Trackbacks: Still Useful?

February 2nd, 2008

Six Apart created the Trackback specification as a way to enable bloggers to communicate between each other via a link or acknowledgement.

My question to the reader: in what ways do you use Trackbacks?

Do you still find Trackbacks useful? With the growing Trackback spam, how do you keep up with legitimate bloggers?




  1. Rick Beckman (15 comments.) says:

    Very rarely are my blog entries trackbacked, but when they are, it does help me know what people think of what I write.

    As for trackback spam, Akismet does a great job of keeping it at bay; Bad Behavior also helps out with it!

  2. Sarah (4 comments.) says:

    95% of my “trackbacks” are scrapers, and nothing seems to stop them. So, personally, I think they’re not that big of a deal.

  3. Chris Thomson (1 comments.) says:

    I love receiving trackbacks. As for trackback spam, either Akismet catches it, or a plugin called Simple Trackback Validation ( ) catches it. Trackback Validation checks the IP address of the ping, and compares that to the web server (IP Address), because bots usually send pings from computers, NOT the actual web production server.

  4. Pi (9 comments.) says:

    Yes, Trackbacks are still useful, specifically because of the scrapers and similar. Akismet cuts out the rubbish, but shows who is stealing content and, when there is enough there, allows a quick check followed, as necessary, by either a DMCA or legal action. Trackbacks are easier to follow than relying on Technorati to accept a ping – or to correctly attribute it – or chasing words and phrases through Google. I wish they could be expanded to catch considerably more, there are too many thieves around, even from a small weblog like mine!

  5. Teli Adlam (3 comments.) says:

    I was just going to recommend the same plugin that Chris has. Since having it installed on a few blogs, it has caught quite a few of the trackback spam sent through.

    On the topic at hand, I still believe that trackbacks are quite relevant and useful; I like to receive legitimate ones as well. That said, I manually choose which posts have trackbacks open and which do not — this also helps curb trackback spam.

    A great example of trackbacks and usefulness is Seth Godin’s blog where he only allows trackbacks. In a way, it forces the blogger (if they wish to comment on the issue) to think about the post, create the entry for their own readers, and reference Seth’s original entry. Essentially continue the conversation.

    ~ Teli

  6. Sarah (4 comments.) says:

    Teli » The trackbacks don’t get through, courtesy of Akismet. I’m just getting tired of seeing them, period, because none of the tricks for blocking it from happening works.

  7. shadaik (6 comments.) says:

    Well, 90% of my trackbacks are myself (seriously, why does a WordPress installation ping itself?), the rest is spam.

    I stopped caring when I made comments and trackbacks two separate fields, showing only the titles of trackbacks, not their texts which tend to be utter nonsense taken out of context.
    Also, being a newsblog that links to its sources, trackbacks are an important source for visitors to my site.

  8. Prof Kienstra (1 comments.) says:

    I rarely get any trackbacks, but i must say that when i do, i find it a great way to see who is reading my posts and how they are reacting to it. On the other hand, i don’t always comment on an interesting post, but discuss it anyways on my blog. The trackback then shows up on the original post. And therefore i think it is a bit like commenting.

  9. Sean Tubbs (1 comments.) says:

    I love it when my site gets track-backs, though it doesn’t happen very often. Most often it is when another media outlet references one of the podcasts on my site.

  10. Eric Marden (1 comments.) says:

    I still use trackbacks, both to reference other posts, but also as a way to link articles together on my own wordpress site. Akismet keeps the spam at bay, and I don’t worry too much about scrapers (not worth the headache – plus I zap those trackbacks on site, if Akismet didn’t). And like the other poster, I only display the headlines, as the quoted text is unreadable anyway.

    I think that it is an important part of the blog ecosystem!

  11. delusional (1 comments.) says:

    Akismet is pretty dependable for me when it comes to killing off trackback spam.

    The legitimate trackbacks are certainly useful for linking commentary together and from the P.O.V. of a ‘reader’, I often jump through trackbacks while getting the feel for other people’s ideas on a story.

  12. Ronald Huereca (39 comments.) says:

    Thanks for mentioning the plugin. I’ll have to give it a try.

    Do you all feel that Trackbacks benefit the blogger more than the reader, or does it depend on the type of blog where Trackbacks are useful for both parties?

  13. Rosa J.C. (1 comments.) says:

    I think I use them more than ever. They’re realy useful and let us know lots of opinions. ;)

  14. Iskwew (3 comments.) says:

    Trackbacking is the formalised glue of the blogging community. Blogging is the most rewarding when blogs link together through trackbacks and debate the same issue, I think. It is very useful. Perhaps because the Norwegian blogging community is a small one, and thus it is easier to find the good blog entries and run debates through several blogs.

  15. Teli Adlam (3 comments.) says:

    Teli » The trackbacks don’t get through, courtesy of Akismet. I’m just getting tired of seeing them, period, because none of the tricks for blocking it from happening works.

    Using the plugin mentioned, you can actually have it delete the trackback spam automatically so it doesn’t show up in your Akismet (or other spam) queue. I monitored it for a few weeks before allowing it to have free reign over deleting trackbacks and found it to be highly accurate.

    ~ Teli

  16. Jeff (11 comments.) says:

    Wasn’t Pingback supposed to replace trackbacks as a verifiable version of the same?

  17. Jason (75 comments.) says:

    Trackbacks are typically only useful to the content creators, as they add nothing to the general conversation. That said, as my site has started receiving more trackbacks, I’ve considered making a quick plugin that would move them to the back-end. This way, I can see them and check out their validity, and the general reader is not hit with semi-unnecessary trackbacks on the screen.

    How many of us actually follow trackbacks when reading other blogs, anyways?

  18. Ted Clayton (31 comments.) says:

    I use the Simple Trackback Validation plugin. I’ve received a small collection of trackbacks, but STV has labeled only a couple as spam.

    I don’t do trackbacks myself, though I’m getting some and leave them be, for now. Like Jason, I am concerned that for all I can tell, they seem pretty ‘sterile’. Without anything in a trackback to count as content, I wonder what one looks like to Google?

  19. Monika (40 comments.) says:

    Good question,
    but I know that 97,999999% of all WP user do not understand the differences between Pings or Trackbacks.

    90% give a link in the content – are pretty surprised that their article is *published* near the comments in another blog and call this *trackback*. Because the word *trackback* is more understandable then *ping*.

    thats why there are misunderstandable function at administration panel.

    there is an extra field for trackbacks – nobody can *see* that a link to another blog is a *ping*.

    and you allow trackbacks and pings – no seperate function to allow pings and to allow trackbacks – but this are different things and protocolls.

    the rest who understand the difference are *hardcoder* and technical freaks.

    so I’m sure most of this answers here are not correct. ;)


  20. Heath Buckmaster (1 comments.) says:

    I love trackbacks, unfortunately I have never gotten them to show up in wordpress, so I never know if people are actually linking to me unless I see the link on their post. Very frustrating.

    I can deal with spam, but I would really like to see legitimate tb’s so I can share the love.

  21. Jacky (1 comments.) says:

    I use trackbacks to communicate with other bloggers. I also love receiving trackbacks. But I think send trackbacks to oneself is no use.@shadaik: You can use to WP plugin:” No self ping” to get rid of them.
    ps: I am a Chinese blogger,I find it that bloggers in our country do not like to use trackbacks and most of them use nofollow,so it can not really benifit bloggers.Would you like to give your opinion of nofollow? Are most of you use it? thanks

  22. Widgett Walls (2 comments.) says:

    Trackbacks are nice but rare these days for whatever reason. I liked the concept of being able to take a look at the conversation that a post can bring on if other blogs are talking about it. But these days I barely see them coming in and for some reason I won’t even show up on somebody’s page when they specifically state that they accept trackbacks. So I dunno.

    Jacky: In answer to your question about nofollow, my sites do not use it for external links.

  23. aw (8 comments.) says:

    Anyway, I think it’s not the time to discuss about whether tb is still useful, it’s time to shut up those spams.

  24. Ted Clayton (31 comments.) says:

    @Ronald Huereca: This post-title clearly implies that knowledgeable people at the center & top of the WordPress community feel it is plausible to assert that Trackbacks are – in at least some cases/situations – no longer a good or useful thing.
    Yet, apart from the reference to spam, there is no discussion of why Trackbacks are now being posed as possibly “useless”.
    As one of many viewers here who are not at the center or top of the WordPress community, I would like to see it laid out, what are thought to be the problems with Trackbacks.
    Without these details, the question this post raises is almost as mysterious as asking “do you think WordPress is now useless”? It begs explanation!
    Please – why is this question before us? Thank you!

  25. Ronald Huereca (39 comments.) says:

    @Ted Clayton,

    That’s a very good question and something I don’t quite have an answer for. I can definitely say it wasn’t my intention to steer the reader towards an answer, but to gauge what the community thought of Trackbacks and what uses the bloggers/readers had for them.

    As for my thoughts and problems with Trackbacks? That would take an entirely different article.

    Thanks for the question Ted and I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a better answer.

  26. RT Cunningham (5 comments.) says:

    Trackbacks that aren’t in the form of pingbacks, in my opinion, are useless to the receiving end. It’s what started the trackback spam in the first place. Pingbacks use the same communication method, but they’re useful to the receiving end and can easily be verified for non-spamminess.

  27. Anne Helmond (1 comments.) says:

    Yes, I definitely think trackbacks are still useful if used appropriately. Of course, spam is the main problem, but the invisibility of using and sending trackbacks is also a problem among new bloggers as I previously mentioned in ‘On Using Manual and/or Automatic Link Notification Systems‘. With the automation of pingbacks in for example WordPress, the ‘older’ and ‘manual’ system of trackbacks seems to be losing ground.

  28. Mark Ghosh (386 comments.) says:

    Interesting links to research papers and articles on Pingbacks versus Trackbacks

  29. ????? (1 comments.) says:

    ??????????????????????????????????????????Ping????????????????????????????????? – Links for 2008-xx-xx :)

  30. bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

    I’ve yet to figure out what trackbacks are? I’ve been using wordpress for years, and I used MT before that from six apart, and I STILL have no clue what trackback means? so I don’t use it I guess no. lol

  31. bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

    I’ve yet to figure out what trackbacks are? I’ve been using wordpress for years, and I used MT before that from six apart, and I STILL have no clue what trackback means? so I don’t use it I guess no. lol

    is it like, the URL where your visitor came from?

  32. Ted Clayton (31 comments.) says:

    @bubazoo – As a fellow head-scratcher I will add my neophyte impression of what Trackbacks objectively are (note: I did read various introductory (Codex etc.) blurbs on this). A Trackback is for when I write Piece B which mentions your Piece A, and I place a notice & pointer (link) in your Piece A to my Piece B. ‘I said something about your stuff: yoo-hoo!’.
    @ Mark Ghosh – Thanks for the pointer to the references on Matt Mullenweg’s blog! I will be on these when I come back in from work.
    @Ronald Huereca – It looks like ‘depends’ will be a key word in the answer. ;-)

  33. Nick (11 comments.) says:

    I’ve denied all access to any***/trackback/ URLs on my blogs because of all the spam. I only accept pingbacks.

  34. Kjell (1 comments.) says:

    Of course it’s useful!

    I myself trackback sources that inspired me to blog about.

    If my writing could be taken as a follow-up OR if i quote somebodys writing – i do a trackback.

    But thats very rare, because i usually write very abstract or simply create original content.

    As for DO’s and DONT’s = never comment + trackback to the same post.. If you have something to add and you plan to trackback anyways, save your comment and let your blog speak. (one link to your site is enough and the post should say it all – some bloggers may find it offensive.)

  35. Scott (21 comments.) says:

    Yes. Trackbacks are useful. Let’s me know who is reading and linking to me, validates my work.

    I use a cocktail of Akismet, Bad Behavior and WP-SPAMFREE to combat tracback and comment spam.

    I was averaging about 20 spams a day from various sources before I teamed up with these three. Now? I don’t know when the last time I had SPAM was.

  36. Dexter | (1 comments.) says:

    Yup it is Still useful for me. It gives me additional visitors And for my site it give me an additional navigation easyness for my visitors

  37. Donna (7 comments.) says:

    That’s weird, I just now found out how to actually write a trackback. I don’t know how to ping someone, however – I do have the ping box checked when I write a post. However, I’ve never gotten a ping. Am I that unpopular?

  38. micke (2 comments.) says:

    Shadaik >> Well, 90% of my trackbacks are myself (seriously, why does a WordPress installation ping itself?), the rest is spam.

    Actually, WP only pingbacks itself when you use the full URI to your post (<a href=””>). If you use relative links (< a href=”/path/to/post/”>) WP won’t pingback itself.

  39. Tom (1 comments.) says:

    I would use trackbacks if my hosting provider allowed them.

  40. Michel (1 comments.) says:

    Simple Trackback Validation plugin is a marvellous plug-in! :-)

    ‘Been using it for months, all spam trackbacks AND pingbacks are caught in a minute! Just set it up to delete automatically all of the spam-backs ;-) …and write a log of deleted ones, so you can see how well the plugin works, and that’s it…

    Cheers, my $ 0.02

  41. Erik (1 comments.) says:

    Better question: Were Trackbacks Ever Useful? My answer is no, because they’re rarely used, they’re mostly spam, and with the growing accuracy of search engines it’s always been far more reliable to rely on search rather than trackbacks to see when and where your content is referenced elsewhere on the web.

  42. DjZoNe (1 comments.) says:

    Personally, I usualy send trackback to my friends posts, for example about the same event.

    On the other hand I write WordPress plugins, so I love to receive trackbacks, from people who use them. And Akismet does a great job about filtering out spam trackbacks.

  43. Lee (5 comments.) says:

    I think they help, but mainly I think they just give you a pat on the back and make you feel good.

    I also think to readers it can make your blog look more used… Not sure if it does much though… Mainly just for looks I think.

  44. Jonathan (81 comments.) says:

    meh. I’ve only had one trackback (yes, it was a trackback, not a ping), and the page it points to is no longer there. So I’m thinking of blocking them altogether as Nick ↑ does.

  45. Keith Bowes (8 comments.) says:

    Yeah, Pingbacks were supposed to replace Trackbacks. Personally, I’d like for WordPress to allow you to disable Trackbacks and only allow Pingbacks (right now, I have them both enabled but a Trackback validation plugin for the non-Pingbacks). I wouldn’t rely on Akismet too much; it has a bad history of blocking legitimate users (sometimes even the blog owner).

  46. Max Roeleveld (1 comments.) says:

    Yes, I still use track-/pingbacks. I send them whenever it’s possible, and I receive them occasionally.

  47. Paul McCarthy (2 comments.) says:

    I recently disabled trackbacks on my site due to huge increase in trackback spam I was receiving. I don’t get a lot of valid trackbacks anyway, so I felt that I had nothing to lose by doing this.

  48. Peter (2 comments.) says:

    I’ve turned off trackbacks AND pingbacks on my site. Little to no useful trackbacks amongst all of the spam trackbacks. Too many scrapers sending pingbacks.

    It was a tough decision, but they wore me out.

  49. OPENGIGA TECH (1 comments.) says:


    sometimes track backs useful and sometimes not.. when spammer use for spamming purpose…

  50. Zacharias (2 comments.) says:

    I think I’ve got one real trackback (out of, eh 50+) since I launched eight months ago. I don’t get “teh megga spamzors” but I’ve yet to see a real-life dude/dudette talking about what I blogged about. They’re either scrapers or splogs.

  51. Drakudemine (1 comments.) says:

    Well, the truth is I only use the trackbacks to see whoever likes my posts and links to them! THe reality is that I never allow them as comments and there is so much spam that I am so sick and tired of that!

  52. SP says:

    This is probably the wrong place to ask, but if I make a comment on my website about a post on a different blog and refer my reader to someone elses site this is when I should send a trackback, is this correct?

    In doing the above (without quoting any of the refered article, so as not to steal content) is this proper etiquette? I would like to get a link from the website, but I do not wish to be considered as trackback spam. Also, is it considered improper to leave an excerpt of my comment in the comments on the other blog in order to get a link? (especially where trackbacks are not offered as an option).

    Another question, is it wrong to use my website address in the name field of a comment. I don’t want to be spammy, but I don’t want to post my real name or a fake name?

  53. SP says:

    Thanks for to PM, I sent you an email, but I was not sure if you got it.

  54. katinka - spirituality (2 comments.) says:

    Most trackbacks I get are my own (interlinking blog posts) or spam. I’ve had a few real track backs – but most is spam.

  55. kesepian (4 comments.) says:

    I found trackbacks being usefull where they are not pure spam. But I prefere them to be in a different tab or to be at the end of comments. When you have a lot of trackbacks and comments it does not looks good to have them mixed.

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