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HTML Tip:
More Useful MAILTO Links

by Larisa Thomason,
Senior Web Analyst,
NetMechanic, Inc.

  
September 2002
Vol. 5, No. 17
 • HTML Tip
 • Promotion Tip
 • Load Time Tip
  

Most webmasters have email inboxes loaded with messages - some spam, some useful. Wouldn't it be great if you could separate feedback from your Web site visitors from all your other email?

You can. Just include a subject description inside the MAILTO links on your site.

Make Filtering Easier

If you’re had your site up for a while, then you’ve probably been found by email spiders (learn ways to hide from email spiders). Suddenly, you’re bombarded with unsolicited offers for everything from university degrees to "start your own religion" kits. You really need a way to categorize and rank messages so you can respond to the most critical requests first.

That’s easier said than done. Even legitimate email messages often contain rather oblique text in the subject line. The subject "Need your help!" could be from a customer who’s lost his password. But it’s also just as likely to be from someone hoping to sell you adult photos of celebrities.

Fortunately, you can gain some degree of control over the messages you receive from visitors to your site. Add a subject description inside all your MAILTO links.

Adding A Subject To MAILTO  Links

It’s so easy, you’ll cheer!

A standard MAILTO link looks like this:

<a href="mailto:YourEmail@YourSite.com">Request Shipping Information</a>

When a visitor clicks on the link, their email client opens and inserts your email address into the TO section.

Adding a subject description is just as easy:

<a href="mailto:YourEmail@YourSite.com?subject=Shipping%20Information%20Request">Shipping Request</a>

This places the email address into the TO section of the email and makes the subject of the email read as "Shipping Request." You may want to customize it some so that it’s obvious the message is for you. Something like "Need Shipping Information For My MarsupialWorld.com Order" would work. There’s not much chance you’ll see that one duplicated in any unrelated email message.

For extra clarity and control, give each MAILTO link on your site its own subject description, depending on the context of the surrounding text on the page.

  • Use a "Shipping Request" subject for shipping inquiries.
  • Information requests could have a "Please send information" subject.
  • People reporting problems with the site might send a message titled "I found a problem with the site."

This works even if the MAILTO address is the same in each link. So if you’re running a site by yourself, you can easily separate urgent customer requests from more routine email queries just by using different subject descriptions in your MAILTO links.

Include Other Information

It’s also possible to include even more information in a MAILTO link.

  • CC: Stands for "carbon copy." Send a copy of the message to another email address.

  • BCC: Stands for "blind carbon copy." Send a copy of the message to another email address without the other recipients knowing about it.

  • Body: Include an opening statement in the body of the email message.

Here’s how you add all this to a MAILTO link:

<a href="mailto:YourName@YourSite.com? cc=someone@YourSite.com&bcc=someoneElse@YourSite.com &subject=Shipping%20Information%20Request&body=Please%20tell%20me%20if%20my%20order%20has%20shipped!">Shipping Request</a>

Each component is separated by the ampersand (&) sign. Only the first component after the initial email address has a question mark (?) preceding the ampersand.

The majority of email clients support these options – but not all of them. However, the extra options won’t break the MAILTO link: they just won’t appear in the message.

Check to see if your email client supports these MAILTO attributes by clicking on this link:

Shipping Request

More Control With Forms

The more information you can fill in automatically, the easier it is to categorize email messages when they arrive. However, when visitors click on an email link and open their own mail client, they’re free to delete any of the customized information you’ve added.

But visitors can’t change the address or subject information of a MAILTO link inside a form. The information you include there gets transmitted along with the form data, giving you more control over the email message.

In fact, forms give you more control in general. They let you define the type and format of information that visitors submit. Even better, email addresses contained in a form or form-handling CGI script are a lot harder for email spiders to steal.

Keep Customers Coming Back

Visitors expect your site to function correctly, download quickly, and look good. They can’t tell from looking at the site whether you have one employee or two hundred. When they need help, they want it quickly – even if you have a hundred other messages that also need immediate attention! You could lose customers if you take too long to reply to urgent requests and problems. This MAILTO tip will save you time by helping you quickly identify important emails.

Visit our Webmaster Resources center to find many other time-saving tips that make designing, administering, and promoting your site a snap. Even better, try our set of award-winning online tools that help small webmasters design, test, and promote their sites – all without going broke in the process.

We’ll help you create pages that download quickly, work in all browsers, are visible to Web searchers, and look great! You’ll save so much time that you might even get bored and start reading your spam email messages.



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