“Space, it says, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space…”
The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
On a similar note the number of blogs out there is "Really big ...mindbogglingly big ..." If you are reading this you are almost certainly generating your own content some of which is likely hosted here and some of which may well be hosted elsewhere. If I were a betting man a week's wages would go on betting that most of you have a blog or even several blogs. That being the case what can you do to differentiate yourself, build traffic and readers and generate a dialogue with your visitors? The answer of course is that there is a multitude of things you can do. Here I want to talk about just one. The use of a Contact Page.
I blog on the Blogger platform at present, I am planning to start a blog on WordPress and perhaps in due course one on my own domain. No matter the blogging application or hosting platform almost all blogs have the same basic structure; a "main" page rendered dynamically to which articles are posted and, should the owner make use of them, static pages.
If you have Blog you almost certainly have comment forms and for the most part those work well. However if a visitor to your site wants to start a real dialogue or simply wishes to "speak" in private a comment form may not be the best medium. You can provide an email address for this purpose but that invites unstructured communications and possibly spam as your traffic grows. You can employ a Contact Form which sends submission to your email inbox. More structured certainly but you are still open to direct spam and to the email address being grabbed by spammers and list harvesters. A Contact Form gives your blog or website a more professional feel and is certain to be a valuable part of your plan for growing relationships and traffic. The question is this. Is it worth it given the spam risk?
The answer is most certainly yes and it comes from, of all places, Google. In this article I will show you how you can generate a Contact Form to embed on your blog or website using Google Docs that will allow your visitors to contact you and yet introduce no risk of spam whatsoever. How can we do that? The Contact Form has no email address; input is submitted to a secure Google Doc accessible only by you - nothing is going to your inbox and there is no email address for a spammer to harvest. Now that's cool.
The process is very simple and takes just a few minutes. It goes like this:
- Go to Google Docs. If you have never seen Google Docs just go to Account Settings in your Google; if you are here you have AdSense so you should be familiar with Google and have no problem getting there.
- Once there you should click "Create new | Form" and you will be presented with a screen similar to the screenshot above. All you need to do then is add and edit questions to meet your needs. There is a full range of field types from test to list to radio and so on. Questions can be flagged as required and you can provide help and instructions. Once you have completed your fields give your form a name, add any general information in the field immediately below the title and choose a theme. Then a simple save and your form has been created.
- No go back to your main documents screen and you will see you newly created document listed. Double click it and you will see the spreadsheet that was created when you created the form. It will look something like this:
- You will note that the title is the one entered when you created the form and that the columns in the spreadsheet are the names of the fields you created on the form. That is the beauty of this system, when a user submits the form the data is automatically entered in the spreadsheet rather than being emailed to you - no spam I tell you.
- Now click on "Form | Embed form in a web page" and copy the code provided and then click on "Share | Set notification rules" and choose how you wish to be notified of submissions - the daily digest is a great option. Finally and most importantly click on "Share" and set your privacy/access options.
- Now all you have to do is place the embed code you just copied in the appropriate location on your blog or website and you are good to go. A professional and efficient means for your visitors to get in touch with you without the risk of spam.
You can view an example of a "live" Contact Form created using this method on my blog's Contact Form. In addition I have a functioning demo version here which has the associated spreadsheet set to "public" so you can actually make a submission and then see the results.