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Link Development Forum

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Are you missing on potential link partners?
Not having a contact email on your webpage can backfire..
mil2k




msg:428183
 10:44 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

The fact today is many of link popularity campaigns are done by third parties. I happen to notice that lots of websites do not have a contact email for link request. Instead what they have is a Contact us form. This is done mainly to curb email Spam. But have you given it a thought, that many third party link hunters simply ignore the form?

The reasons for doing so are many. No direct email contact info. Generally there is a letter template which is designed for a particular company and expressing those views and terms for reciprocal links in a contact form is simply not possible. Also maintaining and tracking a list of such sites separately is cumbersome to say the least. And when such thing happens the site loses a potential link partner!

To those who emphasize on quality, this also applies to them, because the link campaigns for most of Fortune 1000 companies is ultimately done through third parties. Now just look at the quality of links you missed just because you do not have that email address on your website!

Would love to get fellow members views ;)

I personally counted on 5 good websites that missed potential good links today

 

jomaxx




msg:428213
 4:33 pm on Jun 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

It may not be a completely rationally thought-out opinion, but I agree with those who say a contact form is non-friendly. Part of the problem is that you generally have no idea what is happening with your message or who will receive it. I will scour the website for an email address, I'll look up WHOIS contact info, I'll even phone long distance if I have to, before submitting a form.

jomaxx




msg:428214
 4:48 pm on Jun 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

...just thinking about this a bit more, to me there's something deferential about submitting a form. A lot of websites work hard to be faceless, so that there's no name or email contact, or even a suggestion of what country the site might be based in. Forms just contribute to that, putting all the "power" in the hands of the recipient.

The result is that the sender has to jump through hoops - fill out all the "mandatory" fields, keep the message to the maximum length allowed (oh did I curse when I ran into that problem once), type in their email address correctly, hope that the form doesn't fail with some kind of error, etc.

Whereas an email address, even a generic "webmaster@" one, adds a human touch and puts the sender on an equal footing with the receiver.

fathom




msg:428215
 6:32 pm on Jun 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

It may not be a completely rationally thought-out opinion, but I agree with those who say a contact form is non-friendly.

I generally go both ways since personal preference is a major factor.

Help Center is usually form based > with the benefit of select the router e.g. info, product sales, service sales, support.

The help center is part of the top level hierarchy so you can get from any page to the help center (which also contains all company info as well.

In addition, each page usually has an appropriate email on the page itself added in with copyright statement, comapny address, and all other contact info.

The unicode helps to reduce spam by half > and yes PageOneResults I agree harvesters are getting more more adept at parsing it. Recently moved up to version 4.0 but most clients are already crawled so post action needs to be take (spam killers and filters) in these cases.

The one final thought I leave is this: In the case of email spam "post action" is better then "prevention". Although prevention is more thorough at physically preventing spam from coming in > if at the expense of losing sales I don't > I don't see the value.

Remembering that what you don't see > is people contacting you indicating they don't like a your preferred method of communication.

If true (their preference does not match yours) they will more likely to go elsewhere > than letting you know.

I would rather deal with spam and gain a sale > than stop spam and lose a sale. (as well as the link partner thing).

shaadi




msg:428216
 12:13 pm on Jun 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am thinking of changing my nick. Lots of ppl calling me Mil2 and MILK

Here its is: How can I change my user name from "shaadi" to "Shaadi" [webmasterworld.com]

Milk is still ok, some call me:

shadi, saahi, shaad, shhadi LOL and sali too!

rogerd




msg:428217
 2:23 pm on Jun 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Got Mil2K? Changing one's identity is kind of shady, I'd say...

Back on topic, I've done some nice image links concealed in javascript that, in IE at normal settings, don't even look like images.

The only downsides are that the user can't highlight and copy as text, and that "copy shortcut" won't work either. However, most will just click the link and the JS will work; for those who just want to note the address for the future it's there in plain sight. I think it will be a while before spammers start OCRing every image to look for addresses.

One other downside is that potentially benign harvesters like Zeus don't pick up the e-mail addresses either. Of course, 90% of Zeus directories are junk, so that's not a huge deal. A committed directory builder will probably take the time to root around for the address or complete the form.

I usually provide a form AND an e-mail contact. The form includes relevant info for the link requester, e.g., their title & description, location of reciprocal link, etc. I'd guess we get a 50/50 split of link requests between the form and direct e-mail contacts.

Marketing Guy




msg:428218
 4:36 pm on Jun 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

On one of my sites I noticed a slight increase of sales enquiries by having an actual email address on the contact page as well as the form.

Ive always found link submission forms to be unreliable - I much prefer a personal email.

Scott

>Milk is still ok, some call me:

shadi, saahi, shaad, shhadi LOL and sali too!

Jeeez....you should hear what people call me...I couldnt even get it passed the forum filters... ;)

rogerd




msg:428219
 5:10 pm on Jun 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ive always found link submission forms to be unreliable

I guess I've found all kinds of web contact to be somewhat unreliable, particularly for sites that don't get much attention. E-mail addresses you find on the site may be so spammed out that your note gets lost, or nobody may be checking the e-mail (or form results) at all. On active, well-maintained sites I haven't noticed much difference in response between the two formats.

To make completing forms easier, when I'm link-hunting I'll keep some standard text handy in Notepad so I can paste in the basic info and then customize it for the site.

The plus of a form (for the site owner) is that all of the info you need to create a link should be present - this avoids the need for back & forth communications about "where's your link URL?", "Do you prefer your link to read Widgets, Inc. or Widgets.com?", etc.

PatrickDeese




msg:428220
 9:33 pm on Jun 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am repeating myself here a little from the "spam" thread that was up a while back, but...

I have been having good success with putting my mail@domain.com in unicode, but instead of linking as a mailto:, I have the visible email address link to a contact form. This has several advantages - people who want the address can see it and/or copy & paste it, but I have seen a lot of computer novices have problems with clicking on mailto: links if they haven't configured a default email program - they end up writing an email in outlook express, and then get error messages because they can't send it (because they use a yahoo or hotmail address, for instance). The worst case scenario is that someone who expected the link to launch their mail is that they click back and do the copy & paste bit.

ominous




msg:428221
 10:04 pm on Jun 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Contact forms are impersonal. Absolutely. However, one thing that no one has mentioned in the discussion of hiding email addresses in images is that the disabled ...poorly-sighted visitors, non-sighted visitors, or those with cognitive disabilities ... will be unable to contact you at all. The same assistive technology that makes it possible for them to surf the web makes it possible for harvesters to get your email, and by eliminating the one you seem to eliminate the other. At least AFAIK.

Given that these folks are often those who *NEED* to be able to contact someone (moreso than a regular visitor) and truly rely on the web to give them a measure of freedom and independence, "hidden" email addresses seem to be just another hindrance, and one that may potentially conflict with 508, WAI, etc. guidelines.

sam_i_am




msg:428222
 2:04 am on Jun 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Great post! I have to say I agree with you Mil2K.

As a webmaster requesting links, I personally am not a big fan at all of forms. I will fill them in if I really want the link but in general I just skip it and keep looking for an email address till I lose interest. One reason might also be that I have a standard email done up that just requires a few "personalized" changes to finalize it and off it goes. I also find that heaps of forms don't work properly.

Looking at it from a consumer/customer point of view, I am even more annoyed when I go to a site that has something to sell/offer and there is no contact email. In marketing and sales class we were always taught that personalized customer service and satisfaction brought back repeat business, and I believe it holds online.

On the downside.... I get a load of SPAM, but hey, it only takes me a minute a day to delete all of it and if it makes just one customer recommend me to his/her friends, then it was worth it in my book.

mil2k




msg:428223
 4:47 am on Jun 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Jeeez....you should hear what people call me...I couldnt even get it passed the forum filters...

LMAO. :)

I am happy with the way this thread has progressed. Good points from both the sides. :)

Helen




msg:428224
 7:57 pm on Jun 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

We make a point on our site of providing at least one visible email address. It doesn't have to be linked, just available for visitors to use.

As a rule, I absolutely will *not* deal with a company that won't give me it's email address, because:

1. I have no record that I've emailed them, or what I said, or when, or to whom.

2. If they respond and don't quote my message, I have may have no idea what they're talking about.

3. I use Opera browser, and sometimes the form won't even submit due to developers writing IE/NS specific JavaScript.

4. I don't want spelling mistakes, and forms won't do that for me.

5. Frequently (not just sometimes), the form bounces or stalls.

6. There's no reason in this earth why you need my address or personal information if I'm asking about your prices or products. If you don't trust me enough to give me your email address, then why in the world would I trust you with my personal info?

7. I feel it's just plain rude.

I'd much rather view the source of your form, google for site:yoursite.com 'yoursite.com', or run a WHOIS to find out how to contact someone.

I've written an application to email possible link exchanges for us. Since there is more than one person who sends out link exchanges, we desperately need that record to prevent harassing potential partners. I just can't rely on other employees going to the app to record the mail after filling out a web form. So they're off limits.

This is a really great topic. Thanks all. :)

Helen

DrDoc




msg:428225
 9:47 pm on Jun 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Funny thing is... The most serious requests and offers I have received have not been through a "Contact Us" form. Nor has it been through an e-mail address visible on the page.

They've all come through the e-mail address I use for my domain registration. In fact, I use those quite frequently myself... and with great success.

jackson




msg:428226
 2:00 am on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Need to add here that this thread has been an interesting read.

For all intents and purposes, I'm in the communications industry - newspapers, advertising, design and corporate PR.

Spamming has now got so bad that virtually none of these entities now carry specific e-mail addresses. Try and get hold of an editorial contact on an international newspaper or magazine. Nothing. Yes, there's a generic e-mail address but it actually has nothing to do with the editorial side. Its all customer services, etc. Likewise with the corporate PR side. No direct contact details anymore - just a form or that generic customer services e-mail address.

E-mail-wise, the situation out there is now so bad that many people are "regressing" and going back to phone and snail mail contact. E-mail is now a "poor man's" standby - something to be used as a back-up. Besides spamming, the other looming issue with standard e-mail is security.

underthecovers




msg:428227
 3:55 am on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

I get lots of spam all the time from harvesters, but it is easy to defeat most of them and still have an email link.

Email links are important. apart from the reciprocal link theory that started this discussion they engender more trust from your potential customers, as long as the email does not end in hotmail etc... it should always be the domain name of the actual site

some people simply can't use email links as has been already described, for these people a form is the best solution, so use both!

Given a choice I will always use the e-mail link.. Why? because it allows me to track messages to and from the person, once you submit a form you forget what you wrote, or at least I do.

So how to keep out harvesters

one suggested using unicode to create the page but that increases the size of the page, and may even keep out some SE spiders (?)
Another way is to use MimeEncode and your email ends up looking like this to the bot

%AB%12%4E%F1 ....

Most bots though are getting smarter and this is easily defeated Perl etc. contain routines to convert these

So what I decided to do was encrypt the e-mail link using Javascript. Not Perfect and eventually harvesters will run Javascript but in the short to medium term worth the effort

I built a form that will automatically create the code required, its a bit rough but will do the trick

Message me if you are interested in this form

topr8




msg:428228
 8:58 am on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

you made some good points here Helen, but as a webmaster who only uses contact forms with no visible email addy, i'd like to address your points.

i think it is about decent form design.

1. I have no record that I've emailed them, or what I said, or when, or to whom.

i would encourage anyone to cc the message to the sender, we do this for the exact reason given. you would always send some kind of confirmation if a user had checked out with a shopping cart why not with a regular web-form-contact.

2. If they respond and don't quote my message, I have may have no idea what they're talking about.

see above, but i agrre with you this is so annoying, we also get customers doing the same, i reply to their request and then they don't quote any of the massage when they get back to me again - sometimes they even change the title! this helps me realise this is just bad practice online for anybody - i would always recommend quoting email text complete. OT we haven't yet but may well include the strapline in our company emails - please leave all previous content in this email intact when replying!

3. I use Opera browser, and sometimes the form won't even submit due to developers writing IE/NS specific JavaScript.

agree, but this is a poor development issue that also applies sitewide not just to form validation.

4. I don't want spelling mistakes, and forms won't do that for me.

i have no answer for this!

5. Frequently (not just sometimes), the form bounces or stalls.

i've noticed this too, but if this is happening then the site search and other functions probably do likewise - its not just a form issue its a server/scripting performance issue and will cause you to loose money/visitors all over the site.

6. There's no reason in this earth why you need my address or personal information if I'm asking about your prices or products. If you don't trust me enough to give me your email address, then why in the world would I trust you with my personal info?

i couldn't agree more, the contact form we impliment has 4 fields.
name (optional)
email & email confirm
message

we don't want to loose potential customers by making it difficult or making the process any longer than is neccesairy!

we do get invalid emails but not many.

7. I feel it's just plain rude.

?! :)

as a side note i'd add that we clearly show a telephone number and fax number on the contact page, so direct contact is possible - i would add that we get a lot of phone calls and when we do they are nearly always SERIOUS enquiries

Helen




msg:428229
 1:37 pm on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

You make some excellent points, topr8. I would have no problem whatsoever using the form on your site.

The only reason that I feel it's rude is because there are so many poorly implemented forms that I approach them all with a level of distrust. My time is too valuable to waste filling out forms that may or may not work.

Hopefully more people will read and use your suggestions, and make life a little easier. :)

rogerd




msg:428230
 2:46 pm on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

I guess this same form vs. e-mail discussion could apply equally well to product info requests and just about any other kind of web contact.

Specifically from a link request standpoint, though, here's the direction I'm seeing in this discussion:

1) Well-organized link campaigners prefer e-mail contact because it's faster, they have one or more templates that include all the needed info, they have an exact copy of the message sent, etc. One point that wasn't included in Helen's excellent list was that followup is much easier using e-mail - one doesn't have to return to the site, find the form, complete all the fields (again!), etc.

2) Webmasters appreciate the uniformity and structure of a form-based request. Messages of this type are less likely to be mixed up in the blizzard of spam, and users can be prompted (or even required) to include important information. Poorly organized link campaigners may be helped by this since they may be more likely to furnish sufficient information to get a listing on the first try.

I think all this argues in favor of providing both contact options (with the e-mail address suitably obfuscated to prevent harvesting). The ultimate objective is to encourage good links, right? So why not make it as easy as possible for potential partners to contact you?

jomaxx




msg:428231
 3:31 pm on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Topr8: Valid points, but as Helen points out, all but the last still require me, the user, to fill out an entire form on faith and then cross my fingers.

I do certainly agree that webmasters shouldn't confuse a feedback or a contact form with the U.S. Census Long Form. Unless it's specifically relevant, my household income will be $0-10,000/year, my birth date will be "1/1/01", my email address will be "test@test.com", and how did I find your site? "Just surfed on in."

Oh, and here's another design feature that absolutely slays me whenever it happens: You fill out a detailed form; naturally some "mandatory" field has not been filled in to the programmer's satisfaction; when you hit the back arrow you find that all of the fields are blank! AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!

topr8




msg:428232
 4:55 pm on Jun 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

You fill out a detailed form; naturally some "mandatory" field has not been filled in to the programmer's satisfaction; when you hit the back arrow you find that all of the fields are blank!

yes, thats my absolute favourite form gripe too!

cyt0plas2




msg:428233
 2:48 am on Jun 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I use a fun little perl script to negate the spam harvesters. For example, my email here is webmasterworld.3.cyt0plas@spamguard.corecodec.org . The email will work 3 times before it is automatically killed. I have a nice little PHP script that generates a new email address every day (by changing the part before the 3). I also use 5. This means that 5 people can email me any day, and anyone I hear from that's not spam, I simply give a permanent address (theirname.sender.cyt0plas@spamguard.corecodec.org - it will only accept mail from the first address that sends it mail.)

If anyone is interested in using this system, feel free to contact me :) I recommend using iwantanacct.10.cyt0plas@spamguard.corecodec.org :)

wasmith




msg:428234
 3:17 am on Jun 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I been using a simple contact form that suggests using your email (in the form) only if you want a responce, for over 2 years. the form only is a big <textarea> space like this forum form has, no multible choice tests or even a requirement to put an email. I tried other formats but thats what seemed to work the best.

Recently i've created a script that when clicked provides a link exchange email. I get all of the good requests from the form, and alot of good feedback, very little spam (I have had a few people in the last few years try to suggest i link to a few 100 identical sites [I don't think so]).

I do respond in email to those that contact me via the form. As i said i would if they include their email address. so its not like you must contact me via the form if you work for other clients. And yes i've had third parties contact me (via the form, not the email), and I've responded (via email with my email) with the desire to maintain a relationship related to the keywords that relate to my sites. So far to date, my email address to third parties link collectors has not resulted in a single additional link.

mrguy




msg:428235
 12:24 am on Jun 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

I've put all our emails in javascript form and it seems to of stopped a lot of the new spam.

If I get a personal email from a Webmaster asking for a link, I'll at least look at their site before deciding.

If I get some automated crap, then in the trash it goes.

GrendelKhan TSU




msg:428236
 1:43 am on Jun 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

I apologize for the n00best of the n00bies question (that is one of the premises of this thread)

Fortune 500 companies use link development for their sites?!

is there a example I can see of this?

G"again, sorry for being green"K

saoi_jp




msg:428237
 12:39 pm on Jun 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

pageoneresults wrote about spam-tripping software having collateral damage. I recently fished a mail message out of the "junk" folder. Title: "advertisement". The body confirmed a client's renewal of a four-month banner package.

WebDevInfo




msg:428238
 8:20 pm on Jul 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

I too am planning on removing all mailto links from my sites to only allow correspondance via a contact form. I have the form there at the moment, but also have mailto's here and there.

The contact form has a drop down menu for the contact reason which has an option for "Link Exchange Request". If someone wants to exchange links they can send me a short email using the form and then, if i'm interested I reply. If not, I too reply, but state that i'm not interested.

This way, people know i'm interested in exchanging links, can contact me about it and I can still keep spambots away from my email addresses.

Mick_77




msg:428239
 2:42 pm on Jul 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I simply do this for my mailto:

webmaster@<CUT-THIS-OUT>mysite.com

Also have this at the bottom of my contact page, fight fire with fire :)

[hostedscripts.com...]

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