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Using the Pardot email preference center (EPC)

The Pardot email preference center—a page where prospects can add or remove themselves to email lists—is a fundamental aspect of all email templates. Every Pardot account comes with a default email preference page that is ready for use. It’s good practice to give prospects access to every list they can subscribe to. In order for a list to appear on the email preference page, it must be a public list.
Dynamic and static lists can be public lists; test lists cannot be public.

Public list in Pardot

Pardot email preference center links are populated via Handlebars Merge Language (HML) or, for older versions, Pardot Merge Language (PML). HML is on by default for all new Pardot Lightning accounts. Chances are you’re already using HML. Pardot frequently reminds users who’ve not yet upgraded by chronically dangling a large banner at the top of their screen, visible each time users log in.

Am I using Pardot HML or PML?

Pardot variable tags are easy to identify as they enclose the fields in %%. For example, the variable tag for a prospect’s first name looks like this with variable tags (PML) %%first_name%%. With HML the % has been replaced with braces { and looks like this {{Recipient.FirstName}}. 

The syntax consists of two open curly braces, followed by the object name, a period, the field name, and two closing curly braces. HML is essentially using Salesforce’s variable tags for one, cohesive merge language. The email preference looked like this with Pardot variable tags %%email_preference_center%%. With the HML makeover, it looks like this {{EmailPreferenceCenter}}.

See related article: Understanding Pardot HML

EPC in Classic and Lightning email

EPC inside anchor tags

If you’re using one of Pardot’s email template layouts, the email preference center appears as a hyperlink, with the text ‘update subscription preferences’.

EPC text hyperlink

Here is the html for the above template.

HTML email preference center

Two vs three braces for Pardot HML

If you’re simply inserting it into your email template, you’ll notice your merge field is flanked by three braces {{{EmailPreferenceCenter}}} and not two. According to Salesforce, HML uses two curly braces to render HTML-escaped data. Two braces are standard for most merge fields. But what if your object contains special characters, such as an ampersand or accent? To preserve the field and avoid it being modified, put a third curly brace around your merge field to keep it in raw format, such as {{{Recipient.FirstName}}}. As we mentioned earlier, Pardot appears to be defaulting to three braces on many of its merge fields, such as email preference center, presumably to help retain data integrity. 

 What won’t work is inserting the actual URL of your email preference center into the anchor tag. The details of your email preference page can be found in the left-hand menu under Pardot email. All Pardot accounts come with a default email preference page. The URL for the page consists of a long string of numbers and letters. You can create a vanity URL if you’d like to shorten this up so that anyone who does decide to visit this page is met with a more appealing web address. 

Creating an email preference center

If you insert the actual URL into the anchor tag, instead of the merge field, you’ll get an error message and won’t be able to save the template or email.

EPC error message

EPC merge field not in anchor tags

Inserting the EPC merge field directly into your email template is straight forward in Pardot Classic. 

Pardot Classic and Pardot Lightning both have a button for inserting merge fields.

Merge fields button Pardot

Note: If inserting merge fields directly in the body of your email, remember to leave one space on either side of the tag. For example:

Update here{{{EmailPreferenceCenter}}} will not save.

Update here {{{EmailPreferenceCenter}}} will save because there is a space on either side of the tag or merge field. 

With Pardot Lightning, when the EPC and unsubscribe merge fields are inserted directly into the body of your email, they sometimes do not render properly and prospects see the long, messy URL of their email preference center. We say sometimes because it doesn’t seem to happen on all instances of Pardot and the only way to tell is to send yourself an actual email, as merge fields do not render for test emails. If the merge field is not rendering properly, you’ll need to insert it into the anchor tags (see above).

TL;DR recap

Pardot requires all emails to have either an email preference center or unsubscribe tag. Both are not needed. Email preference center is always preferred—it gives prospects an opportunity to review all public lists and potentially select a list that better suits their interests or needs.

The email preference center merge field can be inserted directly into the body of an email template; there must be a space on either side of the tag. Email preference center merge fields can also be inserted into the anchor tag.

Pardot HML fields use two curly braces to render HTML-escaped data. To keep the value from being escaped use a third curly brace.

If you’re simply inserting it into your email template, you’ll notice your merge field is flanked by three braces {{{EmailPreferenceCenter}}}.


In April 2022, Salesforce announced the rebrand of Pardot to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement. While the rebrand unfolds and the world adapts to the new nomenclature, we'll keep the Pardot name in our blog posts.


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More about the Pardot rename

Salesforce has made what I believe is a branding mistake. Today (April 13, 2022) they officially renamed Pardot to “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement”.

Not to be unavoidably confused with Marketing Cloud or Engage, which are separate products, or Engagement Program which is a feature of Pardot. And those who know Pardot well know how well Pardot engages with in Pardot, and only if there's a prospect related to an account does an account even show up in Pardot.

Since most people agree that Pardot is a B2B marketing platform, Salesforce should have put B2B in the name somehow rather than Account.

Reminds me of the naming issue for Quip, formerly named Salesforce Anywhere, formerly named Quip (renamed by Salesforce when they acquired it, then renamed again by Salesforce back to the original name since everyone still referred to it as Quip, which was a better name to begin with).

Maybe if we're lucky 'Marketing Cloud Account Engagement' will follow suit and become 'Pardot, formerly named Marketing Cloud Account Engagement, formerly named Pardot'.

Good luck to us proud few formerly known as Pardot Consultants (5 syllables), now Marketing Cloud Account Engagement Consultants (12 syllables), or worse yet, we're a Marketing Cloud Account Engagement Consulting Agency. Try putting that on your business card or in your LinkedIn title. Even though I don't really know Marketing Cloud in its original sense (Marketing Cloud as the world knows it, a.k.a. ExactTarget), I'm now a Marketing Cloud Consultant.

Good luck to companies as Pardot users trying to remember the new name, and socializing it internally.

Good luck to Salesforce reps trying to sell this under the new name without it being confused with the other Marketing Cloud.

And good luck to recruiters trying to staff for Marketing Cloud Account Engagement specialists, hmmm, Pardot specialists.


Update 2022-04-27: In the real world there are many permutations of the new name going about and it's only been 2 weeks since the name change as of this writing. Already starting to see the inevitability of people calling it “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot)”, “Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (powered by Pardot)”, "MCAE" (phonetically pronounced mckay), etc., and actually most people are resigned to still just call it Pardot. Period.

Sad. 😞

So far I haven’t heard anyone on the internet or elsewhere say it was a good move.

The remaining question is how long will it be before Salesforce realizes their branding mistake and renames Pardot once again, 3 months? 6 months? 9 months? A full year, or never? If never, is it because Salesforce at that point would still think they did the right thing with the rename, or would it be because Salesforce is too obstinate to realize and correct their mistake? (Most people think Salesforce will change the Pardot name once again within 6 months.)

Time will tell, but for a long time from now we expect we'll still be calling it Pardot.

Long live Pardot.


Author | Jeff Kemp

As Founder and Principal Consultant of Optimal Business Consulting, a U.S. based Pardot Marketing Automation Consulting Agency and Salesforce Partner, I lead our growing team by helping organizations to implement, optimize, and maintain their existing or new Pardot platform with Salesforce using Marketing Automation and Lead Management best practices and proven methodologies.

Follow/Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn
Follow and connect with Jeff on LinkedIn

More about Jeff

As a seasoned technologist Jeff has 30 years experience in marketing & sales and 6 years as a certified Pardot Consultant. Jeff is a data-driven “Strategic doer” with a unique blend of effective STRATEGIC PLANNING combined with many years of successful hands-on TACTICAL EXECUTION in Marketing, Marketing Automation, Sales/BusDev, Web Technology, SEO, Analytics, Operations, and Business within several industries and formerly holding several high level positions in marketing and sales.

A major aspect of Jeff's experience is a strong understanding of gathering business process requirements (current state vs. future state) and creating a viable roadmap to future state implementation utilizing best practices and taking into consideration the client's current data structure and lead management processes.

Strategic. Tactical. Adaptive. Knowledgeable. Capable.

Download Jeff's PDF Bio

Jeff Kemp Bio | Pardot Marketing Automation & Salesforce CRM Sales Cloud Experience.pdf

See our About page for even more.

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