Keeping an Eye on the Robots Lurking on Your Website
The Sprocket Report
Annoyed when you have to prove to your computer that you are actually human? Because it’s also annoying to have spambots messing up your website, some defense is necessary.
Sum up a couple of single digits. Choose the squares that contain a school bus. Click the box that says “I am not a robot.” If you are trying to protect your website from spam, you may want to use one of these CAPTCHA challenges.
Loosely, CAPTCHA stands for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart." (Alan Turing was an English computer scientist in the 1940s-1950s. You may have seen “The Imitation Game,” the Benedict Cumberbatch movie about him.) The idea is that bots can’t complete these simple challenges like a human being can, weeding out malicious computer programs.
What are robots trying to do on your website? Among other things, they are looking for a form or field they can fill in, such as a blog comment, with what may look like nonsense, but which generates a backlink to their own website. At one time, weblinks in a comment field used to be a reliable SEO technique, and even though nofollow-type tags have made this less valuable, spam programs still relentlessly search out places to dump their links.
While we can never know exactly what Google’s algorithm is, those spammy comments may be damaging the SEO on your website. Even more importantly, they damage your reputation with human visitors. When it looks like you aren’t paying enough attention to weed out spammy comments, why should prospective customers bother to comment on your blog or sign up for your newsletter?
CAPTCHA, reCAPTCHA and similar tools are bits of code that are placed into the backend of your website that generate the challenge. The code itself is free, although your web tech may charge you a bit to install it. Some website platforms already have a CAPTCHA tool built in that only needs to be activated by your web tech.
Of course, spammy marketers are always one step ahead. CAPTCHA “farms” with real, if poorly-paid, humans can properly answer hundreds of challenges. Rather than asking you to click on pictures of a school bus, the newest tool from Google uses an algorithm to assess how “malicious” you are.
Being over-run with spam comments versus asking your legit visitors to add 2 + 3 is worth discussing, so give us a call if you want to talk over your options.