – Looking forward to your post tomorrow. Glad you hit return — adds to the number of comments on this post, and hence artificially inflates this blog’s “conversation index” level. ;)

    Karine – You’re right; sourcing in the blogosphere can be challenging. It’s also a challenge for some of us who come from a news background and are rigid in our ways of how to attribute. :) (Not talking about you, of course. Just me. And just sayin’.)

    Sam – I agree that pingback is good a good blogging practice.

    Thanks for the feedback. And don’t forget to hat-tip your fellow bloggers. ;)

  7. Fun Fact: Andrew’s first Hat Tip came on November 11, 2005… to Seth Godin.

    Another mix in the equation: with more and more (and more) ways to get information (twitter, for example)…. The hat tip train can get extremely confusing, possibly leading to it no longer being a common courtesy (in addition to the 140 character limit).

    I can think of one instance where I blogged and tweeted something which led another twitterer to retweet the topic, which then became the hat tip. (confusing, but hang with me). So if the retweeter would have hat tipped (they didn’t), would the reader of the retweeter have needed to follow that link to find out the original poster for the hat-tip, or is hat-tipping the person who hat-tipped (assuming they do) the original poster sufficient?

    :) How’s that for a brain twister on a Monday?

  8. I was actually thinking the opposite recently.

    I feel like so many of my posts start with, “I saw this over at…” that maybe I was old-fashioned and no one really cared where “you” saw it but just appreciated the info.

  9. I think it’s equally important to hat tip images, too! People should always attribute their image source and if possible, even talk a bit more about how they found it or what other cool images they can find at that person’s site. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? =)

  10. Suffian – That’s a great point and one I hadn’t thought about. Yes, we’re all in this together — images as well as text links.

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