This is a guest post by Ben Barden of Top Ten Blog Tips, where every post contains a list of ten blogging tips.
As a blogger it’s very important that people can contact you privately. Many blogs use a contact form for this, and I highly recommend it. However, some blogs use a “mailto” link instead. When clicked, a “mailto” link creates a new message in your email software, instead of sending through a form on the blog.
I’m not a fan of these links – here are 10 reasons why.
1. It reveals your real email address.
Whether you display your email address on your site, or you put the email address in a mailto link – or both – making it visible is a bad idea. You’re probably going to receive spam anyway, but you stand to receive a lot more spam if your email address can be picked up by bots that search the web for email addresses.
2. Unpredictable results when clicking the link.
If you use Firefox and Gmail, you can get Firefox to open Gmail when you click a mailto link. But you can’t rely on all of your readers setting up Firefox in this way. Also, not everyone uses Firefox, and not everyone uses Gmail.
I’m sure there are options for other email services, but the default scenario is pretty embarrassing. Someone who uses a web-based email service clicks a mailto link, but they haven’t tweaked Firefox to open the link in Gmail. So it opens the default mail client on their computer, which they don’t even use. Bad move!
3. Crazy formatting or unnecessary “extras”.
HTML emails, stationery, signatures and attachments have their uses, but I can’t stand receiving emails with unnecessary bits and pieces like these. It’s just not necessary.
A contact form forces people to get to the point, to say what they want to say without all of the “look what I can do” bits and pieces. If you’re trying to do business with people, this kind of stuff looks really unprofessional, too… unless of course, the person you’re emailing likes them too!
Unless you allow HTML in your contact form, it’s a lot harder to get a virus through your contact form than in a direct email. To anyone who forwards emails with “funny” videos and other attachments – beware. Some of them may contain viruses.
If someone can get hold of your email address without having to wait for a reply to you, they might just add you to their address book “for future use”. Then perhaps they forget about you, but they open an attachment and get a virus, and bam – an email goes to everyone in their address book.
5. Return receipts.
Another issue with accepting “normal” emails and not using a contact form is the use of return receipts. I have met people who insist on using receipts for every email they send. Is it really necessary? (A clue: no.)
6. Blog maintenance.
Some bloggers include a “contact” link in some of their posts. If you link to a contact form, this is fine so long as you don’t move the contact form – I’m not sure why you would.
However, if you link directly to your email address from several of your posts, then your email changes – that’s potentially a lot of links you’ll have to go back and correct. What a pain!
7. Some information may be forgotten.
Let’s say you want to publish a few blog reviews and you invite people to send their URLs to you. With a mailto link, people may just send a message saying “please review their blog” and forget to include the URL. With a contact form, because you can have a field for the URL, you may find that people remember to include it. Then again, some people might forget it anyway.
8. Choosing the wrong email address.
If you have multiple mailto links for Sales, Advertising and so on, but each one goes to a different person, the sender might think “but I want this person”. So they check the links and choose the person they want. They may not be the right person to answer that query. A contact form makes life so much easier.
9. Some things shouldn’t really be an email at all.
A long time ago I ran a music reviews site. People would email reviews to me, and I would put them online (see, this really was a long time ago). It would’ve been easier to cut email out of the equation altogether, and post the information directly to the site – with approval, of course.
10. It can reduce the volume of “pointless” queries.
Although it should be easy to get hold of you, if it’s too easy, you may find that you get a lot of emails “just because”. That’s fine if you don’t get too many emails, but it’s going to be a problem if you’re looking to grow your blog. Make it easy to get in touch, but not so easy that someone can fire off a 5 second “quick query” email – only to follow it up 5 minutes later with “never mind, figured it out now”.
Do you use mailto links on your blog? Can you think of any other pros or cons?