Stop 99% of Your Spam Leads with Marketo

Every marketer is familiar with spam leads, but when the volume gets too high it becomes an expensive problem for SDRs and sales reps to wade through.

Marketo has an in-built mechanism to block spam – however it isn’t always effective. Luckily, there is a simple way to cut 99% of spam leads.

Where is Spam coming from?

To understand how it works, first you need to understand that spam leads are created in two main ways:

  • Bots – automated software which will enter details in your forms on a rapid & mass scale
  • Human – people deliberately entering fake details, either because they are time wasters or trying to sell something

Human spam is harder to block (although possible) but only represents a small volume. Bot spam is the real problem.

Marketo’s Honey Pot

Marketo uses a ‘honey pot’ to stop spam. This is simply a hidden field in your form which humans can’t see but bots will fill in.

In Marketo this field is called ‘_marketo_comments’ and is automatically added to all forms. If this field has a value, Marketo will ignore this lead.

There are two issues with Marketo’s honey pot:

  1. Many bots are smart enough to avoid hidden fields, which Marketo uses
  2. Some bots already know to avoid Marketo’s honey pot, i.e. the field called_marketo_comments.

Build a Better Honey Pot

The key to stopping bots is to understand that they aren’t smart enough to read and understand directions like a human.

You can add your own ‘honey pot’ field to Marketo forms. This field can be a new Marketo field, a re-purposed field that you don’t use (such as Fax Number) or an existing field like Lead Status.

Here is an example inspired by Google’s reCaptcha (thanks Peter Schlesinger for the idea).

A human would correctly un-tick the “I’m a robot” and tick the “I’m NOT a robot”.  A bot would fill in both or leave it as is.


Part 1: Add a New Field

Add two check boxes “I’m a robot” and “I’m NOT a robot”:

Set their values to:

These check boxes don’t need to be added to all your forms, just the ones producing spam. Usually this is your Contact Us form on your website.

Part 2: Add Campaign Logic to Marketo

In Marketo, you would create a campaign which deletes any lead that contains ‘Junk’ in this field, like this:

Why Not Captcha or Anti-bot Questions?

A captcha is an image that displays text in hard-to-read way. By requiring users to type the challenge text into a text field, it verifies the person is a not a bot. Here is an example:

I don’t recommend a captcha, as it interferes with the user experience and will drop the volume of your leads.

The same applies to anti-bot questions like this:

Having to explicitly type text is for more effort for the website visitor, which means fewer visitors will fill out the form.

Filtering Human Spam

Filtering spam created by humans is a little trickier, however there are certain things to look for which are give-aways as spam.

The most obvious is a URL in the comment. Create campaign logic like this to filter out junk leads:

Depending on your type of business, you will attract certain types or themes of spam. For us it’s these ones:

It’s best to mark these leads as Junk and review them on a weekly basis, rather than deleting them outright. That way any false positives can be recovered and sent to sales.

Tags. Marketo, spam

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