Most websites, especially in the B2B space, have a form to capture inbound leads. With Pardot forms, there are two options to integrate:
- Pardot Form – Managed completely in Pardot, and then embedded on your website as an iframe.
- Form Handler – Connect to an existing external form (ex. Gravity Forms), and send prospect data to Pardot.
Both options have their benefits and shortcomings, so it’s important to understand the details for each. After all, online forms are one of the main channels that online prospects are created in Pardot.
Traditional Pardot iframe forms are very compelling for a few reasons… many prefer them because they can be entirely managed within Pardot. For instance, you can build, style and generate a form without any help of a web developer (assuming the form layout template has already been styled). In some larger organizations this is a huge win because collaborating with a web team can be cumbersome to get a new form online.
Many will say that progressive profiling is reason enough to use native Pardot forms. For those not familiar, this feature allows you to keep your forms short and hopefully result in a higher conversion rate. Basically, progressive profiling displays only fields that are unknown to Pardot, and allows for admins to only show fields that a prospect hasn’t previously completed.
Another very important feature, native bot protection, which helps prevent spam from entering your database. By default, Pardot forms have a built-in honeypot. This is an invisible field that prospects can’t see, but bots do (which they fill out). Pardot will reject all submissions when the honeypot field has a value.
Additionally, Pardot forms have a conditional CAPTCHA. This is an additional layer of protection that shows a CAPTCHA when the form is being viewed from an IP address known for SPAM. Humans don’t see it, but bots do. Finally, you can enable an optional reCAPTCHA in the form creation wizard that all prospects would see.
The main issue with using a native Pardot form is that it’s loaded in an iframe. Visually, this presents some issues. Specifically an iframe has a set width and height.
That matters because website visitors are on different devices with varying screen sizes, which can render the form oddly. Progressive profiling can sometimes cause the form to have fewer fields and leave large areas of white space. If you use dependent form field, the length of the form can increase causing overlap in other content areas of your webpage.
Another big disadvantage for some is that the form won’t natively integrate with a third-party database. That means if you wanted to store form submissions elsewhere (Google Sheets for instance) then you’d need to do that using another method. That said, if you use a third-party automation tool like Zapier for Pardot then you could run some additional actions on the back-end when a new prospect is created in Pardot. There are certainly workarounds, but not ideal for some.
Pardot Form Handler
Form handlers are a great solution for those looking to completely control the look and feel of their forms. Some developers have trouble manipulating styles with iframe forms because of how the form fields render on the front-end. That said, styling capabilities will be sufficient for most with a traditional Pardot iframe form.
Since form handlers are intended to integrate with a third-party form tool, like Gravity or Ninja, they’re able to more easily post form submission data to more than one database. This allows for web developers to use existing website forms, without having to start over. All you need to do is configure the form handler in Pardot and update the post URL in your third-party webform.
Unlike native Pardot forms, form handlers do not allow for progressive profiling. This could have a negative effect on conversions rates, meaning less total prospects, but also prevent from gaining additional data on your audience. For those who were sold on Pardot because of this feature, this would essentially eliminate the possibility of using this form method.
Another downfall, form handlers don’t display form error and view data within Pardot. This may seem like a minor inconvenience, however, one of the benefits is being able to use this data in automations.
As a good example, with a Pardot iframe form you can see all the prospects who attempted to fill out a form but couldn’t complete because of an error (maybe they attempted to submit with a required field blank). Another example would be to send a targeted follow up email to prospects who viewed a form but didn’t complete, by using data to know who viewed each form.
Lastly, form handlers don’t have spam protection built-in natively. Of course third-party tools may have their own features, but that’s not necessarily guaranteed. That said, Pardot does provide documentation with instructions to add a honeypot field to your external forms.
Should I use a form or form handler?
That’s a great question that organizations will need to determine themselves. Hopefully the information provided in this blog post will provide enough guidance on which route to take. The good thing is that Pardot is flexible and provides multiple options to accomplish.