Trackbacks are those links that show up on your blog as comments whenever someone has linked to you in some fashion from their blog. WordPress gives you the option of whether you want to accept trackbacks or not, as well as the option of whether you want to send a trackback to someone else if you link to one of their articles.
There’s this theory about trackbacks that they add a lot of value to your blog. You’ve probably seen the talk about “one-way” links, which is when someone uses a link to your content without expecting one back from you. If we’re being genuine, most of us will link to source material to help explain or enhance something that’s in our articles from time to time. I often link to another blog when it offers me inspiration, but I will also link to something like CNN if they post an article that makes me think of something to write as well. To a website it’s not quite a trackback, just a link.
The thing about trackbacks is that they’ll show up on the post on your blog that someone has used for their article. It’s flattering in a way because it means that in some way, good or bad, you’ve touched someone, got them thinking, and made them just have to write something.
However, the problem these days is that most trackbacks seem to be spam. I wrote about trackback spam back in March and even shared what I was seeing. For awhile I turned it off through the GASP/Antispybot plugin and felt pretty good about it.
Recently I decided to turn trackbacks on again to see what I might be getting. I did that because I haven’t been seeing any new connections to or about me through the Dashboard – Incoming Links area. What I’m seeing are blogs that I’ve commented on at some point, but no one actually using one of my links in their post. I thought it might be because I’d turned off the trackbacks feature and wanted to see what came up.
Unfortunately it’s all garbage that’s coming. Only one legitimate trackback came through in two weeks, and it was from a blog post from me on one of my other blogs. Frankly that’s not really worth it in my opinion; I could get that same effect just in linking to myself on my own.
I bring this up because I remember some time last year talking to someone who felt that you honored other people by allowing them to have a trackback in your comments back to your blog. I said I wasn’t sure it was worth this new spam that comes, even if most of it goes to the spam filter. I think I’m going the route of totally eliminating it once more, and then hoping the incoming links module will show me if someone ends up talking about me. After all, I think when people do include links to your content that it’s an honor most of the time.