Why Do I Need to Ping?
In addition to open ping servers, there are also proprietary ping servers that gather information only for their own applications. Most of the major blog search engines operate such ping servers.
Unlike open ping servers, proprietary servers with their own subscription applications have no incentive to share their received ping data directly with other servers, which may offer competing services. As these servers do not share their data, bloggers have to ping a large number of individual servers to receive the desired publicity. As a result, bloggers have turned to services such as Ping-o-matic, which pings multiple proprietary ping servers." A ping is simply a notification to a server that content has been updated. These ping servers are used by other services (including what we're interested in, search engines).
Pinging it itself won't improve your search engine ranking, it just makes it happen faster by letting people know. After all, there is no point having a backlink if no one knows it is there.
So you should ping all sites that have links to your web presences. Your blog will normally ping automatically but you should also ping all new content:
hubs and lenses
social media - facebook page, myspace etc
LinkedIn and Ning pages
comments on other peoples blogs and forums
anything that links to you - another person's hub or lens
How to Ping
pingomaticThere are free online services that you can use. These come and go (they are free after all) and there is no guarantee that they are working. I tend to avoid them (see Footnote at page bottom), except for pingomatic.com from the WordPress Foundation. However, this is blog-focused and is automatic on WordPress blogs.
Can you ping too much?
Yes - some people use a variety of services to update the ping servers. This can lead to duplication and may result in your pings being rejected in the future. The solution is to use one comprehensive approach. Fortunately, this also saves a lot of time.
RSS Submit will allow you to add a list of URLs and will then automatically ping the servers. With the blog add-on, you can ensure that your updates gain the maximum exposure.
Here is the description from the website:
"RSS Submit uses a combined method of automatic submissions and auto-filling web page submit forms to automate the process of submitting your RSS feeds, publishing your content, and getting more traffic with proven results.
RSS Submit is extremely easy to use. Automatic RSS feed detection allows you to enter the domain of your web site and let RSS Submit find the locations of your feeds. Integration with FeedBurner and Technorati statistics lets you track hits to your RSS feeds right from within the software. RSS Preview and keyword analysis lets you manage your feeds in real-time."
You can try a limited version of the software.
Social Bookmark Pings
BMD pingIf you are using BookMarking Demon, you can add a list of Ping Services to the program and it will automatically send your URLs to these services.
Have a look at a couple of the sites often referred to in forums - autopinger (nothing in the forum since 2007) or pingoat (click on the tools link and you get a "Page Not Found") - doesn't inspire confidence. If I am going to take the time (and it can be very time consuming doing this manually, I want to be sure something is happening.