Sometimes it is the little things which make a difference when helping a client and these questions have been coming up a lot recently;
“Why do i get blank forms filled in from my website signup pages or contact pages?”
“What is with all the blank form requests on my website?”
“How do I stop Blank Forms being Filled in on my Website?”
First off, approximately One Third of all website traffic is fake. Yes you read that right one third. Seems like a especially high number right? it is I agree, but easily explained.
You may want to skip ahead to the solutions if the ‘why’ this happens doesn’t interest you. The long and short of it is there are good and bad robots out there in software cyber land. The good robots are the ones that help and monitor your website, GoogleBots and Security Bots, send traffic to your website to check content for SEO and ensure you’re site isn’t hacked respectively. Then there are the bad robots, yep you guessed it, they are trying to take down your site, install bad code, trick you into sending them money (well not the robots but the programmers behind them). While there are tons of technical terms and types for these bad robots, basically they install viruses or try and hack your website via the forms on your website, this particular case is called ‘Form Stuffing’ and why forms come out blank.
Now before we start on how to deal with the blank forms and the annoying emails or data they generate in your CMS, we strongly recommend upgrading your website so dangerous attacks via forms, which everyone faces, are mitigated so they have no chance of success. If you haven’t already these form-stuffing robots love sites which don’t have the security built in over the top of the form so – tell your website developer or digital agency to ensure code (e.g. PHP or JAVA etc) cannot be pushed in via your forms, only the text which is expected should be allowed. This means adding form validation to nearly every form element, annoying I know, but better than your site, computer or data being hacked.
OK – So what are the solutions in dealing with the blank forms ? in order of complexity, bottom up;
1. The simple solution is delete them as the come in, if there are too many of them or they become annoying;
2. The next step up is to add a rule to your email client which automatically deletes them. This is a little more complex, but you can put a rule in like “IF the subject = Submission from website (you have to change this to match your email subject) – THEN put it in the Website Submissions Folder” They you can easily check for non-blanks. You can also write a rule to say if the form is blank, delete it, a little trickier but this is what we do.
3. You can also upgrade your Website Form programming, so the subject you get emailed has the contact persons email address as the FROM field. While this requires some programming, it makes 2 much easier.
4. The next step is to add a captcha (for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) field to your form. Simple ones like you can download online and install in WordPress yourself as a plugin stop some of the simpler robots. They are good and may reduce the number of robots but remember they also increase your visitors likelihood that they will NOT fill out your form. Think about it every time you see one of these, do you fill out the form ?
5. Google’s ReCaptcha https://www.google.com/recaptcha – which comes in the background benefit of you helping digitise old printed books worldwide (that is where the crappy or rough looking letters come from), Google say it “helps preserve books, improve maps, and solve hard AI problems”. Ok great but we still hate entering them… So only use this if you know using your form will be so important to users, they won’t mind the extra effort.
6. Get creative. Here is a cool Captcha from a Chess site – http://imgur.com/3DSv5iA. While you have to program these type of ideas and get it working completely on your own bat, it will both solve the spam problem and if done well, adds a layer of filtering for your website, like the chess site below only wants humans playing on the site. Nice move chess dude.
If you need assistance programming a Captcha into your website, would like help with protecting your forms with validation, or would like to be walked through the setup of your email so it deletes the robot spam coming through, please contact us.