Basically, a pingback is a notification/commend hybrid sent when someone links to one of your posts. If I mention and link to your blog post, a comment will show up saying, “Brandon says ‘[whatever text I linked to your blog]'” with text that links to my blog post. It’s similar to a comment saying, “This blog post has information worth writing about, and this other person wrote about it,” and then provides a link directly to that blog post. It’s a testimonial (or criticism) with an automatic citation in ‘www formatting.’
The power of pingbacks can be manipulated, of course, and spammers have figured this out. Spammers will take advantage of pingbacks to drive traffic to their sites. A spammer will mention your post to generate a pingback and create a comment on your blog. Then, when someone visits your blog and clicks their link, it leads to a bunch of ads, offers to buy cheap prescription drugs, or glory tales of working from home — something that may be unrelated to your content, or trying to sell something tangentially related to your content. Your probably know exactly what kind of spam I’m talking about, either from using the web or from the pingbacks your posts have been receiving.
You can disable pingbacks and their notifications if they are excessive or annoying. WordPress Support explains more about pingbacks as well as how to disable them. WordPress also provides more information in its WordPress Introduction to Blogging, summarizing pingbacks as remote comments.
An article from DailyPost, Trackbacks and Pingbacks goes into more detail about pingbacks. One notable takeaway is related to blog etiquette: if your reaction to someone’s post is short (a few lines), add it using their blog’s comment feature. If your reaction is longer than a few lines, or they have comments disabled, then you should write your reaction on your blog and generate a pingback to the original content. Then you’re playing with power!
You can utilize the power of pingbacks and trackbacks in your posts when referring to articles written by others. Just make sure you use the power for good; with great power comes great responsibility!