Spam is an issue that all website owners will struggle with at some point. The truth is that if your website is home to any web forms that are designed to collect information from your customers on your site then you will likely get some spam submissions. In some cases, you might get more spam submissions than you get legitimate requests from customers who have filled out your form.
Spam is a huge problem for web forms, even when the form doesn’t do anything that might benefit the spammer such as reposting on the website where they might be able to generate spammy backlinks to other websites. Spammers will often use web forms to try and promote their own websites and businesses, and some may also use them for malicious purposes. Taking steps to block spam from your web forms is important for productivity and if your website has a comments section, it will prevent it from looking unprofessional and messy.
To keep your web forms protected from spam, it should be as difficult as possible or completely impossible for an automated tool to submit the form. Along with this, you should make it as easy as possible for your customers to fill the form out. This can be quite the balancing act, since customers might not want to fill out the form if it’s too hard to do so, but a form that is too easy to fill out may get more spam submissions. So, what can you do to prevent web form spam?
Add Fields Exclusively for Spam Bots
Ask Test Questions
A test question that humans can answer but bots will not be able to is a good way to prevent web form spam. These are often questions like simple math problems like ‘what is 2+2?’ that a human would easily be able to respond to, but a robot would have no idea how to fill in. You can then filter the submissions to look for the correct answer and reasonably expect that any submissions that have given the correct answer have been submitted by real humans, while those that have gotten it wrong are likely to be spam bots.
Use a CAPTCHA
A CAPTCHA is a type of script that blocks spam bots from accessing your web forms while humans are able to get through. If you have ever filled a form out online and had to retype some letters and numbers or chosen parts of a picture that include a certain element, then you have used a CAPTCHA. You can easily use ReCAPTCHA to get free CAPTCHA solutions for the forms on your website. This can be an effective method for blocking spam; however, it’s important to note that they can sometimes be difficult to read. An audible version is included, but lots of people don’t realize that. This leads to a problem where users might be easily frustrated, which may deter them from going through with the form submission. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use a CAPTCHA for important web forms that you want to protect further but avoid using them on every form on your website.
Use a Tool Like Akismet
Akismet is a good tool to use when it comes to preventing web form spam. It is designed to help bloggers block comment spam on their forms; however, there are plans and solutions you can access to block spam on other types of web forms. All you need to do is get an Akismet API and set up the plugin on your website.
Record Form Submissions Data
You can record data such as IP addresses from your form submissions and use this to block spammers. This method is not a front-line defense method but can be used to block spammers after the fact. When you use your forms to collect IP addresses, it may become easier to detect certain patterns. For example, if you are receiving a large number of submissions from the same IP address in a short timeframe, then it is most likely to be spam. This is a good method to consider if your web forms do not get a lot of spam continuously but do get bursts of spam activity from time to time.
Use a Range of Different Methods
These days, spam is a big business and spammers are getting smarter, with more creativity in the methods that they use to get around popular spam prevention and spam blocking tools. Spammers are using more and more sophisticated spam bots, and some are even employing actual people to directly post their spam messages, which can make it even harder to manage spam on your site since it’s almost impossible to block real humans who are manually submitting spam through your web forms.
If you want to manage web form spam, then the main thing to be aware of is that there is no one method that is going to catch each type of spam, so it’s best to use multiple methods. When choosing which methods to use, it’s always crucial to keep ease of use for the customer at the forefront of your mind as you do not want to annoy customers with too many methods that they can see and must engage with.
Web form spam is becoming an even bigger problem for many websites. Thankfully, there are several methods that you can use to prevent spam and block spammers.