Boosting Form Security: The Vital Role of Visible reCAPTCHA in Marketing Forms

by Kyle Blacker - August 29, 2023
Boosting Form Security: The Vital Role of Visible reCAPTCHA in Marketing Forms

As we know, having a form on your site or landing page is an effective way of obtaining information from your prospects. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out on your form functionality and submission rates for unexpected errors. Form submission errors can be a major issue if left unnoticed.

There are many possible underlying issues that could be causing submission errors on your Account Engagement forms:

  • Required fields are not being submitted. A very common one is simply visitors not submitting all of the required fields. Review if it is clear that they are required fields.
  • Issues with custom script components
  • And the topic of this blog; The reCAPTCHA field has been hidden!

What is reCAPTCHA?

I’m sure you know what a reCAPTCHA field is and what its function is, but to summarise; reCAPTCHA (provided by Google) plays a crucial role in preventing automated bots from submitting spam or malicious content through web forms. Designed to verify that the user is a human and only pass through legitimate submissions.

Some may see reCAPTCHA as a hindrance to submission rates. It can be frustrating, not always clear and one more step to press that submit button.

You can choose not to include the reCAPTCHA field on your form, but Account Engagement will still keep an eye out on suspicious activity and/ or high volume traffic. Where necessary, appending the reCAPTCHA to the form if those conditions are met, even if you have it switched off. This is a really useful tool because, while you may not want, or think it’s needed for your form, bots don’t care. So it is incredibly important that you don’t then override the reCAPTCHA field to be hidden in your layout templates.

Let’s go through a scenario:

  1. You have an upcoming event. You’ve set up the landing page with a registration form, but to keep submission rates higher, opted out for including reCAPTCHA. As you know you’ll only be promoting this landing page through an email campaign to existing prospects and it’s a one-off landing page. You tested it, all works fine.
  2. You send the email out to a list of 5000 prospects and decide to check on the metrics the following day.
  3. Come the next day you check your landing page report and notice you have had over 500 unique visits, but only 10 form submissions. Something isn’t right here. So you go to your landing page to check if anything is wrong. You notice the form doesn’t seem to be submitting, but no errors are showing up. So you spend some time rushing to diagnose and fix only to find out that the reCAPTCHA field was appended due to high traffic, but it’s nowhere to be found and you thought you’d turned it off!
  4. You’ve missed out on that initial surge of traffic and are unlikely to capture that same traction in a follow up email.

It’s not uncommon for a marketer putting together a landing page to be unaware of what underlying HTML/CSS is on a layout template. If they chose not to use the reCAPTCHA field, they wouldn’t pick this up when tested. On the other hand, it could be that a marketer did intentionally add CSS to hide it on the layout template. Again, they wouldn’t come across the issue of it erroring because when they test, it’s not yet appended (due to low traffic).

Zoe Fisher
Principal Marketing Automation Consultant

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What to look out for

A quick method to check your layout templates for this is to ctrl+f (Mac: cmd+f) in the HTML and search for ‘.pd-captcha’ or ‘captcha’. Doesn’t return anything? Good, but you’re not safe just yet! Double check to see if there are any CSS files being referenced in the HTML from other places (e.g. saved in your Account Engagement files). If there is, then you will need to open those, and again, search the file. If you don’t find anything you’re likely good to go, but as always, test! However, if you do find something then it’s worth raising this with the appropriate team or fixing the issue if you are comfortable editing CSS.

Key takeaways:

  • Never add CSS to hide a reCAPTCHA field on your Account Engagement forms
  • Review all layout templates (used for both landing pages and forms) and look for anything that indicates a hidden reCAPTCHA
  • Style the reCAPTCHA field with CSS to make it fit better in your form when it does show up.
  • reCAPTCHA is a friend, not a foe!

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