When used effectively, trackbacks and pingbacks are excellent tools to invite traffic, develop relationships with other bloggers, and build links to your blog, but many bloggers either don’t understand the difference between these two communication methods or don’t know how to use them. The purpose of this post is to explain what trackbacks and pingbacks are, explain their differences, and lastly, share how you can use them on your blog.
What is a trackback?
Basically, a trackback is designed as a means of notification between two blogs. For instance, if Blogger One writes a post that intrigues Blogger Two, instead of just leaving a comment on Blogger One’s blog, Blogger Two can write a post about Blogger One’s post and submit a trackback to Blogger One with an excerpt of what Blogger Two has written about Blogger One’s post. Blogger One’s blog receives the trackback and displays it in the comments section of the original post, and the trackback links back to the post written by Blogger Two.
What is a pingback?
The pingback was designed to overcome some of the shortcomings of trackbacks. They work like this: Blogger A posts on her blog. Blogger B posts on his blog and includes a link to Blogger A’s post. If both blogs have pingbacks enabled, then Blogger A’s blog will automatically receive a pingback, which will automatically confirm that the link originated from Blogger B’s blog.
What are the differences between the two?
Confused? Yeah, it is a bit confusing. Remember, one reason the Internet is called a “web” is due to all the entangled links going back and forth. I’ll explain the differences between trackbacks and pingbacks, and maybe that will help clear up a bit of the confusion.
(1) They use completely different communication protocols. Pingbacks communicate via Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Remote Procedure Call (RPC), and trackbacks use Hypertext Transfer Protocol POST (HTTP POST). The particular communication methods are something that don’t really matter to most of us, but it is a major difference between the two, so I’m listing it here.
(2) Pingbacks support auto-discovery, but trackbacks are sent manually using a trackback URL.
(3) Trackbacks allow the recipient to see what the responding blogger said about the initial post because an excerpt of your own entry will be created in the original article’s comments along with your entry’s URL. Trackbacks also allow recipients to edit the trackback comment, if desired.
(4) Trackbacks aren’t automatically verified, and can sometimes be spam.
How can you use trackbacks and pingbacks on your blog?
To use pingbacks, simply go to your WordPress Dashboard and scroll down to Options > Discussion. Once you’re on the Discussion settings screen, click the box that says, “Attempt to notify any weblogs linked to from this article.”
To implement trackbacks, locate the trackback URL of the blog post you wish to reference. Most blogs that display their trackback URL do so immediately before the comments section. Some blog themes don’t automatically display the link, in which case you’d need to contact the blog owner directly to request it. If the link is displayed, copy it and paste it into the “Send Trackbacks To” field in your New Post screen. As soon as you publish your post, the blog you tracked back to will be notified.
What if my blog theme doesn’t automatically display the Trackback URL?
You can manually add the code to do so. In your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Editor and select the Single Post (single.php) file. Locate the words “php comments_template,” which calls the comments section. There will likely be a </div> marker just above it. Paste this code between the line with the </div> and the call to the comments section:
<p>Trackback URL for this post: <?php trackback_url(); ?></p>
Save your changes. That will place a plain text (not hyperlinked) URL to your post’s trackback address. Note: Before making any changes to any of the files in your blog’s editor area, copy and paste the file you plan to edit into a plain text document, such as Notepad or TextEdit so if something goes wrong, you can replace your edited file with the original code.
How can I prevent spam trackbacks?
I don’t use a live hyperlink with my Trackback URL, which means those who wish to track back to my posts will have to manually copy and paste in the URL instead of automatically clicking it. This helps cut down on spam trackbacks.
Another way to help prevent spam trackback comments is to install and activate the Simple Trackback Validation Plugin. This plug in matches the IP address of the sender to the IP address of the referenced URL. Another way this plugin checks trackbacks is by checking the URL page in the trackback. If that page doesn’t actually link back to your blog, the plugin determines it to be spam. This double validation eliminates about 99 percent of spam trackbacks.