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Trackbacks and Pingbacks explained

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks explained

Not long ago we ran across the following question: “Do you have an article or explanation about moderating pingbacks? I get notifications that I have them sometimes on my WP blog but I’m not sure whether to approve them or trash them or spam them. I’m not even sure if they are a good thing or a bad thing. If I approve them, do I also need to put a nofollow on them?” This, it turns out, is a question that’s on a lot of people’s minds. That being the case, today we’re going to explain what trackbacks and pingbacks are and how they work and the differences between them. We’ll also explain how to turn them off from your WordPress dashboard.

What Are Trackbacks?

Trackbacks allow bloggers to communicate with one another by an exchange of blog posts, rather than just commenting on each others’ posts. It’s a way for a blogger to post a response to another bloggers post both as a comment and as a blog post. In fact, it works very much the same as a response videos on YouTube. Say Blogger A writes a post on his blog. Blogger B reads the post and has some relevant points to make, but wants her readers to see her response as well. Blogger B writes her response in post form on her blog, then sends a trackback to Blogger A’s post. Blogger A receives the trackback and has the option of displaying it as a comment on his post. If he doe display it, it appears as a comment with Blogger B’s title and an excerpt from her post, along with a link to the full post on her blog.

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What Are Pingbacks?

Pingbacks work in much the same way as trackbacks. A pingback is generated when you link to a blog post, and shows up as a comment on that site. It’s a bit like Twitter mentions. Going back to the previous example, Blogger A writes a post on his blog. This time Blogger B doesn’t want to respond via trackback, but she does mention and link to Blogger A’s post. Because of the link, her blogging software automatically sends a pingback to Blogger A. Blogger A’s software receives the pingback and confirms that the link is valid. Blogger A then has the option to show the pingback as a comment on the original post, only this time the comment only displays a link to Blogger B’s post.

On a related note, WordPress also does this when you link to an old post on your own blog. This is called a self-ping. When you link to an old post, you can display a link to the new post as a comment on the old one.

So What’s the Difference?

There are two main differences between trackbacks and pingbacks. First, trackbacks are manual, while pingbacks are sent automatically. Second, since trackbacks are meant to be part of a conversation, they include a content excerpt along with the link, while pingbacks include only a link.

How Do I Moderate Them?

Though sometimes trackbacks and pingbacks can be useful for fostering interaction between two sites, or for letting you know that someone has quoted or responded to your article, the majority are simply spam. They are generated by spam sites trying to increase their backlinks..

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Fortunately, they are fairly easy to moderate. Since they show up as comments, you simply moderate them as comments. You can delete or allow them at your pleasure. At some point, though, you may find yourself tired of wading through mountains of spam to find one legitimate trackback or pingback. If that’s the case, you might want to consider turning them off entirely.

What If You Want To Disable Trackbacks, Pingbacks, and Self Pings?

If you’ve reached that point, you’re in luck. It’s actually fairly easy. All you have to do is go into your WordPress dashboard and find the Settings panel. From there, click Discussion. In the discussion settings there will be a series of checkboxes. One of these will read “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks). All you have to do is click to uncheck the box, and you’re done.

Unfortunately, this only turns them off for future posts, not old posts. Secondly, it won’t turn off self-pinging. Turning off trackbacks and pingbacks for old posts is fairly convoluted, but for self pings all you need to do is use the No Self Pings plugin, and you’re set.

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