Trackback Spam Explained
In most blog applications, there is a feature called Trackback, which allows the user to send a trackback or notification to a different site or another blog that the user referred to in his own blog. Its main purpose is to notify another site or weblog that you are talking about that site or weblog or its contents in your own weblog. Blog applications WordPress and Movable Type, to name a few, have this facility. When the blog's owner receives the notification through his or her blogging software, the said software will display the pertinent part of your blog post in their website's comments section. We might all have experienced receiving tons of spam email, and more recently, many bloggers have received blog comment spam through their personal sites. Trackback spam, on the other hand, is yet another underhanded means of some Internet users and Web-based entrepreneurs to promote their business, and consequently gain income.
Moreover, this is what they do to establish links to their own sites on other websites, in order to move their sites up in page rankings of Google search engine. Essentially, trackback spam are bogus trackbacks, a false notification that someone actually posted on their blog about a post on your blog, in hopes of having your blogging software show it on your blog site. With more and more people cashing in on Internet technology, trackback spamming has been on the rise, with some blogs receiving hundreds of trackback spam everyday. In order to avoid being tracked down, trackback spammers use botnets of different computers to distribute their trackback spam, while none of those computers host the exact domains promoted in any of the trackback notifications. In effect, the IP address of the domain that appears in the trackback is different from the IP address of the specific computer that distributed the trackback notification.
A basic thing to have in order to avoid trackback spam is a solid comments policy for your site. Basically, you want to still be able to receive and host comments without giving in to those who may want to try to ride on your site's readership. Moderate the comments and trackbacks that your site receives on a regular basis, so that only the genuine ones get to be viewed by your site's followers. Some guideline questions in moderating trackbacks on your own are: Is it relevant to the post or the blog in general? Does it help in stirring reader discussion? Is it decently written and not worded offensively? Does it add to the topic and/or clear up misunderstanding? If the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes, then the trackback in question should probably stay. Of course, the choice of allowing any kind of comment or trackback to appear on your blog is entirely yours, being the blog owner. Still, you probably don't want anonymous spammers messing up your blog with misleading trackbacks. Fortunately for the common blog user, blog software creators, such as Movable Type and WordPress, have developed advanced but easy ways to prevent trackback spam from winning the game. In MT, for instance, you can control the comments and trackback settings in such a way that trackback spam displaying sites from the same webhost domain can all be blocked. For example, separate trackback spam showing active links of http://pay.soiledshirt.
com and http://bid.soiledshirt.com can both be blocked by including http://soiledshirt.com in the blocking list. Meanwhile, in WordPress, trackbacks go through quite a handful of filters so that trackback spam is blocked. Using anti-spam technology developed by Google, WordPress is programmed in such a way that trackback spam are put up on the blogs with all included links are given the “nofollow” tag. This is done by the system automatically, and no input is required from the WordPress user for his or her blog to have this function. In effect, a trackback link has no bearing on a website’s Page Rank score, because the search engine will sidestep each link that has the nofollow tag. Perhaps a most valued means of blocking trackback spam is to check, or have your blog system check, if the notification’s corresponding domain IP location does not correspond to the IP address of the computer that sent out the notification in actuality. In MT, the user can opt to use this method of moderating spam automatically by accessing its plugins page, clicking on SpamLookup, and then Show Settings page.
On this area, find Advanced Trackback Lookups, and select the option to “Junk trackbacks from suspicious sources”. As to the matter of stopping the problem right at the source, not all may know that some companies actually make a living on offering generating trackbacks and comment spam as a service. Those who do have voiced out their concerns, and as such have publicly criticized the nature of such services. Some creative minds have had the courage to demonstrate online that even paying for this kind of service, discounting all trackback restrictions does nothing but damage to a company’s business. Because blog software developers are getting better at protecting their users from unwanted backlinks and comments, those companies buying trackbacks are just wasting money. This seems to be a promising means of preventing any more trackback spam activity, because businesses owners are reminded that there are better ways to spend their money than buying spam backlinks and comments. The alarming thing about this trackback spam activity is that more software and services for preventing trackbacks are being generated and made available for a price, outside of the more popular blog software developers. As it may happen with viruses and virus detectors, is it not possible that the best solutions come from the root of the problem, or the propagators of spam, themselves? If it is, then it is also possible that the profit from these solutions go to the spammers themselves. In any case, as long as spamming propagates, bloggers will need to take precautions, and blogging software developers need to take heed, lest every blogging experience becomes bad for everyone.