Guest Author - Violette DeSantis
Contact forms are a great addition to a blog for collecting reader or customer data. Many companies offer easy solutions to integrate contact forms into your blog. Both free and paid solutions are available; some even offer third-party integration with a number of email marketing companies (123 Contact Form, iContact, Constant Contact, MailChimp, Vertical Response, etc.).
Why use contact forms
Contact forms are an efficient way to collect and store data. Collected data can be emailed directly to a designated individual and/or added to your email marketing company account lists.
Use of a form allows a blogger to mask their contact information to protect them from spam. It also allows a user to define the parameters of the data collected as opposed to requesting info ad-hoc and expecting readers to send the specified information correctly.
What to look for in a contact form
If you already use an email marketing company or survey company, see if they offer tools to create forms for your blog or website easily. If not, confirm which contact forms they easily accept data from if it is necessary to combine data pulled from your blog to your email lists.
Bloggers need an easy to use form builder that includes features such as assigning input field types (text, numeric, drop-down, check boxes etc.), email notification, anti-spam protection and free technical support.
Additional features might include 3rd party app integration, payment integration, file uploading and a tool that you can use on both blogs and social media platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Facebook etc.).
To start, look for a free pricing model, even if for a short period of time, which allows time to test the basic service. Many allow for free use for one user, a specified number of forms and set number of submissions and storage.
Where to start for free
If contact forms are new to you and you are looking for simple solutions for someone to contact you via email without publishing your email address online, Kontactr is a great place to start. They are CAPTCHA protected and forms are customizable and easily integrated into your blog with a simple copy and paste of code as directed. CAPTCHA is the computer test a person filling out the form will take to prove they are a person. Many are blurry or wavy letters, numbers and characters. Some require a logic or math quiz.
For WordPress, a free solution is the Contact Form 7 plugin. The plugin is easy to install and allows for the easy creation of unlimited forms on a WordPress blog. Each form can be sent to one or more recipients. It supports both CAPTCHA and Akismet spam filtering and file uploading as well.
Tips for successful contact forms
View your form on your blog in different web browsers. Test that you can sign-up and collect all necessary data in all browsers. Also confirm that you receive test sign-ups in a timely fashion with the requested info. If you integrate with an email marketing service, verify data is collected there as well.
Contact Form 7 for WordPress