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Silence isn’t always golden. And when it comes to website forms, this is very true. Whether it’s your main contact form, a newsletter signup feature or any other lead generation form on your site, ensuring forms are working properly (on a regular basis) is an important part of owning a website.

When the phone in your office hasn’t rung for a while, do you try calling yourself to see if your phones are still working? Most would say yes to that question.

But do we check our website contact forms as diligently when we haven’t had a submission for a while? Unfortunately, most would answer no.

In this short post, we’ll review some potential issues that might keep form-based communications from your WordPress website from reaching your internal team or your customers. We’ll outline the basics of how you can check your website forms.

Potential issues

If you haven’t received a form submission from your website recently, there could be several likely causes. Here is the short list.

  • Was the site migrated to a new server recently or was there an update to the server the site is hosted on?
  • Was the form recently edited?
  • Has the form software/plugin been updated?
  • Are the submissions ending up in your junk or spam folders?
  • Did your IT team/company recently edit your DNS or migrate your email service to a 3rd party application like Google Apps or Office 365?

Server Issues – Hosting

Forms not configured to use SMTP will utilize the wp_mail() function built into WordPress. The web host then takes the email and uses PHP to send it out from the server.

In the event of an update to the server or a site migration, the host may have this feature disabled to prevent SPAM from being sent out from your server.

If that happens, it will appear as if email is being sent correctly (no visible signs of issues when the form is filled out), but the email will never leave the server.

Human Error and Email Issues

If a form was recently edited, human error might be the cause. A simple typo in either the recipients or sender email addresses will cause delivery failures. Or if the plugin/software was updated recently, an unknown bug might have been introduced that causes the emails to fail silently.

Are you getting complaints about your emails ending up in SPAM /junk folders either internally or externally? You might need:

  • Some simple changes to your DNS configuration
  • To send the emails using SMTP authentication
  • A combination of DNS configuration and SMTP authentication

Migrating your email services to a 3rd party such as Google G Suite or Office 365 may also cause your emails to end up in your SPAM /junk folders.

Switching to 3rd party services requires changes to your DNS entries (adding SPF records). If the proper records aren’t set to allow your website server to send email on your company’s behalf, it will most likely get flagged as SPAM.

Once flagged, your emails will always end up in your internal SPAM or junk folders or in your clients.

How often should forms be tested?

The answer depends on the frequency your forms are typically filled out and the dependence your business has with form-based communications. At a minimum, forms should be checked and tested twice per week.

If you typically receive several submissions per day and your business is fully dependent on the forms for your business to operate, dedicating someone on your team to test them once per day is a good idea.

The process should only take a few minutes out of the work day once a testing protocol has been established. Even if you are still receiving submissions and not experiencing any known issues, frequent or daily testing allows you to be proactive and spot issues before they affect your bottom line.

And let’s not forget security and software code reviews. Ask your website development team do a thorough check of the code, security of data, data capture redundancy (mentioned later in the article) and functionality of the forms once per quarter.

How to check forms

Of course, testing forms is quite simple. You’ll be filling them out as a regular website visitor would be with a few differences.

  1. Make sure you are one of the form recipients. Also, make sure additional or alternative form recipients know that you will be testing the forms.
  2. Fill out each form and confirm that a) the submission was received by either you or your internal team and b) that any confirmations/messages (notifications to the person who filled out the form) are received in the inbox, not the SPAM or junk folders. To get an honest evaluation of whether the email ends up in the SPAM or junk folders, use a 3rd party email address when filling out the form. After all, you may have already taken simple shortcuts internally to insure the email never gets caught in those folders.
  3. Be sure to check any data capture redundancy systems that might be in place. These systems capture and store form submission data in the WordPress admin area. They are typically part of the form software itself, an additional WordPress plugin, or custom software developed specifically for your website. Email redundancy systems should capture the exact data as was filled out on the form.
  4. Review any 3rd party integrations you may have as part of the form submission process. 3rd party integrations such as Pardot, Salesforce, HubSpot, MailChimp and ActiveCampaign are common. Ensure that the data from the submission is reaching those 3rd parties and all data has been captured.

Need data redundancy?

At Wood Street, we typically use GravityForms to develop web forms for our clients. This software comes with features that allow you to review and check submissions from any form.

This extra layer of redundancy means you will not miss information from any form submission, even if there are errors like those outlined above. Of course, there are a wide variety of form submission capture software available for WordPress.

Be sure to ask your web development team which is best for you. Businesses that rely on their contact form for new leads should have data redundancies available for form submissions.

Final thoughts

As we know, missing form submissions can be a huge deal for any company. But by taking ownership of your website, testing your forms and being proactive about catching small issues before they become big problems, you can make sure form submission issues have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Checking forms frequently can often be the difference between converting a prospect and missing the opportunity altogether. Don’t let a fixable issue leave money on the table.

We’re here to help

Have a question about your forms or any of the information from this article? Wood Street would be happy to schedule a 30 to 60 minute consultation with you. Our team of developers will review your current form submission process, note any potential issues and make recommendations when needed.

Simply give us a call at 301-668-5006 or fill out our contact form here (we know it works, we checked it this morning).

 

Derek has been an award winning developer and designer since joining Wood Street in 2003 and is a company partner. As Development Manager, Derek brings more than 15 years of experience and manages the development team by organizing and prioritizing projects, assigning daily tasks and delegating task workloads. He interfaces with Wood Streets clientele as a project coordinator guiding them with their technology and staffing requirements, deadlines, project status, project scope, content needs, and quality standards.

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