CAPTCHA - anti spamI was speaking to one of my clients last week about whether to have a CAPTCHA spam filter on their membership sign-up form for their new website and it struck me that although us marketers talk about CAPTCHA, many clients don’t understand what it is or what it actually stands for! This client didn’t so I assume there are many other small business owners out there in the same position. So here is a quick run down on CAPTCHA!

So what does CAPTCHA mean?

CAPTCHA is a contrived acronym that stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Or in laymans terms, it’s a test that web developers build into websites which requires the site user to perform an action that will confirm that they are human and not a spam bot or automated machine.

You’ve probably seen these weird looking mix of text and numbers that are distorted and you have to key in the same combination as shown. Sometimes it uses audio instead or as an alternative.

Should I use one?

It is an effective screening mechanism that can ensure that your email sign-up or customer account database remain genuine and clean of spam or false records.

However, most email marketing systems use double opt-in with a confirmation email which also gets round the issue of false records. Although if spammers are determined they may even have false email accounts!

Some web developers and marketers think that any barriers that you put in place between your prospective customer and gaining their customer contact data can be detrimental on sign up levels, just as forms that are too long, complex or poorly laid out can also do so.

On balance, I think you have to weigh up the risk and I think most web users are used to this protocol and it does not deter them. If you are really concerned about it and putting your potential customers off, perhaps if you do not have CAPTCHA implemented to start with on your website, you can monitor your data quality and sign-up levels and put CAPTCHA in place if you see a spam problem developing.

Do you use CAPTCHA on your website?