Core concepts of Optimizely Personalization

  • Updated

Optimizely Personalization lets you deliver targeted experiences in real time to different site visitors based on behaviors and measure the impact.

When you define your audiences and the pages for the messaging, you create a campaign. A campaign lets you deliver personalized experiences to different audiences on each page.

When you run a campaign, measure how effective it is. The results page uses a holdback to measure the lift of your primary metric and any other events you track. You can view these results for a whole campaign or by audience.

See Inspiration for Personalization.


Pages are sections of your site where you modify the experience and track behavior, such as the homepage, product detail page, article page, checkout page, confirmation page, and navigation menu.

Set up pages for the places where you deliver custom messaging or experiences on your site. Use these pages to build impactful experiences and capture your visitors’ behavior.

A page can be:

  • A single URL where you want to change the experience, such as your homepage.
  • A pattern of URLs that share the same template, such as the product detail pages on an ecommerce site.
  • A global URL that targets URLs with the snippet to change elements that display across pages, such as a navigation menu.

The main ways to use pages are:

  • Choose one or more pages where you deliver the experience when you create a campaign.
  • Use Optimizely's pageview event for behavioral targeting. For example, you can personalize an experience for visitors who view the checkout page, or you can use pageviews to measure success in a campaign.
  • Create events and tags to track visitor behavior, such as understanding what products visitors buy.

Pages are always on. This lets you constantly gather data about customer behavior on your site, using events and tags, regardless of whether a campaign is running.

Events and metrics

Events track key visitor behaviors on your site, such as clicks, page views, and form submissions. Examples are Add to Cart, Save to Wishlist, Share, Search, Click Promotion, and so on.

When you create a page, you can track whether customers click a button or watch a certain video. Use events to measure success in an A/B test or deliver behaviorally targeted experiences.

A metric is a quantitative measurement of a visitor's action. Metrics are created out of events, which directly track actions like clicks, pageviews, form submissions, purchases, and scroll depth, such as an increase in unique conversions per visitor of clicks to an Add to Cart event.

You can track these behaviors with events:

  • Click events – Capture user clicks on elements like buttons or offers. You create these on a page, and they inherit the URL targeting from that page.
  • Pageview events – Track automatically for each page that you set up.
  • Custom events – Capture additional information using custom code. You can use these to track behaviors like watching a video, submitting a form, or other actions that may not reflect in clicks.

When you set up an event, Optimizely tracks it for any visitor to the site.

Events are always on and constantly gather data on the behaviors you identify, regardless of whether you create or connect any campaigns to those events.

Always-on event tracking lets you:

  • Create audiences based on behavior. For example, you can target visitors who trigger a certain event over a time period, such as people who searched more than two times in the last 30 days. Get more specific with tags.
  • Measure results for your campaigns.


Tags capture information displayed on your website's pages. They describe parts of a page that visitors engage with, such as the type of product and its cost.

Examples of tags are Price, Category, Name, Quantity, and Duration.

Together, tags and events provide valuable data on your visitors’ behavior.

If you add tags to the product name and the price tag on that page, you know the type and price of the product that the customer adds to cart. When you create a personalization campaign, you can target specific behavior, such as customers who spent more than $100. Tags let you capture this extra context and use it for behavioral targeting.

Tags are always on.


Audiences are groups of customers to whom you deliver a targeted experience. Conceptually, an audience is a group of visitors with something in common.

You can create audiences based on behavior. You can target audiences with visitors who behave in a certain way. For instance, you can create an audience for customers who browse a certain product or see a promotional campaign.

When you set up your site's pages, events, and tags, you can create behaviorally targeted audiences. For example:

  • Heavy Spenders – People who trigger Add to Cart at least once in 30 days when the price is more than $200.
  • Shoe Shoppers – People who view a Product Detail Page in the Shoes category at least twice in 60 days.
  • Abandoned Cart – People who trigger Add to Cart at least once but do not purchase.

See Target group visitor behaviors for information.


Use the Visual Editor to create experiences for visitors, based on the page they visit and the audiences they qualify for. Use these experiences to test and personalize your site.

A personalization campaign contains several experiences assigned to visitors based on their qualifying audiences. For example, a landing page could be personalized with two experiences: showing a female model to the women's audience and a male model to the men's audience.

You can create experiences in Optimizely Personalization by making changes with the Visual Editor or custom code.

Personalization campaigns

Campaigns are the framework to organize your personalization strategy. A campaign takes a piece of your site, like the promotions on your homepage, and shows content for different audiences.

For example, a Homepage Offers campaign can show dress deals to dress shoppers, shoe deals to shoe shoppers, and hat deals to hat shoppers. You can create experiences for visitors who are bucketed into an audience on a certain page.

Create a campaign for each site section you want to personalize.

When you create a campaign, set up these pieces:

  • Name – Name your campaign based on what you personalize or the core principle behind your personalization strategy. For example, you can name it Promotional Hero Banner or Video View Offer. Do not name your campaign based on your audience because a single campaign can deliver multiple experiences to different audiences.
  • Pages – Choose one or more pages defined to run your campaign, or create a page. You can run multiple campaigns on a single page. For example, you can have one campaign that personalizes the hero image and another that personalizes the email signup form. A single campaign can span multiple pages to create seamless messaging across a checkout funnel.
  • Audiences – Select one or more of your defined audiences, or create an audience. In the Visual Editor, create a unique experience for each audience on each page. If a visitor belongs to multiple audiences, they only see one experience. If you prioritize your audiences in a particular order, you can decide which experience wins. Visitors see the highest priority experience for which they qualify.
  • Primary metric – Choose one event as the primary metric for a campaign. This metric shows at the top of the Results page. Every event is tracked all the time. You do not need to attach specific goals to each campaign you run.
  • Holdback – Set a holdback, which is the control group of an A/B test. By default, Optimizely Personalization shows a personalized experience to 95% of campaign visitors and holds back 5% who see the original.

    You can increase the holdback to get data faster or shrink it if you are confident. You should use 5% to monitor how well your personalization is doing. If you change your holdback mid-campaign, you may see invalid statistical reports because the Stats Engine does not support it.

    See Holdback: Measure overall impact in Personalization for information.

When you create personalized experiences for your audiences, launch your campaign by publishing it to make the changes live. If you make more changes after you publish, they are saved in draft mode but do not go live until you publish again.