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10 Reasons to Avoid mailto Links

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of December 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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!

4. Viruses.

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?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I agree that the mailto links are not the best way to go. There are so many plugins around that make contact forms easy to use. It not only hides your address, but really cuts back on spam. Exposing your email address is a big no no, that’s for sure.

    Great post!

  2. Spam is the biggest problem with a Mailto:. If you post them on your website, you will definitely get a lot of Spam.

    You can use a javascript to eliminate the Mailto: and fool the Spam-bots. But, your email address is still available to viewers, who can click on it to email you.

    One nice thing about an email address or Javascript Mailto: link is that some people prefer using Email to a contact form. If your goal is to connect to your users, you may want to consider this.

  3. Thank you for this post. I have started two new site, where i haven’t used mailto but i am thinking of it, now i have decided to not to use mailto in my contact. Is it ok if i use only text?

  4. Some people talk only about spam when discussing mailto (or anything contact-related), that is just wrong. If evading spam is more important than providing contact options they should just kill their contact page.

    Some people (like me) personally hate forms especially for something that can be comfortably managed in email client of our choice.

    Not using mailto link is decision that reduces contact options for no valid reasons in my opinion.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys. :)

    Brett, perhaps writing out the email like this – yourname [at] yourdomain [dot] com – might help a bit. Or you could display the email in an image. Perhaps not the best option for accessibility reasons, but it’s one way to do it.

    sony, even if the link isn’t clickable the email address can still be picked up by bots. I’d recommend a contact form.

    Rarst – as I said in the post, there are many more reasons for not using mailto links than just spam. It’s about finding a suitable balance – some people don’t like mailto links, some don’t like contact forms, there isn’t a perfect solution that works for all sites.

  6. This is absolutely true.

    Why havent I thought about this small thing until now??

    Thanks for sharing this. I will change it right away.

  7. I never post mailto link on my site to prevent spam
    and I’m quite annoyed when someone use mailto as his/her contact form because unwanted software will open when I click it
    usually I copy link from mail to and send mail by web-based email

  8. I hate mailto when i try to contact somebody with mailto sometime I quit. Because of this reasons.

  9. Hi, good article thanks, i use mailto links but cloak them in script first, and use a spam email box to seperate the good from the bad i then forward the ones i want to another email account, sounds long winded but it works for me, ps merry Christmas folks.

  10. I *hate* return receipts. They give off a whole vibe like “I don’t trust you to read my mail and I want to be able to prove you did in a court of law at some later as yet unspecified date”…

    Can you sense the hostility? :)

  11. Mailto links are one the most annoying things ever created, in my opinion. But that’s only because every I click them (accidentally), Outlook pops up and messes up my computer!

  12. Bret Frohlich – Using images that to display your email can really help reduce the amount of spam you get. But then again, there’s a lot of lazy people that won’t bother typing your email…

  13. I use reCAPTCHA Mailhide to put my email address behind a captcha, forcing bots to jump through one more hoop before they can contact me. I also find it more convenient to copy and paste the email address as opposed to clicking it, not knowing what program will launch.

  14. I stick with contact forms all the time. I recommend using a contact form with a captcha or some other verification means.

  15. When I first started blogging I used the mailto link. I quickly got rid of it and put up a contact form. All I got was spam and I stopped reading emails so I never got anything from anyone anyway.

    The contact form works so much better.

  16. I don’t use mailto links on my blog, because I myself doesn’t like it.

    Point #2 is very true. Whenever I click a “contact” link on a blog, I expect it will lead me to a contact page. It would be too late when I realize it’s a mailto link, that is when Outlook pops out annoyingly. And like you’ve mentioned, I don’t use Outlook!

  17. I always prefer a form. Just yesterday did i advise one of my friends to do the same on his blog :)

  18. All of this sounds well and good. Do you have a plug-in for wordpress to recommend? Thanks! G.

  19. I used to use a Mail To link but noticed a huge increase in spam to my inbox. I eventually got rid of it and add a contact form instead. What a difference that made.

    Thanks for the advice.

  20. You bring up some good points here. I have both a contact form and I provide an email address like so: myname @ domain [dot] com. I saw others doing it this way, so I thought I would try it too. As far as a direct “mail to” link is concerned, I would worry too much about spam (although it’s possible that spam bots can figure out the formula I used above too). So far I think people just use my contact form since it’s much easier.

  21. Wow, I haven’t used a mail to link in years. A long time ago I decided to put all my contact information on one page with a contact form.

    This has cut down drastically on my email load and spam. It also allows me to update only one page when I have any changes instead of doing a site wide alteration (some of my website is still static).

    Today I encourage people to comment on the blog and prioritize emails from my subscribers–which I tend to answer on the blog.

    A long time ago I discovered I was making more unpaid work for myself with email access so I began to push people to comment instead.

    My readers are not the most web sophisticated and they are just beginning to comment. I get a few contacts via the form but most of them are promoters or people trying to bypass the queue.

    Overall I am really happy with the change and currently use the WP Plug-in, Enhanced WP Contact Form.

    Someone asked it so here is the link: http://yoast.com/wordpress/enhanced-wordpress-contact-form/

  22. #2 is the reason I always advise against the mailto link….

  23. I’m seriously guilty of this one…perhaps this is one reason for the spam I’ve been gettin lately?

    I guess I really need to take the time to set up C-Forms in my WordPress Admin…huh?

  24. Basically I agree, although it’s pretty obvious that people write emails much easier than they fill out contact forms.

    So, you will receive fewer spams, but on the other hand, you will use a great chunk of your relevant comments as well.

  25. Sorry, I meant you will lose, instead of you will use…

  26. Thanks for all the comments! :)

    I use a CAPTCHA for one of my blogs but I’d like to remove it. It’s on the comment form and the contact form. A lot of people have said it puts them off and they are less likely to leave a comment or send a message.

    If you’re looking for a contact form WordPress plugin, I use Contact Form 7 – it does the job well. I’m sure there are other plugins though (Ark Lady mentioned one of them).

  27. I agree completely, I hate those and especially because my computer always reads Outlook as the default email and I don’t use them.

  28. I agree with you from a blogging perspective, but from a business perspective, contact forms often present a horrible user experience. Javascript makes a good replacement or an obfuscation method can really help eliminate spam from email bots: http://www.ecommerce-blog.org/archives/obfuscate-email-but-make-your-self-email-able/.

    In any case don’t use a personal email address. A generic contact at, support at or whatever at that you can discard if spam gets too high is a good way to have an email and not worry about continued future spam.

  29. Yes, I agree that contact forms are best. However, I still use mailto links. In my opinion, some users prefer to be able to open their own email clients and send a message.

    As for the excessive emails from spammers, bots, and solicitors, I am glad that I have a good spam filter.

  30. I think 10 reasons is probably more than there are.

    3 4 and 5 are just general email gripes. But email is pretty much unavoidable these days. how were you planning to reply to the contact form message?

    IMHO, people who are technically unable or too lazy to cut and paste email addresses (to circumvent default outlook popup error) are not most peoples target audience. If they wont type an email address, then name cards are no longer useful. Ultimately neither forms or mailto links are going to stop the driven contacter or the serious customer.

    and the user experience associated with each method is dependent on the quality of the design. a contact form can be as simple as 2 fields. an email link could be given in several formats to avoid confusion.

    I build websites, and often use email address links at customers’ request. They very rarely come back to complain about spam these days. no more than our contact forms are exploited by hackers for the purposes of spam!

    I think the issue is a case-by-case one. If i had a blog, i’d have both, going to different email addresses pointed at a single email client. after some time i could then test if one is either more successful or spammier than the other.

  31. I agree, but I’ll admit that lately I have been guilty of using mailto links… I didn’t realize that you could have Firefox launch Gmail as a default, that’s good to know!
    I think I’m off to find a good contact form plugin…

  32. Great tips and reasons I hadn’t thought of before. After checking out Ben’s toptenblogtips blog, I’m now a feed subscriber there (as well as here at PB).

  33. On our blogs we use contact forms.

    This day and age, most people browsing the web probably use web-based email. I have seen the spam associated with an easily accessible email address!

    I have seen people give out their email on their site in a way that bots don’t see it (ie. username-the at symbol-aol.com)

    As for a plugin for forms, I use FormBuilder (http://truthmedia.com/wordpress/formbuilder)

  34. This is an excellent post, thanks a lot , I’m grateful to you.

  35. I also prefer to not to use the mailto function. This is mainly because of more spams and other unwanted email that get into my mailbox. I also read somewhere in the internet that now-a-days the spam bots can easily read this function and can use our email addresses to send junk emails.

  36. I use mailto and a contact form. The more options your provide, the easier it is for someone to contact you. I don’t use my main email address on the mailto link – it is fowarded to me and the spam is not forwarded.

    I also provide services so I want people to contact me and I want it to be as simple as possible. Some people use the form and some use the email. I used to use the email at whaterver dot com solution to avoid spam but I get more people contacting me now that I have made it a mailto link.

  37. I tend to stay far away from anything concerning mailto links unless I’m trying to attract spam which is true in some cases.

    I’ve found that creating two separate images to display a contact email is enough to stay ahead of any computer bot. Human bots are a different story.

    If I’m ever in doubt about anything concerning spam and email addresses I just use or link to my Horsebanger email account.


  38. I prefer using a cloaking device for my email addresses when developing a website… There are quite a few options, and some are very simple. Check out:


    This is one solution, through javascript. Do a bit of googling for “simple javascript email cloaking” and maybe throw in a PHP or an ASP to reflect the way your site is programmed, and you’ll find so many people who are willing to help!

    :) Hope this helps!

    Cyndi Smith (aka WebVixn)

  39. Jestep – what about users who have webmail and click a mailto link that opens a mail client they don’t use? As I said above, it’s about balance, there isn’t one solution that suits all. It seems sensible to limit spam if you can though, as changing an email address can be much more of a hassle for any business contacts who saved your old address. Always going via the contact form might not please everyone, but at least it is only one thing that needs to be updated with a new email address. Then again, as soon as you reply, people have your email anyway.

    Ali Reid – if you’re going to display email addresses online, and you display them as a clickable link with no obfuscation whatsoever, I’m very surprised if that doesn’t generate spam. Bear in mind though, customers may treat the website and the email as separate. You’ve given them a web presence and a way for people to contact them, do they come to you with email-related support queries? As for non-techy people not being “most people’s target audience” – if that’s true then I think it’s a big mistake. A lot of people are non-techy and a lot of people are lazy – making things really, really easy is my goal – a contact form will work regardless of whether you use web-based email or a desktop email client.

    OneChickADay – thanks for subscribing!

    Kim Woodbridge – perhaps multiple contact options is the way to go, but I’d still prefer to avoid mailto links as much as possible.

    DoNotFollowThisHorse – using an image seems to be a good method. Using two images sounds good, too!

  40. #2 Unpredictable results when clicking the link and
    #4 Viruses

    @ Blogoholic, I agree, nothing worse then clicking on a link and Outlook opens or even worse virus problems. I’ve been a lot more careful on what I click on these days.

  41. I’ve never received email spam. That is, not in GMail’s spam folder.

  42. I’ve never received email spam. That is, other than in GMail’s spam folder.

  43. In the last years, webmail has exploded, so it’s very common for a mailto: link to open a window the user doesn’t have a clue what to do with. In that respect, they should be avoided.

    But, still… I dread contact forms. They can and do fail, and, how do you know the message was delivered? And then can you reasonably expect to receive an answer by mail, or will it be a link that will force you to visit the page again? Or maybe just an autoresponder, that is.

    Contact forms don’t give me the certainty that my message will get thru or will be considered. Email doesn’t either, but think about all the things that can go wrong with this scheme: bad coding, site down, Javascript assumed but disabled, accidental press of the “Back” button, database corruption, database hacking, company site and company mailer out of synch…

    Last but not least, we are all human, and we all read things and then forget them. If I mail you, the message will be in my Sent folder, be it in Outlook or in the Gmail site, in some tangible form. If I sent you a message via a contact form, I won’t remember tomorrow what was exactly the wording of my message, so a very succint answer could leave me clueless. Or, I could forget that I sent the message entirely, and the answer will puzzle me, especially if the From: address is not easily identifiable (remember I never saw that address before). Even if you don’t answer, maybe I will never recall the matter at all. Incommunication at its best.

    Please give my mailto: link back.

  44. Ahem… that last sentence should have read “Please give ME my mailto: link back”, of course.

  45. Sebastian, if a contact form sends you a confirmation message so you get a copy of what you sent, would that suffice? That’s what I’ve done with the contact form I use, but it’s not WordPress, it’s Injader (an open-source CMS that I created).

  46. 6, 7 and 9 are possibly valid reasons to use a contact form. The others are signs that you are using the wrong software, or using the right software badly. Plain email addresses should be available as a last resort at least – javascript, eyetests, hearing tests and other common contact form obstructions can all lock real people out (while letting some spammers through).

  47. Ben, your suggestion is good, but you are kind of thinking backwards: at the moment I stand in front of a contact form, I don’t know if I will receive a confirmation message, and I don’t know if that confirmation message, if ever received, will include my original message, so I must try to remember it on my own. It’s a good practice, but it doesn’t help me at the crucial moment. :)

  48. Some of your point really hit on the spot, and i admit that too

  49. I find general contact forms terribly annoying.

    A web form is fine when you’re an insurance company and you need a whole bunch of specifics from me before you can send me my policy… but don’t make me jump through hoops just to send you an e-mail!

    I’ll either mail you from my mail client (which also keeps track of my history, bundles together e-mail conversations, etc) or I don’t mail you at all. Period.

  50. My biggest concern is spam, so I use the Transpose Email Plugin (http://ajaydsouza.com/wordpress/plugins/transpose-email-plugin/), which uses Javascript to mask the e-mail address from scrapers.

    I’ve used contact forms in the past, but on some of my sites, I just don’t want the overhead that the Contact Plugins use.

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