Prevent Bots, SPAM, and Data Garbage in Your Digital Marketing Forms

As a modern digital marketer, you can relate. You set up an awesome campaign with solid assets and capture points that are compelling and relevant to your target audience. You then check to see how many leads you have captured, and surprise! The number is much larger than you expected, so you’re super excited. But when you click on the submit report, you see a ton of wonky submissions like “bob@mickeymouse.com” or “公司@12345.com.” 

Unfortunately, you’re not alone. This is an extremely common occurrence in the digital marketing landscape. 

How to Eliminate Bot and SPAM Submissions on Your Digital Marketing Forms 

According to Distil Network’s 2019 Bad Bot Report, bots accounted for nearly 40% of all internet traffic in 2018. Now, not all bots are “bad.” Some are scrapers or crawlers for search engines or to find your best flight deals. There is, however, a percentage that act as “counter sellers.” These usually come in the form of submits on digital marketing forms that have comment sections, in which the bot will advertise some product or service.

Garbage data providers are another type of poor form submitter. Most of us don’t want to provide our primary contact information. And since most of us have been hounded and abused by aggressive SDR call campaigns at some point in our careers, that’s totally fair. That said, these “bob.smith@gmail.com” submitters actually do want the content or information you’ve gated behind a form, but how can you convince them to provide legitimate contact information or limit their ability to submit bad data?

Let’s walk through a few tips and tricks to cut down on these bot, SPAM, and garbage data form submissions.

Use a CAPTCHA

If you’ve had to interpret distorted letters, numbers, or sounds when submitting a form, you’ve come across a CAPTCHA. Deploying these on your forms is a fast and simple way to cut down on bot submits immediately. You can implement this protective step for free, as this service is provided by reCAPTCHA.

Use Double Opt-In Confirmation

As a good way to build a strong, accurate, and useful email list, you’ll want to use a double opt-in process for confirming form submissions. When someone enters an email address into your form, send them an automated trigger email with a confirmation link. The user will need to open the email and then click on the email to verify that their email is authentic. Bots are extremely unlikely to be able to complete this step, and any submissions that don’t complete the double opt-in should be scrubbed from your list to ensure good email deliverability.

Add a Test Question to Your Form

Many form-builders include several customizable options, including adding HTML that you can copy and paste on your webpage to ask an additional question on your form. You’ll want to frame a simple question that any adult human will be able to answer correctly, but that will be difficult for bots.

Check out this example:

Digital Marketing Form Submissions

If the input is not the word in white, the program form will recognize that it’s a bot and prevent the submission. And remember to ask a very simple question to avoid frustrating your potential customers.

Create A Bot Honey-Pot

In terms of form submission, a honey pot consists of adding an additional field that only a bot will see and complete. It’s basically a behind-the-scenes trap that protects your forms without any additional steps for human users. You can implement this by adding HTML and styling it using CSS. Some sophisticated bots can now read CSS and Javascript, but this is still an effective method and worth considering if you’ve got some basic programming skills. 

Here’s a simple example:

Form Submission Honey Pot

You get the idea, right? Just make sure that whatever field you’ve included as a honey pot is not visible to your actual users. If your data includes information gathered from a hidden field, you can immediately recognize that submission as a bot.

Use Email Validation to Eliminate Garbage Data Submissions

One of the new type attribute values in HTML5 is email. Using this new field (instead of the regular text field) can’t prevent a user from using a fake email address, but it does prevent typos or spaces, which helps ensure accurate submissions. Regardless of what the user submits, it will at least look like an email address. 

Here’s how it looks:

Digital Marketing Form Submissions

Some browsers only look for the @, while other browsers look for the @ and at least one letter and a dot. As of now, this is not supported by Internet Explorer 9.0 (and previous versions) or the Android browser. So, in order to have valid email validation for these browsers, you must create a workaround.

Email Validation Using Pattern Matching

Another way to weed out some of the non-valid submissions is pattern matching. For example, if your company sells to other companies (B2B), you would recognize free email providers like Gmail and Yahoo as poor captures since most companies use company-based addresses. You can use pattern matching to prevent the submission of these email domains. All you need to do is use javascript to search for the patterns you would like to exclude — which would look something like this:

Digital Marketing Form Submissions

Determined garbage data submitters can circumnavigate some of these, but pattern matching should drastically reduce bad data in your form reports.

Act-On’s Built-In Form Validation Can Help Prevent Fake or Inauthentic Form Submissions

I hope you found this blog helpful in explaining a few tips and tricks you and your marketing team can deploy to prevent bad data submissions. Unfortunately, bots, spammers, and garbage data submitters aren’t going away, but hopefully, some of the tactics outlined above can help clean up your email marketing contacts. 

Additionally, Act-On’s Adaptive Forms have built-in validation tools that you might find helpful. If you’d like to learn more, please schedule a demo today!

Act-On Adaptive Web