How to prevent contact form spam
If you are like most website owners, you probably have a contact form somewhere on your website.
Unfortunately automated spam machines target contact forms and can submit dozens or even hundreds of bogus forms a day, making it very difficult to separate genuine enquiries from fake ones, and clogging up your inbox.
There are several tricks that allow us to reduce or even completely prevent automated contact form spam. Not all are suitable to every website, and it can be useful to start with the least invasive method first, and then work your way up to the more sophisticated tools if you are still receiving spam. Here's the lowdown on the most popular spam prevention methods:
Honeypot - simple, invisible and fairly effective
A honeypot is an invisible field in your contact form which humans would not fill in, whereas automated robots would. This identifies the automated submissions and prevents them from sending. However, there are ways for the robots to detect these fields now so this method may not be enough for your website.
It is an easy one to try first though and does not add any additional fields to your contact form, so if a sleek design is important, try this first!
Akismet - invisible and very effective (but not free)
Akismet is the number 1 WordPress plugin for spam protection. It protects contact forms and also blog comments. Akismet checks your forms for spammy content and blocks them if spam is detected.
It is not perfect but pretty effective, and also does not add any ugly fields to your beautiful contact forms. However, there is a subscription fee for business websites.
reCAPTCHA - very effective but doesn't look great
reCAPTCHA's add an additional field to your contact form where people have to prove they are human. In the older style reCAPTCHA's users had to type in a combination of letters and numbers, match up images, or do a simple math calculation.
reCAPTCHA's are becoming more user friendly. The current version of Google's reCAPTCHA looks much better - you simply click a button that says "I am not a robot". This is really easy to use and very popular.
The only downside is that it does add another field to your contact form, which may not make it suitable if you need a short form, e.g. in sidebars or footers where there is limited space.
Invisible reCAPTCHA - coming soon!
This is a new reCAPTCHA by Google, based on the reCAPTCHA mentioned above. It is currently in beta. The idea is that this reCAPTCHA will detect if you are human without the need for additional fields in the contact form. It will be invisible and looks very promising - here's hoping that this will be the end of annoying "humanity tests" that involve matching letters or doing math tests.