Is it Time to Kill Trackbacks?

The amount of comment spam that gets past my blocks and filters is much less today than it was six months ago. But the trackback spam is fully making up for it. In the last week I have deleted hundreds of spam trackbacks — and received only a handful of real ones. (Do trackbacks TO me that I record here really give other sites any meaningful Google points? They shouldn't.)

It's very interesting to see who links to this stuff and what they make of it. But the trackback ecosystem must surely be on the brink of collapse.

If only technorati were a little better…

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8 Responses to Is it Time to Kill Trackbacks?

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  2. “if only technorati were a little better…”
    ok, we can do that.

    no idea if it helps, but it’s related.

  3. Gary Osbourne says:

    I assume you are aware of the nofollow tag. I parsed the source of your home page and a sample comment page and didn’t find it in use. See Danny Sullivan’s article here which includes a mention regarding Movable Type. It is supposedly useful for trackback as well as comment spam although I can’t speak to whether it would be an easy implementation in your case. It may well not help immediately as automated trackback spam engines are probably not yet set up to ignore nofollow enabled sites as being a waste of time.

    Links TO you shouldn’t and don’t help the offenders’ sites search engine ranking with Google and other search engines. But your trackback link is followed by Google and other crawlers which then find the offending sites’ links and give them a higher page rank on the popularity scale. Search engines have long (before Google) used links in as part of their algorithms, it is hard to imagine how they could tell a wanted from an unwanted link out. With nofollow they leave it up to you which, while not perfect, is probably the best solution all round. I suppose they could, and perhaps even do, award fewer points to reciprocal or ping-pong linking in general, that is, A linking to B while B is linking to A is weighted as a net zero or thereabouts for both.

    On a somewhat related note although it perhaps has more relevance on ICANNWatch, search engines also provide a higher rank not only from the number of links in but also from the popularity of a given site that links out. Thus it makes the most sense for spammers to get links back from the most trafficked (sp?) sites, so I suppose if you’re getting a lot of trackback spam that’s a popularity ranking of sorts. 🙂 Given the relatively low cost of registering a domain name and hosting a web site it makes economic sense for some of these spammers to create multiple shell sites to point to each other to increase ranking. The search engines are aware of such games and don’t award points and even ban sites that make use of it, but again it’s an inexact science. If the WHOIS, the nameservers, the hosting co. and the content are all different, how can one tell it is all the same octopus? That is one of the main reasons that (the only significant) growth in the domain name industry is in the selling of pre-owned names. Spammers pick up domains that have been dropped which have a decent search engine ranking and then point them to their target site, thus improving its ranking. -g

  4. michael says:

    Yes, I made a conscious decision not to deploy the no-follow tag. It seemed to me that there was no evidence spammers would be deterred by it, and goodness knows that if I’m all for raising the Google rank of people kind enough to link to me.

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  6. Maybe it’s because my blog isn’t very popular, but I’m finding trackback spam is annoying but not yet intolerable. A few regexps I’ve added to MIT-Blacklist seem to take care of a lot of it:

    This one is a lifesaver (or maybe a blogsaver)


  7. michael says:

    Oh, I block that one and many more. Here’s a ROT13 url to my mt-blacklist file


    now containing a mere 3587 lines….

  8. Jerry Monaco says:

    I know for myself that technoratti has been helpful. Since I linked to your web log analyzing the torture memos I think one or two people have gone to my own series of articles I have been writing on ‘the policy of torture.’
    I write mainly for myself but it is nice to have readers. I am not sure how to control spam because I simply don’t have that problem.


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