How Small Business Owners Can Deal with Spam Leads

by / Thursday, 17 April 2014 / Published in Technology For Business

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Business owners who maintain webpages for e-commerce will often have forms on their websites that customers can fill out. These forms can serve many purposes, from collecting feedback or comments, to serving as order forms or leads that sales teams can follow up on by pitching prospective customers. The ability to automatically collect user submitted information through a webpage means that, depending on your traffic, you can process tons more business than you would be able to follow up with if you only had a hotline or physical location to work with. That being said, one of the problems created by adding forms is the potential for your inbox to be flooded with spam leads. Spam leads are usually pretty easy to identify, containing strings of random characters or random phrases. Often, these spam leads will include hyperlinks which you should absolutely not click lest you expose your system to a trojan or virus. While these leads are annoying, since it is usually easy to tell they are fake you might not be inclined to do anything about them. On the other hand, should you choose to attack the problem, here are some things to consider.

A captcha code can be effective for stopping spam. A captcha refers to a snippet of randomly generated characters or words that a user must manually type in to verify a submitted form comes from a human. A captcha will usually stop spam leads from hitting your inbox, but at the cost of making your customers that much less likely to take  the time to fill out your forms. Lead forms will get more or less of your total traffic to convert depending on how long and complicated they are to fill out, as a rule of thumb. If you do chose to put a captcha in your lead form, be aware of this effect.

If you identify a commonality in the spam leads, you can sort by that indicator. If all of your spam leads have a single detail in common, then you can apply a filter to your lead form that can block submission of anything that contains that giveaway. For example, you might be getting flooded with submissions from a single email address, in which case, block that address. There might be a keyword in each spam comment, which is generally indicative of a robot programmed to spread spammy links and you can use this to root out phony submissions. Be aware that if you choose this method, you should be as specific as possible lest you block the submissions of real clients by applying too broad of a filter.

Another common spam blocker is using a hidden field. What this fix does is create a “hidden” form field, with the assumption that if it is filled out, it must have been a spam robot. Why? Because the average human user will not be able to see the field and therefore skip it, whereas a robot that only reads web code will (usually) fill out every form on the page with auto-filled nonsense. When a form is submitted with a hidden field entered, the lead will be rejected. The issue with this method is that should a prospective customers browser show the so called hidden form for any reason, then they may be frustratingly unable to apply if the fill it out.

Photo Credit to Skye Captain on Flickr


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