How To Stop Website Spam

Forms are essential for collecting user contacts and profiles. However, spammers often target these forms and flood them with fake data, creating a mess for you to wade through.

If you run a business, you know how crucial it is to gather customer information. Understanding your customers can greatly improve how you run your business and help you grow. Online forms are among the most efficient and effective ways to gather customer data. 

Whether for newsletter subscriptions, contact inquiries, or purchasing processes, these forms are essential for collecting user contacts and profiles. However, spammers often target these forms and flood them with fake data, creating a mess for you to wade through. It's a frustrating phenomenon that makes gathering customer information impossible. 

So, what can you do? Thanks to clever coding (and annoyed marketers), several effective strategies can help prevent spam and ensure the data you collect is genuine and useful. 

Captcha

Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) is a challenge-response test used to determine whether the user is a human or a bot. Google’s ReCAPTCHA is a widely used free product that provides this functionality.

Captchas work by presenting a task that is easy for humans but difficult for bots. This could be identifying images, solving puzzles, or simply checking a box that says, "I am not a robot." ReCAPTCHA V2, in particular, prevents spam by using advanced risk analysis to differentiate between humans and bots.

It doesn’t stop there, ReCAPTCHA V3 assigns a score to each user interaction on your site. This score ranges from 0.0 to 1.0, with higher scores indicating more human-like behaviour and lower scores suggesting a bot may be looming. 

Implementing Captcha on your forms significantly reduces the number of spam submissions, and it’s one of the most comprehensive ways to keep the bots at bay. You should know that Captcha can sometimes deter real users due to frustration. If you opt for Google’s reCAPTCHA, it means that any downtime or technical issues on Google's end can affect its functionality. 

One-Time Passwords (OTP)

A One-Time Password (OTP) is a unique code generated and sent to the user, usually via SMS or email, which the user must enter to verify their identity. When users attempt to submit a form, they receive an OTP on their registered mobile number or email. They must enter this OTP on the form to proceed. 

This ensures that only users with access to the contact method can complete the submission.OTPs add an extra layer of security, making it difficult for bots to bypass the verification process. This reduces spam and prevents unauthorized access. 

OTP is a tried and true user verification method used by everyone from ecommerce retailers to the Government of Canada. However, you may want to avoid OTP if you cater to an older audience. You’ll also find it costly and potentially unreliable if you have a large international audience. 

Photo Verification

Photo verification requires users to upload a photo of themselves, which is then checked against a stored reference photo or verified through facial recognition technology. If you have purchased a home or made a digital wire transfer, you will likely have taken a selfie and uploaded your ID card. Users are prompted to upload a photo. Advanced algorithms and facial recognition technology verify the photo, ensuring it matches the required criteria. 

Photo verification provides robust security, reducing spam and fraudulent submissions. Using photo verification for a basic newsletter sign-up is a sure way to see a serious drop in new subscribers. But, if you work in a high-security field or industry, it is one of the most robust protection methods. 

Honeypot Hidden Form Fields

Honeypot fields are additional form fields that are invisible to human users but visible to bots. These fields act as traps for automated submissions. When bots fill out these hidden fields, it signals non-human activity and blocks the submission. Since human users cannot see these fields, they do not fill them out, allowing their submissions to proceed.

Honeypot fields are a simple, cost-effective way to catch automated bots without disrupting the user experience. They effectively filter out spam from genuine submissions. Honeypots won’t always protect you from advanced bots, but you are sure to see a serious decline in fake submissions. 

Location Negatives & Geo-Fencing

These methods involve restricting form access based on the user’s physical location. Location negatives block specific regions, while Geo-Fencing sets geographic boundaries for form submissions. Geo-fencing uses IP addresses or GPS data to determine a user’s location. If the user is outside the allowed area, their submission is blocked.

These methods are particularly useful for businesses targeting specific regions. By restricting access to known high-risk areas, you can significantly reduce spam and improve the quality of submissions. 

Depending on the quality of your Geo-Fencing solutions, users with a VPN may still be able to get access. It’s also important to determine the nature of your business before using location negatives and Geo-Fencing. For example, those in the hospitality industry could accidentally block tourists planning a visit. 

Preventing users from including links or using copy-paste functions in form fields can reduce the likelihood of spam and fake information.

Form settings can be adjusted to block the inclusion of links and disable copy-paste functionality. This forces users to enter data manually, making it harder for bots and spammers to flood forms with junk information. This method helps maintain the integrity of the data collected, ensuring that submissions are genuine and reducing the presence of malicious links and spam.

This method is effective but can lead to a negative customer experience if they cannot give necessary long-form information, like accountant numbers, through a copy-and-paste function. If more complex information is required from your customers, you may want to choose different options. 

Double Opt-In

Double opt-in is a process where users sign up for a service or mailing list and then confirm their subscription through a link sent to their email. After submitting their email address, users receive a confirmation email with a link. Only after clicking this link are they added to the mailing list or granted access. 

Double opt-in ensures that the email addresses collected are valid and belong to users who genuinely want to subscribe. It reduces spam and improves the quality of your email list. Double opt-in is relatively easy to set up, and many users are used to it. While double opt-in helps ensure higher-quality users, the overall new sign-up rate may be lower. 

Email Verification Plugins

Plugins can be installed on your website to detect and block fake, new, or malicious email addresses. These plugins use databases of known fake and malicious email addresses, real-time validation, and pattern recognition to identify and block suspicious emails. 

As an example, checkout what we can see about you: https://cleantalk.org/my-ip/.

Implementing these plugins helps maintain a clean, high-quality email list, reduce spam, and prevent fraudulent activities.

It is important to note that many email verification services operate on a subscription basis, charging monthly or per verification. These costs can add up, especially for businesses with large volumes of email addresses to verify.

Qualifying Questions and Multi-Step Forms

Qualifying questions and multi-step forms add extra steps to the submission process, making it more challenging for spammers.

Forms are designed to ask specific questions that require thoughtful answers. Multi-step forms break down the submission process into several stages, requiring more user interaction.

These methods introduce friction into the form submission process, which can deter spammers while helping ensure that only genuinely interested users complete the form. Although they may slightly increase the cost per lead (CPL), they significantly improve lead quality.

Server-Side Validation

Server-side validation checks the data users enter to ensure it meets the required format and constraints. When a user submits a form, the data is sent to the server, where it is validated against predefined rules. If the data fails validation, the form is not submitted, and the user is prompted to correct their input. 

Server-side validation ensures that only correctly formatted data is accepted, reducing the risk of spam and enhancing data integrity. 

You will have to keep the validation rules up to date and ensure they are consistently applied across all forms and applications. Changes to the form fields or business logic necessitate updates to the server-side validation code.

Preventing spam in online forms is crucial for maintaining the quality of your data. By strategies like Captcha, OTP, photo verification, honeypot fields, location-based restrictions, link and copy-paste restrictions, double opt-in, email verification plugins, qualifying questions, multi-step forms, and server-side validation—you can effectively reduce spam and protect your online forms.

All of these options come with challenges and considerations, at the end of the day, it is all about finding the right solution for your business. Investing time and resources into these anti-spam measures is worthwhile for any business. 

Need help making spam disapear work for you? Choice OMG is a digital marketing agency in Edmonton with robust website security and anti spam experience. If you are sick of spam filling your leads list contact us