Web to Email Contact Forms – Increasing Reliability

By installing Mandrill for WordPress websites

Web-to-email forms

Do you have a contact form on your website? If so, how much is an email sent from that form potentially worth to you? £10, £100, £10,000, £1m?

Mandrill logo

Contact form emails can potentially be incredibly valuable, so it is crucial to ensure your system is ultra-reliable and those emails reach you.

Mandrill is a service of MailChimp which enables you to use their infrastructure to send email. Let’s find out how to use Mandrill to increase the reliability of your web-to-email contact forms.

How WordPress sends emails

By default, WordPress sends outgoing emails by whatever hosting provider’s system you use, directly from the server you are hosted on. This is often extremely unreliable, so emails may not send at all or may end up in your junk/spam folders.

Mandrill is a highly trusted and reliable email delivery service. So it is useful if you send emails from a website (e.g., contact form emails) and it is vital that those emails are received by the website owner, and don’t go into their spam/junk folders.

Using Mandrill instead, emails are not sent via your web hosting provider but through MailChimp’s high-availability systems.

You will need

  • An account with MailChimp
  • The MailChimp “transactional” add-on service which gives you access to Mandrill. This costs extra on top of your MailChimp account pricing, but what is the value of those business-critical emails? Pricing can be found here.
  • A WordPress website
  • Contact forms on the website already set up and tested

Configuring Mandrill

Once you are ready to switch to Mandrill, the first step is to create a unique Mandrill key for your website.

  1. Log into your MailChimp account at https://mailchimp.com
  2. Go to “Account”
  3. Click the “Transactional” tab
  4. Click the Launch Mandrill button to get into the Mandrill part of MailChimp
  5. In Mandrill, click “Settings”
  6. Click the “+ New API Key”

Give the key a description – we like to use the domain name of the website it’s going to be used on, as we set up a unique key per website.

Installing the plugin on your WordPress website

The next step is to install a plugin on your WordPress website.

SMTP plugins have the effect of taking control of the sending of outbound emails from your website. They allow you to use your own email provisioning rather than the default (which is normally your web hosting provider – the problem we’re trying to solve).

We highly recommend the free-of-charge Post SMTP plugin by Jason Hendriks and Yehuda Hassine. This great plugin is easy to use and fully supports sending via Mandrill.

Install Post SMTP plugin and activate it

  1. Login to your WordPress site
  2. Click “Plugins” on the admin menu
  3. Click “Add New”
  4. Search for “Post SMTP”
  5. Install and activate the plugin

Configuring the plugin

  1. In the Plugins page, click “Settings” under the Post SMTP plugin to being configuring your website to send via Mandrill
  2. Click “Start the Wizard”
  3. Under “Who is the email coming from?” enter your email address and your business name. This means emails from the site will appear to come from your email address with your name displayed. You can actually choose any email address and name. Click “Next”.
  4. Under “Outgoing Mail Server Hostname” enter smtp.mandrillapp.com and click “Next”
  5. Post SMTP then conducts a connectivity test. If all is well, it will show a list of options. Under “Socket”, choose “Mandrill API”
  6. On the next screen in “API Key”, enter the API key that you generated in Mandrill.
  7. On the next screen you can optionally choose from various services to alert you if an email delivery failed. Choose Email, Pushover or Slack.
  8. Now you should be ready to send a test email to yourself to show that everything is working. If you receive the test email – it is ?

At this stage all emails sent from your website will be sent via Mandrill and you can enjoy high availability, high deliverability.

Lastly go back and test your contact form again and make sure your email does not go into junk/spam.

Finally

Now, how much is that business-critical email worth to you again? Was it worth the 20 minutes’ work you just put in? ?

More to consider

There are solutions for storing contact form submissions on your website. This is good practice because in our opinion email is inherently unreliable. Businesses should never rely on form-to-email systems for business critical leads from new customers. Such solutions include the Flamingo plugin by Takayuki Miyoshi. This plugin will store submissions from popular form builders such as Contact Form 7.

If you are using such a solution then it’s important to be mindful of GDPR to ensure that your customers are aware that their details are going to be stored in your database and that they have given permission for this, usually by agreeing to your privacy policy.


See also:

Member of Kingston Chamber of Commerce
Winner, Kingston Business Excellence Awards 2018, Customer Service category