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A trackback, also often called a linkback, serves to let bloggers know when others have linked to their posts on a website. Not every blog has trackbacks enabled, but the majority of bloggers appreciate this tool since they want to know when someone has mentioned their post online. A trackback also enables the person posting it to place their site's link on the blog they are referring to. While most people find trackbacks a good way to let other bloggers know that they have mentioned their post on their site, the downside is that it does enable spammers to get their own site's link listed on the blog.
Many bloggers make it a point to get as many comments and trackbacks as possible on their site. This is not only because it means people are actually reading the blog, but also because it results in links to their site all over the Internet. This, in turn, can drive more traffic to their blog, especially when placed on a site with related content. A trackback can also be beneficial to the person who posts it, as their site will then be linked in the list of those who have mentioned the blog. Thus, this tool is often helpful for both the person posting it and the writer of the blog.
Like many web publishing tools, trackbacks have a negative side, as well. For instance, they can create more maintenance work for the blogger, as he should remove old trackbacks that link to sites that are no longer working. This is because the blog's search engine ranking may suffer if the list of trackbacks is full of invalid links. Another downside is that just about anyone can create a trackback to the blog, leaving their link behind. Not surprisingly, spammers often take advantage of this fact, linking to blogs that have little to do with their own content just so that their link is on the blog.
Due to these issues, some bloggers choose to either disable trackbacks altogether, or change the settings on their blog so that each one has to wait for approval first. This can allow bloggers to ensure that only valid or relevant web authors can link back to their site. Web authors referencing a blog on the same platform that they are using often only have to add the link to their post, as it should appear as a linkback automatically. On the other hand, bloggers on different platforms may have to find the trackback link, which is usually at the end of the blog post, and then copy it. Either way, this tool can be beneficial for the bloggers involved when it is not abused.
I've been blogging for a few years now and I never quite understood the difference between trackbacks and pingbacks until just now. The trackback, as explained above, is more of a conscious attempt on the part of the user to put a link between two sites via a trackback submitter.
A pingback is more of an automatic connection that's created when someone places a link to a given post in their own post or site. Depending on what platforms each site is using, the existence of the link itself may create a connection to the linked post, which can then be moderated like a comment or trackback.
Some platforms have automated trackbacks so much, though, that the difference between pingbacks and trackbacks is blurring.