How to Stop WordPress Trackback and Pingback Spam

Trackbacks can be a great way for WordPress publishers to share insights and continue meaningful conversations with readers through their writing.

A trackback can be thought of as an external WordPress comment. If another site using different blogging software links to one of your posts, they can manually send a notification (a trackback) to let you know.

Pingbacks are the same, except they are exclusive to WordPress. The only difference is that sending one to another site is automatic, but they also have to be using WordPress. Both sites need to have pingbacks enabled either on their entire site or on the post that’s referenced.

If the trackback or pingback is approved, a link and an excerpt of the article along with its title will be displayed in the comments section of your post.

An example pingback waiting for moderation. It has the title of the post, the site's name and an excerpt of the post. surrounded by ellipsis in square brackets.
This is an example of a WordPress pingback. This is a sample created for this article, but spam often looks like this in the sense that it’s irrelevant to your post and site.

Unfortunately, it’s also a feature that attracts a ton of spammers. Fortunately, there are easy ways to prevent and help stop WordPress trackback spam all together. They’re also just as compatible with Multisite as they are for regular installs.

Here are a few quick tips and a list of highly effective, up-to-date and free plugins to significantly cut down the amount of spam you receive.

You might find that most of the trackbacks you receive are spam. If you’d rather just turn off trackbacks all together, you can do this through the admin dashboard without any coding or plugins.

Head over to Settings > Discussion and under the first heading, Default article settings, de-select the check box for 

The Settings > Discussion page. The "Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)" under the heading "Default article settings" is highlighted.
If you find you receive quite a bit of genuine trackbacks that you’d like to keep, there are other options.

Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page and that’s it – you won’t get anym0re trackbacks. If you don’t want to miss an opportunity for a great conversation you can easily use one of these plugins.

  • Hide Trackbacks

    Hide Trackbacks plugin

    This plugin is an alternative to turning off the trackback option in the admin dashboard. If you would still like to receive notifications, but don’t want them posted in the comments section in case it’s spam, this plugin is worth exploring.

    A quick and easy install gets this plugin working right out of the box without any configuration. When you receive notifications, they still appear in the comments section in your admin dashboard.

    It’s as simple as that. Your visitors won’t see any spam and you’ll receive a notification when you’re mentioned by popular sites.

    Interested in Hide Trackbacks?

  • Topsy Blocker

    Topsy Blocker plugin

    Topsy Blocker works in two ways: It analyses the trackbacks you receive and checks it for an illegitimate source at topsy.com. If the sender turns out to be from this site, the trackback is automatically set as spam.

    This plugin also checks to make sure the trackback you were sent is actually from the referrer since many spammers don’t actually have a site to link to you. If this is the case, the trackback is marked as spam.

    It has a large success rate and it’s also easy to install. The settings are also simple and straight forward and can be found under Settings > Simple TB Validation.

    The default settings will work great for most installs, but you can choose how you want trackbacks filtered whether it’s through IP addresses or by how specific the URL of your site needs to be when trackbacks are sent.

    You can choose between your main domain or the exact permalink of a post. You can also decide whether you would like trackbacks marked as spam to be deleted or if you would like to moderate them.

    This plugin is also a replacement for the original Simple Trackback Validation plugin so if you still have this enabled, you need to uninstall it before using this updated plugin.

    Interested in Topsy Blocker?

  • Antispam Bee

    Antispam Bee plugin

    Antispam Bee is a popular choice for WordPress users with over 200,000 active installs. It not only has the option to validate trackbacks, it also checks comments for spam, too.

    It’s as simple to install as most other plugins and the comprehensive settings can be found under Settings > Antispam Bee.

    The default settings will usually be enough for most sites. You can even choose to enable Antispam Bee to check with their own database of known offenders and compare them to the comments and trackbacks you receive.

    You can even block comments and trackbacks by country which can be useful if your site is meant for a local community, for example.

    It has quite a few other settings making it a powerful plugin for the non-existent price tag.

  • WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam

    WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam plugin

    WP-SpamShield is a great plugin to consider because it helps protect you extensively, but your visitors won’t be inconvenienced in the process with CAPTCHA and other similar verification features.

    Instead, bots that commonly crawl sites tasked with spamming your site automatically are recognized swiftly since this plugin works like a firewall.

    Just like most of the other plugins on this list, you can configure the options by visiting Settings > WP-SpamShield in your admin dashboard. WP-SpamShield is easy to install and works great right out of the box.

    It also has extensive documentation to make sure you get the most protection possible.

    Spam is blocked automatically so you don’t have to sift through tons of notifications to find genuine trackbacks, comments or site registrations. By default, all validated spam will be sent to the moderation queue, but all it takes is a tick of a check box to enable automatic blocking.

    It may have simple settings, but it’s a strong plugin nonetheless.

    Interested in WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam?

Conclusion

With these plugins and tips, trackback spam won’t bother you anymore. Now that you’re done with that, you can also reduce your comment spam with our plugin Comments Control.

You can also prevent spam blogs from being registered on your Multisite network with our plugin Anti-Splog while you’re on a roll.

If you’d like even more tips for protecting your WordPress site, try our articles Stopping Manual WordPress Comment Spam – 5 Ways to Help and Stop WordPress Comment Spam With These Pro Tips.

What are your favorite methods for reducing spam on your site? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.