Blocking the Annoyance of Trackback Spam

Trackback is one of a few methods a used by webmasters and bloggers to keep up with who is commenting on, linking, and referring to their content.  It was originally created by Six Apart and first implemented into blogging software in August of 2002.  Since then, trackback has become integrated with most blogging tools and is used rather frequently in the promotional efforts of several ambitious bloggers.  

Understanding trackback

Trackback is actually a feature used in many content management systems.  A blog or another type of CMS driven site will consist of various functions that allow visitors to interact by making comments on web pages or by submitting trackback links to their site.  Some of the programs making use of these functions include Community Server, Blogspot, Typo, Wordpress, and Six Apart's popular creation, Movable Type.     

The spam vulnerabilities of trackback

Though the trackback feature may be great for legitimate users, it is also one that has become widely abused by millions of conniving spammers.  Both trackbacks and comment fields can be compromised and typed in by robot programs.  This enables them to serve as a viable platform for a high amount of spam traffic. 

Comments are a basic feature on any blog; this is how the user receives feedback on their postings.  They can be enabled, disabled, or assigned a certain criteria indicating just who is able to leave comments and how they are able to do it.  Users can also add links for their website just as you would any kind of text.  So when the search engine spiders comb your site, it is a great chance that the links in your comment boxes will be detected and possibly receive a quality ranking - free promotion for your regular visitors and the spammers who have invited themselves into your community. 

The concept behind trackbacks is even simpler.  On a website you may find an area that reads, "Trackback for this URL," which will be followed by the corresponding link.  Most of the blogging software on the market allows users to send a trackback because it aids the webmaster by notifying them when others have written something about their content.  When it has been received, the software will automatically create a link on the web page referring to the trackback.  This helpful procedure provides great motivation for individuals looking to clutter your site with trackback and comment spam.  It provides the spammer with a cost-effective means for promoting their products or services. 

Fighting trackback spam

The major search engine companies recently collaborated and devised a solution to the evolving problem of trackback and comment spam.  Together they concluded that if a search engine spider detects links that carry the attributes of spam, the link will not be regarded as popular and stands little to no chance of receiving a high rank.  When totally implemented, this technique has the ability to completely falter the efficiency of trackback and comment spam.  Unfortunately, many content management systems are not configured to these rules, continuously leaving an open window of opportunity to the millions of spammers freely roaming in cyberspace.   


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