A Better reCAPTCHA to Stop Forms from Spamming Your Email

If you own or manage a business website and want visitors to be able to make contact with you by e-mail, you really have two choices on how to allow them to do so:

  1. Provide your e-mail address directly on the website, or
  2. Use a contact form to allow people to send you messages through e-mail

Email Addresses on Websites = Bad Idea

Placing your e-mail address directly on a website is a no-no. If you make it available as text, you are inviting spammers to easily find it through use of automated programs designed to crawl your website and collect e-mail addresses. If this happens, you will most likely become a recipient of non-stop, spam e-mails. Having your e-mail address display as an image that cannot be read as text on your website will stop auto-spamming, but it is not very visitor-friendly. If I want to send you an e-mail, I will have to open up my e-mail client and manually type in the address. One typo, and the e-mail will not reach you. Plus, some people will think it a pain and not do it.

Short Contact Forms: Now We are Talking

That brings us to the best method for allowing people to reach you by e-mail through your website, and that is by using a short contact form. We like to keep them as simple as possible, allowing visitors to input minimal contact information before hitting a “Submit” button. By making it less cumbersome, you are more likely to receive e-mails from your form, and  visitors to your company website will love the convenience. And, not only can short contact forms provide a better experience for site visitors, but they can also be tied into Google Analytics, allowing you to easily track the exact number of form conversions!

Contact Forms and Spam: reCAPTCHA

Even though contact forms are the way to go, clever programmers still have devised ways to auto-spam forms, sending e-mails through them automatically. To stop this, there are different programming pieces that can be incorporated into your form that will verify that a human being (as opposed to a spamming program) is filling out the fields; and the most popular is known as reCAPTCHA.

You’ve seen reCAPTCHA or, at least, some form of it: It’s the frustrating puzzle that asks you to retype the words or numbers that you see displayed. (They are often ugly-looking, too.) Here’s a screenshot of reCAPTCHA:

recaptcha3234123

Although reCAPTCHA is good enough to stop spammers, it may also stop people from filling out your contact forms and contacting you. Why? People tend to hate reCAPTCHA because it can be difficult to figure out what the words or numbers are, and that’s a problem.

Enter Nic’s Fly Jar: The Better Mouse Trap

At TKG, we figured out a better method to stop auto-spam for many of my clients who need website visitors to be able to fill out contact forms but do not want to put them through a set of hoops to do so. One day, I asked our programming team to create a custom reCAPTCHA for a client, and our programmer, Nic, came up with a slick, customize-able way for us to verify human interaction with form submissions. So, I dubbed his method “Nic’s Fly Jar” in his honor. After all, he created it.

How Nic’s Fly Jar Works

recaptcha-nic2

When a visitor fills out a contact form, they are asked a simple question, such as, “What color is an orange?”

They type in the short answer (in this case, “orange”) and submit their inquiry. It’s so simple a 3rd grader could do it, and we can make the question look like it is a part of the client’s website. The screenshot you see to the side is an example of how we customized the reCAPTCHA question to mirror the site’s content (which is jewelry-related) for one of our clients.

I’ve circled “Nic’s Fly Jar reCAPTCHA” in red. Note how it blends in and looks nice on the short contact form.

In summary, if you would like for your website visitors to contact you or your business, then the best method is by using simple contact forms. And if you use forms on your website, be prepared to add reCAPTCHA at some point. There is more than one way to skin a cat, stopping spammers in a way that still works well for people visiting your website.

Besides serving as TKG’s resident pool shark, Chuck brings a wealth of sales and client service experience to the group. He loves to help clients with online challenges through problem solving and creative thinking, and is kind enough to share those ideas on the blog.

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