Your website was designed to encourage human interactions like creating an online account, posting comments and reviews, and completing lead forms. Unfortunately, malicious bots can also do all these things and more. Enter CAPTCHAs, those online tests designed to allow humans access to your website while protecting it from bot attacks.
As it turns out, CAPTCHAs may be doing the exact opposite of what they are intended to do. A recent study found that bots are almost as good, and in some cases better, at solving these pesky tests than humans, who often give up and abandon the site.
What Are CAPTCHAs?
In case you’re not familiar with the terminology, a CAPTCHA—which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart—is a test used to determine whether an actual user is visiting a site or if the engagement comes from a bot.
Some CAPTCHAs still require users to decipher distorted text to verify their humanness, but users are more likely to encounter image verification puzzles. These identification games are truly puzzling for users: Is a tiny sliver of the traffic light in that little box, yes or no?
While CAPTCHAs of any type create friction and frustration for human users, they are also not always effective at stopping bots. Bots have been found to solve distorted text CAPTCHAs almost 100 percent of the time, while real users are correct 50 percent to 84 percent of the time. Humans and bots are neck-and-neck on image verification tests, with humans getting them right 81 percent of the time and bots acing them 83 percent of the time—and a half second faster.
The Downsides of CAPTCHAs
As you can see, CAPTCHAs don’t always live up to doing what they were designed to do. They are even less effective at preventing fraud. CAPTCHAs don’t offer any support or analytics, so you can’t zero in on where the fraud comes from. Even if your CAPTCHAs somehow prevented AI from getting around them, you’d still have to deal with malware and human fraud.
CAPTCHAs are very good at creating a less-than-desirable experience for real human users today, and it can only get worse. One of the ongoing challenges is that as bots get better at cracking the CAPTCHA code, the tests get harder for humans. As the tests get more challenging, bots will evolve to solve them, while actual website users will be even more likely to abandon the site and never convert.
CAPTCHAs kill conversion rates. Unsurprisingly, annoying experiences and more time required to complete actions translate into a 40% lower conversion rate with CAPTCHA, according to a Stanford study. It’s not just those abandoning a transaction today who suffer; once a consumer has a frustrating experience with your site, they are less likely to return, so you’ve likely lost any future sales.
How CAPTCHAs Hurt the User Experience
Your favorite artist just announced her latest concert tour schedule. You head to the ticket seller’s site, log in, and wait patiently in a virtual online queue. When finally it’s your turn, you select your seats, add the tickets to your cart, and quickly head to checkout.
Holdup! Before you can enter your credit card information, the web page requires you to pass a CAPTCHA test.
Now you’re in a rush, anxious to snag those tickets before your time is up. In your excitement, you click an image that doesn’t include a crosswalk, or you can’t make out the bicycle propped against a building. You fail the test, your time runs out, and your tickets are no longer available.
You take to social media to express your frustration and learn you’re not alone. The ticket seller claims they must add friction to the process so that only real human fans, not bots, can buy tickets. Yet somehow, “verified resellers” immediately have an abundance of tickets available at a cost many times higher than the original ticket price. Something doesn’t seem right.
Even if this exact scenario hasn’t happened to you, you may have heard about it or had a similar experience. A bad user experience leads to disappointed fans and customers and, in some cases, generates a lot of bad publicity and damage to a brand’s reputation.
Beyond being annoying and making users feel less than human when they fail a CAPTCHA test, there are other reasons why CAPTCHAs hurt the user experience:
Time. It’s our most valuable asset. No one wants to waste it trying to use your website; in reality, CAPTCHAs may only add seconds to the transaction, but when you consider that U.S. users visit nearly 140 websites each day, those seconds quickly add up.
Accessibility. Users who are blind or visually impaired, and those with certain cognitive impairments, have difficulty solving CAPTCHAs, if they can use them at all. Many CAPTCHAs assume users understand the English language and Western culture, which can keep those who are not from accessing a site.
Find out how one Anura client switched from an unreliable reCAPTCHA tool to cut ad fraud and successfully increase their marketing ROI.
Are There Any Alternatives to CAPTCHAs?
If CAPTCHAs can’t keep bots and fraudsters out and can be a roadblock for legitimate users, how can website owners protect their sites and successfully convert users? There are alternative solutions, but those come with drawbacks as well.
Multi-factor authentication. Most users are likely familiar with multi-factor authentication (MFA) as many sites, including banking and some social media platforms, require it to log in, especially if the user is on an unfamiliar device. However, familiarity can still breed contempt, as one-third of consumers report not enabling MFA because they find it annoying.
Biometrics. You’re probably familiar with fingerprint recognition and may use it to unlock your smartphone. Other forms of biometric authentication include speech and facial recognition and even keystroke patterns. Biometric authentication may cause less friction, but it may not be practical in all circumstances; in addition, users may be reluctant to share biometric data and have concerns about how the data is stored and secured.
The honeypot method. The honeypot method implements a CAPTCHA with a hidden field that humans can’t see, but bots can. If you get a form with that field completed, you’ll know the site visitor is actually a bot. This won’t protect your site from malware or human fraud, and users who rely on screen reader software may be able to see and complete the field, failing the test.
Why an Ad Fraud Solution May Be the Best Alternative
Ad fraud detection is the ultimate hidden website feature that lets humans interact with your site without friction. An ad fraud detection solution like Anura enables you to stop bots in their tracks while also protecting you from malware and human fraud.
With Anura on your side, you can sell more, generate more leads, and optimize your campaigns with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your data is accurate and that fraudsters haven’t taken advantage of you. It’s the easiest and most effective way to stop bots and even human fraud.
Anura has a 99.999 percent fraud detection rate, so you’re stopping fraud without blocking or frustrating real human visitors. Unlike CAPTCHAs, we provide analytics to help detect the origin of fraud and thwart it in real time.
Request a trial today and see how you can captcha—make that capture—more fraud while converting more leads.