CAPTCHAs help protect websites from bots—and only bots—making it harder for fraudsters to use this common method to attack your site.
At a high level, CAPTCHAs are supposed to help you protect your website. But in the age of ever-more-sophisticated ad fraud methods and tactics, CAPTCHAs fall short of delivering on that promise because they are really only designed to help protect websites against bots.
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 that is used to determine whether an actual user is visiting a site or if the engagement is a bot.
CAPTCHAs have evolved over the years. Initially, users had to type out obscured words to verify their identities. Over time, the next iteration of CAPTCHAs emerged that included checking a box that indicated that you were in fact not a robot. Fast-forward to the present day, and today’s CAPTCHAs often require you to click on pictures to prove you know which of them contain images of airplanes, cars, bicycles, and so forth.
The Downsides of CAPTCHAs
While the use of CAPTCHAs were the internet’s first form of protection against bots, they leave much to be desired when it comes to preventing all fraud and ensuring an optimal user experience at the same time.
For starters, the first CAPTCHAs were hard to read. When you are performing legitimate business on the internet and get stopped to type in words that you can’t really make out—and you end up misspelling those words, as users are wont to do—it’s not exactly the most enjoyable experience, to say the least.
While those experiences might be less and less frequent, nowadays we have to spend our time clicking images—and we still might not always pass the CAPTCHA test. Assuming you know what an airplane looks like and still end up failing the test, how would that make you feel?
How CAPTCHAs Hurt the User Experience
Imagine you’re heading to a retailer’s website to complete an e-commerce transaction. You just found out about a new product, and you’re eager to buy it as soon as possible. As you begin the process of checking out, you run into a CAPTCHA. Worse yet, you fail the test. Would such an experience make you more or less likely to complete the purchase?
Here are three reasons why CAPTCHAs hurt the user experience.
When you’ve already decided to make a purchase—and you know that you’re a human being—being asked to prove that you’re not a robot can be pretty annoying. This is even truer when you’re forced to click on a ton of pictures, and especially when you fail the CAPTCHA test.
Even if you decide to go through with the purchase, you’ll remember how annoying the experience was, which makes it much less likely that you’ll support the specific retailer in the future.
They eat up extra time
Time is scarcer and scarcer in the digital age. Everyone is pulled in a seemingly endless amount of directions every day, and we’re always looking for ways to speed things up. This is one of the reasons why many businesses are investing in all kinds of automation.
To be fair, CAPTCHAs might only slow down the purchase process for a couple of minutes, tops. In an age where consumers are increasingly expecting instant gratification, however, those few minutes may mean all the difference.
They kill conversion rates
Taken together, it comes as no surprise that annoying experiences and more time required to complete actions translate into a 40% lower conversion rate with CAPTCHA. It’s worth noting that CAPTCHAs won’t just prevent you from generating more leads or selling more products at that moment. Since consumers are likely to stop supporting brands after a bad experience, they may very well prevent you from racking up sales in the future, too.
Sophisticated AIs can beat CAPTCHAs
If hurting the user experience wasn’t enough to cause you to think about ditching CAPTCHAs, here’s something else to consider: Due to the evolution of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) has gotten to the point where it can solve CAPTCHAs—essentially defeating their purpose altogether. For example, one startup recently unveiled a new system that can solve CAPTCHAs two-thirds of the time.
Since CAPTCHAs don’t offer any kind of support or analytics, you can’t zero in on where fraud is coming from. Even if your CAPTCHAs somehow prevented AI from getting around them, you’d still have to deal with malware and human fraud.
Alternatives to CAPTCHAs
At this point, you’re probably recalling some annoying experiences you’ve had with CAPTCHAs. And you might be thinking that they don’t do that much good for your organization after all. Good news: There are other alternatives you can try out to detect and prevent fraud and bots from attacking your websites.
You could verify users are real humans and not bots by using biometrics. For example, you might ask people on smartphones to prove their identity with their fingerprint. There are other kinds of biometrics to consider, too—including typing biometrics, speech recognition, and facial recognition.
Depending on your use case, however, biometrics might not be the best option. On one hand, such systems tend to be pretty pricey. On the other, not too many consumers are keen on giving away their biometric data to a company that sells socks, for example.
You can also implement a multi-factor authentication (MFA) method to make sure actual humans are accessing your systems. As an example, you might have someone log into their account and then send them a text message with a one-time passcode they need to input on your website to get to the next step.
While this method can be helpful in secure environments—like banking and brokerage accounts—it will likely create far too much user friction for the average company.
The honeypot method
There’s also the honeypot method, which involves implementing a CAPTCHA that humans can’t see on your website. Bots that are trained to fill out forms do exactly as they’re supposed to, which lets you know which traffic is fraudulent without hurting the user experience.
This method does have shortcomings, however. For starters, it only applies to bots, so it won’t save you from malware and human fraud. At the same time, some bots are intelligent enough to get past this gate.
An ad fraud detection solution like Anura enables you to stop bots in their tracks while also protecting you from malware and human fraud. The solution sits entirely in the background of your website, with no effect on the user experience at all.
With Anura, you’re able to 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 way to stop bot traffic—and several other kinds of ad fraud, too—without hurting the user experience.
But don’t just take our word for it. Demo Anura today and see it in action yourself.
To learn more about how Anura can prevent bots from hurting your campaigns, check out our free ebook, Affiliate Marketing Fraud 101.