Pingbacks and trackbacks: two terms that evoke a touch of nostalgia in the WordPress world. Are they just old-school jargon or do they still hold relevance in today’s blogging environment? In this article, we’ll delve deep into these features, weigh up their pros and cons, and guide you in making the best choices for your blog. Let’s get to it and take a closer look!

What is a WordPress pingback?

Imagine you’re a blogger who just published a detailed article on ‘The Best Coffee Shops in London’. Another blogger, inspired by your list, writes their own post about their experiences at some of these shops and links back to your article. Voila! With pingbacks enabled, your site automatically receives a notification about this mention. It’s like getting a virtual tap on the shoulder, alerting you that someone’s talking about your content. This usually gets displayed in the comments section of your post, providing readers with a reference to where your article was mentioned elsewhere. However, many site owners disable pingbacks once they understand the bigger picture – but more on that in a bit.

What is a WordPress trackback?

Trackbacks operate in a more manual realm. Let’s say you’re reading a compelling article about ‘The History of Coffee Brewing’. You feel the urge to reference this in your own upcoming post about coffee trends. Instead of just linking and hoping the other blog notices, with a trackback, you’d copy a special URL from their post and insert it in yours. This then sends them a direct notification of the mention. In the ever-changing digital world, certain features sometimes fade into the background. Since WordPress 5.0, the manual trackbacks option isn’t available in the current editor. Yet, for those keen on a touch of nostalgia, the classic editor still offers this feature – at least for now. However, many bloggers today have gravitated towards more contemporary ways of sharing and networking, namely through social media.

What is the difference between pingbacks and trackbacks?

Pingbacks and trackbacks serve a similar purpose, but their inner workings and execution are distinct. Let’s clear the air:

  1. Mechanism: While pingbacks automate the whole process, sending a signal when another site links to your content, trackbacks require manual intervention. A blogger needs to decide to send a trackback to a linked post.
  2. Content: A pingback provides a snippet of context about the link, so readers can get a taste of the referring content. Trackbacks, on the other hand, usually just offer the title of the linking post.
  3. Integration: Pingbacks are more integrated into WordPress. They appear as comments on your post and can be moderated as such. Trackbacks, while also appearing in the comments section, have a more detached feel.
  4. Evolution: As previously discussed, pingbacks are more commonplace nowadays and enabled by default. Trackbacks, given their manual nature, have taken a backseat, especially since the feature isn’t readily available in the default WordPress editor post 5.0, but still lingers in the classic editor.

The pros of pingbacks and trackbacks

  • Building Connections: Both pingbacks and trackbacks can foster networking with fellow bloggers. When your content is acknowledged, it’s a nod to your efforts and a potential collaboration starter.
  • Encouraging Engagement: These notifications can lead to conversations between bloggers, initiating more interactions and, potentially, networking opportunities.
  • Awareness: They keep you in the loop about who’s discussing your content, where it’s being shared, and the context of the conversation.
  • Potential SEO Impact: Some argue that these features, when implemented correctly, might offer a slight SEO advantage due to the creation of backlinks. However, if not managed properly, they could also negatively impact SEO. As always with SEO, careful strategy and regular monitoring are crucial.

The cons of pingbacks and trackbacks

  • Spam Vulnerability: One of the most prominent issues with these features is their potential to attract spam. Unscrupulous individuals can abuse them to generate backlinks, flooding your comments section with low-quality, irrelevant links. While anti-spam measures can help combat this issue, it demands added management and vigilance on your part.
  • Management Overheads: Regularly moderating and managing pingbacks and trackbacks can become tedious, especially for large sites that attract a lot of attention. The added influx of spam increases these overheads further, making one question the actual benefits of these features in comparison to the time and effort required to maintain them.
  • Potential SEO Risks: Mismanagement or failure to monitor the quality of incoming links can negatively impact your site’s SEO. Google and other search engines might interpret a flood of low-quality links as a sign that your site is engaging in black hat practices.
  • Decreasing Relevance: With the rise of social media and other forms of digital networking, pingbacks and trackbacks are losing their relevance. They’re often seen as remnants of an earlier internet era.
  • Usability Issues: For new bloggers or those not familiar with the intricacies of WordPress, the difference between, and purpose of, pingbacks and trackbacks can be confusing.

How to enable or disable pingbacks and trackbacks (including self pings)

Managing pingbacks and trackbacks is straightforward once you know where to look:

  1. Global settings: Navigate to ‘Settings’ > ‘Discussion’. Here, you’ll find the options pivotal for controlling these notifications.
    • Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article: Ticking this box allows your site to send out pingbacks and trackbacks when you link to other blogs. Untick it, and your site will remain silent.
    • Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new posts: This is all about receiving. If you don’t fancy getting pingbacks or trackbacks from other sites, untick this box. If you’re open to the networking opportunity they present, keep it ticked.
  2. For new and existing posts: While drafting or tweaking a post, you have the power to decide if that specific article should allow pingbacks and trackbacks. Just head over to the ‘Document’ section on the right, find the ‘Discussion’ option, and tick or untick as you please.
  3. Bulk changes: Have a bunch of published posts you’d like to adjust all at once? Easy peasy! Jump into the ‘All posts’ page, tick the articles you’re targeting, then choose ‘Edit’ from the dropdown. There, under ‘Pings’, opt for ‘Allow’ or ‘Do not allow’.
  4. Self pings: Ever linked to one of your blog posts within another and then got a pingback from your own site? That’s a self ping. While it might seem odd to receive notifications from yourself, there’s a way around it. If you disable pingbacks as a whole (as mentioned above), self-pings won’t bother you. But if you want the best of both worlds: pingbacks without the self-pings, you’ll need some plugin help. No Self Pings is a nifty plugin that does just that, letting you embrace the networking benefits of pingbacks minus the redundant self reminders.

How to moderate pingbacks and trackbacks

When someone links to your content, WordPress will notify you, giving you a chance to approve, bin, or even mark it as spam. It’s always a good idea to keep an eagle eye on these to ensure your site’s reputation remains pristine.

  1. Approvals: Head to the ‘Comments’ section of your dashboard. Here, pingbacks and trackbacks will appear just like regular comments. Simply hover over the one you want to moderate and select your desired action.
  2. Automatic Filters: Use WordPress’s built-in filtering system to pre-approve or blacklist certain sources. Under ‘Settings’ > ‘Discussion’, you can set up criteria to auto-approve trusted sources or block known spam culprits.
  3. Third-Party Assistance: If the manual approach feels a bit too hands-on, several plugins can assist. ‘Akismet Anti-Spam’ is a popular choice, sifting through potential spam so you don’t have to.

Are pingbacks and trackbacks good for SEO?

It’s a mixed bag. On one hand, they can help search engines understand the interconnectivity of blogs, potentially giving a slight nudge in SEO. Genuine, high-quality backlinks can be beneficial.

On the flip side, if abused, they can harm your site’s standing. A flood of low-quality, irrelevant links can signal to search engines that your site is involved in spammy practices, potentially leading to penalties. It’s essential to moderate them diligently to ensure only quality links point to your site.

Additionally, as SEO practices evolve, relying solely on pingbacks and trackbacks for boosting search rankings is dated. Modern SEO focuses more on quality content, user experience, and authentic backlinks primarily from high-authority sites. So, while they may provide a slight boost, it’s crucial not to overvalue their impact in the broader scope of SEO.

Should you avoid using pingbacks and trackbacks on your blog?

Once celebrated tools of early bloggers, are pingbacks and trackbacks still impactful in today’s context? It’s up for debate.

  • Beware the spam: The risk of attracting spam with these features is real. Sifting through to discern the genuine links amidst a heap of unnecessary ones is not everyone’s cup of tea.
  • Your reader’s experience: Introducing these could mean your readers get sidetracked from your core content. Do you really want your readers detouring, potentially towards inconsistent content?
  • SEO – It’s not all roses: Some argue they offer a slight boost to SEO. Yet, there’s a counterargument: irrelevant or poor-quality links could counteract your diligent SEO efforts.
  • Modern networking: Let’s be frank; with social media platforms blossoming, many bloggers find more direct and fruitful ways to network, share, and engage.
  • The admin perspective: Each added feature on your blog comes with its own set of demands. Given the available networking tools today, is it worth the extra admin time to manage pingbacks and trackbacks?

On Blog Chap, I’ve made the decision to disable all pingbacks and trackbacks. It’s not to say they don’t offer some utility. But much like WordPress Tags, their role has dwindled in significance. For some, they might still hold value, but for me, the slight benefits they might offer are overshadowed by the considerable admin overhead. Time, after all, is of the essence.

Let’s wrap it up

From the heyday of early blogging, pingbacks and trackbacks emerged as networking tools designed to bridge connections between blogs. Over the years, while some have continued to find them useful, others, like us at Blog Chap, have chosen a different path. We’ve prioritised the evolution of modern sharing, reducing unnecessary overheads, and focusing on a seamless user experience.

With any feature or tool, it’s essential to weigh its pros and cons in the context of your goals. It’s not about adhering to old practices, but finding what truly serves your content, your audience, and your peace of mind. If you opt to use them, do so wisely, but always keep an open mind to the ever-evolving world of blogging. Your blog’s success relies on adaptability, innovation, and, most importantly, the quality of your content. Stay savvy and happy blogging!