Blog Feedback: Email Address, Email Link or Email Form?

Filed as Features, Guides on June 13, 2007 11:50 pm

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Blogs have a great way of getting feedback from readers in the form of comment forms and comment threads. However, these may not always be appropriate means of asking users for feedback. For one, they are published for the whole world to see. Secondly, comment threads are almost always associated with the blog post it is attached to (unless you create a blog post or static page that serves as your guest book or public feedback form).

For this purpose, email is generally the preferred means of getting private feedback from your readers. But the dilemma in this case is how to go about with asking people to email you if your blogging software doesn’t have this built in.

I can think of three ways to do this.

  1. By setting up an email link
  2. By displaying your email address
  3. By setting up an email form on your blog

Email links

The first two ones are fairly straightforward. For #1, you create a link somewhere on your site that points to your email address–usually

<a href="mailto:[email protected]">Anchor text (e.g., "email me")</a>.

When users click on this link, their default email client is launched with your email address in the To: field. You can even define a default subject by adding

?subject=subject line here

after the email address (along with other things you can add).

The disadvantage of using an email link is that not everyone runs a desktop-based email client, and the link might not work if they are using a Webmail client instead. Also, this assumes that a reader is using his personal computer, and not a shared one. If the reader is using someone else’s computer or a public terminal, then the email link might launch the default client with another person’s account or none at all.

Displaying your email address

The next best thing would be to simply publish your email address on your sidebar, profile/about page, or just about anywhere on your blog. Some browsers will automatically read your email address as a link (or some blogging software will automatically convert it for you), though, and the above concerns will still be there. However, since your email address is visible to readers, they can simply copy and paste this into their email clients. If your email address is simple enough, they can just type it in, even!

An inherent disadvantage of doing this is the possibility of spam bots harvesting your email address and adding it into their databases (if they haven’t already done so from elsewhere). Your email address is out in the open, after all, and machines can easily read it, too.

A solution would be to use email obfuscation. This means your blog renders the address as readable when output to a web browser. The address can also be easily selected for copy-and-paste operations. But when you look at the underlying source code, the actual email address has actually been converted into some gibberish, which machines will not identify and read as an email address.

Alternatively, you can spell out your email address without the usual @ and . (dot). For instance, [email protected] can be email (at) domain (dot) com. I’m pretty sure readers will understand this easily enough.

The WordPress codex gives a few suggestions on protecting your email address here. Lorelle on WordPress has a post here with links to resources (a bit dated, but still very relevant).

Email forms

Lastly, you can use email forms on your site or blog. If you’re using WordPress, there are a handful of plugins you can use. I personally use a variant of WP-contactform (several modifications have been released to ensure spam protection, such as one with a simple mathematical challenge, and another that uses Akismet).

The use of email forms has advantages and disadvantages in terms of usability. A plus is that your users won’t have to leave their email browser (nor even your site) to send you email. When they click the submit button, they can be redirected back to where they came from, or to your blog’s home page.

One disadvantage, though, is that some users might not feel comfortable sharing their email addresses via web form. It might also be viewed as lacking in transparency on your part, because you get their email addresses, but they don’t have yours. Also, they would have to key in their email address, and if they mistype it, there is no way for you to respond to their inquiry.

My solution

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Because of this, I thought of using a combination of #1, #2 and #3. I have set up a contact form on my personal blog, and I also do this on community blogs that I run. The contact form contains the email address (revised to minimize spammer harvesting), so users who prefer to send from their email clients can just select/copy it over. I even included my IM and mobile number.

On my personal blog and on other blogs I write for, I don’t generally hyperlink using my raw email address. I simply link people to my contact page, so they get several options. They can simply fill in the form, or they can copy my email address into their own mail clients. If they have something urgent to say, my IM and mobile number are there.

There is no perfect way, but for me the good solutions are those with a good balance of accessibility, usability and security.

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  1. By gaman posted on June 14, 2007 at 1:10 am
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    I am using a combination of email form and email address just in case the email form fails to work while I wasn’t checking.

    I’ve written a similar post here if anybody interested: http://www.sabahan.com/2007/06/11/why-you-should-have-an-about-a-contact-page-at-your-blog/

    Reply

  2. By Vimal posted on June 14, 2007 at 5:00 am
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    Is there any idea how to configure outlook based webmail for my website vimals.info

    Reply

  3. By J. Angelo Racoma posted on June 14, 2007 at 7:32 am
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    Thanks for the extra resource, gmaan.

    Vimal, what do you mean? Do you mean you want to access email from your own vimals.info domain (i.e., POP account or google for domains account)? Or let people email you there from your blog?

    Reply

  4. By Douglas Karr posted on June 14, 2007 at 9:56 am
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    Thanks for the mention!

    Reply

  5. By Rob O. posted on June 14, 2007 at 10:58 am
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    Blogs without a means of contacting the author are definitely on my list of pet peeves. I don’t send email directly to bloggers often, but you sure do want that option if you need to get a private message thru.

    Reply

  6. 博客回馈:电邮地址,电邮链接,还是电邮表格? : 先驱博客 - The Blog Herald ChinaNovember 16, 2007 at 8:22 pm
  7. By Yurtdisi Egitim posted on March 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm
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    it seems like e very good web site but my Chinese is not good. It would be great if it might be availible in English too. Thanks.

    Reply

  8. By jack posted on August 6, 2009 at 6:36 pm
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    Thanks ,I will take it!

    Reply

  9. By tweet posted on August 20, 2009 at 11:29 am
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    thanks!You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.It will greatly help me in my activities.
    Thanks though, i’m glad some people share good stuff like this! It will greatly help me in my activities
    this is one of the most extensive articles I’ve read on the subject of making money from blogging

    Reply

  10. By tony posted on September 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm
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    email address fron aol.com

    Reply

  11. By Pointer Men's Basketball posted on October 30, 2010 at 9:03 am
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    Maybe you could change the blog name Blog Feedback: Email Address, Email Link or Email Form? | The Blog Herald to something more generic for your blog post you create. I liked the blog post yet.

    Reply

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