Photo of spam representing spam online

Understanding and maintaining your online contact form

One of the regular pain points for many website owners is their online contact form. When a website is launched, a form test is always done to make sure the proper email address is receiving the form. But, things can be working just fine, and suddenly a business owner will notice they haven’t received an inquiry in days or weeks, or their form results are all going to spam. What causes this to happen?

First, let’s talk about how a form on your website works.

When someone arrives on a contact page on your website, they are prompted to enter information into fields that you’ve defined and sometimes required. When they complete the fields in the forms, they are prompted to click on a submit button and it triggers the information to be sent to an email address or several, that you have specified. Behind the scenes, when the submit button is clicked a request is also sent to your website database where the information is stored. There is also a script running on the webserver (like, a PHP script) that sends the email. This is all an automated process that happens behind the scenes.

As I stated earlier, this can all be working seamlessly until doesn’t work anymore. Here are some tips to stay on top of your form processing:

1. Check your spam folder: This is one of the most common issues with form submissions. Since the “emailed” results are not directly from an email address, but getting passed through your web server, email programs can flag your form submission as suspicious and mark it as spam. To avoid this, put your form submissions on the “safe” list by marking them safe. If you have an IT person helping with your email, they are a great resource for helping you make it through any filters your email may have flagged your forms submissions with.

2. Change the subject line in your form notification: You may have had the old subject line flagged by your email provider and renaming it can do the trick. Note that there is no rule about what words should not be used as the email subject, but just changing this up can be a simple fix.

3. Change how your form is processing: Instead of using your own web server to process the form, use a third-party provider like SendGrid to route the emails. This might help get past the filters your email might trigger.

While these tips can help prevent failures, you need to know you are having failures in the first place.

The single most important thing you can do is to routinely check your form submissions.

For most websites built by WebCami, Gravity Forms is the plugin used. You can log in to your dashboard and see the entries. Did you receive them via email? You can also download CSV files and check them in Excel or Google Docs.

Here are the steps to take to test your own form:

Send a test by filling out the form yourself.

1. Fill out your own form but make sure you fill in a different email address than the one the form is being sent to.  For example, I would not fill in into the form since that is where my forms are sent.

2. After sending the test, check the receiving end for the email.  Make sure you check spam and trash.

3. Log in to WordPress and go to your FORMS menu in the navigation.

Photo of Gravity Forms menu item

Photo of Gravity Forms menu item

Once you select a form, you can view the specific entries in a list:

View of Gravity Forms entries in the dashboard

Gravity Forms allows you to export your entries.  Choose import/export and download a CSV file.

These can be then saved on your own computer or upload to Google Drive or Dropbox.

And, if you are a Zapier user, you can set up Zapier to send your form submissions directly to a Google Sheet!

I recommend that you select one day a week to check your form submissions.

Alternative options for your online form

Using a third-party service for your contact form is also always an option.  This takes the form function off your website entirely.  A script or shortcode places the form on your website, but it’s not processed on your web server at all. Prices range from $0-$208 a month depending on what you choose). Some popular options are:

Another option is to use forms provided by your CRM (Client Relationship Management)  Software.  This might be provided by

Check the features available for forms from your CRM provider.

Have questions?  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like to talk about your contact form.

RESOURCES: Ultimate Guide To Using Gravity Forms in WordPress

Cami MacNamara

Providing web design services from West Seattle, WA since 2002.

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