How to Block WordPress Trackback Spam

Trackbacks are a great way to share insights and continue conversations with readers, but it’s often abused by spammers who use automated scripts to send spam links pointing to illegal activities, such as the sale of drugs, adult websites or running scams. WordPress trackback spam is an ongoing issue, but you can get quick tips to remove it.

It’s easy to turn trackbacks off, but we suggest you separate trackbacks from spam by using some highly-effective plugins. This guide also includes a MySQL query to remove spam on the older posts. The first part gives a brief introduction to WordPress trackbacks.

What Are Trackbacks Exactly?

Trackback is a notification manually created by other users who link to your posts. It’s different from a pingback which is automated and won’t send any content. Once the trackback or pingback is approved, an excerpt of the article and a link will appear in the comments section. They are compatible with a multisite network as they’re for regular installs.


Theoretically, all trackbacks and pingbacks should come from others who think your content is awesome and they have to mention it. But in real world, they often attract spammers who are more often than not sending link notifications. This can be eliminated through the following approaches.

How to Remove WordPress Trackback Spam Manually?

The easiest way to deal with trackback spam is via WordPress “Settings” > “Discussion” section.

Once entered, scroll down to the “Default Article Settings” and uncheck the second option to disallow link notifications from other blogs.

This will disable trackback spam on the new articles. To disable it on existing posts, you should go a bit deeper and navigate to phpMyAdmin section. Remember to back up your database before moving as a measure of precaution.

Step 1: log onto cPanel account and enter the phpMyAdmin section to locate your site database.
Step 2: Once confirmed, press “SQL” tab at the top and then execute the following query:

UPDATE wp_posts SET ping_status='closed' WHERE post_status = 'publish' AND post_type = 'page';
UPDATE wp_posts SET ping_status='closed' WHERE post_status = 'publish' AND post_type = 'post';

Step 3: Click “Go”, and trackback spam will be removed from all of your published WordPress posts and pages.

How to Prevent Trackback Spam with Plugins?

There are various plugins made with spam in mind, and we’ve listed the most popular ones in case you want to disable trackbacks without touching WordPress default settings and phpMyAdmin. Before customizing those plugins, you shall initialize them by following this installation guide.


Free Download:

Akismet is a popular choice for WordPress users with 1+ million active installs. This plugin is installed in every WordPress install and would connect your site to anti-spam service automatically. Not only does it display status history for each comment, but show URLs in the comment body to indicate misleading or hidden links.

Topsy Blocker

Free Download:

It’s a great anti-spam plugin that lets you check comment spam and validate trackbacks by simple tests. Many options are available, and you can choose to enable logging to obtain all actions performed by this plugin. It requires WordPress 3.2v and is compatible up to WordPress v4.4.

WP-SpamShield AntiSpam

Free Download:

As an all-in-one anti-spam plugin for WordPress, WP-SpamShield AntiSpam lets you stop contact form, comment spam, track spam as well as registration spam. It just works right out of the box and can be accessed via “Settings” > “WP-SpamShield”. Best of all, it has two layers of spam blocking for human and automated spam.

Rick Hammond

I'm a marketing consultant by trade and also own a portfolio of over 20 websites. Over the years I have tested most of the well know hosting companies for my sites and therefore can give insight into which are good and which are not from my personal experiences.

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