If you’ve been a WordPress site owner for any period of time, no doubt you already know the importance of WordPress security. WordPress reCAPTCHA is a key component to the security of your WordPress site.
A security breach may result in major damage to your site and reputation. But with the number of hackers that use bots to effectively and rapidly attack WordPress sites, you might feel like you’re not doing enough of the things you need to do to keep your site safe and secure.
It’s good to know that there’s a simple tool that’ll keep spammers and bots from gaining unauthorized access to your site. By incorporating a Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA), you’ll discover an easy and powerful way to boost the security of your site.
In this guide, you’ll learn about WordPress reCAPTCHA and how it plays a vital role in keeping your site safe and clean from hackers, spam, malware, and other malicious attacks. Then, we’ll discuss the specific ways to add reCAPTCHA to your WordPress site by introducing you to the best plugins for the job.
Let’s dig in.
What is reCAPTCHA?
When you’re browsing various websites online, no doubt you’ve seen a lot of different CAPTCHAs. And they can come in a variety of different forms.
One of the types of CAPTCHA you’ve probably seen most often is a string of distorted text (in an image) that you have to type into a form before you can log in to a website. Other types of CAPTCHAs require that you select certain images that meet a required specification from a grouping of several photos.
But in every case where a CAPTCHA is implemented, the challenge that’s presented to the user will be simple enough for most people to figure out and complete. However, even the most advanced bots can’t translate the words or figure out which images to choose to pass the CAPTCHA test.
When a bot fails to complete the test, it’s blocked from accessing any area of your site that’s CAPTCHA protected.
Blocking bots from gaining unauthorized site access is important because hackers use them in many different applications, with the intent of compromising your site security, stealing data, or planting malicious code.
For example, a brute force attack is a very common strategy for hackers. In brute force attacks, bots repeatedly attempt to enter login credentials that will give them access to the back end of your site.
Another type of common cyberattack is called XSS, or Cross-Site Scripting. This is where a hacker will inject malicious code into a form on your site, such as a comments section or login page.
The result could be stolen information, a malware injection, or any number of other negative situations that you don’t want a part of.
Hackers also use bots to spam your site’s comments section with junk links that harm your SEO and deter users from interacting with your site. As annoying as spam is, the real problem is that this makes your site look poorly monitored and unprotected from security risks.
Basically, any area of our site that asks for user input (forms, etc.) is a vulnerability that hackers will look to exploit. Requiring CAPTCHA input from users before a form can be submitted helps prevent bots from gaining access and injecting code that will harm your site.
As you can see, employing CAPTCHA gives you the benefit of protecting your site from hackers. However, it does have several drawbacks.
One drawback is that they foster a bit of a negative user experience (UX). A CAPTCHA slows down your users with tests to prove that they’re real, and this can get in the way of site visitors accomplishing their goals quickly and smoothly.
Another drawback is that users who have a visual impairment may have a difficult time completing a CAPTCHA. If you inadvertently keep human users from accessing your site, it won’t be beneficial to them or to you; even if bots are being deflected in the process.
Back in 2014, Google released something called No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA, which was a successor to their image and word tests that had been in use since 2007. In this new 2014 version, all a user has to do is click on a checkbox by the words “I’m not a robot” to confirm that they’re a human user.
This process is much faster and simpler than the traditional CAPTCHAs and is accessible to more users.
Then, in 2018, Google released what’s been referred to as “invisible CAPTCHA.” This technology helps to detect bots without needing users to take any specific action.
After you decide to add WordPress reCAPTCHA to your site, you’ll be given the opportunity to decide on the test you want your site to use. Just keep in mind that when you implement Google reCAPTCHA v2 or v3, you’ll be protecting your site from bots while making UX more enjoyable for the people browsing your site.
How To Add WordPress reCAPTCHA To Your Site
As discussed, your WordPress security strategy should include adding CAPTCHA to your site. This is one of the easiest ways to make it difficult for hackers and bots to gain access and cause harm.
Fortunately, adding WordPress reCAPTCHA is incredibly simple and can be completed in only three easy steps.
1. Install and Activate a Plugin For WordPress reCAPTCHA
There’s a reason why WordPress plugins are so popular: They are the quickest and easiest way to add almost any kind of functionality to your site that you can imagine.
Adding reCAPTCHA is no different.
There are a few different viable options in the plugin directory for WordPress, which means you shouldn’t need to break the bank when it’s time to boost your site security.
But before you choose which plugin to use, you’ll first want to know what key features to look for in a WordPress security plugin that allows reCAPTCHA implementation.
First, it’s important to know the different types of CAPTCHA that the plugin you choose provides. As discussed, Google reCAPTCHA is far more friendly to your users than making them decode warped text or click on mystery images.
But beyond that, it’s important to ensure that the WordPress reCAPTCHA plugin is able to add different CAPTCHAs to the most important areas of your website.
Securing only the main login page simply isn’t enough. You’ll learn more about why in Step 3. But for now, remember that any areas of your site that has a form for user input will need CAPTCHA protection to deter bots from gaining site access.
There are three plugins that are titans in the world of WordPress security, and also meet the criteria for the most effective CAPTCHA.
iThemes Security Pro is the first WordPress reCAPTCHA plugin that you’ll want to look at.
It’s important to know that this plugin is a full-throated security plugin that goes far beyond CAPTCHA protection. And while you can use many of the powerful iThemes Security tools without spending a dollar, you’ll need to upgrade to the highly affordable Pro plan in order to incorporate Google reCAPTCHA.
Once you do, you’ll be able to use either v2 or v3 of Google reCAPTCHA on your registration and login pages, as well as on your:
- Password reset forms
- Contact forms
- Comments sections
- Testimonial submissions
- And more
Doing this will prevent spam and vastly improve your overall site security.
Another plugin to consider is called Advanced noCAPTCHA & Invisible Captcha. This is a highly rated plugin that offers a lot of the same features as iThemes Security Pro.
You can integrate the plugin with other popular membership plugin tools such as BuddyPress and bbPress. Additionally, you can even add multiple CAPTCHAs to an individual page if needed.
The third plugin to look at is called Login No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA. The plugin gives you straightforward Google reCAPTCHA that you can put to use on registration, login, and forgotten password forms. Unfortunately, it won’t integrate with your contact forms and comments sections.
This makes Login No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA a bit too limited when compared to the other plugins we’ve discussed.
2. Create a Google reCAPTCHA, Then Add To Your WordPress Site
After you’re done installing and activating your plugin of choice, the next step is to create a Google reCAPTCHA (if, of course, your chosen plugin uses one).
To do this, simply navigate to Google’s reCAPTCHA admin console and fill in the registration form.
In this form, you’ll be able to pick between the v2 or v3 version of reCAPTCHA and use an invisible test for your users or the standard “I am not a robot” checkbox.
The invisible test gives the best user experience as it won’t require your users to take any action. However, the checkbox in v2 is typically more reliable for keeping hackers from gaining unauthorized site access.
After all the fields are filled out, simply click on submit. On the screen that follows, Google will give you a Site Key and a Secret Key. Both of these will need to be entered into your plugin’s settings in your WordPress admin area.
The process of doing this will vary a bit, depending on the plugin you’ve chosen to use. But you should be able to easily find these settings in the dashboard sidebar of the plugin, then paste your Site Key and Secret key into the specified fields.
Of course, make sure to save your changes.
It’s also a good idea to bookmark the admin console page for Google reCAPTCHA so that you can check it at a later time. After live traffic begins to visit your website, you can view analytics related to how your reCAPTCHA is performing.
3. Configure Settings To Keep Key Areas Protected
Earlier in this guide, we mentioned that there are some specific areas on your site where incorporating CAPTCHA is important for maintaining the security of your WordPress site.
After you’ve installed the plugin you want to use, you’ll want to configure the settings in order to ensure all important areas of your site are CAPTCHA protected.
Depending on the plugin you’re using, you should be able to find a list of checkboxes in the General Settings that allow you to choose where WordPress reCAPTCHA is used.
In most cases, you’ll want to employ CAPTCHA on any and all forms that are on your website, including the vulnerable areas like:
- Your admin login page
- User registration forms
- Contact forms
- Password recovery forms
- WooCommerce login page
Your specific site might also include additional forms, such as surveys, email sign-ups or user-generated content submissions. In these cases, you’ll probably want to use Advanced noCaptcha & Invisible Captcha because that plugin gives action hooks for putting a Google reCAPTCHA on any form you’d like.
You can also use iThemes Security Pro for this purpose, which will include additional integrations with other popular plugins.
How To Add WordPress reCAPTCHA To Your Login Page
It’s important to understand that your WordPress login page is the number one target for cross-site scripting (XSS) and brute force attacks.
To include a CAPTCHA on your login page using the plugin you’ve chosen, all you need to do is navigate to:
Google CAPTCHA > Settings > General > Enable reCAPTCHA for WordPress.
Then, simply select Login Form, which is below WordPress Default.
At this point, your login page will now be fully protected with WordPress reCAPTCHA.
How To Add WordPress reCAPTCHA To Your Password Reset Page
When a hacker’s attempts to get logged into your website fail, they’ll probably get directed to a page where they’ll be asked to reset their password. To include a CAPTCHA to keep this page protected, you’ll want to navigate to:
Google CAPTCHA > Settings > General > Enable reCAPTCHA for in your WordPress dashboard
After you’re there, choose the Reset password form that you’ll see in the WordPress Default list.
How To Add WordPress reCAPTCHA To Your WooCommerce Login Page
If you’re running an eCommerce WordPress site, the login page for your WooCommerce plugin is equally susceptible to a malicious hacking attempt as is your core WordPress login page.
To keep your WooCommerce login page protected with reCAPTCHA, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium version of whatever plugin you’ve chosen to use. Then, when you’re ready to implement CAPTCHA on the WooCommerce login page, navigate to:
Google CAPTCHA > Settings > General > Enable reCAPTCHA in the WordPress dashboard
From this location, you can select WooCommerce Login form from the list that shows External Plugins.
How To Place a CAPTCHA On a Contact Form
You can protect your contact form with CAPTCHA in an identical way as the other forms covered in this guide. However, there are a few different contact form plugins that will fully integrate with Google CAPTCHA, which include:
- Jetpack Contact Form
- Ninja Forms
- Contact Form 7
If you want to add WordPress reCAPTCHA to your contact form, you’ll need to be using one of these tools on your site.
Then, simply navigate to:
Google CAPTCHA > Settings > General > Enable reCAPTCHA for, then click on the box to indicate the plugin you’re using.
Doing this will complete the process of adding CAPTCHA on your contact form, providing that you’re using one of the contact plugins that integrate with Google. If you’re using a different contact form plugin on your WordPress site, make sure you’re using a CAPTCHA plugin that will integrate with it.
Additionally, there are a few plugins for form builders that incorporate a CAPTCHA without needing to use any additional plugins.
WPForms is one of these plugins.
It’s Time To Incorporate reCAPTCHA For WordPress
If it’s important to you to protect your users, content, and the reputation of your brand, then it’s vital to keep malicious bots from infiltrating your site. One of the simplest ways to keep them out is by adding WordPress reCAPTCHA to all of your website’s forms.
You can add it to your site with only three quick steps:
- Install and activate your chosen CAPTCHA plugin
- Create a Google reCAPTCHA and get it added to your website
- Configure the plugin settings to keep key areas of your site protected from bot attacks
Also remember, it’s important to run a WordPress backup plugin, such as BackupBuddy, any time you’re adding or activating new plugins on your site. If a new plugin causes a conflict with other plugins you’re already running, you could lose your site and all of your hard work.
A backup plugin will give you the ability to immediately restore your site without a lot of downtime or time wasted trying to manually resolve the issue.