Spam has been an inseparable enemy of the site owners since the inception of the internet. In fact, it would be hard to imagine a single day when you’re not worried about your website getting any malicious attack by some spammy bots trying to enter your system.
Starting from your email inbox to the form and comment section, spams are everywhere. Therefore, to exist online, it’s essential to opt for an anti-spam tool.
The worst part of the spam is not each and every one of it comes from a bot, some spam attacks can also be generated by real humans. While it’s quite difficult to stop them, you can still slow them down.
Whenever someone talks about anti-spam tools, the first thing that comes into our mind is CAPTCHA, a popular service to prevent spam that is no longer available now.
What is CAPTCHA & Why It’s Dead?
If you’re familiar with the internet you must’ve heard about CAPTCHA. It’s a security measure that was used to differentiate between a computer and a human.
Otherwise known as challenge-response authentication, it protects you from the attack of bots by asking you to complete an easy test that will prove yourself as a human.
CAPTCHA works by showing you a distorted image with some blocks of letters, asking you to type them in a dialogue box. Once you enter them successfully you get the pass to enter the site.
However, the system was pretty annoying to most users since it was difficult for them to understand the text behind those distorted images. They had to click the refresh button until they found something better.
Besides, bots get smarter day by day. It’s difficult to prevent spam if your security system isn’t updated and stronger. That’s why, in 2014, Google announced that it officially killed CAPTCHA and replaced it with something better.
Ways to Prevent Spam Without CAPTCHA
Only because CAPTCHA is dead, doesn’t mean your website will be left unprotected. There are some other ways that can effectively prevent spam from attacking your site.
Here are some of the tools and tricks you can try to save your pages from a spammy attack.
reCAPTCHA is an excellent tool from Google after the death of CAPTCHA. You may get intimidated by the name, but let me assure you it’s nothing like its predecessor.
Instead of showing some blurry, distorted image with difficult-to-read letters and numbers, reCAPTCHA simply shows you with a handy little checkbox written: “I am not a robot” in it.
All you need to do is check that box and you will be asked to find certain images from a list to prove that you are a human.
While reCAPTCHA isn’t perfect, it’s still a better and more convenient solution. It will make your audiences less annoyed and your website more secure.
Implement Session Cookies
One of the smartest ways to find out whether your visitor is a bot or human is to track the time they spend on your site. Bots, particularly the spammy ones do not spend much time on your website. They go directly to the form page or put something malicious in your comment section.
Humans, on the other hand, tend to stay longer on your site than the bots, mostly reading your blogs or going through your services.
If you create a session cookie on your site, it will track down the behavior of the visitor and determine whether it’s a real user or not. If the session seems suspicious, it can then flag that comment or the submitted form to protect your website.
If you don’t want to bother your users with something like CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA, try annoying the bots instead. Honeypot will help you to do that.
When a bot enters the website and tries to submit a form, it sees the hidden field and fills it out since the field is legitimate to him. The form will be automatically rejected if the system finds the hidden field filled out.
Using the honeypot method is quite convenient for the users since it doesn’t hamper their user experience. However, it may also reject the forms submitted by real users if they use some kind of auto-fill feature in their end.
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Ask Customized Questions
This is one of the easiest yet safe ways to prevent spam. While you find using tools a bit troublesome, you can create your own CAPTCHA and include it at the bottom of your form.
The process is quite simple. Just ask a question to your users and only let through those who can give you the correct answer.
Unlike honeypot where you have to trick the bots into betraying themselves, this method gives away a free passcode to your forms that only a human can understand.
However, don’t ask any complex or challenging questions. Your question should be simple enough to be understood by everyone, something like “what is 3+1 = ?.” also, make sure it can be translated for the visitors from other countries.
Go for a Double-Opt-In Form
If you want some extra protection for your website, going for a double-opt-in form can be the best option for you.
This method is particularly helpful for those websites that require users to sign in or create new accounts. Using a double-opt-in makes the users add some extra personal information such as email id, contact number, etc.
Once the information is provided, the system contacts the account via email or phone, giving them a link or pin number which they can use to verify themselves. In this way, the system can weed out the bots, as well as fake users.
Install a Spam Prevention Plugin
Another good option is to install an anti-spam plugin that will do a lot of work for you. These tools will monitor comments, trackbacks, or any other suspicious activity done on your website.
Installing plugins in your WordPress is one of the smartest choices since they make it difficult for any bot to intrude to your website. Besides, some bot may reach the front end of your website through some spammy comments, which you can stop using those plugins.
Akismet, CleanTalk are some of the popular anti-spam plugins that can filter out any type of spam and eliminate it.
Block IP Address
You may already know that each computer on the internet can be identified with a unique number known as an IP Address. After discovering which IP Address is sending spam to your site, you can permanently block that address from accessing your website.
Tracking the IP address is quite easy. Just go to Settings >> Notifications within the form editor.
Next to the Message field, click Show Smart Tags >> User IP Address.
In your next email, you’ll be notified with the user’s IP Address.
Now, if you want to block that IP address from accessing your site, you can go to your web hosting company and ask for support in blocking them. Another way to block an address is to use a security plugin to blacklist the IP Address.
Getting hit by spam is more than a nuisance. It makes your website vulnerable to more malicious attacks, wastes your time, and eventually ruins your productivity.
And sometimes, preventing spammy bot is as bad as the bot itself, especially for your real users. They have to go through some tests, answering somewhat childish questions to prove they are humans.
However, having a malicious website isn’t only harmful to you but also to your audiences. Users visiting your website may also get attacked by those bots if they are not careful. So, for the sake of everyone’s security, opting for an anti-spam method is the wisest decision ever.
Sujan Sarkar is the Co-founder of OnelittleWeb, a leading SEO agency specializing in helping businesses improve their online presence and search engine rankings.