A Trackback or Pingback is a mechanism by which a blog or website can be notified when another blog post or websites creates a link back to the site. For example, when you publish a post that has links to a blog post on another domain then the other blog is notified of this backlink. The other blog can then choose to display this trackback on their own post, thus creating a back link to your blog.
Trackbacks and other similar protocols are used primarily to increase communication between blogs. There are several different ways to find back links to your site and trackbacks are good mechanism to keep track of the backlinks that your post is generating.
Most blogging platforms have some form of trackback mechanism implemented by default. In some cases, it is inter-operable between blogs hosted with the same platform and there is no intervention needed from the user to generate a trackback. A popular platform that does not implement trackback is Blogger, which implements something called a backlink.
Trackback is just one of the popular notification mechanism among many that provide a similar functionality. Some of the other protocols are
Pingback: Similar to trackback but does not include excerpt from the post. This is also less vulnerable to spam. It uses the XML-RPC to communicate.
Backlink: A similar protocol implemented by the Blogger platform.
Webmention: This is very similar to pingback, but uses HTTP to communicate instead of XML-RPC.
Refback: This uses the HTTP headers, namely the Referrer field to find back links.
Linkback: Used to collectively reference the various protocols used for blog communication. This is the collection of all the above referenced protocol.
Enable or Disable Trackbacks in WordPress
The trackback functionality should be enabled on both ends, the originating blog as well as the target blog for the feature to work. In order to enable or disable trackbacks site wide, you can use the settings in the WordPress Settings panel…
- Log into the WordPress Admin Panel
- Click on Settings on the left hand side menu
- Click on the Discussion in the sub-menu
- In the Discussion Setting panel, look for the Default article settings section. (This is usually the first section)
- Select the option Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article
- Select the option Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)
Obviously, selecting the option will enable to trackbacks and pingbacks on your website. It will also send pingbacks to other blogs when you publish a post with links to another blog post.
Disable Trackbacks in a Blog Post
You can also control this feature on a per post basis, irrespective of what the site wide setting is. In order to enable or disable trackbacks to a post,
- Open the post in edit mode
- Scroll down towards the bottom of the edit page and find the section named Discussion
- Select (or unselect) the option Allow trackbacks and pingbacks on this page.
This will override the default setting as set in the WordPress Settings page, which was described before. If you cannot find the section in the page, make sure that the section is not hidden in the screen options.
- Scroll all the way up on the edit page
- Click on Screen Options in the right hand top corner
- Select or enable the Discussion module
- (optional) Enable the Send Trackbacks module
Enable or Disable Pingbacks for multiple posts
Sometimes, you would want to change the settings after the post have been published. You can always open the individual posts in edit mode one after an other and change the option. This works if there are only a few that you want to modify, but it is pretty tedious for a large number of posts.
In order to modify the settings for multiple posts
- Log into WordPress Admin panel
- Click on Posts and then All Posts in the left side menu
- Select the posts that you want to modify
- Click on the first drop down box at the top which says “Bulk Edit” and select Edit
- Click Apply
- In the box that opens up, Select the check box next to Pings
- Click update button to save the options
One of the major issues with trackbacks have been spam. The protocol have been widely misused to spread spam, just like spam comments. Some of it can be eliminated by moderation, but then again the blog owner will need to spend considerable time weeding out these comments.
Many blogs usually have the pingback and trackback features disabled by default because of spam and the effort needed for moderation.