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Random Blog Tip – Contact Options

Related to my previous post about About pages I’d also like to make mention of another personal preference that I have – the inclusion of the ability for readers to contact you privately.

There are many ways of doing this – but I’m surprised by just how many blogs give no option for getting in touch with their author, editor or owner. Some may argue that having the ability to make comments is a way of letting your readers get in touch with you – however I don’t find this to be an appropriate way of communication on some topics as it does not ensure privacy for your readers.

I can think of a number of times over the past week where I’ve wanted to make contact with a blogger only to be confronted with the choice of the whole world being able to read my message or to refrain from making any contact at all. In the end I refrained from interacting with the blogger concerned and am unlikely to go back to the blog.

Contact Options
There are many ways that you can go about giving opportunity for your readership to get in touch with you. Each has its advantages and disadvantages of course, but its worth considering going with at least one. These options include:

  • Email – probably the simplest way is to include your email address somewhere on your blog. You can either do this by making plain text for your readers to copy into an email or by making it a link that opens a new email in your readers email client using the ‘mailto:’ tag (webmonkey has the code you’ll need). The advantage of this is that your readers can be emailing you in one simple click. The disadvantage is your email address can be picked up by spammers easily and you could end up with a lot of spam coming your way. There are ways of getting around this spam problem simply by adding a something obvious for your reader to delete from the address like ‘[email protected]’. Or you can use one of the many scramblers out there like some that you’ll find in this google search.
  • Contact Form – The way I manage to evade spammers is to use a contact form which has fields for readers to fill in with their name, email address and message. The advantages of this are that your email is kept private both from spammers and readers (until you reply) and that readers need not open their email client to contact you. The disadvantage is that it takes a bit of design know how to make such a form. Again there are many free tutorials on how to make a contact form online – or you could hire a designer to make one for you.
  • Instant Messaging/Skype – another option you might like to include is to publish your instant messenger details whether it be MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, AIM, ICQ etc. Also increasing numbers of bloggers are adding their Skype details to their blogs. I’ve added these details in my contact page and am now in regular contact with many of my readers. The advantages of this are obvious – it enables you to have real time conversations with readers which can lead to some wonderful friendships and work. The disadvantages are that you might just end up never doing any blogging because people are sending you messages all day – I’d advise using your privacy/away/offline buttons from time to time.

I’m sure there are other ways of allowing your readers to contact you and invite your suggestions in comments below.

There will always be some downsides with whatever contact option you choose – but the upsides far outweigh them in my mind. Being contact-able increases the interactivity of your blog which helps with repeat readership, it fosters transparency (there is nothing more suspect than a website with no contact details – most sites that are doing something dodgy that I’ve seen have no way of contacting their webmasters) and it can open up some wonderful opportunities.

My only last piece of advice is that you should only include these options to contact you if you’re willing to interact with your readers (which in my opinion is the whole point of blogging). The only thing that is more frustrating than a blog with contact options is a blogger who refuses to respond to those doing the contacting. Yes at times its hard to keep up – but in my opinion part of the blogging job is the correspondence with readers – something that should be factored in when you start a blog.

Interested in your opinions, suggestions and experiences.

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Nicole Simon says:

    Don’t forget the press people who want to make a story abuot you. :o)

  2. Glen says:

    I didn’t really think there was much use in adding anything beyond my email address but yesterdays comments on the about page for sure made sense in letting my readers see the real me

  3. Jon says:

    Another advantage of a Contact form is that you don’t need an email client program to use it. A lot of public computers (library or cafe) don’t have these on them.

  4. Timothy Lee says:

    One very good reason why blogs don’t have contact forms is that most blog platforms don’t offer a form-to-email cgi interface. While standard issue and the cost of doing business for most web hosting companies, services like Blogsome and Blogger lack these taken-for-granted tools.

    I solved this problem for a small business starting a blog by returning to the venerable Response-o-Matic, which was one of the first free form-to-email services on the WWW in the mid-90′s. As only the email recipient receives a small gratuitous ad in the email, its a small price for opening communication lines and starting the sales process.

  5. Help Forums says:

    Of course the other thing is that the contact forum is e-mail harvest proof.

  6. Jeremie says:

    The contact form is a great option, but it only has one small disadvantage: trust.

    In the earlier days of the internet when the contact forms started popping up, some companies would use them with autoresponders so they wouldn’t have to take the time to actually talk to people (saving the company money). As a result, over the years, people in general don’t trust the contact form because it has that stigma of “oh they will never get back to me”. Regular email links are more “trusty”, but they have all the spam problems.

    I am currently trying to improve the communication on my blog, and I am glad I happened across your article.

  7. La Gringa says:

    Hi Darren,
    I really enjoy your website and I’m learning so much. I only started blogging two months ago.

    I noticed that you have had several articles about spam. Spam blogs, spam comments, and spam emails are so annoying! But, since the main purpose of my blog was to connect with other expatriates in Central America, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to contact me. And it has worked.

    Of course, I’ve started getting several spam emails as well. I decided to make lemonade out of the lemons. I thought you might get a kick out of this blog article:

    http://lagringasblogicito.blogspot.com/2006/09/la-gringas-lucky-week.html

    I hope you do!

    La Gringa