One of the easiest ways to gather leads and customer information for businesses nowadays is online forms. You can implement them anywhere and have people fill them from their homes’ comfort using their phones or laptops. However, this otherwise miraculous method of collecting user information falls short in the face of bots.
Bots plague the internet. They hijack online forms aimed at genuine individuals and input fake data that affects your bottom line when you attempt to contact leads, inflate your numbers, set unrealistic expectations, and cost valuable database storage.
What is Bot Form Hijacking?
If your business’ website uses online forms to gather contact information and feedback from your users, you’ve most likely experienced bot form hijacking. You’ll see this when your database is filled with empty email addresses. These invalid or fake phone numbers belong to no one, web pages that lead nowhere, generic names, and random characters’ entered as feedback.
While some people might fill up forms with fake information just to mess around or get the free resources—could be an e-book or a coupon—you’re offering, without giving their information in return, that’s not always the case. People entering fake data only make up a small percentage, but if your resulting database is littered with fake data, the main contributor to your forms might be bots.
Phone Number Validation:
While fake emails won’t result in much more than bouncing emails, allowing you to easily identify and delete them from your list, the same doesn’t apply to phone numbers. Calling fake phone numbers can easily accumulate to hours every month that amounts to nothing. Your cold outreach and marketing teams would have to ring in the fake number, wait around a minute, and even call the same number multiple times before ensuring that it’s fake and deleting it from the list confidently.
You can combat this extensive waste of time and energy by implementing a phone number validation API service. Unlike a bulk verification that checks numbers you’ve already collected, allowing dishonest users and bots to claim their free resource, an API validator is a bit of code that you implement into your online form. It pings every phone number one by one, looking for a match. And if the number is fake, the user or bot would receive an error message, asking them to enter accurate information.
Most bots that hijack online platforms are simple in design. They don’t understand much beyond generic questions for the name, email, and phone number. The more required fields you have in your form that provide you with valuable information about your users that are too unique for bots to figure, the safer your website would be. For instance, in addition to basic contact information, ask your users about their business priorities or what makes them pick your services over your competitors.
You might’ve heard of using CAPTCHAs to protect against bots and have most likely filled out hundreds of them while using the internet, but what does it mean? CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Because it’s tough for simple bots to pass the Turing test, CAPTCHAs effectively protect your online forms from most bots roaming the internet.
While the stronger the CAPTCHA, the fewer bots would make it in, you shouldn’t go too far. The more complex your CAPTCHA, the more inconvenient it is to your users. Stick to a quick check-mark box or word problems that take users under five seconds. Several complex tests in a row may dissuade real users if they deem the process not worth the result.
Monitor and Work Backwards:
Most amateur-made bots operate from a set of identical IP addresses. By staying vigilant and monitoring your web pages around the clock, you can catch repeating IP addresses and block them either permanently or temporarily for suspicious behavior. You can also use the assistance of online databases of bot and spam IP addresses and automatically block all of them from your website, or at least add additional CAPTCHA verification steps for those “visitors.”
Fighting Fire with Fire:
You can use technology to beat technology. Bots plague the internet thanks to technological advancements, and now, you can use tech to stop in their place and regain control over your website and forms. Letting bots roam your website free allows them to usurp user accounts and confuse your analytics, which stands in the way of making sound marketing and product decisions. Stand up for the bots infestation in every way possible to keep your website clean, data accuracy, and sales team happy.