What is Pardot HML? Personalization for Account Engagement

By Lucy Mazalon

Pardot HML enables you to easily add personalization because it dynamically pulls in data specific to the prospect that is viewing your Pardot marketing assets – including emails, email, dynamic content, landing pages, forms, and user email signatures.

Pardot Handlebars Merge Language (HML) replaced the now legacy Pardot Merge Language (PML), where you would have used variable tags for personalization.

The upgrade brought additional benefits: The ability to select your merge field from the Pardot merge picker, conditionally show and hide content based on parameters (IF/ELSE statements), and mirrors the personalization used in other core Salesforce Lightning platform features (i.e. Lightning email templates).

This guide digs further into what HML means for Pardot (Account Engagement) users, how you can enable HML faster, and ways to advance the ways you personalize with Pardot.

Where Can You Use HML in Pardot?

HML is included with every Pardot edition. You can merge field data from prospect, account, and user records into:

  • Email templates.
  • List emails.
  • 1:1 emails.
  • Dynamic content.
  • Landing Pages.
  • Forms.

Note: Although configuration is required, you can base HML on custom object data. For example, to insert the name of the prospect’s most recently purchased product, or the date when their onboarding process will start.

READ MORE: How to Use Custom Object Fields in Pardot HML

Pardot HML vs Variable Tags

Pardot Handlebars Merge Language (HML) replaced the now legacy Pardot Merge Language (PML), where you would have used variable tags, formatted like: %%email%% or

HML merges prospect data using {{ instead of %%:

Note: Pardot does currently support both the legacy %% merge tokens and the new HML {{ format; however, to leverage every new and future Pardot capability, HML is often a prerequisite.

Key Benefits of Pardot HML

  • The merge picker.
  • Aligned email building experiences across the Salesforce platform.
  • Conditional merge fields.
  • Snippets.
  • Tracked dynamic links.

1. Merge Picker

The merge picker is a menu of available fields to merge, which objects they belong to, with a search box, and categories for easier navigation.

2. Aligned Email Building Experiences

HML is the same merge language that is used in other core Salesforce Lightning platform features (i.e. Lightning email templates) across Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, etc.

If you have composed emails in Salesforce Lightning, the user experience will be familiar to you:

Salesforce Merge Language (SML) is slowly being phased out since the HML release in Summer ‘18 – SML is still being used with Classic email templates.

3. Conditional Merge Fields

Conditional HML works in a ‘if/else’ way – in other words ‘if-then-show-this, if-not-then-show-that’.

  • Blank field values can be solved. This code snippet will show alternative text as a fallback value when there is no value in the prospect field, which prevents awkward blank spaces or nonsense sentences.
  • You are not restricted to one default field value. When editing prospect fields (in Pardot Settings), you can set a default value. HML allows you to set conditions using if (#if tags), for example, if the prospect’s first name is blank, show [some value].

To create conditional merge fields, first define what you prefer prospects to see, then you define what prospects to see if the field is blank. As you will see in the example, typing {{#if starts the statement; {{/if}} closes it.

{{#if Recipient.City}} We’ll see you in {{Recipient.City}}, {{else}} We’re coming to your city! {{/if}}

Conditional merge fields can be specific to each email, or copy and paste your logic from one template to the next.

4. Snippets

To reiterate, to leverage every new and future Pardot capability, HML is often a prerequisite. Take snippets, for example, which are reusable content blocks (consisting of text, images, or links) that can be pulled into multiple emails. Centralize content by only needing to make updates in one location, and have the changes cascade down to wherever the snippet is used.

5. Tracked Dynamic Links

Dynamic URLs change depending on the prospect viewing the email. Previously, whole URLs inserted into emails as variable tags were not considered URLs by Pardot, therefore, clicks were not trackable (you had to paste the first part of the URL, and only the ending could be variable).

With HML, URLs merged dynamically into emails are trackable. Read on to find Bill Fetter’s dynamic URL trick later in the guide.

Pardot HML vs Dynamic Content

HMLDynamic Content
IF/ELSE logic can extend to many variations (the limit? I can’t say for sure!)
25 is the “official” number of variations within one dynamic content. Having said that, combining dynamic content with HML means you can increase the variations significantly.
Can be inserted and edited from any of the Pardot builders.Can be inserted while using the Classic (legacy) Pardot builders, not the Lightning builders. To edit dynamic content, you must navigate to the dynamic content area in Pardot.
Write the condition you need directly in the email itself, based on your field information.Prone to error, as it’s inserted using its numeric code, not as an actual block of content.
You can change details within a block of content, instead of creating a new block of content for each variation.Create a new block of content for each variation.
Conditional statements are technical in nature, and the IF statements require careful coding (using HTML & HML code). The dynamic content edit page, split into boxes, outlines which variation will show for which field value.

Complex conditional statements are harder to test before the email is sent.
With variations based on one field, testing is simpler.
READ MORE: Pardot Personalization Pros & Cons: Dynamic Content vs. HML
READ MORE: Maximize Pardot Dynamic Content for Prospect Personalization

Advanced HML Tricks

From allowing prospects to resubscribe (on form handlers and operational emails!), showing your email recipient a particular URL, display different information to assigned vs. unassigned prospects, and using different form handlers in emails – Bill Fetter’s tricks are an absolute treat once you’re ready to take HML further:

READ MORE: 4 HML Tricks for Advanced Pardot Personalization

Tips for Upgrading to Pardot HML

Upgrading to Pardot HML clearly has its benefits. If you became a Pardot customer after June 12, 2020, HML is enabled by default (so, you’re off the hook!). Became a customer before that date? Read on.

Check if HML is Enabled

Do you see this notification banner on your Pardot dashboard ’Streamline your tailored marketing content across Salesforce’? If you don’t, that means you’re all set.

Before you click “Get Started” there are a few things to note:

  • While HML is an optional upgrade it is a ‘permanent upgrade’ – in other words, it can’t be undone.
  • Per email, there’s a limit of 200 HML merge fields and 10 pieces of dynamic content. Check in case you will bump up against these limits on any of your emails (although, that would be hard). Note that there are also ways to extend the dynamic content limit, with the help of HML; it may be a case of reviewing and redesigning your personalization logic.
  • When converting templates from PML to HML, you need to test to ensure the personalization is working as expected.

Track which templates are updated to HML from the menus in Pardot (Account Engagement):

How to Enable Pardot HML (Fully)

No doubt, you’re excited about HML. At the same time, you may be worried about the bulk changes you need to perform. If you maintain hundreds of Pardot email newsletter templates, converting HTML templates files isn’t a task that you’re looking forward to undertaking.

Andy Theimer, Founder of FeedOtter, shares his experience:

“We first took our template to Pardot to see if Pardot’s built-in mechanisms would help us migrate our emails. We created a new email template and pasted it in our old code. As you can see (image below) Pardot gives a warning that our old template was deprecated. We were now faced with the task of replacing hundreds of tokens on hundreds of email templates.”

In the process of mapping tokens, they found that there is not a direct replacement for all %% tokens:

  • %%address_two%%
  • %%crm_id%%
  • %%prospect_account.billing_address_two%%
  • %%prospect_account.description%%
  • %%prospect_account.shipping_address_two%%
  • %%prospect_account.shipping_zip%%
  • %%user_html_signature%% transforms to {{Sender.Signature}}

Useful References:

Easy HML Upgrade: Enter the Token Replacer Tool

The free Pardot token converter tool, a single webpage application to bulk replace tokens from the old %% style to the new handlebars {{ format.

Having a large number of templates to convert, FeedOtter (the tools’ creators) kept usage as simple as possible:

  1. In Pardot, edit the email you wish to update. Copy the full HTML source code to your clipboard (HTML tab in the Pardot email builder)
  2. Paste the full HTML of your Pardot email template into the “paste box” in the token updater tool.
  3. Click the CONVERT button and review the output messages.
  4. Click the “Copy to Clipboard” link to grab the new HTML and paste it back into your Pardot HTML tab.
  5. Click the Save button, and repeat for all templates.

If your templates contain any of the %% tokens that don’t have a direct replacement into {{ tokens, the replacer tool will remove them and notify you.

“By repeating this process we were able to convert more than 100 email templates to the new token format in about an hour.” Andy Theimer, Founder of FeedOtter.

The team published the tool for the Pardot community to use, hoping it’s indispensable for consultants and companies that have a library of Pardot templates that will need converting at some point.


This guide has taken you through what you need to know when starting out with Pardot HML. HML is clearly a boost for Pardot (Account Engagement) users, advancing the ways you personalize with Pardot.

Now you’re up to speed, check out Bill Fetter’s tricks are an absolute treat once you’re ready to take HML further:

READ MORE: 4 HML Tricks for Advanced Pardot Personalization


The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.

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