Understanding comments, trackback and pingbacks

There are three main types of “comments” that you might receive on your blog posts or other materials:

  • Comments – Comments are created when someone uses the comment form on your blog post to engage with your content.
  • Pingbacks – Pingbacks are automatically created when someone links to your blog post from one of their blog posts. Sometimes they are referred to as just “pings.”
  • Trackbacks – Trackbacks are manual notifications by one blogger that they have linked to your blog post within theirs. Pingbacks were created to automate this process.

Pingbacks and trackbacks live in the same area as comments on your website. In the comment admin area, they will look like a small quotation from your original article, and a link to another website. For many new blog owners, this is a puzzling experience. Never fear! In most cases, a pingback is a good thing, and indicates that another website or blog is talking about you.

Some website platforms – especially WordPress websites, but they’re not the only ones – are able to communicate with one another. When you publish a page or post on your WordPress site, it will automatically check your content for links to other sites. If it spots one, it will send that website a courtesy notice to let them know that they were just mentioned on your site. This is a “pingback.” If the site is able to receive these notices, it may then show the pingback as a sort of comment on the specific post or page that you referenced, usually including a link to the article where you wrote about them.

So if you’re suddenly receiving a large number of pingbacks, it may mean that something you wrote has struck a chord, and other people are discussing it and linking to your website. Through pingbacks, other people can write their comments about your website on their own blog. This exposes their audience to thoughts about your site, potentially bringing you much more traffic and attention than if they just happened to jot their comments right on your own blog posts (where only your audience would see it, not theirs).

Pingback spam

Just like regular comments, it’s possible for pingback comments to be spam. Some fake blogs do nothing but publish advertisements for their own products, and pack them full of links to other people’s blog posts, in the hope that those pingbacks will get published in your comment sections. Evaluate all of your pingbacks for authenticity just as you would a comment, before approving them to be posted on your blog — if the referring website doesn’t look legitimate, or has a title like “Cheap gold 4 sale,” throw it in the spam bin.

Pingbacks in summary

In short: If another website writes a blog post or other article about your site, it may send your site an automatic notice about that mention. If your website is properly set up to receive those notices, it will record it as a “pingback” instead of a traditional comment, since the “comment” was left off site in the form of a full article. These pingbacks are often shown in a blog’s comment section as a courtesy to the site that mentioned you, and to let your visitors know what the buzz is across the ‘net.