Should I Approve All Pingbacks? Keeping Spam Out.

Cynthia Bartz • January 3, 2017

In the previous article I talked about defining what pingbacks are in WordPress. In this article I will cover what to look for when determining if a pingback is spam or something worth approving.

What’s the Difference Between Spam, Trash and Approve?

Spam Pingback

Spam pingbacks are not doomed. If you mark a comment as spam, the offending website does NOT go on the internet’s most wanted list. It also does not send a nasty message back to the website that sent you the pingback.

Instead, your website stores that information. If you have a spam blocking plugin or feature on your particular WordPress install, it will help create a catalog of known spam websites. I’m hoping that, sometime in the future, WordPress will build in some spam blocking features. Until then, it is still good to mark spam as spam.

Trash Pingback

Trashing a pingback in WordPress does exactly what you would expect it to. It trashes it. Trashed pingbacks might include pingbacks that are not spam, but you do not want to show up on your comments list. Or you might want to trash your own pingbacks if you don’t like your own links popping up in the comments.

Approved Pingback

An approved pingback will show up as a link in the comments section of your blog article, if you have comments enabled. If you do not have comments enabled, I still recommend approving pingbacks as if comments were active. That way, if you ever enable comments in the future, you will have a backlog of pingbacks to populate the comments.

Should I Approve Pingbacks?

Pingbacks will show up in the “Comments” section of your WordPress Admin. There are two things to pay attention to before you approve pingbacks or comments: the author’s website and the comment. Examining both of these things will tell you a lot about whether or not you should approve the pingback.

If the pingback is not obviously spam (see below), I highly recommend clicking on the link where the pingback originated. This will allow you to read the article that is linking to you. If it isn’t spam, this should be the number one factor for determining whether or not you want to approve the pingback.

Author and comments for pingbacks

FYI, pingbacks and comments show up together in one list under Admin > Comments. If you only want to see pingbacks, and not comments, you can filter your comments to see only pingbacks by using the filters at the top of the comments page.

filter comments and pingbacks

When to Not Approve Pingbacks

spam or trash pingbacks

If it is Spam

In my experience pingbacks are spam 50% of the time, more if you have a high-traffic website. Spam comments will be really obviously spam comments. If the “comment” section has anything like: “Get more web traffic!” or “FREE blue pills!” or “Make $10,000 a month,” you should immediately mark it as spam. You definitely do not want to tie your website to content that is considered spam. Protect your readers and mark it as spam.

You can also identify spam by looking at the domain name for pingbacks. If the domain name under the “Author” column looks like this: www.zxy.io/103&lslk then you probably want to mark that as spam. The likelihood of it being legit is very low. And, you probably don’t even want to click on the link to see if it is!

If it is a Raving Crazy

Let’s say that you read over the comment in your dashboard and it looks legit, and the website domain looks normal. The next step is to look over the article that is linking to you by clicking on the link under the author column. If you read over the article and it is totally crazy, just trash the pingback. The internet is the internet. And people overreact to the strangest things. If another blogger has written a 20 page diatribe attacking you because you like chocolate chip cookies dipped in chocolate milk, just trash the comment. You are not required to approve every comment or pingback just because it isn’t spam.

I do not approve things that aren’t constructive (this goes for comments as well as pingbacks). I don’t want to send my lovely readers into crazy world, and neither should you.

Marking Pingbacks as Spam doesn’t Disable the Link

When I was first introduced to pingbacks, I thought that if I marked it as spam that it would prevent the person from linking to my website. This is NOT true. For example, if a mad man started linking to every blog post you have, it doesn’t matter how many times you mark it as spam, someone would still be able to click on that link on the mad man’s website and go to your website.

What does happen: that person’s article will not show up on your website in the form of a comment. And you will NOT be rewarding the spammer/crazy with SEO-boosting links back to their website.

When to Approve

approve pingbacks

Everything Else

I always approve the pingback if it is constructive (positive or negative). I also approve pingbacks if I was listed as an “additional resource” or as a reference. The pingbacks you want to approve are generally pretty obvious and easy to approve. It all comes down to personal preference, but in general, if it’s not spam or crazy I approve it.

Your Own Pingbacks

Always approve your own pingbacks. It creates a nice feed of all the articles I’ve written on related topics. If you do not want your own links to appear in the comments you can “trash” your pingback instead of marking it as spam.

In the previous article, What is a Pingback? Is it Bad?, I talk about more about how to get rid of self pingbacks.

Summary

Approving a pingback is a judgment call every time. You only want to approve pingbacks that have value. You do not want to send your comment-reading-audience out to a website you do not want to be associated with. Even more important, you do not want your website to look like it supports spammy behaviors.

More in this Series

What is a Pingback? Is it Bad?

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