Why Using CAPTCHA Kills Your Conversion Rate

Why Using CAPTCHA Kills Your Conversion Rate Mars664

Why Using CAPTCHA Kills Your Conversion Rate

SEOs can sometimes find us guilty of focusing on the following things:

  1. Links
  2. Rankings
  3. Fun stuffed animals that Google continues to release from its algorithmic zoo.

Very often we are heard murmuring that user experience is not really our problem. We are all on the previous three points. However, as the work of SEOs continues to become broader and require more skill sets, I think user experience is something we can all work on. Plus, surely if we focus some of our energy on this, we're going to end up with much happier users, which in turn will result in higher conversions.

There are several ways to improve the user experience and of course conversion rate optimization also plays an important role. Today, I want to focus on a specific part of the user experience: CAPTCHAs (completely automated public Turing test to tell Computers and humans apart), and why I think they suck.

CAPTCHAs ask frustrating questions

When you encounter a CAPTCHA, you are asked: “Are you a robot?” It's like asking a customer who is about to enter a physical store: “Are you a thief?” before allowing them to walk through the door. So we used to inundate our users with these “questions:”

And from there we have moved to this:

Literally every time I see one of the above it makes me wish it was on a wall nearby:

CAPTCHAs act as a barrier between yi and your clients

In 2009, Casey Henry wrote a great post on the effect of CAPTCHA on conversion rates. He highlighted the fact that with CAPTCHA disabled, a company's conversion rate would increase by up to 3,2%. It's worth noting that the type of CAPTCHA used in this test was based on the more traditional word format. That 3.2% is a pretty big potential profit for many companies.

CAPTCHAs are not a solution, they are a problem

In early 2013 it was announced that Ticketmaster was finally abandoning its traditional CAPTCHAs. Ticketmaster proceeded with a SolveMedia alternative system. The system presents users with an image or video, then the user has to type a phrase associated with that image. In the product video version, a descriptive phrase will appear that the user must copy into the box below. If they are not willing to do this, they must watch the video for a certain amount of time (similar to YouTube advertising) before continuing.

Right now, companies are producing variations of novel products aimed at helping us prevent spam from reaching our inboxes. Many products claim that they are intended for improve the user experience by making this easier for humans. They come in a variety of styles, ranging from completing a simple sum to those that are Image-based CAPTCHAs or even in games (like Are You Human).

However, all these “solutions” create the same problem. I, the user, am trying to complete a purchase, fill out a form, or simply submit a comment. And you, the website, keep putting this frustrating technological barriere between me and my meta, just so I don't have to check some spam items.

Another major concern is that these products are not particularly easy to use for those who are blind or visually impaired. Some simply offer the same audio CAPTCHAs (and issues) we've been experiencing for as long as we can remember.

CAPTCHA is built for advertising, not for users

The key difference for me with image-based products like SolveMedia and Minteye is that they seem to act as another opportunity to push an ad in front of users. In some cases, they force you to watch an ad to go to the next page.

Users do not want to see ads, even when they are “subtly” placed around a beautifully designed page. However, we are increasingly moving away from giving the user the option of watching an ad to the point where ads are forced (ahem... YouTube).

So people must be abandoning CAPTCHA, right?

Despite statistics like the ones Casey Henry shares, the fact is that CAPTCHA usage is actually increasing. Perhaps for many webmasters this is becoming common practice, almost the norm. After all, it is a quick fix that means we as webmasters no longer have to worry about deal with spam.

Drupal usage statistics figures show that only they have about 200,000 people using one of its CAPTCHA variants. This is a barrier to a more satisfying user experience that doesn't seem to go away.

“CAPTCHAs are designed to be easy for humans but difficult for machines”

…According to a study carried out by the Stanford University on the use of CAPTCHA By humans. However, by testing more than 1,100 people, collecting 11,800 completed surveys, and studying 14,000,000 samples of a week's worth of data from eBay, they revealed just how difficult it has become. CAPTCHA for humans.

The study showed that, on average:

  • Visual CAPTCHAs take 9.8 seconds to complete
  • Audio CAPTCHAs take much longer (28.4 seconds) in listening and resolving
  • Audio CAPTCHA has a 50% dropout rate.
  • Only 71% of the time 3 users will agree with the translation of a CAPTCHA
  • Only 31.2% of the time 3 users will agree with the translation of an audio CAPTCHA

With around 1% of the audience currently using audio CAPTCHAs, this is potentially a big market to lose.

So what is the solution?

There is a time and a place for CAPTCHA. For some sites, it may be unavoidable. However, any solution that is extremely effective quickly becomes widely used, and as such, becomes a target for hackers.

There are already some really simple solutions that will help reduce the amount of spam you receive but won't interfere with your user experience.


Akismet provides a effective defense which has no impact on your users. It comes as a variety of plugins and is generally easy to implement on your site. Akismet monitors millions of sites, constantly learning new methods to overcome comment spam.

The honeypot technique.

Essentially, the honeypot technique is used to Hide a field on a form from the user. If this field is filled in, it is very likely that it was done by a machine. The main drawback of this method is that the form could be accidentally completed by a visually impaired user. Therefore, it might also be helpful to label the field with something like “If you are human, do not fill out this field.”

Ultimately, we still have the problem that no matter what we do to ensure that a user doesn't fill out the form, a malicious script could make its own interpretations by knowing which labels mean a field should be left alone.

However, the key benefit of this method is that The user is not punished when asked to complete something that is irrelevant to their actions.

Is it time for you to get rid of your CAPTCHA?

I think we should focus on what creates a better experience for users by asking ourselves the following questions:

Is the amount of spam you're receiving really worth losing conversions?

If yes, is your CAPTCHA friendly to all users, including those who are visually impaired?

CAPTCHAs are for robots, not humans. Unfortunately, anything one person can program to try to prevent robots from entering a site is something another person can find. The real consideration is, Are we just putting our spam problem on our customers?

When it comes down to it, CAPTCHAs lead to a negative experience on our sites. They frustrate users, they hurt conversion rates and are not particularly friendly with users with visual disabilities. Above all, it is shifting our problem to our users. That's definitely not right. Getting rid of CAPTCHA will not only improve our users' experiences, but it will also improve the web as a whole. This should be the beginning of the end of the CAPTCHA. If it has a CAPTCHA, I urge you to remove it now!

What do you think?