Web forms on your website can be very helpful tools. They can be used to gather data about potential customers, or give current customers a convenient option to ask for help. On the other hand, they can be the source of some inconveniences as well. Spam is an ever-increasing problem, and having web forms on your site is an invitation to spammers everywhere to fill your inboxes with garbage.
What is a Spambot?
A spambot is an automated computer program designed to assist in the sending of spam emails or populate website forms. These programs continue to get more intelligent and now people have become a big part of spamming in recent years. Where there is cheap labor, people can be hired at an extremely low cost to do nothing but fill out forms and send emails.
Can Spammers Be Stopped?
Currently, the most effective way to block spam bots is to use some form of captcha. (seen on the right) The most effective form of captcha uses an image for the user to identify. A spam bot will not be able to read the image and will likely fail the captcha authentication. However, this poses an accessibility problem on your site, as those who are seeing impaired may not be able to pass the authentication either. Captcha is also viewed as an annoying inconvenience for those legitimate users that just want to fill out your form to get more information. We don’t want our customer leads to be annoyed before they even get started.
Stopping people from spamming your web forms is a much more daunting task. In fact, it is near impossible. IP addresses can be blocked from accessing your site, but there could be thousands of addresses that would need to be blocked before you even get them to slow down. Blocking IP ranges can be risky, as you could end up blocking legitimate users. You may choose to block anyone from submitting links on your forms, as the goal of the spammer is to spread links to the websites for the companies they work for. Blocking links will slow the human spammers, but is still not 100% effective. If you need your users to be able to submit links, then obviously, it’s not a good option.
When you have web forms on your site, expect to get some spam. A combination of several different spam blocking methods can slow them down, but it will be impossible to block it completely.