Core concepts of Optimizely Web Personalization

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  • Optimizely Web Personalization

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

For ideas and inspiration on personalization campaigns, see Inspiration for Personalization.

When you are ready to implement your site for Optimizely Web Personalization, see Prepare Optimizely Web Experimentation for your site.


Pages are sections of your site where you modify the experience and track behavior.

Examples of pages are 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:

  • single URL where you want to change the experience, such as your homepage.

  • pattern of URLs that all share the same template, for example, the product detail pages on an ecommerce site.

  • A global URL that targets all URLs with the snippet to change elements that display across pages, such as a navigation menu.

The main ways to use pages are:

  • When you create a campaign, choose one or more pages where you deliver the experience.

  • When a visitor lands on a page, Optimizely automatically tracks a pageview event. You can use this event for behavioral targeting. For example, you can personalize an experience for visitors who view the checkout page or you can use views on a page to measure success in a campaign.

  • On each page, you can create events and tags to track visitor behavior,. For example, to understand what products visitors are buying.

If you use Optimizely to test on a checkout page, see Configure Optimizely Experimentation for PCI DSS compliant use.

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, pageviews, 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 action. Metrics are created out of events, which directly track actions like clicks, pageviews, form submissions, purchases, and scroll depth. For example, an increase in unique conversions per visitor of clicks to an Add to Cart event.

You can track these kinds of 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 do not always reflect in clicks.

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

Events are always on. This means that they constantly gather data on the behaviors that 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. You can target visitors who trigger a certain event over a time period. For example, 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 that displays on the pages of your website. Tags describe parts of a page that visitors engage with, such as the type of product and what it costs.

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

Together, tags and events provide valuable data of 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 simply a group of visitors who have something in common.

You can create audiences based on behavior. So, you can behaviorally target audiences made up of 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 the pages, events, and tags on your site, you can create behaviorally targeted audiences. For example:

  • Heavy Spenders – People who trigger the event, Add to Cart, at least once in 30 days where price is more than $200.

  • Shoe Shoppers – People who view a Product Detail Page at least twice in 60 days in the Shoes category.

  • Abandoned Cart – People who trigger the event, Add to Cart, at least once but do not Purchase.

For more information on setting up behaviorally targeted audiences, see Target group visitor behaviors.


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.

In Optimizely Web Personalization, a campaign contains several experiences that are assigned to visitors based on the audiences they qualify for, such as personalizing a landing page with two experiences: showing a female model to the women audience and a male model to the men audience.

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

Personalization campaigns

In Optimizely Web Personalization, campaigns are the framework that organize your personalization strategy. A campaign takes a piece of your site, like the promotions on your homepage, and swaps out that 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. Within a campaign, you can create sets of experiences for visitors who are bucketed into an audience on a certain page.

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

Examples of personalization campaigns are Homepage Offers campaign, Email signup CTA campaign, Top Banner campaign, Checkout Cross-Sell campaign.

When you create a new campaign, set up a few key pieces:

  • Name – Name your campaign based on what you personalize, or the core principle behind your personalization strategy. For example, you can name a campaign Promotional Hero Banner or Video View Offer. Do not name your campaign based on who you are personalizing for, because a single campaign can deliver multiple experiences to different audiences.

  • Pages – Choose one or more of the pages you already defined to run your campaign. Or, create a new page. You can run multiple campaigns on a single page. For example, you can have one campaign that personalizes the hero image at the top and another that personalizes the email signup form at the bottom. A single campaign can span multiple pages to create seamless messaging across a checkout funnel.

  • Audiences – Select one or more of the audiences you defined to see your campaign. Or, create a new audience. In the Visual Editor, create a unique experience for each audience on each page. If a visitor falls into multiple audiences, they only see one experience. You can decide which experience wins if you prioritize your audiences in a particular order. Visitors see the highest priority experience for which they qualify.

  • Primary metric – Every event that you set up in Optimizely Web Experimentation tracks all the time. You do not need to attach specific goals to each campaign that you run. However, you can choose one event as the primary metric for a campaign. This metric shows at the top of the Results page.

  • Holdback – Every campaign has a holdback, which is like the control group of an A/B test. By default, Optimizely Web Personalization shows a personalized experience to 95% of visitors in a campaign and holds back 5% who see the original.

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

    For more information on holdback, see Holdback: Measure overall impact in Personalization.

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

How Optimizely Web Personalization works

When you define the audiences you want to personalize for and the pages where you deliver that 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 Optimizely Web Personalization 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.