Whenever creating a new website, one of the very first things that webmasters usually do is to create a Contact Us page.
Iíve seen lots of websites where people simply list their name, address and email address. This serves the purpose, of course, but it misses a lot of potential. And it has one big defect.
Letís discuss the defect, first. And that defect is to put your email address on any page of your website. In my opinion, thatís a big no-no. Why?
Because it simply attracts lots of spam. I mean, how do you think those spammers get email addresses? One of their favorite tricks is to write a program (called a Ďspiderí) that cruises through as many websites as possible, picking off all the email addresses found Ė including yours! Thus, if you publish your email address on any webpage, you are saying, ďHey, spammers! Come and get me. Hereís my email for you! ď
Spiders are not the problem. Spiders are a good thing. Search engines send spiders to accumulate ranking information about websites. This you want. But spammers spiders are very efficient in grabbing email addresses. This you do not want. So I would advise you never to publish your email address on your webpage(s).
Does this mean that your visitors will never be able to contact you by email? No, of course not. You just need to ďhideĒ your email address. Iíll show you a couple of ways to do that.
Hereís one way:
On some websites, Iíve used this code:
var showlink="Contact by Email";
And even more significant -- is this the best way to have visitors contact you? Actually, no. Thereís a much better way to do it. Itís a way that gives you a lot more potential. Visitors can select exactly what theyíre contacting you about. AND you can send them an automatic reply that pertains to what theyíre inquiring aboutÖ
Let me show you how thatís done:
Itís a simple matter of using a form that visitors fill in. That form looks like an email with a Subject Line and a Message box. And when visitors press the Send button, an email gets sent to you.
If you create such a form with programs like FrontPage or DreamWeaver, and setup the form to send the results to your email address, that may sound like a good solution Ė but it isnít. Your email address will still be there, in the HTML code of the webpage. You may not see it, but spiders can.
Whatís the better solution? Much better is the use of a PHP script to create the webpage. Of course, any scripting language will work, but my favorite is PHP. By using PHP, you can guarantee that spiders (and everone else) can never see your email address.
But as long as weíre using a PHP script that sends an email, why donít we make it a bit more elaborate and give you much more potential? I have a freely available program that I call Max Contact that can do everything you need to do.
The Max Contact program completely and effectively hides your email address. But that's not the only thing it does. For example, just click here to see my own contact form for this website. As you can see, it has a place for "Nature of Request" in addition to the usual place for name, address, subject and message. According to the Nature of Request (which can be customized, however you like) automatic reply emails can be generated when the visitor clicks the Send Email Message button.
For example, as one simple possibility, you could use "List of Products" as a Nature of Request item. Then the automatically generated email reply (that you setup) could include your inventory list. In other words, the contact form is a fully customizable auto-responder.
Max Contact requires very little setup in an install process. All you do is fill in your name, email address (so you can receive the emails sent to you) and website name. And you define the "nature of request" emails to be automatically sent to requestors.
If youíd like to see exactly how it works, here's a page where you can view the documentation for Max Contact. And download it, too. Max Contact is only 72K.
I hope that you find Max Contact a real help for your website. And if youíre interested in other ways to do this, hereís a few programs you can try:
Copyright © 2004-2005 Web Wise News
by Vidya Ishaya
(also known as Burton Smith)