CAPTCHAs, those annoying little tests that ask you to prove you’re not a robot, have become a ubiquitous part of the internet landscape. After all, no website owner wants to have to wade through hundreds of spam comments or try to spot genuine form submissions among a sea of spam, so they turn to a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) to try and stop the robots.
But is asking your visitors to prove they’re not a robot really the best way to prevent spam on your WordPress website? Read on to find all you need about adding CAPTCHAs to your WordPress site and discover a better way to protect your site from spam.
What to know before using CAPTCHA
While CAPTCHAs can help protect your site from spam comments and form submissions, they do come with many downsides which are impossible to ignore, including:
1. CAPTCHAs lead to form abandonment
Researchers from Stanford University found that CAPTCHAs can actually drive users away from your site. They found that, rather than trying to solve the challenge, 29% of users choose to leave a page when confronted with a CAPTCHA. Such a significant drop-off in user engagement could have serious implications for many WordPress websites, particularly if yours relies upon user engagement, for example, in your comment section.
2. CAPTCHAs lower your conversion rate and cost you revenue
If your site relies on visitors converting in any way — for example, by signing up for a newsletter, registering for an account, or making a purchase — it’s also important to know that CAPTCHAs negatively impact your conversion rate.
Research has found that sites using CAPTCHAs experience an average of a 3.2% reduction in their conversion rates compared to those that do not, which could significantly impact the revenue you generate from your site.
3. CAPTCHAs aren’t very accessible
CAPTCHAs can also have a significant impact on the accessibility of your site. Individuals with vision or hearing impairments often find CAPTCHAs nearly impossible to navigate, and they present a substantial barrier for visitors who use assistive technology to navigate your site. For example, visitors using screen readers are often presented with an audio CAPTCHA, which researchers have found are only solved on the first attempt half the time.
Google’s reCAPTCHA is the most commonly-used CAPTCHA solution, but even Google acknowledges that CAPTCHAs can lead to poor user experiences, increase friction, and impact conversion rates. Bots can also circumvent CAPTCHAs, including Google’s reCAPTCHA v3, meaning they may not be able to completely protect your WordPress website against spam.
Is there a better alternative to CAPTCHA?
With all the downsides of using CAPTCHAs, you may be left wondering what you can do to protect your site from spam without impacting your user experience, conversions, and revenue.
The great news is that frictionless spam protection is available through Akismet, which guards over 100 million websites and is used by many large brands such as Microsoft and ConvertKit.
Meet Akismet: the non-intrusive WordPress spam blocker
Akismet is a non-intrusive, intelligent spam blocker that integrates seamlessly with WordPress. Unlike CAPTCHAs, Akismet works silently in the background, allowing you to offer world-class spam protection without adding friction to your visitor experience.
Akismet is called a ‘non-intrusive’ spam blocker as it protects your website from spam without requiring any sort of manual user input. Instead, it leverages one of the world’s largest anti-spam databases to protect your site. The service is trusted by over 100 million sites, and has blocked more than a staggering 500 billion pieces of spam to date.
Boasting an impressive 99.9% accuracy rate, Akismet is the most accurate anti-spam solution available. The service uses state-of-the-art machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to analyze all user-submitted text in real-time to see if it’s spam.
For example, Akismet will check if comments match known spam, have been submitted from known malicious IP addresses, or if they follow common spam patterns, like containing links to unrelated third-party sites.
Akismet is easy to use and provides a simple dashboard that allows you to monitor what the tool is blocking as spam and what it’s allowing through. You can then intervene if any submission or comment is incorrectly classified as spam, and Akismet will learn from your feedback, further improving its accuracy.
Most importantly, your visitors never see a CAPTCHA when you’re using Akismet. Your site remains protected and the user experience uncluttered.
Automattic, the team behind WordPress.com and WooCommerce, is also behind Akismet, meaning it integrates seamlessly into your WordPress site. In addition to protecting your WordPress comment section from spam, Akismet offers seamless integrations with popular tools like Jetpack Comments, as well as many form builders, including Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, and Formidable Forms.
So, wherever your WordPress website captures user-submitted text, there’s a high chance that Akismet will be able to protect it.
Akismet offers an affordable spam protection solution for websites of all sizes through Jetpack for just $4.95 a month for the first year. You can also get Akismet Anti-spam as part of both the Jetpack Security or Complete plans, which offer additional Jetpack features, including backups and malware protection.
Still want to use a CAPTCHA? Here are the best plugins for WordPress
Whatever the reason, some sites still choose to use CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA for spam protection. If that’s what you prefer, check out the top solutions for adding CAPTCHA to your WordPress contact forms below.
Advanced Google reCAPTCHA is a WordPress plugin that enables you to integrate Google reCAPTCHA into your WordPress site. This free plugin was created by WPConcern, a team that produces a number of WordPress and WooCommerce plugins. You can use it to easily add reCAPTCHA v2 or v3 to WordPress comment forms, login, and registration forms. The plugin is compatible with various additional tools, including WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, and BuddyPress.
Key features of Advanced Google reCAPTCHA:
- Support for Google reCAPTCHA v2 or v3
- The ability to add CAPTCHAs to WordPress login, registration, and comment forms.
- Integrations with a limited number of additional plugins, including WooCommerce, BuddyPress, and Easy Digital Downloads.
Pros of Advanced Google reCAPTCHA:
- The plugin offers a simple way to add Google reCAPTCHA V2 or V3 to your WordPress comment, login, and registration forms.
Cons of Advanced Google reCAPTCHA:
- The plugin relies on Google reCAPTCHA to protect your site from spam. As we’ve discussed above, this can add additional friction to your user journey.
- A Google reCAPTCHA API key is required.
- The plugin only supports a small number of additional tools, meaning it may not be able to protect all of your site from spam.
Ease of use:
The plugin is easy to install and has a simple interface. Some users may find registering for their site for a Google reCAPTCHA API key confusing, and only limited guidance is provided by the plugin authors for how to do this.
Advanced Google reCAPTCHA is available free of charge from the WordPress plugin directory.
ReCaptcha Integration for WordPress allows you to protect your comment, log in, and registration forms from spam and bots using Google reCAPTCHA. The plugin is free to use and was created by weDevs, a company that also produces a number of WordPress plugins.
Key features of ReCaptcha Integration for WordPress:
- The ability to secure your WordPress signup, registration, and comment forms with reCAPTCHA
- Support for reCAPTCHA V2 and V3
- Support for third-party plugins, including bbPress, Contact Form 7, and Ninja Forms
- Limited WooCommerce support
Pros of ReCaptcha Integration for WordPress:
- The plugin supports WordPress multisite, which allows you to activate the plugin on all sites in your network with just one Google reCAPTCHA API key.
- The plugin provides guidance for developers to integrate the tool into custom forms or third-party plugins.
Cons of ReCaptcha Integration for WordPress:
- The plugin relies on Google reCAPTCHA to protect your site from spam, which can negatively impact your visitor experience.
- There is only limited support for WooCommerce, as the plugin is not able to protect your password reset form.
Ease of use:
The plugin is simple to install and has a single settings page where you can control which elements of your site are protected by reCAPTCHA and add your Google reCAPTCHA API keys. Support is offered via the plugin’s support forum.
ReCaptcha Integration for WordPress is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory.
reCaptcha by BestWebSoft is a WordPress CAPTCHA plugin that can help protect your WordPress site from spam. The plugin offers support for all current versions of Google reCAPTCHA. It was created by BestWebSoft, a company that also produces several popular WordPress plugins that integrate natively with this tool.
Key features of reCaptcha by BestWebSoft:
- The ability to add Google reCAPTCHA V2 and V3 to your WordPress comment forms, as well as login, registration, and password reset forms
- Support for invisible reCAPTCHA
- Integration with a number of other BestWebSoft plugins
- Has light and dark reCAPTCHA themes
- Includes RTL language support
- Integration with a wide range of plugins, including WooCommerce and popular contact form plugins (pro version only)
- WordPress multisite support (pro version only)
Pros of reCaptcha by BestWebSoft:
- The plugin is easy to use and set up, and can protect the standard WordPress comment form with little additional configuration.
- It allows you to choose between dark and light reCAPTCHA themes.
Cons of reCaptcha by BestWebSoft:
- The plugin uses Google reCAPTCHA, which, as we have discussed in the ‘What to know before using CAPTCHA’ section, can add friction to your visitor experience.
- Integrations with a range of popular plugins, including WooCommerce, are only available with the pro plan.
Ease of use:
Once you have a Google reCAPTCHA API key, reCaptcha by BestWebSoft is simple to set up. The plugin will automatically validate your API key to help prevent any issues. Detailed documentation is available, along with email support for pro users.
There’s a limited free version available in the WordPress plugin directory. The Pro version costs $24 a year per domain and offers additional features, including support for a wide range of third-party plugins.
ReCaptcha v2 for Contact Form 7 is a WordPress CAPTCHA plugin that’s specifically designed to protect your Contact Form 7 forms from spam submissions using Google reCAPTCHA.
Key features of ReCaptcha v2 for Contact Form 7:
- Adds support for Google reCAPTCHA v2 to Contact Form 7
Pros of ReCaptcha v2 for Contact Form 7:
- The plugin is a simple way to add reCAPTCHA v2 support if you use this specific type of contact form.
Cons of ReCaptcha v2 for Contact Form 7:
- The plugin only supports Contact Form 7 and will not protect the rest of your WordPress website from spam.
- The plugin relies on reCAPTCHA v2, which means your visitors will see a ‘I’m not a robot’ checkbox on all of your forms. This can negatively impact completion rates.
Ease of use:
The plugin has a simple settings screen and is easy to integrate into your Contact Form 7 forms using the [reCAPTCHA] tag.
The plugin is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory.
Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA is a simple WordPress CAPTCHA plugin that adds the feature to your login, registration, and password reset forms.
Key features of Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA:
- Support for adding Google reCAPTCHA v2 to your WordPress login, registration, and “forgot password” forms
- WooCommerce support
Pros of Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA:
- The plugin is a simple way to help protect your sites from bots and brute force login attempts by adding CAPTCHA to your login, registration, and password reset forms.
Cons of Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA:
- The plugin only uses reCAPTCHA to protect your login and registration forms from brute force attacks. It doesn’t offer protection for WordPress comment or other forms on your site.
- It only supports Google reCAPTCHA ‘No Captcha’ (v2), which still adds friction to your visitor experience by presenting them with a ‘I’m not a robot’ checkbox.
Ease of use:
No user documentation is provided. However, once you have a Google reCAPTCHA v2 API key, the plugin is simple to set up and will automatically add CAPTCHA forms to your login, registration, and password reset forms.
The plugin is available free of charge from the WordPress plugin directory.
Really Simple Captcha is a WordPress CAPTCHA plugin that allows you to add simple text-based CAPTCHAs to forms, including those created using Contact Form 7. Unlike the other plugins in this list, which rely on a third-party provider such as Google reCAPTCHA, Really Simple Captcha generates its own CAPTCHAs for your visitors to solve.
Key features of Really Simple Captcha:
- Adds simple text-based CAPTCHA to Contact Form 7 forms
- Classes and hooks that enable developers to add CAPTCHAs to custom forms and third-party plugins
Pros of Really Simple Captcha:
- The plugin provides a simple way to add basic CAPTCHAs to Contact Form 7 forms.
Cons of Really Simple Captcha:
- The plugin offers a simple text-based CAPTCHA, which does not offer the same level of protection as more advanced CAPTCHAs or Akismet.
- Text-based CAPTCHAs, such as those used by this plugin, can significantly impact conversion and form completion rates.
- The plugin only has support for Contact Form 7. Adding CAPTCHA protection to other forms requires custom development.
Ease of use:
It’s simple to add to Contact Form 7 forms, but the coding required to add support for other forms means using this plugin for anything other than Contact Form 7 is more challenging.
The plugin is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory.
hCaptcha for WordPress is a CAPTCHA plugin that helps protect your site against spam. The plugin integrates the hCaptcha service into your WordPress site, which is an alternative service to Google reCAPTCHA. It protects many different elements of your site, including your comment and login forms, as well as forms generated by other third-party plugins.
Key features of hCaptcha for WordPress:
- Integrated CAPTCHA for your WordPress site
- Support for a large number of third-party plugins, including WooCommerce
- The ability to add CAPTCHAs via shortcode
Pros of hCaptcha for WordPress:
- It helps to protect both your comment forms from spam and your login forms from automated bots.
- It supports many popular plugins, including WooCommerce, BuddyPress, and popular form plugins.
Cons of hCaptcha for WordPress:
- Passive CAPTCHAs are only available with hCaptcha paid plans, meaning that the free hCaptcha service will present a challenge on every form submission, which can negatively impact your site’s usability and visitor experience.
Ease of use:
Once an account has been created with hCaptcha, the plugin is easy to use and integrates automatically into your comment and login forms.
The plugin is free to download from the WordPress plugin directory. An account is required to use the plugin. Free accounts have limited features and don’t support passive CAPTCHAS. Pro accounts start at $99 per month.
Comparison of the top anti-spam plugins
|Akismet||Advanced Google reCAPTCHA||ReCaptcha Integration for WordPress||reCaptcha by BestWebSoft||ReCaptcha v2 for Contact Form 7||Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA||Really Simple Captcha||hCaptcha for WordPress|
|99.9% spam detection accuracy?||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Has the potential to negatively impact your visitors’ experience||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Protects your WordPress comment form from Spam||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||Yes|
|Works with a wide range of form plugins||Yes||Limited||Limited||Pro only||No||No||No||Yes|
|Cost||$4.99 per month||Free||Free||Limited free version. Pro version is $24 a year.||Free||Free||Free||Basic plan is free. “Passive” CAPTCHA available in the Pro plan, which starts at $99 / month.|
Factors to consider when choosing an anti-spam plugin
What types of forms does it work on?
It’s important to make sure the WordPress anti-spam plugin you choose can protect all the forms on your site. Some plugins offer support for only a single type of form — for example, contact forms created using a specific plugin.
Other plugins, such as Akismet, offer support for a wide range of forms, including your WordPress comment forms, contact forms created with many popular form plugins, and WooCommerce checkout. Akismet also works perfectly alongside Jetpack’s free brute force attack protection to help protect your login and registration forms from automated bots.
What type of CAPTCHA does it use?
There is a range of different CAPTCHA types, including basic text CAPTCHAs. Most WordPress CAPTCHA plugins offer a way for you to integrate Google reCAPTCHA into your WordPress website. Depending on the version of reCAPTCHA you use, this can mean that your visitors are presented with ‘I’m not a robot’ boxes to tick or may even be completely blocked from your site.
Other WordPress anti-spam plugins protect your site without using CAPTCHAs. For example, Akismet blocks an impressive 99.9% of spam and works behind the scenes of your site, so it’ll never get in the way of your visitor’s experience.
It’s also important to consider the price of your WordPress anti-spam solution and balance this with the features offered. Some anti-spam plugins are free but require a third-party API key, for example, from Google reCAPTCHA. Akismet offers industry-leading spam protection without adding any friction to your visitors’ experience and is available through paid Jetpack plans or from a dedicated plan.
Traditional text-based CAPTCHAs can impact the accessibility of your site and make it impossible for users who rely on screen readers. While Google reCAPTCHA works with screen readers, it can require users to complete an audio challenge which research has found has a first-time success rate of just 50%. As Akismet will never present a CAPTCHA to your visitors, it offers a completely accessible way to protect your site from spam.
Ease of use/setup
As well as making sure your anti-spam solution doesn’t impact your visitor’s experience, it’s also important to make sure it is simple to set up and use for your site administrators. For example, Akismet can be set up in just a few clicks and automatically protects many of your site’s forms from spam. In addition, your site administrators can monitor its performance through a handy dashboard, and you can easily provide feedback to the plugin if it has incorrectly identified any entry as spam.
What’s the best plugin for blocking spam on WordPress?
Akismet is undeniably the best solution for protecting your WordPress site from spam. It uses advanced algorithms and AI technology to protect your site from spam with an unbeatable 99.9% accuracy rate.
Akismet protects your site from spam without ever impacting your visitor’s experience or presenting them with annoying CAPTCHAs to solve. Akismet is made by Automattic, the team behind WordPress.com and WooCommerce, so it integrates seamlessly into your WordPress site with minimal setup. Akismet is also supported by many popular form plugins, so you can protect your entire site, including contact forms, from spam submissions.
Frequently asked questions about WordPress CAPTCHA plugins
Can CAPTCHA affect user experience and conversion rates?
Yes, CAPTCHAs can have a significant impact on your website’s visitor experience and conversion rates. Most types of CAPTCHAs introduce an additional step in a user’s journey on a website, which adds friction to your visitor experience and can lead to frustration or confusion.
They can also have a disproportionate impact on the experience of visitors who use assistive technology, as some CAPTCHA types are not solvable by screen readers. Others force visitors who use a screen reader to solve a tricky audio CAPTCHA.
Stanford University found that 29% of users choose to leave a page when confronted with a CAPTCHA rather than solve the challenge, meaning they could have a major impact on how many visitors interact with your site.
Research has also shown that sites using CAPTCHA experience an average of a 3.2% reduction in their conversion rates. This shows that CAPTCHAs could reduce the revenue you’re able to earn from your site.
Akismet vs CAPTCHA: which should I install?
If you want to protect your WordPress site with cutting-edge spam protection that offers an astonishing 99.9% accuracy without impacting your visitor experience, then Akismet is the clear choice. Akismet is completely invisible to your website visitors and offers a simple way to protect your WordPress or WooCommerce website from spam.
Is Akismet a reliable alternative to CAPTCHA?
Yes, Akismet is a reliable alternative to CAPTCHA that will never get in the way of your visitors’ experience or impact your conversion rate. Akismet has caught an impressive 500 billion pieces of spam and integrates seamlessly into your WordPress site.
Over 100 million websites around the world use Akismet’s 99.9% detection rate to protect their site from spam. So if you want to guard your site while keeping visitors happy, add Akismet’s state-of-the-art spam protection to your site today.
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