Trackbacks and Pingbacks

All About WordPress Trackbacks and Pingbacks

If you have been blogging on the WordPress CMS for any amount of time, chances are you have received notifications about trackbacks and pingbacks.

Now, whether you understand what those are is an entirely different situation.

Though trackbacks and pingbacks were originally designed to have a real purpose, there are many drawbacks to them that every serious website owner should consider before enabling them on their website.

In order to help you better understand the concept behind WordPress trackbacks and pingbacks, I am going to explore everything there is to know about them – what they are, what they are intended for, and how they can cause some big time problems for your website.

What Is a Trackback?

In the most simple of terms, a trackback is simply a way for websites to communicate with each other. Kind of like a fun game of volleyball!

Trackbacks are created manually and almost always include an excerpt. The WordPress Codex says:

“Think of trackbacks as the equivalent of acknowledgements and references at the end of an academic paper or chapter in a text book.”

However, to make things a little more clear, check out what WPBeginner has to say about how they work in general:

  • I write a post on my blog.
  • You want to comment on my post but you want your readers to see what you have to say and you want them to be able to comment on your reference to my website.
  • You will write a post on your blog and send a trackback to my post.
  • I will receive your trackback and decide whether to display it as a comment or not. If I choose to, the comment will include your post’s title, an excerpt, and a link to your post.

It is in this way you notify me (and anyone else that engages in my blog post’s comment section) that you have made mention of my post. My readers are then able to click on the link to your blog post where you have referenced my material and see what you and others have to say about it.

It is basically a way for you to comment on my blog post via your own website without having to actually leave a comment on my website.

How to Send a Trackback

To send a trackback to another website owner you first must find their blog post’s URL. Then copy this URL and paste it into the Send Trackbacks metabox found at the bottom of the blog post you are drafting.

Send Trackback Metabox

If you cannot see this metabox go to the top of the screen and select Screen Options. Then click on the checkbox labeled Send Trackbacks. This will enable this feature on your website and the metabox will now appear at the bottom of your post.

Enable Send Trackbacks

One you publish your blog post the trackback is initiated and sent to the website you are referencing. Just keep in mind that not all website owners allow trackbacks to post on their website and even if they do, they may not approve yours.

What Is a Pingback?

Pingbacks on the other hand are automatic notifications that someone has referenced your website on their website. Again, WPBeginner has a nice way of explaining the process:

  • I write a post on my website.
  • You write a post on your website mentioning/linking to my post.
  • Your blogging software automatically sends me a pingback notifying me that you mentioned my post.
  • My blogging software receives notification via the pingback that you referenced my website and confirms by checking that the link does exist on your website.
  • I then choose whether to display your pingback as a comment. If I choose to, it will display as simply a link to your website.

The crazy thing about pingbacks is that if you interlink on your own website (which is great for boosting Google rankings) your website will self-ping which can be annoying.

The Negative Side to Both

Unfortunately, trackbacks and pingbacks have a number of drawbacks that force many website owners to disable them. Let’s take a look at what some of the negatives are:

Poor Association

By approving trackbacks and pingbacks you are basically making the statement that you approve the content of the website that is referencing you. This may leave your readers disappointed when they check out these websites and find nothing useful to them.

In addition, this approval sends the same message to Google; you are associating with the websites that have linked to you. If they are not authoritative, or even worse are spammy, your page rank on Google will suffer.

Deceptive Link Building

Google loves websites that interlink to their own websites and that outbound link to high quality websites with authority. In fact, doing this can help increase your rank status in search engine results. The problem is, since initiating trackbacks are easy to do for any WordPress website allowing them, spammers will do just that in hopes of boosting their own SERPs. This gets them lots of link juice and harms your reputation (and your SERPs) since you are now linked to bad sites.

Most Are Spam Related

Trackbacks and pingbacks were designed with good intentions. However, with the increase in comment spam that is swirling the online world, the truth is most are not worth approving. Manually monitoring all trackbacks and pingbacks can become very time consuming for the well-trafficked website. And if only a handful are ever worth approving, you should consider disabling the feature on your website to save time and focus on other things.

Server Drain

Keeping all trackbacks and pingbacks in the comment moderation queue can drain your server’s resources and affect your website’s overall speed and performance. Again, if only a small percentage of them are legitimate, you might consider never publishing any on your website.

In the end, the use of trackbacks and pingbacks is often a waste of time and more harmful to your website than helpful. That’s why disabling this feature altogether is what a lot of website owners end up doing.

How to Disable Trackbacks and Pingbacks in WordPress

Luckily, disabling the trackback/pingback feature on your WordPress website is very simple. It is important to note however that turning off this feature only applies to new posts that you publish on your website.

To disable trackbacks and pingbacks on your WordPress website navigate to Settings > Discussion in your WordPress dashboard. Then uncheck the box labeled Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles.

Disable Trackbacks and Pingbacks

And that’s it. Now no one can initiate a manual trackback (especially spammers!) and you will not be constantly notified of automatic pingbacks every time someone references your website (even yourself!).

Final Thoughts

Trackbacks and pingbacks are a great way to gain insight into who is referencing your website. They help to inform you of content that is connecting with others in your niche. However, due to the rising amount of spam and the fact that trackbacks and pingbacks are getting sucked into these illegal practices, disabling this feature on your website is definitely worth considering.

How about you, do you allow trackbacks and pingbacks on your WordPress website? If so, what are your experiences with the drawbacks listed above? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Image courtesy of FreePik

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Add Your Comment
    • Rodrigo Ferreira

    Very clear. Thank you, Lindsay. Finally I could decide to get rid of them 🙂

    1. Hi Rodrigo Ferreira,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. And I appreciate your kind words as well. I am always happy to know when I have explained something well for people. And I agree, while there are some upsides to allowing trackbacks and pingbacks, I personally find no use for them and do not monitor them on my website.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

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