As busy Internet Marketers, we all know that customer comments, messages and feedback are the bottom line when it comes to blogging success. Knowing this, why do so many of us still forget to optimize our contact forms? Savvy bloggers are turning to smart software to clean up the contact options on their WordPress sites.
Picture the scene: You’ve just moved house. You’re living in a great new pad and you’ve invited all your friends over for a party. You have great nibbles, drinks and music to make the night go with a bang. You’ve decorated your rooms perfectly with balloons and streamers, and maybe even invited a cool band to play on the night. You’ve sent out the invitations and details of the event, and you’re all ready to boogie into the early hours. Your mates start turning up, and the party looks set to be one of the best you’ve ever thrown.
Halfway through the night, four thousand people turn up and crash the party. You realize that your invitation has been posted up all over Facebook. Your house gets trashed, your carpets are ruined, and the police are hammering on your door with neighborhood complaints. There are empty beer bottles and pizza boxes everywhere, and cigarette butts ground in to your partner’s favorite antique coffee table. Things are not looking great. You spend the next four weeks cleaning up in the wake of the disaster, and you vow never to hold another party again.
You wouldn’t put your address details online for the world to find and drop in to see you – so why would you do that on your blog?
Getting to Grips with Contact Forms
A lot of sites I see these days still have their contact details listed as a clickable email link. This is the techie equivalent of wearing flares. There are a couple of reasons why having your email contact details in the format firstname.lastname@example.org is not the best idea, and why using a contact form on your WordPress blog is the way forward when it comes to optimizing your site.
The main reason it’s not a great idea to list your contact details as a plan email address is because it opens up opportunities for spammers to easily harvest your details. Spammers have software that trawls the net looking for people just like you to collect and add to their list of potential suckers, in readiness to bombard them with a deluge of noise. By having your address available for all to see, you’re telling spammers that you would LOVE to receive thousands of email messages about Viagra and Russian Brides.
The second reason why a contact form protects you is that a standard email clickable link on your site only works if you have a desktop email client installed (unless your reader has configured their browser to use a webmail service instead). If your visitor uses a browser-based service instead (such as Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail), clicking on your email address may result in a browser error.
WordPress to the Rescue!
Luckily, good old WordPress has a few solutions to this problem, the main one being the contact form option. The contact form is a great idea as it hides your email address and also allows you to ‘pre-qualify’ who can contact you.
This approach also provides you with an opportunity to place a link, directly to your FAQ page, (so people can solve issues themselves before they get in touch). You can even add in a CAPTCHA anti-spam option, to prevent automated spam submissions.
These features all lend themselves to getting your inbox organized, and make it easier to keep abreast of all your communications, ordering them and prioritizing them in simple ways. Blog technology is advancing all the time, so the days when we had to publicize our personal email address for the whole world to see are long gone. With a few simple plugins, you can reduce your administration and enhance your privacy, while making it easier for your new and existing customers to get in touch to engage your services.
Best WordPress Options
When it comes to adding a contact form to your blog there are a few options to consider. My personal favorite free tool is Secure Form Mailer. It isn’t housed in the WordPress.org plug-in repository, but it’s still quick and simple to install. Simply download the files, login to in your WordPress admin area, and then go to Plugins > Add New > Upload. It is getting a little old now and showing it’s age.
Another option is Contact Form 7. It’s not quite as good as Secure Form Mailer, but it works perfectly well, and this plugin IS in the WordPress.org plug-in directory.
The Way Ahead
A newer solution is a plugin called Gravity Forms. This software is an extremely powerful way of creating contact forms, and it also boasts the capability to route different requests to different email addresses. It enables you to schedule forms to appear at certain times, allows conditional fields, and even has an autoresponder function.
Technology is evolving to make life easier, and this program is showing us the new face of Contact Management. The Gravity Forms software can also be used for more complex creations such as online surveys and competition entries. This isn’t a free plugin, but it’s inexpensive and it provides you with many intelligent features in a highly intuitive, and simple, user interface.
Getting your contact details optimized on your blog will ensure your virtual party can go with a swing… one where only your invited friends show up!