Involvement Device Captchas

Aaron Wall’s Captcha Advertising is a great idea. But I’m not sure he realizes how good it is. He has started

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Written by Damon on January 4, 2009

Aaron Wall’s Captcha Advertising is a great idea. But I’m not sure he realizes how good it is.

He has started using SEO trivia for his captchas. Each trivia question links to relevant premium services that he offers.

He presents it as another way of reminding people of his premium services. But the real value of captcha advertising is in how the captchas act as involvement devices.

Involvement Devices Explained

An involvement device is a common copywriting technique. It can be anything that requires the reader to do something that gets the reader involved copy.

The classic example of involvement devices from the print world is Publisher’s Clearinghouse’s use of stamps in their direct mail packages. People who take the time to put the stamps in the correct places in the package become more invested in the process, are more likely to read, and eventually convert.

This particular involvement device had the unfortunate drawback of being really interesting to children which explains my first exposure to it.

Online involvement devices can take a number of different and more interesting forms. Product configurators and wizards provide a number of interesting and useful examples. The Keyword Research Tool that Aaron uses for his captcha advertising example could also be an involvement device if used in the right way.

Captchas as Involvement Devices

There are a couple of avenues that I think would be worth testing when trying captchas as involvement devices.

Getting the Reader to Think Positively

Aaron’s example gets readers to think positively with a simple question that readers have to type yes to solve.

Did you know most new websites will not rank well for
competitive keywords until after they do some link building.
Search engines treat links as votes.
Enter yes below.

By getting visitors to type yes in, he makes it more likely that they will respond favorably to other offers.

Getting the Reader to Think About Benefits

Another variation worth testing is to present a series of benefits and get the reader to type in the one that is most valuable to them. Using keyword research tool as an example, I might try presenting a selection of SEO benefits.

SEO increases traffic and helps branding for a low price.
Which of traffic, branding or low price is most important for you or your customers?
Enter one of traffic, branding, or low price below.

Then on the keyword research results page, add a call to action that emphasizes traffic, branding, or low price (depending on what the visitor enters in the captcha) that leads to a page presenting products or services that answer the relevant benefit.

This particular example is a lot more transparently salesy, but it might work in the right situation and be worth testing.

Expanding the Captcha

These are just the ideas that immediately occured to me when I read Aaron’s post. I’d be very interested to learn what else you come up with. I think Aaron’s idea is just a starting point.

3 replies to “Involvement Device Captchas

  1. Dave Sherohman

    Interesting concept, but I think you’re underestimating the public’s resistance to advertising (or perhaps I’m projecting my own resistance and overestimating the public’s as a result). If presented with the captchas suggested in this article, I would just pick a red word at random and type it in without reading the question.

    The need to highlight which answer(s) are right would also quickly defeat its purpose as a captcha. If I wanted to spam a site using those, it would only take a few minutes to update my spambot with code to pick out the red (or otherwise highlighted) words and submit one of them as the response. (I do software development so, if I were involved with the spam industry, I’d be writing my own spambots.)


  2. Post Author Damon

    @Dave Sherohman

    I totally agree that you can’t be too obvious. Direct response copy makes me cringe and I think it makes a lot of web savvy people cringe.

    But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. It’s been around much longer and it’s been continuously tested against the goal of selling.

    If you’re able to educate the visitor and the rest of your site doesn’t look like a sales letter, then I think you can get away with it.

    But don’t trust me. Test it.

    Finally on the subject of spam bots.

    I don’t think it’s worth it to write a custom spam bot to beat a single custom CAPTCHA. Spam needs to scale.


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