Investing in spam protection is a must for every website to ensure both the security and reputation of your personal brand or business. We have tested out several spam protection options over the years on behalf of our clients, and wanted to share an overview of each one here to help you choose the right fit for your needs.
What it is: CAPTCHA is an acronym that stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” If you’ve ever filled out one of these bad boys:
…then you’ve used CAPTCHA.
Pros: Prevents spam bots from registering on your site, as they are not able to decipher the words presented in a CAPTCHA the way humans can.
Cons: The pop up window or form interferes with the user experience, takes time to complete, and the text is often hard to decipher. Conversion rates tend to drop as a result.
When to use it: CAPTCHA is useful for longer forms (e.g. purchase orders) where there is already a higher investment of the user\’s time.
What it is: reCAPTCHA is essentially a more useful iteration of CAPTCHA. It does everything the original version does, but with one major benefit…
Pros: You are actually helping to transcribe hard to read documents! In the process of digitizing old books, there is often — roughly 30% of the time — blurred or faded text that normal OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software cannot decipher. Google and other organizations at the forefront of the digital movement aimed to solve this problem by implementing reCAPTCHA. In its original version, reCAPTCHA offered one computer generated word form, while the other was a word from one of the scanned documents.
However, Google recently released research that unveiled the most effective spam protection option as just having a checkbox that says \”I am not a robot” — an option that they have made available in the latest release of reCAPTCHA. This makes it easier and less time consuming for users while maintaining the same level of security.
Cons: As with CAPTCHA, the user experience is compromised, albeit on a much lower level. You’ll also have to have the logo along with the form, which could be an issue on websites that have strict branding standards.
When to use it: Ideal for just about any form where you don’t mind the reCAPTCHA logo appearing.
What it is: A decoy form field that is not visible to human users, but is visible to bots. It is set up as a trap to attract and deter intruders from the backend. Basically, it’s the logic that if an invisible form field has something the “user” entered into it, then the user must not have been a person.
Pros: Doesn’t interfere with the user experience.
Cons: It’s not as effective as CAPTCHA at catching bots. It also requires a little bit more of your developers time to write or implement the code into your form.
When to use it: Useful for shorter forms (e.g. login screens) where there is already minimal investment of the user’s time.
Back to Basics
There are many other viable spam protection options, including skill testing questions, third party authentication, or task completion forms, but CAPTCHA variations and the honeypot technique remain the most logical options for businesses more worried about security than conversion rates.
We encourage you to test out various methods and let us know which one worked best (and why) in the comments below!