Popular Legal WordPress Contact Form Plugin Giving Errors

A widely popular contact form plugin on legal websites has been scaring its users since it released its latest update on Feb 20th, 2016.

Contact Form 7, or CF7 for short, came out with a recent update that boasts a new “Configuration Validator”. This validator scans your contact forms and looks for common errors that prevent your form submissions from being sent properly. It seems that CF7’s developer was tired of answering/fixing common CF7 configuration settings. I don’t blame him.

Contact Form 7 Validation Errors

If you’ve recently updated this amazing WordPress plugin, you’ve probably notice a new notification prompting you to “validate your contact forms now.”

contact form 7 validation message

According to CF7, if you’ve setup your forms properly you’ll be all set. However, even if your contact forms are working, you may also see something like this:

contact form 7 configuration errors found screenshot

AGH! This is my nightmare. Errors. And a lot of them. It just so happens that errors on contact forms are my least favorite thing.

Here are two screenshots of the actual error on the contact form (both are on the ‘mail’ tab and related to the ‘from’ field):

contact form 7 syntax error screenshot

contact form 7 email address error screenshot

How Do You Fix Them?

Step 1: If you haven’t already, install and activate a plugin called Contact Form DB. It captures and stores all form fills (even failed attempts), which allows you to follow up with emails that don’t make it into your inbox. Always have a plan B! I also recommend sending the developer a couple bucks for the piece-of-mind that they’ve developed for you.

Step 2: Test your forms. Send an email through your website to make sure you actually get it. Be sure to check your spam folder.

Step 3: If you don’t receive the email, change the “from” field on the mail tab to what CF7 suggests: [your-name] <valid-email-address@yourdomain.com>

Step 4: Test it again.

Step 5: Check your SPAM folder.

Bonus: If you’re running event tracking to Google Analytics, you might as well smash two birds and verify this is working as well. No time like the present! I’ve also come across a really helpful write up on other CF7 validation errors, why they are happening and how to fix them.

Why Are These CF7 Errors Happening?

The internet is full of scammers and spammers. Just because an email says it came from conradsaamhashair.com doesn’t mean it actually did. There are many ways you can send emails on behalf of other people domains. Scary right?

On the other hand, sending emails on behalf of other domains can be extremely useful for you and your business. Perhaps your contact form or intake system sends automatic emails on your behalf. Very handy if you receive a lot of leads throughout the day. Technically, these aren’t being sent from your email, though it looks as if they are.

The trouble with setting up emails and contact forms exactly the way that CF7 suggests, is that it’s complex and involves you working with your IT/Email hosting provider (who probably knows nothing about websites). Surprise, email hosting and websites aren’t the same thing. To completely remove the risk of Spoofers sending emails from your domain, you need to use email-authentication settings like SPF and DKIM methods (read: contact your IT support).

Adding to the complexity: every email provider, client, spam filter, contact form and website content management system is different. Yay!

In short, you can setup the contact form to work… but if it’s not exactly how CF7 wants you to do it (since they’ve been forced to joined the war on spam), you’ll have to get used to some bright red errors if you choose to stick with what has previously worked.

CF7 Update Summary:

Updating your plugins immediately after a developer has released a new version is a lot like buying the first generation Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Sometimes everything goes smoothly, and other times you go through three different phones before you get one that works. It also means that you may need to get used to a few new quirks along the way.

We recommend that you regularly test your contact forms (and call tracking numbers) to make sure you are getting your leads. You’ve got enough to worry about – those two items shouldn’t be on that list.

Use a backup system to your contact forms. We like Contact Form DB. It keeps a log of all contact form submissions, even failed attempts.

Understand that sometimes there are false positives. Just because a scanner says it’s broken, doesn’t mean it actually is. Oh, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow even if it was best practice.

Call Tracking for Law Firms – Jenny, I Got Your Number: 867-5309

Here at Mockingbird, we love data. We love data because data allows us to make decisions based on what works, rather than what we think might work. We love data because it allows us to explain to our clients why they should be spending less time, money and effort on X while spending more on Y. Have I mentioned that we love data? Ok great.

This love for data is why all of our clients have their phone number displayed clearly at the very top of their website – and not just any number, a call tracking number.

Call Tracking We Love Data

What a Phone Number Can Tell Us

Phone numbers in marketing can do much more than connect your clients to your business (connecting your clients to your business is priority number one). Here’s a short list of all the information a phone number can give you:

  • How many calls your business receives,
  • Which marketing channel generated those calls (organic traffic, PPC, referrals from Avvo, etc),
  • How long each call lasted,
  • The location each call was placed from,
  • How much you spent to acquire that call,
  • Whether you converted that caller into a client, and
  • Your ROI on said client.

Don’t go calling your phone company just yet… This is all done by using call tracking software, which masks your firm’s main telephone number with a unique (sometimes toll free) tracking number. This number changes based on how that person found your website, allowing the software to track how many calls came from AdWords vs. Bing Ads, and so on.

Panicking at the thought of losing your catchy number? Take a couple deep breaths; it may not be as important as you think.

Let Go Of Your Catchy Phone Number

**Insert some Disney song reference here**

I have a confession: I have no idea what my girlfriend’s phone number is. I think it starts with a two.

I have another confession: I call my neighborhood Teriyaki restaurant once a week. I don’t know their phone number, either.

If a number is really important to me, like my girlfriends’, I save it in my phone as a contact. If it’s not so important, like the teriyaki restaurant, I do a quick Google search for their name, and then click-to-call their number.

On the rare day I’m without my cell phone, I search for phone numbers on Google, and then immediately dial – retaining the numbers just long enough to press each button. I like to think I’m using this brain space for more important things (maybe I’m not).

My behavior is representative of many people in 2015, and brings up a noteworthy point: information is so accessible these days that the actual phone number is becoming less and less important. Gone are the days of keeping a Rolodex. Now, we can easily save a new phone number into our phone or quickly look it up through search.

And unlike humans, computers don’t care if that number ends in 1-2-3-4 or rhymes with “DUI”.

Area Codes and Local Phone Numbers

Area codes can factor into your local search efforts, so you should have a local, direct phone number that rings to your law firm. Use this number in all of your website directories (especially Google My Business). However, don’t let acquiring a local tracking number keep you from using call tracking software. Since they aren’t hard coded into your site, tracking numbers don’t affect local search efforts. Additionally, they’re highly dependent on what the phone companies release to the public/tracking companies, so you could be waiting a while.

Whatever you do, don’t hard code a bunch of different numbers in a bunch of different places. Make it as easy for Google to connect the dots. Call tracking software doesn’t actually change the phone number on your site, it just masks it; your NAP (name-address-phone number) consistency is safe.

Call Tracking Software We Like

We use Avvo Ignite whenever a firm lacks an intake process. Avvo understands lawyers. They also understand SEO. They’ve put both of these things together and made a product that can help a firm not only track the number of leads, but the leads within the purchasing funnel. Warning: you have to use it to get the most out of it.

When intake software isn’t necessary, or when a client doesn’t utilize a majority of the features within Ignite, we also recommend Call Rail. This product seems to have a nice selection of local and toll free numbers, and integrates very easily into WordPress via a plugin and API key. As an added bonus, it plays well with multi-location firms with more than one number displayed throughout your website.

There are many, many more companies that offer solutions similar to the two above. What call tracking software is your firm using and which channel is driving the most leads? If you’re not sure, we’re happy to help you figure that out.

Don’t listen to Tommy Tutone, Jenny. Change your number so you know how your potential clients are finding you. It will help make you more successful.

Factual Changes How to List Your Business

Update (3/29/2016)*: Factual is now accepting manual submissions and revisions here: https://factual.com/contact#update_add_business

By now, we should all know the importance of having a consistent business name, address, phone number and domain listed throughout the web. Inconsistencies within directories send different signals to the search engines and can negatively impact your local listing position. Pigeon, the latest Google local update, seems to solidify this point with their move to more “traditional ranking factors” for local search.

Last week, I had one of our Marketing Managers help create and clean up a list of directories for one of my clients.  Each directory has a different process to adding and updating business information, but Factual was unique enough for me to remember that the process entailed and actual email to the company.

This is the process that was outlined on their contributing/correcting data page last week (you can also find this catalogued in the way back machine on Jun 25, 2014):

Factual Listings Before Change

Here’s what you see now:

Factual Listings After Change

Like many other directories, Factual is relying on “trusted data contributors” to list your business. Not surprisingly, Yext is one of the top recommended data contributors.

Unfortunately, this is taking the control of small business listings out of the hands of small business owners and into the hands of online marketing experts and tool providers. Does anyone else feel like they are being backed into a corner when it comes to managing your business information?

*Thanks to one of our readers Nigel Allen for the tip!

Where Have All My Reviews Gone?

Today, there are a variety of places for your customers/clients to review your business. Your patrons may leave you a review on your Google + local page (which you can now respond through on your Google Places for Business pages). Back in June of 2012, Yelp joined Bing to provide users with Yelp reviews in the Bing search results pages, in addition to reviews from CitySearch.


Mass Injury Firm P.C Yelp/Yahoo Review


If I’ve already lost you, you’re in good company. In addition to what I’ve mentioned, there are a myriad of other review sites that businesses should have their eye on. We can even jump outside of the box for a moment and consider positive and negative blog posts about your businesses that start showing up in Search. Make no mistake, reputation is an important aspect of every business – online and off.


The Latest News in Online Reputation

Mid last month, Yahoo formally announced a partnership with the popular review site Yelp. What does this partnership mean for you and your business? If you’ve been attentive to your online marketing and have invested time into building out your online reputation on Yahoo Local, it could mean a lot – All of your reviews from Yahoo Local are disappearing. If you have far fewer reviews in Yelp than Yahoo, frustration wouldn’t even begin to describe your feelings. It is widely understood that when researching businesses, users look for quality and quantity. Diminish either of these and that will have a negative impact on your online reputation. We know that reviews play a role in mapped results, what we don’t know is how this is going to affect them. 


Angry at Yahoo Local


In an article in the WSJ, they explain how Colonial Hardwood Flooring of Lexington, MA had managed to genuinely build 50+ positive reviews on Yahoo Local. What is now displayed in the search results is a single, positive review from their Yelp page. Thankfully, this Yelp review is a positive one; just imagine the alternative. The WSJ goes on to state that Yahoo will continue to display reviews within their system until that business gets a new review on Yelp. After which, your yahoo reviews will disappear from your Yahoo Local listing.

What Can We Learn?

  1. Reputation is vital – People rely on reviews. Reviews are showing up in search results. Major search engines are teaming with major review sites. How many hints much proof do you need?
  2. Diversify – Just like investing in your retirement, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Invite your clients to review your business online by giving them options.
  3. Things change – Market your business for the long run and understand that some things that work today may not work tomorrow… Always be working for tomorrow.