Trafficgenerationcafe Wordpress Trackbacks and Pingbacks
t raf f icgenerat ioncaf e.com http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/wordpress-trackbacks/
WordPress Trackbacks & Pingbacks: How to Use Them For SEO
Bloggers are spamming other bloggers with phony trackbacks.
That alone makes it imperative f or all ethical bloggers to understand the issue of WordPress trackbacks and
pingbacks and how they can be manipulated to gain valid links f rom unsuspecting webmasters – and act
Of course, there are many more benef its to knowing how to properly use WordPress trackbacks and
pingbacks, including SEO and ref erral traf f ic.
First, let me quickly explain what trackbacks and pingbacks are.
WordPress Trackbacks: The Power of SEO and Web Traf f ic at Your Fingertips f rom Ana Hof f man
Essentially, both trackbacks and pingbacks are ways for blogs to communicate with each other.
Because of the kind of technology trackbacks use, they are much more prone to spam than pingbacks.
What Are Trackbacks?
Trackbacks were originally developed by SixApart, creators of the MovableType blog system.
Here’s how the theory of trackbacks works, according to WordPress Codex:
I’ve been blogging f or 3 years now and never saw things work this way.
Lisa Irby (who runs a killer blog, by the way) can publish something on her blog relating to my post and, without
actually linking to my original post, she can send me a trackback URI (not to be conf used with URL), and I will
publish that on my original post as a comment?
It doesn’t sound f amiliar because it simply doesn’t work that way any longer – not on WordPress sites anyway.
Trackbacks were very easily abused f or several reasons:
there is no actual verif ication perf ormed on the incoming trackback,
the receiving blogger can edit the contents of the trackback on their own server,
and indeed they can be easily f aked.
These are just some of the reason why WordPress blogs use pingbacks instead of trackbacks.
As I mentioned bef ore, they both do the same thing: notif y a blogger that someone talked about them on
another blog, but the notif ication mechanism is dif f erent, which makes pingbacks much more dif f icult to f ake.
What Are Pingbacks?
Pingbacks were designed to solve some of the problems that people saw with trackbacks.
Now this makes much more sense, doesn’t it?
All Adrienne Smith needs to do is to mention me in one of her posts f or me to automatically get a WordPress
pingback, and thus be notif ied of the mention.
On the surf ace of things, pingbacks and trackbacks sound very much alike with most signif icant dif f erences
1. Pingbacks and trackbacks use drastically dif f erent communication technologies (XML-RPC and HTTP
2. Pingbacks do not send any content.
3. They can’t be edited by the recipient blogger.
However, as a blogger do you REALLY care to dig into the semantics? Sounds like “You say potato, I say
potahto“, doesn’t it?
And that’s exactly what happened with WordPress trackbacks and pingbacks – both terms are now used
interchangeably to refer to a notification sent to a blog when another blog links to it.
All you really need to know is how trackbacks and pingbacks af f ect your blog, both positively and negatively.
Side note: f or the purpose of this post and to save my hands f rom carpal tunnel, I’ll stick to the word
Where Do You See Trackbacks in WordPress?
Let’s go over what a WordPress trackback looks like in your dashboard and how it ends up there.
1. Enable Your WordPress trackbacks
For two blogs to communicate via trackbacks, both of them need to have that option enabled in WordPress.
It’s enabled by def ault, but to double-check or to simply know where to f ind it, f rom your WP dashboard go
to Settings => Discussion, and make sure that the top two options are checked.
Now your blog is ready to send and receive WordPress trackbacks.
Receive a WordPress Trackback
So Ryan Hanley decided to mention Traf f ic Generation Caf é in in this post at his blog:
Once he published the post, WordPress automatically sent me a trackback, i.e. a notif ication of Ryan’s mention.
How do I know that?
I saw the trackback in my “Pending” comment section:
Send a WordPress Trackback
Sending a trackback to another blog is as simple as mentioning them in your next blog post, as you saw in the
However, WordPress system is not perf ect (go f igure!) and your trackback might not ever reach the recipient:
it might end up in spam instead of moderation;
the blogger might not have their WordPress trackback notif ications enabled;
it might show up in the comment section months af ter you mentioned them (happens!);
Theref ore, when mentioning another blog in your post, I always, always, always recommend to let them know
in addition to letting WordPress automatically ping them:
1. Let them know via one of their social media profiles (pref erably the one they regularly check, whether it’s
Twitter, or Facebook, or Google+).
When you do it this way, not only you let them know of the mention, but also potentially expose your post to
their f ollowers as well.
For instance, f rom my 10+ Blog Link Roundups to Get Traf f ic From post:
2. Always link to their posts, NOT their home page.
No WordPress trackback will be sent when you link to a blog home page, so I always recommend you link to a
specif ic post, even you are mentioning a blog in general.
For instance, even though all you see is blogs names in this list, those name are actually linked to the link
roundup posts, not the home page:
What to Do with WordPress Trackbacks?
If a WordPress trackback acts like any other comment, then you can choose to publish them like any other
comment, send them to spam, if they are spam (we’ll talk about that in a minute), or trash them.
1. Publish Trackbacks
If you choose to publish a WordPress trackback, it’ll show up in the comment section of your post. Depending
on how your blog is set up, it’ll either be in its own separate section titled “Trackbacks” or “Pingbacks” (like
shown in a previous screenshot) or be intermixed with regular comments, like this:
Should you publish trackbacks?
Completely up to you.
Personally, I don’t. My logic behind it is based on what I know about SEO – if a blog links to your post (yay!
you’ve got a link!), it’s good f or your link building and search engine rankings. If you link right back to them by
publishing their trackback, you are basically creating a reciprocal link, ef f ectively canceling the SEO benef it you
got when they linked to you in the f irst place. Makes sense?
However, many SEO blogs do publish trackbacks, so my logic here might be f aulty.
If you do choose to publish WordPress trackbacks, just make sure they don’t lead to a spammy website.
While Google might not spank your site simply because a spammy site linked to you (since you don’t have
much control over who links out to you), they are much more likely to give you a penalty if you end up linking
OUT to a spammy site yourself – af ter all, whom YOU link out to is entirely under your control.
We’ll talk about spam pingbacks/trackbacks below.
Should you publish self-trackbacks?
When you deep-link your current post to other related posts on your blog, that’s called deep linking or inter-
linking (exactly what I just did).
Since WordPress doesn’t dif f erentiate between links f rom one blog to another vs links within the same blog,
you’ll see a trackback f rom your own post in your comment moderation queque.
Whether you choose to publish trackbacks or not, my strong opinion is that you should NOT publish self -
Some of the reasons (very quickly):
you don’t want to dilute your valuable links on any given page (too many links are bad f or both your
readers and search engines);
your best bet to provide related resources (i.e. other related posts) is to either deep link posts within
content and/or use a plugin to display related posts at the end or in the sidebar.
What I do at Traf f ic Generation Caf é is disable self -pings altogether. My CommentLuv Premium allows me to
do that (more on anti-spam plugins below):
Update: thanks to +Rahul Tilloo f or mentioning a No Self Pings plugin in the Google+ comment section of this
post – something you should def initely install on your blog, if you don’t use CommentLuv Premium or any other
plugin to prevent self -pings.
If you haven’t already added +Ana Hof f man to your G+ circles, do it now – there’s a lot of stuf f happening on
Google+ that you are currently missing out on!
2. Send Trackbacks to Spam
Now we are making a f ull circle back to the statement I made in the beginning on this post:
Blogger are spamming other blogger with phony trackbacks.
That’s very unf ortunate and we need to be aware of the problem to both protect our blogs f rom spam and
protect our blogging reputation by avoiding inadvertently sending spam trackbacks to other blogs.
How do you know spam trackbacks from legitimate ones?
1. This is what spam trackbacks look like in my pending comments (click to enlarge).
2. This is what one of those sites looks like when I click on the trackback link (their link to my blog is highlighted
in yellow – click to enlarge).
This is what is ref erred to as a spam blog or splog.
What makes a splog a splog?
they provide no content and no value
their sole purpose is to earn money via AdSense, etc. or build links f or a primary site of sorts
non-existent traf f ic, comments, or any other evidence of user engagement – af ter all, that’s not what
they are f or.
3. If I were to approve this spammy trackback, I would end up with this kind of link as part of my comment
You can see right away that it doesn’t make much sense, unlike the previous example with the legitimate
How do you REALLY know when it’s a spam trackback?
Sometimes you click over to the site you got a trackback f rom and it’s as clear as night and day it’s a low-
quality spam site.
Once I got an innocently looking WordPress trackback that lead me to a porn site (YIKES!).
The best you can do is to go over to that site and look around. If in double, don’t publish that trackback.
Here’s another example of publishing spam trackbacks – this time it comes f rom a well-respected
Problogger.net (just goes to show that we all make mistakes when f irst starting our blogs):
I happened to stumble upon many earlier Problogger posts that published trackbacks (they don’t any longer –
must’ve learned f rom their mistakes). Most of those trackbacks are either spam or lead to 404 pages.
In the eyes of Google, they are seemingly doing many things wrong, yet their search engine rankings seem to
be doing just f ine. Where’s justice in that?!
Back on track.
3. Trash Trackbacks
That’s what I choose to do with trackbacks at Traf f ic Generation Caf é – I trash them.
But bef ore I do, I always:
1. Click over to the site that sent the trackback – to see what kind of sites link to me and why;
2. Take note of trackbacks that are sent by low-quality sites – in our day and age of Google spitting out
algo changes f aster than a woman changes her mind on the color of her nail polish, it’s good to keep
track of them in case you might have to disavow those links at some point;
3. Leave a comment thanking the blogger f or a legitimate link – the very least you can do f or someone who
made the ef f ort of mentioning you.
How to Avoid Spamming Bloggers with Trackbacks
If you are a spammer, chances are this f alls on deaf ears or you won’t be reading this to begin with.
There are several WordPress plugins that send phony trackbacks to other blogs to trick those bloggers into
approving the trackbacks and thus giving away quality links back to the blogs that run those plugins.
Most of these plugin creators do an incredible job wording their products in such a way that they get you
excited about them without actually revealing HOW the plugins work.
They make claims like this one:
Sounds great, right?
Only this plugin (Digi Autolinks) “f akes” trackbacks to other blogs to collect unearned links f rom them.
You can read more about spam trackback plugins, as well as other unethical backlink plugins in Gail
Gardener’s TrackBack Spam: Blacklist Blogs Using Trackback Spammers Blogging Backlink Spamming Plugins.
Also, check out Lorelle VanFossen’s Sharing Without Context to learn more about plugins that automatically
add hidden “related content” sections f or the sake of earning trackback links. As f ar as I am concerned, that’s
another f orm of spam WordPress trackbacks.
How to Protect Yourself from Spam Trackbacks
As with many other WordPress plugins, there’s no shortage of anti-spam plugins.
Here are my personal suggestions.
1. Say NO to Akismet
You heard me right.
Akismet is the de f acto (and def ault) spam-f ighting plugin f or WordPress. And why wouldn’t it be: the company
behind it (Automattic) owns both Akismet and WordPress – that’s why it’s automatically installed on every
However, just because it’s a def ault plugin, doesn’t mean it’s the best.
My main problem with Akismet is the f act that it has blacklisted me and Traf f ic Generation Caf é (yep, I am a
spammer!) a couple of years ago and no matter how many times I’ve written to their customer service
department, all I’ve gotten back were some boiler-plate emails and no resolutions.
And I am not alone – plenty of other great bloggers are pretty much banned f rom leaving comments on
Akismet-enabled blogs or sending legitimate WordPress trackbacks to them.
You can read more about my Akismet woes in this post:
Why I Will Never Comment On Your Blog (A.K.A. Die, Akismet, Die)
Bottom line: Akismet blocks a lot of legitimate comments and still lets through a bunch of junk.
2. Use CommentLuv Premium
If you have CommentLuv Premium installed on your blog, you’ve got all the spam-f ighting power you need.
Just make sure your GASP module is enabled and go over the settings to choose which ones work best f or
your blog (word of wisdom – don’t be too restrictive on the settings; you still want your legitimate
commentators to express their thoughts without being sent back with a “You used too few words in your
(click on the image to see the full version)
And here are my settings related specif ically to trackbacks (scroll all the way down in your GASP settings to
3. Simple Trackback Validation Plugin
If you don’t have CommentLuv Premium, you can still use GASP (stands f or “Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin“) as
a stand-alone f ree plugin. However, the f ree version doesn’t have the options to protect you f rom spam
trackbacks. I’d still recommend installing it instead of Akismet, but to stop trackback spam specif ically, I’d go f or
Simple Trackback Validation (f ree plugin).
From Simple Trackback Validation plugin description:
Simple Trackback Validation Plugin perf orms a simple but very ef f ective test on all incoming trackbacks in order
to stop trackback spam.
How it works:
When a trackback is received, this plugin
1. checks if the IP address of the trackback sender is equal to the IP address of the webserver the
trackback URL is ref erring to. This reveals almost every spam trackback (more than 99%) since
spammers do usually use bots which are not running on the machine of their customers.
2. retrieves the web page located at the URL included in the trackback. If the page doesn’t a link to your
blog, the trackback is considered to be spam. Since most trackback spammers do not set up custom web
pages linking to the blogs they attack, this simple test will quickly reveal illegitimate trackbacks. Also,
bloggers can be stopped abusing trackback by sending trackbacks with their blog sof tware or
webservices without having a link to the post.
3. Plus, it checks f or topsy.com trackbacks and marks them as spam.
Simple and ef f ective.
How To Use Trackbacks for SEO & Traffic
This is a traf f ic generation strategy that my email subscribers know very well about (if you are not one of them,
join my spam-free email list plus get my free website traffic report here).
In short, many blogs (including very high-traf f icked high PR ones) choose to publish trackbacks they get f rom
Here’s how it works:
You link out to their post f rom your post.
They are notif ied about the link in the f orm of a trackback.
They approve the trackback.
It shows up as a link back to your blog post in their comment section.
Usually those trackbacks are displayed just above the comment section and let me tell you: MOST
commentators look at those links either out of curiosity or to f ind related content on other blogs.
Either way, as f ar as you are concerned, blogs that publish trackbacks ROCK and could bring in a nice amount
of traf f ic.
To learn more about this strategy and how I use it to drive traf f ic to Traf f ic Generation Caf é, you’ll just have to
get on my email list.
And no, I won’t publish a list of blogs that publish trackbacks – it’s too easy to abuse those awesome blogs. All
you need to do to f ind them is to keep your eyes open when going through comment sections; that’s what I did
to compile my list.
This web traf f ic strategy was also mentioned in:
7 Ways to Drive Traffic from Popular Blogs
WordPress Trackbacks Marketing Takeaway
WordPress trackbacks are misunderstood. They are easily (and of ten unknowingly) abused. They might clutter
your pending comments.
However, wordpress trackbacks are also powerf ul.
They are great f or SEO and web traf f ic. And now you know how to use and NOT to use them.
Use Wordpress trackbacks wisely.
If you like this post and think it would be valuable to your f ollowers,
share the ish out of it f or me, would you?