Setting up a newsletter signup form is one of the easiest ways to expand your contact list.
The default WordPress installation already contains all the tools you need to invite website visitors to subscribe to your newsletter.
These default WordPress tools let you use different strategies to prevent spambots from submitting fake emails to your contact list.
Newsletter spam doesn’t only affect the reach of your marketing campaigns but can also undermine your domain’s authority and make your email list impossible to manage.
In this article, we’ll show you some of the most effective strategies to safeguard your newsletter signup from spam and ensure that your deliverability and engagement rates remain at a high level.
What Are Spambots and Newsletter Signup Spam?
A spambot is automatic malicious software that submits or distributes false information on websites, usually with the purpose of generating financial gain for its creator, the so-called botmaster.
Modern spambots are ‘intelligent’ enough to fill out a signup form and add bogus or nonexistent email addresses to the website’s mailing list. These programs are designed to fill out all forms they encounter and usually target contact, newsletter, and comment forms.
So, if you notice a sudden spike in newsletter subscriptions, chances are your site is under a spambot attack.
Although newsletter signup spam won’t harm your website directly, it can limit the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and content distribution by tricking you into sending your newsletter to email addresses that don’t exist.
However, WordPress offers several easy ways to protect your newsletter signup forms from spam, so you won’t need third-party tools to maintain a healthy mailing list.
The Potential Dangers of Newsletter Signup Spam
Putting together an eye-catching newsletter for your subscribers requires quite a bit of work, but all that hard work will go to waste if you don’t prevent spambots from adding fake email addresses to your mailing list.
The email addresses spambots add to newsletter signup forms don’t belong to real people, meaning your newsletter will remain unopened after it is delivered.
Consequently, your open rates will decrease, and bounce rates will increase if you keep sending emails to spam addresses.
The Internet and email service providers (ESPs) monitor these metrics to determine your domain’s reputation.
Hence, unintentionally sending newsletters to fake addresses increases the likelihood of your newsletter ending up in the spam folder of your real WordPress newsletter subscribers.
Here are a few more potential dangers of newsletter signup spam:
- Inefficient subscriber list and resource management – Fake newsletter subscribers can increase your monthly expenses if the email marketing platform you’re using charges you per the number of subscribers in your contact list. Moreover, you’ll waste time managing a subscriber list full of contacts that deliver zero value to your business.
- Blurred understanding of your target audience – Spambot newsletter subscriptions will cloud the performance metrics, making it difficult for you to understand your ideal target audience.
The Most Effective Strategies to Safeguard Your WordPress Newsletter Signup from Spam
The process of fighting spam starts from the moment you decide to incorporate the newsletter into your website’s marketing strategy.
Still, a certain percentage of your newsletter subscriptions will remain spam regardless of the method you use to prevent spambots from submitting false information through your newsletter signup forms.
Let’s go through the best strategies you can use to prevent newsletter spam and eliminate fake email subscriptions to your contact list.
1. Using reCAPTCHA on All Contact Forms
You don’t have to look further than your website’s dashboard to find a solution for the WordPress newsletter spam issues.
Creating a newsletter signup form with this plugin is easy and requires no coding skills. More importantly, you can add reCAPTCHA to each form you build with WPForm to prevent spambots from submitting fake emails to your contact list.
All you need to do is navigate to the WPForm tab on your site’s dashboard and click the Add New option.
The plugin’s form template library features over a thousand templates, including a newsletter and Constant Contact newsletter signup forms. Click the Use Template button next to the form you want to use and proceed to customize it.
Remember that you must activate the reCAPTCHA feature if you want to add it to the newsletter signup form. The process is straightforward, as it just involves acquiring secret and site keys from the Google reCAPTCHA site.
Once you obtain these keys, go to the Settings submenu in the WPForm menu on your site’s dashboard and open the CAPTCHA tab. The plugin supports reCAPTCHA V2 and V3, so you can choose the version you like the best.
V2 reCAPTCHA asks a new newsletter subscriber to confirm that they’re human by clicking on a checkbox or taking a quick test and selecting all images containing a particular type of object.
On the other hand, V3 reCAPTCHA utilizes a spam score to rate user behavior and determine if they’re a spambot or a human.
However, this version of reCAPTCHA sometimes struggles to recognize human subscribers, which is why most WordPress websites include V2 reCAPTCHA in their newsletter signup forms.
Go back to the WPForm tab after you complete the reCAPTCHA activation process, click on the reCAPTCHA icon in the CAPTCHA window, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and paste the site and secret keys to the appropriate fields.
When done, click the Save Settings button and open the WPForm builder.
Go to the Fields menu and click on the reCAPTCHA option in the lower right corner of the Add Fields tab. The reCAPTCHA Enabled icon will appear in the form’s upper right corner as soon as you click on the reCAPTCHA button.
Afterward, you can go to the Spam Protection tab in the Settings menu, where you customize the spam filtering options.
The plugin lets you turn on invisible spam protection, set the minimum time a new subscriber has to complete the form, and adjust other settings that reduce the chances of newsletter spam.
The process of adding reCAPTCHA with other WordPress form plugins is similar, so you can enable this feature if you create a newsletter signup form with Contact Form 7 or other form plugins.
2. Protect Your Newsletter with Invisible or Custom CAPTCHA
Even though WPForm allows users to add custom CAPTCHA to their newsletter signup forms, this feature is only available on the plugin’s pro version.
This newsletter spam prevention method enables you to select a question a spambot cannot answer to ensure all new subscribers are human. In case you decide to build a newsletter signup form from scratch, you can introduce custom CAPTCHA via HTML code.
The invisible or no CAPTCHA spam protection strategy is based on the reCAPTCHA V2. Unlike the custom CAPTCHA method, it doesn’t require a new subscriber to answer a question before submitting a form.
Instead, the invisible CAPTCHA lets subscribers complete the submission without interruption if its evaluation of their behavior indicates that they’re human.
A new subscriber to your newsletter must click the ‘I’m not a robot’ button or complete the image-based test if the invisible CAPTCHA suspects they’re a spambot.
3. Acquiring New Contacts with the Double Opt-In Method
The double opt-in method safeguards your WordPress newsletter signup from spam by enabling you to ask new subscribers to confirm their submission.
Email marketing platforms like Constant Contact or MailChimp let you use this method to verify whether a new subscriber is a spambot.
The steps you must take to add this feature to a WordPress newsletter signup form depend on the email marketing service you’re using.
However, all platforms that offer this feature require you to customize the confirmation email new subscribers receive after entering their information into the newsletter signup form and the welcome page.
It’s worth adding that the double opt-in method doesn’t entirely eliminate newsletter spam because some bots are ‘intelligent’ enough to click the link in the confirmation email and submit a fake address to your contact list.
4. Setting Up the Honeypot Signup Forms
The newsletter signup forms you build with the WPForm plugin will have honeypot spam protection by default. The method involves hiding a field in the form’s code that your website visitors cannot see to trick a spambot into filling out the form.
You can check if this option is enabled in WPForm from the Settings tab in its form builder window. Enable anti-spam protection feature should be active by default, but you can toggle it on if it isn’t before publishing the newsletter signup form.
The form rejects all submissions from the hidden field, preventing bots from inflating the number of subscribers to your newsletter.
Adding a decoy field into a form you’re building can be a reliable anti-spam solution if you don’t want to rely solely on reCAPTCHA to prevent spambot newsletter subscriptions.
5. Install an Anti-Spam WordPress Plugin
Protecting the entire WordPress website from spam is generally a good idea, even if you’re not planning to set up a newsletter signup form. For instance, an AI-powered plugin like Akismet can filter up to 99.99% of form, comment, or text spam.
These plugins enable you to use a single tool to prevent bots from spamming your website’s comments, newsletter signups, or contact forms.
6. Remove the Dummy Email Addresses from Your Contact List with the Smart Lead Verification Feature
Users of OptinMonster’s paid add-on can utilize its TruLead® algorithm to filter out all spam email addresses that come into their contact lists through newsletter signup forms.
The algorithm lets you block temporary, role-based, and free email addresses or any other spam submission.
You must enroll for the Lead Verification feature on OptinMonster’s website before you can start using it to filter out spam from your contact list. Here’s what you need to do to enroll for this feature:
- Go to the OptinMonster homepage and select Lead Verification from the Leads drop-down menu.
- Find the Click Here to Enroll button after you land on the Lead Verification page and click on it.
- Complete the payment and proceed to adjust the filtering parameters.
In case OptinMonster’s lead verification feature doesn’t meet your needs, you can try the Emailable platform. You can create a new account for free and import a contact list from ActiveCampaign, AWeber, MailChimp, and other leading email marketing platforms.
After importing a contact list to Emailable, click on the Verify button. The software will analyze all email addresses on your list and display their deliverability rate so that you can remove the spam addresses.
Keep in mind that the lead verification option can only help you get rid of spam emails that bypass your newsletter signup form’s anti-spam protection, but it can’t replace reCAPTCHA or other spambot detection methods.
7. Choose a Secure Newsletter Service
You don’t need a third-party email service provider to run a newsletter on a WordPress website because you can add the Newsletter block to its pages to collect subscribers.
Moreover, WordPress gives you the tools to manage subscriber lists. Still, you’ll need a more reliable email service provider to manage thousands of contacts and filter out newsletter spam.
Constant Contact, MailChimp, or GetResponse are some of the most popular ESPs you can integrate with your WordPress site and use to design and distribute newsletters.
Each platform gives you access to powerful contact management tools that help your newsletters reach the right addresses. They also have advanced anti-spam features that ensure all your newsletter subscriptions are valid.
8. Disable the Right-Click Functionality on Your WordPress Site
This strategy won’t do much to protect your newsletter signup form from spambots, but it will make it more difficult for human spammers to submit false information to your contact database by pasting data into the form.
In addition, turning off the right-click functionality can make the content you publish on your website safer because visitors won’t be able to copy it.
The easiest way to turn off this functionality is to install a plugin like WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click that automatically prevents website visitors from using the right-click to copy text, download images, or paste their information into all types of forms.
You can also disable this functionality manually from the Theme Editor, but you’ll need advanced coding skills to perform this task.
9. Manually Remove Suspicious Emails from You Contact List
Gathering subscribers and building a contact list takes time, which is why spotting spam email addresses will be relatively easy if you started a newsletter recently.
Filtering out fake addresses manually shouldn’t take long if your mailing list has a few hundred contacts. Moreover, you should review the contact details whenever you get a new subscriber to ensure you can deliver the newsletter to that email address.
Fake email addresses often contain spelling errors and names that don’t correspond to names provided on the newsletter signup form, which is why they’re relatively easy to spot.
Moreover, checking if the welcome email was delivered to the address after a contact signs up for your WordPress newsletter can help you determine if the email address is real.
10. Throttling and Time Analysis
Some ESPs utilize the throttling feature to prevent spambots from signing up for multiple newsletters in a short time. Throttling blocks an email address from signing up for new newsletters for 24 hours after the limit for that address is exceeded.
Some form builders, including the WPForm, allow you to set the minimum time a new subscriber must take to complete a WordPress newsletter signup form.
Spambots need under two seconds to complete and submit a form, while humans need five seconds or more to add their data and click the subscribe button. Hence, setting the minimum time to
submit a newsletter signup form to five seconds can protect your mailing list from spam.
11. Multi-Factor Authentication
Although this strategy makes the newsletter signup process slightly more complex, adding multi-factor authentication to a form will dramatically reduce fake emails in your contact list.
You must install the Two Factor Authentication or a similar plugin that lets you add 2FA to a newsletter signup form if you want to ask your subscribers to confirm their subscription from their phones.
12. Consider IP Address Blocking
If you notice that a large number of spam newsletter subscriptions come from a particular country or region, you can block all IP addresses from that part of the world.
Geo-blocking is only a viable newsletter spam solution if you’re targeting local markets and have no interest in attracting a worldwide audience to your newsletter. Spambots registered at IP addresses you block won’t be able to see your website and add fake emails to your contact list.
However, blocking IP addresses will also prevent legitimate visitors from that part of the world from accessing your website and subscribing to your newsletter.
Improving a Newsletter’s Effectiveness by Eliminating Signup Spam
Newsletter spam emails can quickly deplete your marketing budget by forcing you to pay for fake contacts that won’t interact with your newsletters.
Adding reCAPTCHA to a WordPress newsletter signup form or implementing other anti-spam strategies like honeypot or double opt-in will ensure your newsletters are delivered to legitimate subscribers who want to keep up with your company’s latest news.
Although they improve your website’s security, none of these strategies are bullet-proof, so ideally, you should combine two or more methods of eliminating WordPress newsletter signup spam.
Go through our guide to WordPress Maintenance Tasks You Should Perform Regularly to find out how security scans can help you deal with spam.