Marketo Tokens: Ins and Outs

Level 10
Level 10

Using Marketo Tokens to create more scalable, dynamic content

Program tokens are the best! Those are the the tokens that start with “my.” and they’re specific to Marketo programs and Marketo folders in the Marketing Activities section which hold programs (i.e., all folders except for local asset folders that are within programs).

We originally started venturing into tokenizing content back when I was venturing into making responsive Marketo landing pages, since the WYSIWYG had become so difficult to use. I had realized pretty quickly that you could bring in all content through tokens in programs, and it cut down the time required to make programs (landing pages, emails, and everything else) from something like 2 hours to 15 minutes.

Enter tokens, which still bring in all of the content—pictures, buttons, value propositions, titles, links, and text—except with tokens. You simply clone from your program template, edit tokens on the program, and all of the changes are populated instantly. We can publish tokenized responsive landing pages (hopefully becoming redundant soon with Marketo's next few releases!) while saving hours with each new program.


We tokenize everything, and so should everyone. In fact, we don’t even use Marketo’s landing page WYSIWYG editor. We don’t even open it. Same with emails. When we make a Marketo program, we just clone from a template program and change tokens, and it takes about 10 minutes. Before, we would spend 45 minutes nudging elements left and right by single pixels to get it all perfect.

A Quick Tokenization Guide

Program tokens cascade. They can be inherited and overwritten. Ever had to go through yearly updating of the copyright year? Well this way you can save two days of busy work—plop that year into a Universal token.

Make a “Universal” folder in your Marketing Activities section. Put tokens in there that you’ll use everywhere. Here's a screenshot example of what we use on the Universal level:

And program tokens! Here's a screenshot of an email campaign template, one that fits in with our engagement programs:

Emails are a fun way to use tokens, because emails don’t actually have to reside within the program itself. They can be housed in the Design Studio and a flow step sending an email within the program means that the non-local email will have local program tokens. Best use? Universal Fulfillment Email.

There are generally three levels of tokens that we use: "Universal" level (on the top-most containing folder), "Folder" level (on any folder below "Universal"), and "Content" level (specific to the program). You can turn your programs into miniature content management systems through program tokens like this.


Token nuances—the types of tokens

There are two types of tokens that we use everywhere: text tokens and rich text tokens. They have some nuances to them, which you can see in this table:

Text tokens containing full URLs will not be tracked in Marketo emails! That’s because the way email links are tracked for clicks is through shortening them specific to the user. Because text tokens aren’t filtered through normal processing, they won’t be shortened and you will therefore not find any link tracking to work.


http://www.{{my.Email -}}” — now you have link-tracking tokens!

The best rule of thumb for determining if you should use rich text tokens or text tokens is this: do I want paragraphs? Because they’re going to show up whether you want them or not.

More questions you’ll need to consider:

Will a non-coder need to (and be able to) edit this? Will a non-coder need to change formatting on this?

Is this abnormal code that’s going to be filtered out when I don’t want it to be? JS? CSS? HTML with non-WWC-compliant attributes?

The final word on tokens

Note that you can’t put tokens inside tokens. The only exception is a Calendar token, which takes event tokens but not program tokens.

In text emails, rich text tokens spit out the full HTML. That means someone on a Blackberry (okay, probably just an old Blackberry) is going to see your raw HTML code output in the text-only email. Hence, in that case, we have back-up text tokens instead of rich text tokens.

Want to see tokens in action? It's easiest to see demos, which were luckily recorded during my session from Marketo Summit 2015: Architecting a Scalable and Robust Marketo Instance!

Level 10 - Community Moderator

You must not track mailto: links (you need to turn off tracking). Read this: Stop tracking mailto: links (if you want them to work)

Level 2

i found that post right after i posted above. DOH!

Level 10 - Community Moderator

That's cool that you found it, since it continues to frustrate me that the default behavior is broken.

Level 2


The link tracking still isn't working as it should. Thought i had it figured out. Here's the deal:

1. we're emailing a unique survey link to a bunch of people

2. I upload a CSV which includes each person's unique URL

3. Based on the thread above I am removing http:// from the CSV before importing

4. There is a CTA in the email and in the HTML it's like this: <a href="http://{ research URL}">Click Here for Survey</a>

5. The unique URLs get parked in a custom field as you can see

6. Post-distribution I pulled up a link performance report and it shows no activity for the CTA URL -- but i did perform a test to internal audience and it recorded clicks. At least it showed the clicks on the Dashboard but it didn't show the clicks on a person's activity record or in the link performance report. So I kinda got 1/2 way there.

7. Ideas? Do I need to use Rich Text Token?

Level 10

Hi Kevin,

Better ask a new question in these situations, you will get more people looking onto it.

Your CTA code:

<a href="http://{ research URL}">Click Here for Survey</a>

has an error as tokens have to be enclosed by "{{" and "}}“. It should then read:

<a href="http://{{ research URL}}">Click Here for Survey</a>


Level 10 - Community Moderator

Definitely not a Rich Text token.

What is a sample final URL in the email output?  Is it being rewritten to bounce off your tracking domain or not? It should be very clear one way or the other.

Not applicable

FYI Edward Unthank your link above for the preso no longer works but this one does.  Marketo Summit 2015 - Architecting a Robust and Scalable Marketo setup

Not applicable

Thanks for this great post! Quick questions on this part - "Text tokens containing full URLs will not be tracked in Marketo emails!"... I currently changed the way I was setting up my tokens not knowing this useful bit of info and lost tracking on the last 4 email campaigns sent out (we we're REALLY scared our emails were just tanking). Do you think there is any way to get this data retroactively? I'm guessing not but figured it was worth the ask.


Level 10 - Community Moderator

No, It's not possible to reproduce click info if the link was not rewritten to go via the click tracking server.

Not applicable

So clicking that token link wouldn't even be tracked as a click at all? So for example I couldn't run a smartlist that said clicked link in email, link IS NOT any of the other links except the one we are looking for?