Goodbye Trackbacks & Pingbacks – You Were Once Useful Features But Now I Have To Bid You Farewell
I’ve always been a big supporter of trackbacks and pingbacks. For the last few years many bloggers have removed them from their websites saying that they are no longer useful or relevant but in the last few years I have wrote articles strongly supporting them as they allow discussions to grow out with the original source.
Sadly, due to spam, the feature has been made completely unusable over the last few years. I hate giving in to spammers but this is one element of blogging they have made completely worthless.
What Are Trackbacks And Pingbacks?
Trackbacks were initially developed in 2002 by Six Apart, one of the webs first blogging companies and one that introduced many features that still exist in blogs today. Trackbacks was in simple terms a notification system between blogs. It allowed you to notify other blog owners that you were discussing something that they might find useful; all you had to do is add a trackback link in your article and when you published a post they would be notified of it.
Trackbacks are still built into WordPress today. When you are writing an article in WordPress you should see a box entitled ‘Send Trackbacks’ underneath the post editor.
As you would expect, the ability to notify multiple websites about your article without actually linking to them was quickly abused. An improved feature was introduced entitled pingbacks. The main difference was that other blogs were only notified of your article if they were actually linked to. The blog receiving the pingback still had to verify whether the pingback was valid.
I loved the pingback feature as it allowed discussions to form in other areas of the web. For example, say I write an article which gives my thoughts on the latest Android smartphone. If you had a lot to say on the subject you may prefer to publish your views on your own blog and simply link to my review. So if someone was reading my review about the phone they would see a pingback in the comment area that links to your review, which is beneficial for both sets of readers. It was not uncommon for popular articles to have dozens of pingbacks on them due to the number of bloggers that were linking to them.
How Did Spammers Kill Managed To Kill This Feature?
The sad thing is that the more successful your blog becomes and the more traffic it gets, the more likely you are to get registration spam, comment spam and trackback spam. Recently the trackback/pingback spam received on WP Mods got to the point where it was unusable. When I decided to remove trackbacks and pingbacks from the site a few weeks ago I was getting on average 15-20 trackbacks/pingbacks a day.
Unfortunately, 95% of these notifications were spam. They were mostly:
- Auto blogs that were stealing the content from WP Mods to place on their own website
- Summary websites that post excerpts from every post on WP Mods so that they get a link back
- Websites that were completely unrelated to WordPress but just randomly placed a link to an article here
A lot of the blogs using the above methods were not even in English and most had very little to do with WordPress; they were clearly just looking for a pingback link on a page that happened to have a little PageRank.
Due to all of these reasons, I made the decision to remove these features from WP Mods. Which is a shame because if someone takes the time to link to one of the articles here, the least I could do is authorise a pingback link back.
How To Remove Trackbacks and Pingbacks From WordPress
The first thing you need to do is delete wp-trackback.php as it will stop trackbacks altogether. To stop allowing notifications from other blogs you need to go to http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/options-discussion.php and uncheck ‘Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks.) ‘
I did both steps above and was surprised when I continued to get pingbacks from other websites. It turns out that the setting in your discussion settings only disables trackbacks and pingbacks on future posts. A lot of spammers try and ping older posts as they are more likely to have PageRank therefore it’s important to disable pings for all of your older posts.
To do this you need to run this MySQL command in phpMyAdmin:
UPDATE wp_posts SET ping_status="closed";
To save yourself the hassle of logging into your hosting panel and then clicking on the phpMyAdmin link every time you need to edit your database, I encourage you all to install the Portable phpMyAdmin WordPress plugin from Blog Tycoon. The plugin allows you to access phpMyAdmin directly through your WordPress admin area.
It’s only right that the blogging platform should evolve over time. In the last few years WordPress has grown from a useful blogging platform to the number one CMS in the world. In theory pingbacks and trackbacks are a good idea but in practice they are not practical as they can be gamed so easily.
Perhaps one day someone will develop a more useful notification system that spammers will not be able to take advantage of. Until that happens, I don’t see me ever using trackbacks or pingbacks again on any website that has good traffic.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.
Thanks for reading,