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Trackbacks and Pingbacks

We’ve talked a lot about comments here on The Daily Post, but we’ve never mentioned the comment’s cousins, the casual…

We’ve talked a lot about comments here on The Daily Post, but we’ve never mentioned the comment’s cousins, the casual pingback and the formal trackback. A couple of you have asked what the deal is with trackbacks and pingbacks, so let’s give them some attention. 

A pingback is a type of comment that’s automatically created whenever you link to another WordPress.com post (provided the blog the post appears on has pingbacks enabled). The way a pingback looks depends on your theme, but they look something like this:

Pingback

When you link to another blogger’s post, your pingback appears in their comment section just as any other comment would. This lets them know that you liked their work (well, or hated it), and they and their followers might click through to visit your post and read what you had to say. Back when we discussed commenting etiquette, I mentioned that if your comment is going to be more than a couple of lines, it might be better to post your response at length on your own blog. Because of pingbacks, your comment will still register in the post’s comments section if you do this.

What if you want to comment on a blog that’s not a WordPress blog, though? You can still notify that blog owner that you’ve written something about their post by using a trackback. You can send a trackback to any site that offers a trackback URL in its post. The Trackback URL will usually be somewhere near the “Leave a Comment” prompt:

Trackback URL

When you click that link, the full URL for the trackback will load in your browser’s address bar. Copy the entire thing. Then, in your own post, find the “Send Trackbacks” module below the post editing window, and paste that entire URL in there before you publish your post. That will send a trackback notice to the blog – they’ll get a brief excerpt of what you wrote and a link back to your post.

Because of pingbacks, remember that when you link to another WordPress.com blog, that blogger will likely be notified. So be sure that you actually want them to see what you’ve written. If you don’t, you might not want to put a full hyperlink back to their blog.

As far as trackbacks are concerned, since you actively choose to send a trackback to another blogger, the etiquette for sending them is similar to what we discussed with commenting. If you have written something substantial about a blogger’s post, send them a trackback. If you’re simply including them in a list of links without any real commentary on their post, maybe don’t bother.

If you feel that ignorance is bliss, and you do not want to receive pingbacks or trackbacks when other bloggers link to your posts, you can disable the option in Settings->Discussion. And if you don’t want anyone to be notified when you mention them, there’s also an option there to turn off your own outgoing pingbacks and trackbacks.

When used well, pingbacks and trackbacks are yet another way to get connected with other bloggers who share your interests and to keep the conversation going across the blogosphere.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that you can see an excellent example of pingback use in the comment sections of the Daily Prompts here on The Daily Post! Because so many bloggers participate in the prompts, comment threads would quickly get overwhelming. Most of the comments would be bloggers leaving a link to what they’d written about the prompt on their own blogs, so we close comments on these posts and let pingbacks do the work for our commenters. In the comment section of every Daily Prompt, you’ll see a tidy list of links to posts by bloggers who have written something inspired by the prompt. Handy!

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  1. Personally I dont like pingbacks, I dont like someone else populating their blog with my work. If they were going to comment and contribute to a debate fine but when they just pingback the post with no contribution of their own I feel that they are taking advantage of someone else’s work.

    I know some will say that it helps connect with other bloggers but I rarely get hits on my blog from blogs which have pinged me back if you know what I mean so there is really no benefit to me.

    I also know that I am in the minority here but just wanted to put a different view across.

    1. If they were going to comment and contribute to a debate fine but when they just pingback the post with no contribution of their own I feel that they are taking advantage of someone else’s work.

      I completely agree with this! The same amount of thought should go into a link on your own site that will send a pingback as you would put into a good comment.

  2. “What if you want to comment on a blog that’s not a WordPress blog, though?”

    Ha! That’s funny… I hate commenting on non WordPress blogs, too much processing, too many steps. Oh the pain! ;)

  3. Pingbacks and trackbacks confuse the hell out of me to be fair, I get that you write a post and you link back to that page and then the owner of that page gets a message saying pingback… I don’t get comments by pingback though, just a link.

    Are trackbacks the same as pingbacks but just on non wordpress sites?

    1. A pingback is just a link. It’s almost like a Google alert – it just lets the blogger know that you said something about their work.

      A trackback is essentially the same, but it usually includes a short excerpt of the surrounding text in your post in the actual trackback, as well as the link.

  4. It’s a very helpful system, and saves us sending messages all over the place so thanks WP. But what I find strange is that I have to approve pingbacks from my own blog. If I include a link to a previous post, it registers as a pingback on that post, but I have to approve it–every time. Why is that? A stranger whom I have approved once gets to comment without moderation?

    1. I agree! I frequently refer/link to my own previous posts. Because my posts are predated a couple of weeks in advance, I then have to go back and approve the link when the post goes live. It seems the least WP can do is to allow a pre-approval once I schedule the post.

    2. YES! This is my single biggest complaint about using WP. I should never have to approve my own pingbacks, and especially not after having approved the first one.

      1. Hi, yeah I know, I’m sorry. I was trying to reply to the guy at the top of this thread: Ian Webster, but it appeared as a reply to you instead. Sorry for the confusion. And, yes, I know what you mean about having to approve our own pingbacks!

    3. Hi, if I’m understanding you right, it seems like comments are getting through without needing your approval just because you approved them once before? If that’s the case, you can change your settings to prevent that. Dashboard -> Settings -> Discussion -> Before a comment appears -> now check the box which says “An administrator must always approve the comment.” That will block all comments until you have approved them. :-)

      1. Thanks for your response, but that’s not my problem. I allow commenters to post without having to be approved after their first approval. My problem is that even after approving my own pingbacks, I still have to approve my own pingbacks every time.

      2. Agreed, I’m managing my comments very well, thanks. It’s the pingbacks. IF I can approve all comments from a particular person once, why not my own pingbacks? is an administrator(?) going to answer this one, please? Thanks

      1. “Press This” is used for doing a re-blog. So if you read a post that you like and you would like to share or promote that post on your own blog, you can use the “press this” option at the bottom of that post (on someone else’s blog). It will appear like a post which you can edit and add a little introduction or image to, if you like. Then you can publish it and technically it’s a post on your blog but if anyone from your blog wants to read it, they will be redirected to the original blogger who wrote it. The original blogger will also get a pingback (I think) or something similar, i.e. some kind of notification which shows up that that post has been re-blogged. Personally, I think it’s polite to write a sentence or two about why you chose to re-blog that post, but that’s just me. :-)

    1. Tee Fay, what you’re describing is the reblog feature. This is similar to Press This in that Press This is a way to reblog content from elsewhere on your own blog.

      But Press This doesn’t send any kind of notification. Press This is a tool you can add to your web browser – it creates a button in your Bookmarks that you can then use as you browse the web to quickly reblog articles, images, etc. from around the web to your WordPress.com blog without having to navigate back to your blog itself.

  5. thanks. I still don’t get the difference between a trackback and pingback, and have no idea if I have ever done them correctly. I do have them enabled on my blogs. :-)

  6. I find that, on doing a Daily Prompt, I get a load of pingbacks from people who have just copied the list of pingbacks straight from the Daily Prompt post. This is annoying because these people aren’t explicitly referring to my post (and almost certainly haven’t read it, or 99% of the other entries on the list), and seem to solely be trawling for views (when I inevitably click the pingback to see if they have actually said something relevant).

    I get the use if somebody is actually explicitly referring to something and that’s cool, but I’m afraid my only experiences of pingbacks have been rather negative. :(

    1. Hi there, I know what you’re talking about and it’s especially common with the Daily Prompts, as you say. I can see how it would feel impersonal because they probably haven’t read your post. Maybe it might help to think that some readers on their blog might see your pingback in the list and be curious to come and read your post, even if that person who did the pingback hasn’t read it? I think with the Daily Prompt a lot of people feel about it kind of like a group project and they like to zip around reading other people’s responses. Having a list of pingbacks to other bloggers who have answered it can make it much easier to move from one blog to another. Maybe that can make you feel a bit better? In a way it’s kind of like advertising for your blog! :-) Have you checked your site stats to see if any readers have come through to your blog from others on the days when you do the daily prompt? :-)

      1. Alas, I check my stats religiously and the only referrals always come from the core Daily Prompt post (and sometimes even come along with actual Likes), which is great.

        I don’t know, it just seems a bit crass to me. Yes, it’s a group activity, and yes, it is “advertising”, but there’s a central hub right there with the most correct/up-to-date list (which we all naturally are linked to) and I just don’t see any reason to hard copy it other than linkbait.

        A single meaningful connection is worth a hundred thoughtless copy-pastas, right?

      2. I hear where you’re coming from. Yes, clearly you are a person who likes a meaningful connection. Your blog probably has a warm and sincere ambiance. Some of them are rather huge and commercial. I tend not to hang around on them. I understand that many of them are hoping to get a book published or something, but some of us are not in it for that reason. Sometimes it’s nice to keep it more cosy and personal. It annoys me when people click “like” on my post 2 seconds after I publish it, so I know they haven’t read it! LOL. I hope the meaningful connections that you make here outweigh the thoughtless ones.

      3. I agree with your point of view/explanation. Just simply copying a list of links for increasing the numbers of [your own blog's] views could be seen as pretty sad.. :p but I do agree with you on having the list work as some sort of ‘ ideas garden’ leading to other people’s blogs. You’re right: many times I’ve come to a blogpost, and stopped at their ‘ list of related links’, and due to the post title [curiosity, similarity, interest, you name it!], decided to hop over and check that [second hand] blog… It’s a nice way to advertise the work of other people, as you mentioned… Just my thought… :o thanks for adding to this [confusing] discussion! :o

    2. Rad, I agree completely with you! I think the pingbacks, especially for the weekly photo challenges and daily prompts, are kind of like link baiting. I check my stats as well and rarely does anyone read my posts from a pingback. Lately, I’ve gone to the pingbacks and commented on their posts, asking them to please remove my link from their post. I’m thinking of changing my settings to remove all pingbacks. I see nothing positive from them.

      1. It’s taken me awhile to learn what I do know… I’ve done a lot of searching and then go to wordpress.com support or WP ask a question and put the subject in where it says search….and then I read ….Also sometimes other bloggers have helped me and so I like to do so when I can…If I can help in anything else let me know …I ‘might’ have the answer….Diane

  7. Thanks! I first thought it was spam. I don’t mind that people post links to my blog. In a way it’s flattering. However, the person should place a proper comment- in their own words- on your blog notifying you or thanking you.

  8. I’ve always considered it an honor when I am pinged or reblogged. That someone likes my work enough to republish or link to it seems a compliment. I, in turn, link to other people’s work when it relates to what I’m doing in some way and also as a way of driving traffic to other sites. I’m not particularly territorial and am not generally worried that everyone is stealing my stuff. There’s plenty of stuff on the Internet to steal other than mine, after all. If my primary reason for blogging is to be read, then getting linked and pinged and reblogged helps do that, so what’s not to like?

  9. I make a point of including pingbacks to related blogs when I post. I love to get additional info from other points of view (and find new bloggers) when I read an interesting blog post, so I try to provide the same.

  10. My blog is new, but I have a special category already set up just for re-blogs. (I have yet to start doing some, but it’s ready!) :-) I love to re-blog any post that I really enjoy and feel deserves to be shared and promoted. Plus if I re-blog it so it’s on my own blog, then I can easily refer back to it any time I like and re-read it! That’s very helpful if it has information that is useful and informative. So I love the whole “press this” and “pingback” system. :-)

  11. Thanks, this helps after reading twice. When I use a link in my post from a non-Wordpress blog, I’ve never used a trackback because I didn’t understand that option. I usually just copy the URL of their post and make a link. It is easy and it works.
    Question:
    Are the only differences between my method and that of using trackback the following: that the length of the URL is shorter in a trackback; and that the person will be notified?

    1. If a blog does include a Trackback URL, then you can use that if you want that blogger to be notified of your post. If you just link to their blog in your post itself, that works, too, but that won’t necessarily send them any kind of notification. Of course, not all blogs offer any way to sned a trackback at all.

  12. So where is the trackback button to try out this technique now I understand what it is!!!
    Great article – will repost it and see if that pingsback…

  13. I have a self hosted blog through wp.org, will it show up as a pingback on wp.com if I link to a wp.com blog on wp.org site? If not, do wp.com blogs have the trackback capability built in?

    1. Yes, if your discussion settings are set to attempt to notify other blogs, then a self-hosted WordPress site will send a pingback. And you can also send trackbacks to WordPress.com blogs – see my reply to Frewin55′s comment just above for the format. :)

      1. Yea, I just checked yesterday’s post and I’m not seeing it on there, but I know I linked to that specific post in my blog. Help?

  14. Thanks for this post! But I might not have read it right, being in a hurry, but I still don’t get how you pingback. When you say you link it, what do you mean! I could do with an idiot step by step because I do want to give it a go but I still don’t quite get it. Thanks x

    1. If you have a WordPress.com blog and you link to another WordPress.com blog in one of your posts (a full link with the http:// at the beginning), the blogger you link to will automatically get a pingback – you don’t have to do anything. But this is only if they have pingbacks enabled in their Discussion Settings.

  15. I still do not know how to create a pingback.. Is it done while you still haven’t posted the post or is it something created in the settings? I want to be able to add the pingback when I create a daily prompt post. Can you help?
    Thanks.

  16. All I see is that pingbacks are often used to spam a blog with links. I delete 95% of pingbacks because their blogposts aren´t even related to my blogposts nor do they mention anything about my blogpost. There are only a few people who wrote a related post and then I let the pingbacks go through.

  17. I feel like many of you, I don’t see much benefit in them. I’ve heard some SEO professionals refer to them as a great way to build backlinks, but I don’t quite agree with that. They can be extremely impersonal and are more often than not spam. Not to mention, many of them are no-follow and so there’s no “link juice” to be had from them one way or another. There is always the slim possibility that they might bring you traffic. However, that seems unlikely. I enjoy reading all kinds of blogs; I’m an avid reader. But I rarely ever pay attention to the list of trackbacks & pingbacks when I see them.

    There’s also something else to consider with trackbacks and pingback. Google is taking page speed very seriously these days, enough that it has become a regular factor in their algorithm. Slow-loading sites are now less likely to rank well, whether they’re relevant or not, because they provide a poor user experience. Trackbacks & pingbacks can clog up your server (especially the never-ending spam ones), which can seriously slow down your site. When you consider that most of them are spam and rarely ever deliver serious traffic, you’re slowing down your site and putting yourself on Google’s bad list for no reason.

    I’ve decided to completely disable mine. There are much better ways to build backlinks and drive traffic. Trackbacks & pingbacks might be more automated than other methods, but that automation doesn’t really mean anything when they don’t deliver much in the way of targeted traffic or qualifying backlinks. I’m also all for anything that can unclog my servers and increase my page speed. Just a thought from the technical side of things for those who may not have known…

  18. ”Its always good to learn tips like you share for blog posting. As I just started posting comments for blog and facing problem of lots of rejections. I think your suggestion would be helpful for me. I will let you know if its work for me too.”

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