Fighting Trackback Spam: Strategies to Safeguard Your Online Presence

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Trackbacks and pingbacks are relics of the internet’s past. Do they still have a place today? Are they worth the effort of fighting the growing mountain of notifications in your inbox?  What is the best way to fight back the trackback spam that plagues comment sections? These are the questions that you’re probably asking yourself right now. Well, let’s talk about it. 

In this article, we’ll give you perspectives on trackbacks that will help you decide if you really need them. If you do, we’ll also share strategies for protecting your site from WordPress trackback spam. So, let’s get started. 

TL;DR: Trackbacks may not be essential, but if you still find value in them, one effective approach is to use CleanTalk to tackle the spam. For a more comprehensive security solution, complement it with MalCare. MalCare is a robust WordPress security plugin with features like an advanced firewall, malware scanner, one-click malware removal, bot protection, and more.

Trackbacks and pingbacks are like little nods between websites, letting them know when one site has linked to another. It’s a way for websites to collaborate and share the love. But, darn it, spammers just had to ruin the party. If you’re tired of dealing with spam, this article is your ultimate guide to fighting those pesky trackback and pingback spammers.

How to stop or prevent trackback spam

There are essentially two paths to take when dealing with WordPress trackback spam. The decision boils down to whether or not you want to have them or not. 

1. Use an anti-spam plugin

If you opt to keep trackbacks but want to combat the spam effectively, using CleanTalk, an anti-spam plugin, is the way to go. We’ve reviewed CleanTalk and love the retrospective cleaner and included bot protection. 

CleanTalk

CleanTalk is a top-notch anti-spam plugin, but it tends to be quite aggressive when combating spam. It has been known to keep out legitimate user comments. You can read our comprehensive CleanTalk review, and if you decide it is not right for you, you can choose one of the many alternative anti-spam plugins

2. Disable trackbacks

If you’ve decided to disable trackbacks altogether, you’ll find the following steps helpful:

Step 1: Log in to your website’s admin panel.

Step 2: Navigate to the “Settings” section and click on “Discussion.”

Step 3: Scroll down until you find the “Default article settings” section.

Step 4: Uncheck the box that says “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles.”

Disabling trackback

Step 5: Scroll further down and click on the “Save Changes” button.

3. Disable XML-RPC

Another effective method to disable trackbacks is by disabling XML-RPC. This approach not only eliminates the trackback functionality but also serves as a recommended hardening measure for enhancing the overall security of your WordPress website. By disabling XML-RPC, you can strengthen your website’s defenses against potential security vulnerabilities, providing better security and peace of mind. 

When it comes to disabling XML-RPC, there are two common methods: using a plugin like “Disable XML-RPC” and blocking XML-RPC via .htaccess. Let’s explore both methods step by step:

Method 1: Using the Disable XML-RPC Plugin

1. Access your website’s admin dashboard.

2. Go to the “Plugins” section and click on “Add New.”

3. Search for “Disable XML-RPC” in the plugin search bar.

Disable XML-RPC Pingback plugin

4. Install and activate the “Disable XML-RPC” plugin.

5. Once activated, navigate to the plugin’s settings page.

6. Look for the option to disable XML-RPC and enable it.

7. Save the changes, and XML-RPC will be disabled on your website.

Method 2: Blocking XML-RPC via .htaccess

1. Connect to your website’s server using an FTP client or cPanel file manager.

2. Locate the .htaccess file in the root directory of your website.

3. Download a backup copy of the .htaccess file for safety.

4. Open the .htaccess file in a text editor.

5. Add the following code at the end of the file:

# Disable XML-RPC
<Files xmlrpc.php>
Order Deny,Allow
Deny from all
</Files>

6. Save the changes and upload the modified .htaccess file back to the server.

Remember to test your website thoroughly after applying any changes to ensure proper functionality.

For a more comprehensive understanding of XML-RPC and its implications, be sure to check out our article on XML-RPC, which provides additional insights and best practices.

Should you disable trackbacks altogether?

Let’s face it. With the onslaught of spam, it’s time to question the true value of trackbacks and pingbacks. 

Here’s what we like about trackbacks:

  1. Backlink generation: Trackbacks and pingbacks are notifications that other sites have linked back to your content. They are not the backlink itself, but because a snippet or link to the linking content appears as a comment on your site, it can serve as incentive for more backlinks. Disabling trackbacks will not remove backlinks, but it does remove one of the incentives from linking sites. 
  2. Collaboration and engagement: They allow for collaboration and discussion between websites by notifying the linked website when their content is referenced. Trackbacks and pingbacks can foster a sense of community among bloggers and content creators, promoting interaction and sharing of ideas.
  3. Better user experience: If a site has linked back to your content, theirs may be content that your readers could enjoy. In a way, backlinks help your readers find relevant content from other sites. 

Now, let’s talk about what we don’t like about them:

  1. Spam vulnerability: You already know this but trackback and pingback spam is a major drawback. It can flood your website with irrelevant or malicious links and put your readers and site at risk.
  2. Quality control: Since anyone can send a trackback or pingback, it becomes challenging to ensure the quality and relevance of the incoming links.
  3. Time-consuming: Notifications for each trackback or pingback can clutter your inbox, potentially distracting you from important tasks.
  4. Outdated and misused: The feature has become less popular and widely used, making it less relevant in today’s online landscape.

So, is trackback really worth it? In the past, trackbacks were all the rage for building backlinks and connecting with other websites. The truth is trackbacks can be a double-edged sword. So, take a moment to weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether trackbacks are worth it for you.

Difference between pingbacks and trackbacks

If you’ve done some research on trackbacks, you may have come across another term: pingbacks. This might leave you wondering whether these two are essentially the same thing. Well, let’s clarify the distinction between trackbacks and pingbacks.

In terms of prevention methods and potential issues, trackbacks and pingbacks have a lot in common. Both trackbacks and pingbacks can be vulnerable to spam, requiring measures to combat unwanted and irrelevant notifications. This means that the challenges and strategies for dealing with trackback and pingback spam are quite similar.

The key difference lies in the automation aspect. Pingbacks are the automated version of trackbacks, designed to simplify the process of linking and notifying other websites. While trackbacks often include excerpts or snippets from the linking content, pingbacks typically don’t include these excerpts. Instead, pingbacks serve as a way to notify the linked website that another site has referenced their content, without providing additional text snippets. Pingbacks are just more streamlined. 

With trackbacks, the website owner manually sends a notification to the linked website to inform them of the reference. This manual process involves entering the trackback URL or using a trackback submission form provided by the linked website. The website owner has more control over the content that accompanies the notification. They can include snippets or excerpts from the linking content to provide more context and encourage the recipient to visit their website. This manual nature of trackbacks allows for greater customization and personalization in the notification process.

Why do trackbacks get spammed?

Understanding why trackbacks get spammed can help shed light on the challenges they pose and why many website owners choose to disable or combat this issue. 

  1. Hackers exploit trackbacks for malicious activity: Trackbacks provide an avenue for hackers to engage in malicious activities and gain unauthorized access to websites. They may send trackback notifications containing deceptive or malicious links, aiming to exploit vulnerabilities or inject malicious code into the targeted websites. Such actions can lead to compromised data, security breaches, and potential damage to the website’s credibility and reputation.
  2. Other sites want visibility and promotion: Trackbacks offer an opportunity for spammers to gain visibility and promote their own content or websites. By sending a high volume of trackbacks, they aim to generate backlinks and improve their search engine rankings. However, these trackbacks are often irrelevant, low-quality, or even contain spammy content, which can negatively impact your website’s user experience and reputation.

Other ways to protect your site from spam

In addition to combating trackback spam, there are several other types of spam like contact form spam from which you need to protect your website. These security measures help fortify your website’s defenses and safeguard its integrity. 

  • Install a firewall with bot protection: A robust firewall acts as the first line of defense against spam and malicious bots. It analyzes incoming traffic, identifies potential threats, and blocks them before they can reach your website. ]MalCare has a powerful firewall that effectively combats spam and provides intelligent bot protection. Additionally, MalCare provides malware scanning, malware removal, and vulnerability assessment to ensure holistic security for your website.
  • Implement honeypot fields: Honeypot fields are hidden form fields that are invisible to users but detectable by spam bots. When a bot fills in these fields, it exposes itself as spam, allowing you to reject those submissions. By incorporating honeypot fields in your forms, you can effectively filter out automated spam submissions.
  • Integrate reCAPTCHA: reCAPTCHA is a popular and effective tool that adds an extra layer of security to your forms by verifying if the user is human or a bot. It presents users with a challenge, such as identifying objects in images or solving puzzles, to prove their authenticity. By implementing reCAPTCHA, you can significantly reduce spam form submissions and ensure that genuine users can interact with your website seamlessly.
  • Utilize geoblocking: Geoblocking is a technique that restricts access to your website based on geographical locations. By blocking traffic from specific countries or regions known for spam or malicious activities, you can mitigate the risk of receiving spam from those sources. Geoblocking helps filter out unwanted traffic and enhances the security of your website.

Final thoughts

Dealing with spam can be frustrating, but the key to a comprehensive security solution lies in the combination of an effective security plugin, like MalCare, and anti-spam measures. By employing the right tools, you can effectively combat spam and safeguard your website’s integrity. 

We recommend using CleanTalk and MalCare in tandem. CleanTalk provides a reliable defense against spam and unwanted trackbacks, while MalCare has a robust firewall, malware scanning, vulnerability assessment, and bot protection. By utilizing these tools together, you can create a fortified line of defense and provide a spam-free and secure online environment for your site visitors.

FAQs

What is trackback spam?

Trackback spam refers to the unsolicited and often irrelevant notifications received through the trackback feature in WordPress. Spammers exploit this feature by sending deceptive or malicious trackbacks with the intention of promoting their own content, gaining backlinks, or attempting to compromise the security of targeted websites.

How do I handle trackbacks and pingbacks sent to WordPress?

To effectively handle trackbacks and pingbacks sent to your WordPress website, we recommend using an anti-spam plugin like CleanTalk. CleanTalk offers advanced spam protection, including trackback spam filtering. By installing and activating CleanTalk, you can automatically combat trackback spam, ensuring a cleaner and more secure environment for your website.

What are trackbacks and pingbacks in WordPress?
Trackbacks and pingbacks are communication methods used by websites to notify each other when one site links to another. When a website receives a trackback or pingback, it means that another site has referenced their content and included a link to their page. Trackbacks are manually sent notifications, while pingbacks are automated notifications without content excerpts.

How do I stop a trackback in WordPress?

There are two main approaches to stopping trackbacks in WordPress. The first option is to disable trackbacks completely. This can be done through the WordPress admin panel by navigating to the “Settings” menu, selecting “Discussion,” and unchecking the “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)” box. The second option is to use an anti-spam plugin like CleanTalk, which filters out and blocks trackback spam automatically, allowing you to keep trackbacks enabled while mitigating the spam issue.

Is it worth enabling trackback or pingbacks?

Trackbacks and pingbacks can facilitate communication and collaboration between websites, potentially generating backlinks and driving traffic. On the other hand, they can attract spam and increase the administrative burden of managing notifications. Ultimately, it’s up to you to evaluate whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for your website’s particular goals and requirements.

How do I clear comment section spam?

To clear comment section spam effectively, you can utilize CleanTalk’s anti-spam plugin. CleanTalk automatically filters out spam comments, ensuring that your comment section remains free from unwanted and irrelevant submissions. By installing CleanTalk and activating its comment spam protection feature, you can save time and maintain a cleaner comment section.

Is there any use in allowing pingbacks?

The usefulness of allowing pingbacks is limited. While pingbacks can serve as notifications when another site references your content, they often lack substantial value for both website owners and visitors. Moreover, pingbacks can be prone to spam and contribute to unnecessary clutter in your notifications. Consider disabling pingbacks or evaluating their usefulness in light of your specific website goals and requirements.

How do you remove spam comments?

To effectively remove spam comments, you can rely on CleanTalk’s anti-spam plugin. CleanTalk automatically filters and blocks spam comments, preventing them from appearing on your website. By leveraging CleanTalk’s capabilities, you can easily remove spam comments, ensuring that your comment section remains clean and relevant.

How do you remove pingbacks?

To remove pingbacks from your WordPress website, you can disable the pingback feature through the WordPress admin panel. Simply navigate to the “Settings” menu, select “Discussion,” and uncheck the “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)” box. This action will disable pingbacks, preventing them from being displayed altogether.

Are trackbacks good for SEO?

Trackbacks can be beneficial for SEO for the site that is commenting on your site. It doesn’t have much SEO impact on your site. This is because they help the other site generate backlinks and increase visibility, but their impact has diminished over time due to spam and abuse.

Should I allow pingbacks and trackbacks?

Trackbacks are notifications that another site has linked to you. There are no real benefits to you. Disabling them doesn’t affect other sites’ ability to create a backlink. It will just stop the notifications. It does, however, benefit the site that is linking to your site because their site is showcased in your comment section. So, take a call on whether you want to enable pingbacks or trackbacks. 

Is trackback safe?

Not anymore. Trackbacks can pose security risks if not managed properly. They can be exploited by spammers to inject malicious content or overwhelm a site with excessive notifications.

What is the difference between trackbacks and pingbacks?

The main difference between trackbacks and pingbacks lies in the technical implementation. Trackbacks require manual sending and receiving, while pingbacks are automated and rely on XML-RPC protocol.

How do I disable trackbacks and pingbacks?

To disable trackbacks and pingbacks, you can either use a plugin specifically designed for this purpose or modify your theme’s code or settings to remove the related functionality.

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