A trackback is simply the way one blog “pings” another to let the linked blog know a ‘trackback’ has been received. Both blogs must be set up to receive trackbacks or they simply vanish into that ethereal world of web. In 2006 Six Apart upgraded their spam protection. Now, when a company or individual wishes to “spam” they must go through some rather elaborate steps.
A spammer must do the following to create a successful trackback:
- Set up a blog
- Have a stable URL
- Link to your site
- Send a trackback to you from their stable “post” on their stable URL
Evidently the spammer hopes you are going to be so thankful for the hit and the pagerank that you will not delete the trackback.
In August, 2006 Mark Cuban first used the word “splog” to explain websites that were nothing but linking machines designed to promote either a website, blog, product, or company. Today there are hundreds, if not thousands of splogs, many of them associated directly with Blogger. Blogger is one of the major hosts of ad-free blogs. Spammers have taken advantage of the situation and have created elaborate link systems.
According to Quick Online Tips, people (with way too much time on their hands) will “…then ... copy lots of good high paying keyword rich popular content from several different websites and blogs. And do not credit or even mention the source. Finally they put up Google Adsense contextual advertising to earn money quickly…”
Because bloggers rarely click on these links, the links themselves are part of a very elaborate system of linkage designed to manipulate page rank so that during a routine search for specific keywords, their spam site will appear before the legitimate site that has been linked.
If individuals with too much time on their hands and nothing else to do were the problem, trackbacks might not be as insidious. Unfortunately, according to a November, 2006 study published by Microsoft, the world of trackback spam is often funded by reputable companies interested in directing unsuspected bloggers to their sites. It is all about the money, nothing more, nothing less.
The researchers who issued the paper queried 4,803 URLs and something like 35,878 unique pages that contained at least one spam URL. They then collected a total of 1,132,099 keywords. There were a total of 6,026,699 occurrences of these keywords, which were ranked according to their counts. Interestingly, the top five keywords were all drug related, and are a constant annoyance to this blogger. They were: Phentermine, Viagra, Cialis, Tramadol, and Xanax. And then, their “top 100” mirrors exactly what I find linked back to my blog; 74 were drug related, then 16 ring-tone, and another handful gambling related. The top categories were: drugs, adult, gambling, ringtones, money, accessories, travel, cars, music, and furniture.