Most people are often confused about what trackbacks and pingbacks are (if they even heard of them), as these features are from the early days of blogging and aren’t front and center nowadays in discussions among bloggers.
In a nutshell, trackbacks and pingbacks are forms of communication on your blog:
- Trackbacks allow you to communicate between websites
- Pingbacks enable you to communicate via an automated comment system
This isn’t very clear so let’s break it down:
Trackbacks are a form of communication between websites, and they allow you to share interesting content.
Here’s an example of how trackbacks work in WordPress:
- Jack writes a post on his blog.
- Ben wants to comment on that post, but in addition to that – he also wants his own readers to see what they’re commenting on and allow them to comment on it too.
- Ben then writes a post (with his comment) on his blog and sends a trackback to Jack’s blog post. (If you’re using the Gutenberg editor, WordPress does not allow you to send manual trackbacks while writing a blog post).
- Jack then receives Ben’s trackback and decides if he wants to display it as a comment on his blog post. If approved, the comment shown will be a title, excerpt, and a link to Ben’s blog post.
Pingbacks allow blogs to communicate through an automated system in the form of remote comments.
Here’s an example of how pingbacks work in WordPress:
- Cynthia writes a post on her blog.
- Vanessa likes that post and writes her post (in the form of a comment/review) on her blog mentioning/linking to Cynthia’s article.
- WordPress automatically sends a pingback from Vanessa’s blog to Cynthia’s blog (as a notification).
- Cynthia’s WordPress website will receive the pingback and then automatically confirm with Vanessa’s WordPress that the pingback came from her blog and that the URL/link still exists.
- Once completed, Cynthia can decide to display Vanessa’s pingback as a comment in the form of a link to Cynthia’s site.
In addition to remote websites, pingbacks have the same usage within your website. WordPress will automatically send a pingback to itself if you mention one of your articles in a new post.
These are called self-pings and can get annoying after some time, so we recommend disabling them (we’ll show how later).
Is there a difference between trackbacks and pingbacks?
In theory, trackbacks and pingbacks are the same thing achieved using different approaches.
While trackbacks are manual, pingbacks are automatic. Additionally, pingbacks only relay links (no content), while trackbacks come with comment excerpts.
Do I need to send trackbacks manually?
Not really. When released, WordPress 5.0 removed the ability to send trackbacks manually from the post screen as people didn’t use this feature much, and pingbacks were enabled automatically.
However, if you still use the WordPress Classic editor to write your content, you can still find it.
Edit an existing post, or write a new one from your WordPress Dashboard > Posts > Add New option.
To make sure we can see the TrackBacks option, click Screen Options in the top-right corner to expand it, and then select the Send Trackbacks feature:
Click Screen Options again to collapse the window, and you’ll see the Send Trackbacks meta field under your post:
This is where you can input the URL of the remote blog post.
Moderation of pingbacks and trackbacks is quite simple, and you can oversee everything from your WordPress Dashboard > Comments.
Here’s where you can approve, reply, edit, mark as spam, or remove them.
In reality, the majority of pingbacks and trackbacks are spam and should be ignored, as it’s typically the easiest way spammers can get a backlink from your blog.
We believe it’s not worth the time or the effort to moderate these, so you should disable them altogether.
Disabling trackbacks, pingbacks and self-pings
If you don’t want to deal with spammers abusing pingbacks and trackbacks for backlinks to your blog, head to Settings > Discussion, and uncheck the Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new posts option:
Disabling this option will disable trackbacks and pingbacks for all future posts on your blog.
To disable trackbacks and pingbacks on existing posts, head to Posts > All Posts, expand Screen Options, and enter 999 under the Pagination option:
Hit Apply to save changes. We’re doing this to see all existing posts (if you have a lot) and not miss any.
Next, select all posts by clicking the checkbox next to the Title column:
Click the Bulk Actions drop-down menu, select Edit, and click the Apply button:
WordPress will show the bulk edit box with tons of options. Find the Pings option, select Do not allow from the drop-down menu, and click Update:
That’s it! If you have more than 999 posts on your WordPress blog, go to the next page and repeat the procedure.
If you don’t want to be spammed with self-pings by your blog, you can disable this feature using the No Self Pings plugin:
Head to Plugins > Add New, fill in No Self Pings in the top-right search field, and click Install Now:
Next, click Activate to activate the plugin:
Once activated, the plugin will automatically disable self-pings on your WordPress website.
While trackbacks and pingbacks were a helpful feature in the old days, pinging is no longer considered good practice when it comes to blogging.
If you want to know who links to your blog, we recommend using Google Analytics, which can show you who’s linking to your blog and plenty other useful insights about your website, audience and users.