Fallback Alerts: How to build a broken link warning system in Marketo

You don’t want to provide a poor user experience or waste ad spend on broken links. Marketo has a default fallback page you can set to help prevent a totally stuck user, but this doesn’t help you fix broken links that you don’t know about. Wouldn’t it be great if you could be alerted whenever that page was visited, find out what page drove them to the 404, and fix the broken link right away?

It’s actually pretty easy to do, and you can build this warning system it in about ten minutes.

First you need to visit Admin > Landing Pages, and make sure you have some sort of uniqueness built in to your Marketo fallback URL. A lot of people use their main website 404 page, and others create a dedicated 404 for Marketo. Others just redirect to their homepage. You’re fine in any case (so long as whatever page you’re pointing to has munchkin on it) but you’ll want to edit the URL in the admin settings to include a custom querystring so you can properly identify traffic to that page from Marketo links versus other website traffic.Marketo Fallback Alerts

Now build a simple email alert that you’ll use to send every time the fallback page is hit. The two key pieces to include here are the tokens:

  • {{trigger.referrer}} – this will pull in the referring URL that triggered the fallback page. This won’t tell you specifically the broken link, but it will tell you what page the broken link exists on, which is often* enough to identify the issue.
  • {{SP_Send_Alert_Info}} – the awesome system token Marketo provides to insert links to the corresponding record in Marketo or Salesforce. This is great in case {{trigger.referrer}} doesn’t provide anything useful – you can always drill into the activity log of the lead tosuss out why they hit the fallback page.



Next, build a smart campaign in your operational program or whatever area you keep miscellaneous data management stuff, and have it trigger every time your fallback page is visited, with a modifier included to catch the querystring. You’ll also want to include some sort of filter that ensure the triggering lead is known to the database, such as “email address is not empty” (you used to be able to use “is anonymous = false, but thats no longer available). You need this because I’ve noticed anonymous leads still tend to trigger a smart campaign like this, which will result in a bunch of alerts with no information in them. Not super helpful.



For the flowstep, send the alert to you or whoever needs to know to fix it. I like to include everyone who can modify affected domains – so a Marketo admin and a website manager are good places to start.



As a rule, I don’t like getting email alerts for much, but a broken link is high priority issue, and an easy one to fix at that, so an email alert feels appropriate here. That said, if you prefer, you could also log an interesting moment using the same {{trigger.referrer}} token, or assign a task too. It’s up to you.

Once you get the alert, sometimes the referrer URL will be enough to allow you to hunt down the offending link, but even if it is not, you can always dig into the activity log of the lead who triggered it, and look at the web pages they’ve recently visited.

*Note – This doesn’t always work when the referrer is a search engine or a direct visit, because in the former you can’t necessarily see the search query that drove them, and the latter has no referrer to track. Though in my experience, the most common offenders of broken links are on thank you pages, or the thank you page itself being set incorrectly on a form’s settings. In either of those cases, a lead would generally be known to Marketo, so your alert would properly notify you.


All the credit for this idea goes to Adam New-Waterson, you can hear more about this topic from our presentation at Marketo Summit 2016.