Website forms broken?

Had a string of these problems with new and a few older clients recently. These issues usually arise after moving hosts or when the various providers upgrade their systems.

Email security is a hot issue with services like Google and all others pushing 2-step logins, for an added layer of security. Alongside this are upgrades occurring to hosting systems (php mail) which affects email enquiries coming to you via those website forms tools. Popular ones in the WordPress environment include

  • Gravity forms
  • WPForms
  • Formidible
  • Ninja forms
  • Contact form 7
  • Fluent Form

When these fail, the natural instinct is to blame the plugin, but this is rarely the case. In 80% of cases, the outgoing delivery mechanism has broken. Once upon a time, these webforms just worked out of the box, but because the default website server scripts that take your forms entries and send it out as an email is a potential security issue for host companies, they keep changing stuff to avoid being hacked. The best option is having the WordPress site use another channel like SMTP, which is what most email clients like MS outlook, Applemail etc use. Some of the common plugins here that provide this include:

  • WP Mail Bank
  • WP Mail
  • SMTP Mailer
  • Easy SMTP

Some of these can utilise your own email domain account, essentially giving your website it’s own email address. This has some unique benefits. Or we can set the delivery channel to a third party service provider available from Amazon, Sendinblue, Mailgun, SendGrid, SparkPost etc. Some are free, others requiring a monthly fee. Basically, you get what you pay for…

Note if the email being delivered is invalid it may end up in the recipients spam folder. Yes, your plugin is fine, your SMTP plugin and delivery channel is fine, yet nothing arrives! Why?

Google and most mail servers have incoming mail filtering that is very aggressive these days. This is vital due to the huge volume of spam mail that floods the internet daily. Basically, although the above email workflow set up above may now be fine, the incoming mail server of the recipient may not like it and think the sender is not you, but someone else, hence spam it. There are testing tools to determine this, for any email. A website we often use to test this is https://dkimvalidator.com/

This particular problem is usually resolved by adding some new DNS record entries to your domain, to validate your third party mail service. Care is needed when doing this to ensure you don’t break your normal email services… If you’re struggling with all this, then give us a call. We can usually sort this out in an hour.

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