How to Understand and Reduce Spam Leads

Posted: April 17, 2023

Christian Jessup Company Marketing Manager

INVASION OF THE SPAM LEADS

Over the past several months, we’ve observed an increase in low-quality “spam” leads stemming from certain media channels. These low-quality leads have been especially prevalent on Google and Facebook advertising, often providing false or nonsensical information in institutional RFI forms.

What’s more, these spam leads aren’t just limited to digital marketing but are part of a broader online fraud pattern impacting the higher education industry. In 2021, California’s community college system received over 65,000 fake applications for financial aid, with the San Diego Community College District paying over $100,000 in fraudulent claims before catching on.

This activity often comes from bots – fake automated accounts built to mimic human activity on a large scale. But recently, more and more of these spam leads come from human sources, such as hackers seeking to obtain information through automated form-fill attacks.

Spam leads are part of a broader online fraud pattern impacting the higher education industry.

So with both bots and humans targeting higher education’s digital marketing efforts, how can you ensure your institution’s leads are qualified, interested prospects? Well, we’re here to help.

WORKING THE PROBLEM

One of our core values at VisionPoint is our persistent, solutions-driven mindset. Spam leads are an ongoing, industry-wide problem. But we’re approaching the problem with tenacity, persistence, and a resolve to keep thinking, keep trying, keep testing, and keep working until the solution becomes clear.

In fact, there are a variety of ways we’re already working to lessen and eliminate low quality leads from our partners’ campaigns. Combatting this trend requires a variety of methods, including tactical platform optimizations, landing page optimizations, and new technology.

PLATFORM OPTIMIZATIONS

Certain channels such as Google Performance Max or Google Responsive Display have shown a particular affinity for attracting spam leads. However, these channels can be a key part of most institutions’ enrollment marketing efforts and shouldn’t be abandoned.

As a Google Premier Partner, our team has worked with Google to identify specific action items to take on their channels. Here are a few places you should start:

  • Consider disabling Search Partners on your campaign settings.
  • Consider disabling featuring Display network for Search campaigns.
  • Consider disabling optimized targeting.
  • Constantly check and refine geo exclusions.
  • Consider targeting “people in or regularly in your targeted locations” instead of “people in or interested in your targeted locations.”

Reviewing and potentially disabling these settings are strong first steps to eliminating low-quality clicks and leads in your advertising.

Google Performance Max can be a key part of your advertising, but has also shown an affinity for attracting spam leads.

LANDING PAGE OPTIMIZATIONS

Once users arrive on your landing page or website, there are additional tactics you can use to lessen spam leads, particularly from bot traffic.

An easy first step is adding form field validations and requirements. Building in requirements for certain form fields can help discourage and eliminate some bots and hackers.

Implementing a CAPTCHA test on your RFI forms is a great method for both protecting your site and preventing bot submissions. CAPTCHA proves effective because computers can’t read or solve the test necessary to complete the form.

Honeypot techniques are another form of combating spam on your website pages. There are a variety of tactics that could be deployed, ranging from “hidden” form fields and form validation APIs, to more sophisticated approaches involving malware detection, open mail relays, and web application firewalls.

Implementing a CAPTCHA test on your RFI forms is a great method for protecting your site.

NEW TECHNOLOGY

Over the past month, we have trialed a technology solution called ClickCease, which targets and resolves potential spam traffic at the ad click level (specifically on Google and Facebook). When connecting to their platform, ClickCease analyzes and blocks potential spam traffic preclick. This not only helps curtail spam traffic and spam leads, but in time, saves our client partners ad dollars in the process.

Our initial trials with ClickCease have shown some early success, especially when paired with tightening campaign settings and landing page optimizations.

WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER

As we look ahead and build a roadmap for working on the issue, VisionPoint has formed a task force to make sure we’re combining resources and knowledge across teams in combating these low quality leads. 

Our client partners are an invaluable resource to help us on this path. When you identify spam leads, what consistencies are you noticing? Do certain form fields always contain similar information? Are there certain times of day these leads occur? Working the problem alongside our partners is the surest way to success.

Want to talk with us further about spam leads and their impact on your enrollment marketing? Email info@visionpointmarketing.com or visit the page below to start a conversation about how we can help you succeed in your digital marketing efforts.