Contact pages – keeping them safe from spam and junk mail

While having a website brings many great benefits to your business – it can also bring one thing you don’t want… a sharp increase in spam and junk mail if you have your email address on your website.

The most common way for spammers to get your email address is by using software called ‘email harvesting software’ which searches through the HTML source of your web pages to find your email address. This software crawls the web, searching through millions websites. In some cases, people are even paid to go through websites manually to find email addresses.

The best way to help prevent spam is to have a contact form with a CAPTCHA

One of the safest ways to help prevent spam via your contact page is to have a contact form, and it is even safer if you have an accompanying CAPTCHA. It is difficult for spam software to complete a contact form. It is even more difficult if there is a CAPTCHA at the end to act as a test to ensure it is a human completing the contact form.

Not all contact forms are equal

It is important that a secure contact form is used as some contact forms are not much safer than displaying your email address.

CAPTCHA’s – friend or foe?

For those of you who don’t know, CAPTCHA’s are the little word puzzles or number puzzles that you find at the end of a contact form. You may be asked to type in a series of letters/numbers/words or type the answer to a simple maths sum.

Unfortunately there is software out there that can decode CAPTCHA’s but having a CAPTCHA is definitely safer than not having a one – and the more difficult the CAPTCHA the more protection you have.

From a web marketing point of view CAPTCHA’s are certainly not something you would choose to have if you didn’t need to – you want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to contact you. You will need to weigh up whether the risk of getting hit by spammers is worth the risk of losing potential customers who may get to your contact page and be reluctant to complete the form and the CAPTCHA puzzle.

Are there other ways to minimise the risk of Spam?

There are a number of options where your email address can be included with the use of special code (scripts) or by inserting your email as a picture/image plus a few other options. Based on the extensive research I have done, these options have not been proven to work and have other associated problems – having a contact form with a CAPTCHA is by far the safest method.

What to do…

Once spammers get hold of your email address you can’t get it back. Contact pages with forms and CAPTCHA’s are becoming more and more accepted as the way to make contact via websites. If you also include other means for your visitors to contact you such as your phone number and/or cell phone number then this gives them a choice. The options available are:

Option A: No contact form. Display your email address and hope you don’t have any problems with SPAM.

Option B: Have just a contact form. The contact forms used in my websites should be secure. There is never any guarantee as technology is always changing, including the sophistication of software used for malicious intent.

Option C: Have a contact form and a CAPTCHA. Again, I have tried to source the most secure CAPTCHA I can that is still user friendly. There is a compromise as the more secure the CAPTCHA the more difficult it will be for humans to decipher/read. As with the contact forms, there is never any guarantee as technology is always changing, including the sophistication of software used for malicious intent.