Contact Forms: How to prevent spam without losing conversions
Contact forms are a tricky beast. Most businesses want people contacting them - the more people you talk to, the more potential leads you have to turn into sales. But how do you balance this against the desire to minimise wasted time dealing with spam?
Optimising Contact Forms
Generally speaking, if you want to get a good conversion rate out of a form, make it simple. Don't ask users to fill out loads of fields - especially if they aren't relevant. Say for example, I'm in the market for a photographer for a birthday party. I'm browsing the internet, find a photographer I like, and go to fill out the contact form - it's not an urgent enquiry, so I'm happy to wait for an email - plus I'm at work and don't want my boss to know I'm looking up photographers when I should be writing this blog (all hypothetical, of course). But wait, I start to fill it out and there are lots of fields. Asking me about the location of my project, the budget, the style of photography. It's gonna take me ages to fill this out! This photographer looks good, but... maybe I'll just deal with this later. Sound like a familiar scenario? Whether consciously or not, you've probably experienced this in some way or another. Too many demands from a contact form, all too hard - and you're outta there. Especially if a lot of the fields are required fields, and you can't progress without going through them all. The reality is that, for my hypothetical photographer, s/he could have asked me all these questions in a follow up email or call. For most businesses, you'd rather have lots of enquiries and opportunities to sell your product/service - rather than no phone calls or emails because your leads got distracted and are now reading listicles on Buzzfeed.
Ok, got it. Ask very few questions, and get heaps of enquiries. Right?
Well, not quite. Lots of enquiries are good, so long as they're genuine enquiries - but what if you start getting flooded with spam? Suddenly, your sales team isn't inundated with potential sales - they're wasting time trawling through spam, trying to work out who are the real customers, and who are the spammers (the scourge of the internet!). Most businesses in this case will think, right, we need to make it tougher for the spammers - we'll install a Captcha or some other wizardry to make sure only humans can get through. The problem with this is, just like the photographer making me jump through hoops to send an enquiry - you're now adding another hoop. Captchas can be hard. And annoying. And research tells us, they're putting people off. So what do we do? How can we balance our ethos of Conversion Rate Optimisation with our desire to be efficient and not deal with spam?
Enter: Captcha-free Spam Prevention
There are a few techniques you can use to prevent spam without losing conversions / using a captcha, and here's one we think is pretty cool. It's a little technical, so you might need someone (a nerd) to do it for you, if you're not all that techy yourself. The idea behind it is that spambots (being non-human) can be tricked - when they find a form, they are programmed to fill in every field. But what if filling in every field alerted you to the fact that they are in fact, a bot? I know I said earlier less fields are better - but what we're suggesting here is another field - that you keep hidden. So normal, human users won't see it and won't be annoyed by it - but spambots, who don't know any better, will see it in the code and fill it out, making it pretty darn obvious they are either a bot or a superhuman freak. Either way, you probably don't want their enquiry! It'll take a little code to make it work, but could be the answer to all your problems. It's commonly called the 'honeypot technique' - which is just one other good reason to give it a try.