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Pardot Fundamentals: Forms vs Form Handlers

Pardot offers two great options for capturing prospect data: forms and form handlers. We get a lot of questions about which option is better or why you might choose one over the other and the truth is – there are pros and cons to both. As a general rule, I always recommend using Pardot forms unless you have a clear cut reason not to. Before we dive into what some of those reasons could be, know that there are some benefits to forms that you’ll lose if you opt to use form handlers.

Pardot forms or form handlers. We get a lot of questions about which option is better or why you might choose one over the other and the truth is – there are pros and cons to both. Click To Tweet

Increased visibility into form performance

Pardot captures data on form views, while both forms and form handlers capture data on submissions. That means you’ll be able to report on form views and get a sense of the bounce rate. Forms also allow you to capture errors when a prospect attempts to fill out the form but gives invalid information or skips a required field, which can be helpful in spotting forms that are too long, ask for too much information too soon, or have fields that are frustrating for leads to fill out due to limited picklist options or formatting requirements.

Create more personalized experiences

Knowing who viewed your forms also means you can create automation rules based off of them. You can send a follow up email to form abandoners offering them another piece of content or reminding them to finish the form or add them to a suppression list so you don’t offer them that piece of content again. Pardot forms also allow you to use progressive profiling, so you can offer your prospects shorter forms and avoid asking them to provide the same information over and over again.

Use Thank You Content

While both form handlers and forms offer the ability to redirect to another page upon completion, forms have the additional option of using Thank You Content, which replaces the form with new content. There are lots of great ways to use this – it can be a seamless transition into a subscription form or a contact us or demo form (yes, you can embed another form here!), a place to link to a few pieces of related content or social sharing options, or used as a two part form.

Bot Protection

Bot form fills can cause sales to be flooded with fake leads, fill your database with junk leading to email deliverability challenges, and take up valuable processing power. Forms offer three different options to prevent these issues – negative CAPTCHA, conditional CAPTCHA, and reCAPTCHA. Negative CAPTCHA (aka the “honeypot” method) is the least restrictive and has no effect on the user experience, but is also the most likely to be bypassed by sophisticated bots. On the other end of the spectrum, reCAPTCHA shows a verification test to every form visitor, while conditional CAPTCHA compromises by only requiring additional verification from IPs that are considered suspicious. 

With all of that extra functionality, it’s pretty obvious why it’s considered best practice to use forms over form handlers. So when would we use form handlers? 

You’re new to Pardot

Sometimes form handlers are used as a transitional option when Pardot is first implemented. They make a great band-aid for your existing web forms while you work to transition over to Pardot forms. 

You’re using a third party form tool

If you have a third party tool or Salesforce Web-to-Lead forms that you don’t want to replace, form handlers are a great option for collecting submitted data in Pardot.

Your forms need to have a really specific look and feel

While Pardot forms are customizable, if you have strict brand guidelines or a use case where significant customization is required, you might be better off creating custom web forms and using a form handler.

You are collecting private or sensitive information

For security reasons, you may not want to save some of the information you are collecting within Pardot. Common examples are credit card or bank information, social security numbers, or passwords. Form handlers can post data to multiple databases, which means you can send only the necessary information to Pardot, while more sensitive data can be routed to more appropriate databases.

If you fall into any of the categories above, form handlers are likely going to be necessary for some or all of your web forms. Notice that using web pages outside of Pardot is not listed as a reason to use form handlers. Pardot forms can easily be embedded on your website by using an iframe. There are also multiple WordPress plugins, including the Pardot WordPress plugin, that allow you to easily work with your embedded forms. There’s no reason to default to a form handler and lose out on the Pardot form functionality just because you’re working outside of Pardot.

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