How to reduce spam in online contact forms

Online forms are meant to help you nurture leads, boost engagement, and increase conversions. They should be part of any robust digital marketing strategy, and they’re one of the best ways to gather quality data about consumer behaviour and preferences. 

However, seeing that your lead contact form has been blown up with hundreds of spam submissions can be incredibly frustrating. Whether it’s manual or done by bots, spam wastes your time and prevents you from accessing those high-quality leads that could grow your business. According to Teiss data, 23% of companies in the UK receive more than 500 suspicious emails each week, many of which arrive via online forms.

Dealing with a lot of spam from your online forms can make you feel powerless, but, fortunately, there are ways to reduce it. By implementing these measures, you can discourage malicious entities from sending abusive data, regain control over your online forms, and gradually increase the quality of your leads.

1. Use multi-step forms 

Unlike single-step forms, which display all the fields in one go, multi-step forms split them into several steps, so that users answer one question at a time. You may be familiar with the benefits of multi-step forms from a marketing perspective: they’re much more user-friendly compared to single-step forms, they’re less intimidating and increase the chances of obtaining quality leads.

However, multi-step forms also reduce the risk of spam because they’re less attackable by bots. Also, they’re particularly discouraging for manual spammers (people hired by companies to send messages for link juice) because they’d much rather send unwanted information all at once than go through a multi-step process.

2. Geo-fencing 

Although its primary purpose isn’t to limit spam, to begin with, geo-fencing can have this benefit too. If you don’t know what it does, geo-fencing is a feature that restricts access to your online forms based on the user’s physical location. So, for example, if you’re a small local business and you’re only interested in getting leads from the UK, you can simply disable access to the form to users from other countries. An immediate effect of this selective measure is that you’re only getting relevant leads but, by extension, you’re also reducing the amount of spam that could come from other countries. Also, if you’re getting too many spam messages from one particular country where you’re not looking for leads, geo-fencing it can help you reduce spam.

3. Google reCAPTCHA 

A few years ago, CAPTCHA was the go-to way of preventing bots from submitting information via online forms. Unfortunately, it also had some nasty side-effects when it came to human users: because it was so hard to read and had a negative user experience, it decreased conversions. That’s why Google killed CAPTCHA and replaced it with the much more user-friendly, ReCAPTCHA, which only requires users to click on a button. ReCAPTCHA is one of the easiest ways to verify human users, reduce spam, and offer advanced security without compromising on user experience. Adding it to your online forms creates value and ensures you don’t get flooded by spam messages.  Use a honeypot system.

If you don’t want to use reCAPTCHA on your online forms, implementing a honeypot system can be a great alternative. What the honeypot system does is that it creates an extra fake form field for bots only. Spambots will fill in all the fields, which will then alert the system and cause that submission to get flagged, and it never reaches you. Human users won’t see this extra field, so their experience isn’t interrupted in any way. Everything takes place behind the scenes.

5. Ask a simple question

Adding an extra field at the end of the form with a question can prevent most spam messages. For example, it can be a simple math question, such as “What is 2 + 3?”, or “What’s the first letter of the word computer?”. Of course, it would be possible for a bot to answer these kinds of questions, but first, it would need to be programmed for this, and that takes a higher degree of sophistication that not all spambots have. Most bots are made to fill in simple queries, like name, age, and email address, so other questions can block them.

This extra field simple enough for most users, but these are two things to keep in mind before you implement it:

–  The question needs to be simple enough for anyone to understand and answer. If a user has a certain disability, some questions are problematic and could prevent them from using your website properly.

–  If your form is available in multiple languages, you’ll need to translate these questions too; otherwise, users won’t know what to do and will abandon the form.

–  Tip: If you’re working on an online form for clearly defined users, you can also consider adding more specific questions regarding the budget, or ask open-ended questions that a bot wouldn’t know how to answer automatically.

6. Disallow links

This practice is especially useful for manual spammers, who were hired by companies to fill in as many online forms as possible to submit links. This form of spam is popular with comment forms because many people see them as an easy way to make their links visible. Of course, it doesn’t help them in any way, and it’s a nuisance for you too, so disallowing links can be a good solution.

Needless to say, a comment section that’s filled with spam links can be very off-putting for visitors who actually have something to say, it can affect your credibility, and it can make pertinent comments get lost in all the spam noise.

7. Focus on upgrading your traffic 

Last but not least, the quality of your leads is strictly tied to the quality of your traffic. If your traffic comes from high-authority websites that are related to your niche, then the people who fill in your online forms are more likely to qualify as leads and even convert to paying customers. But if your traffic comes from questionable websites that aren’t relevant to your niche, your leads will also be irrelevant and low-quality. In lead generation, quality is much more important than quantity, so go over your analytics to see where your traffic is coming from. Then, focus your efforts on strengthening your best performing traffic channels.

Shahid Shahmiri is a digital marketer at LeadGen App – LeadGen App helps businesses and marketers to capture more leads and data with effective online forms. Shahid is accountable for analyzing marketing and growth, customer success, and dealing with all promotional and media channels.

In partnership with