URL targeting

Target specific pages and sets of pages.

URL targeting allows you to pick the web pages where your experiments run. URL targeting is useful for presenting experiment variants on a specific set of pages, easily defined by their URL. You can target a single page, a narrow subset of pages, or even Hosts and Paths.

In this article:

When to use URL targeting

To test whether larger images on /product pages affect conversions, you could create a URL targeting rule. You could also use a URL targeting rule to test multiple variants of a landing page. In this instance, you'd use a sample product page as the Editor URL, then build the targeting rules below to target the experiment at all /product pages.


The following Variables are available in URL targeting:

  • URL (default) – The full document.location of a page. URL is the building block of Optimize's targeting conditions and is extremely flexible when combined with match types and operators.
  • Host – Commonly referred to as the "domain" or "domain name." Used to target a variant to all pages on your site.
  • Path – The portion of the URL following the host/domain name that doesn't include query parameters.
  • URL fragment – A portion of a URL.

Optimize URL targeting variables (URL, Host, Path, URL fragment).

Match types

The following match types are available: matches, equals, contains, starts with, ends with, matches regex, as well as the inverse versions: does not equal, does not contain, does not start with, does not end with, and does not match regex.


Use matches when there are query string parameters in URLs that you don’t want to include in the matching. Matches can be more flexible than equals because it adheres to the following rules:

  • Ignores query string parameters and fragments.
  • Case insensitive.
  • Normalized to remove a www. prefix.
  • Normalized to remove a trailing slash.
  • HTTP and HTTPS are optional (HTTP will match HTTPS).


Variable Match type Value
URL matches http://www.example.com/prod_summary

Will evaluate true for:

  • http://www.example.com/prod_summary
  • http://www.example.com/prod_summary?prod_id=1234

Will evaluate false for:

  • http://shopping.example.com/prod_summary
  • http://www.example2.com/prod_summary
Using port numbers

Port numbers in URLs in the matches predicate are compared but will use the default value for the scheme if unspecified. e.g.:

  • http://example.com:80/ will match http://www.example.com/
  • https://example.com:443/ will match https://example.com/

However, http://example.com:443/ will NOT match https://example.com/


When using the URL targeting variable, every character in your URL, from beginning to end, must be an exact match of the entered value, in order for the condition to evaluate as true. Use equals when you wish to target URLs that never contain dynamic (changing) information such as session identifiers or query string parameters.

When using the Path targeting variable, every character in the document.path must be an exact match of the entered value in order for the condition to evaluate as true. As mentioned above, query parameters are not evaluated under the Path variable.

URL Example:

Variable Match type Value
URL equals http://www.example.com/prod_summary

Will evaluate true for:

  • http://www.example.com/prod_summary

Will evaluate false for:

  • http://www.example.com/prod_summary?prod_id=1234


Path example:

Variable Match type Value
Path equals /prod_summary

Will evaluate true for:

  • /prod_summary AND /prod_summary?prod_id=1234

Will evaluate false for:

  • /prod_summary_final


The contains match type (also known as a "substring match") allows you to target any occurrence of a substring with a longer string. Contains is useful when targeting a unique query string parameter that appears in multiple URLs.


Variable Match type Value
URL contains page=4

Will evaluate true for:

  • http://www.example.com/member.cgi?id=9&page=4

Will evaluate false for:

  • http://www.example.com/member.cgi?id=9&page=2

Starts with

The starts with match type matches identical characters starting from the beginning of the string up to and including the last character in the string you specify. Use the starts with match type when your URLs are generally unvarying but can include query string parameters at the end that you want to exclude.


Variable Match type Value
URL starts with http://www.example.com/pages/

Will evaluate true for:

  • http://www.example.com/pages/subpage/

Will evaluate false for:

  • http://www.example.com/members/pages/

Ends with

An exact match of the entered value with the end of the URL. You can target shopping cart pages that use /thankyou.html at the end of their URLs.


Variable Match type Value
URL ends with /thankyou.html

Will evaluate true for:

  • http://www.example.com/checkout/thankyou.html

Will evaluate false for:

  • http://www.example.com/checkout/thankyou.html?x=1&y=1

Regex matches

A regular expression uses special characters to enable wildcard and flexible matching. Regex matches are useful when the path, trailing parameters, or both, can vary in the URLs for the same webpage. If a user could be coming from one of many subdomains, and your URLs use session identifiers, you could use a regular expression to define the constant element of your URL.


Variable Match type Value
Page Referrer regex matches checkout.cgi\?page=1

Will evaluate true for:

  • http://sports.example.com/checkout.cgi?page=1&id=123
  • http://fishing.example.com/checkout.cgi?page=1&lang=en&id=123

Will evaluate false for:

  • http://sports.example.com/checkout.cgi?page=2&id=123



The AND operator is used to join multiple targeting rules so that you can target a variant to them. Conditions using AND will evaluate as true when all of the values are met.


To target users visiting your /nexus_9 page, while browsing from a tablet, create two rules joined by the AND operator.

A URL targeting rule:

Variable              Match type Value
URL equals https://store.google.com/product/nexus_9

...and a Technology targeting rule:

Variable Match type Value
Device Category equals tablet              


The OR operator is used within the values field of individual rules. Rules using the OR operator will evaluate as true when any of the values are met.

OR is useful for targeting one kind of page with multiple URL configurations. You can use OR by adding additional values in a URL targeting rule. When targeting URLs, OR is automatically appended to your first URL after pressing return. Simply type additional URLs (followed by return) to continue building rules with the OR operator.


To target a store page which has two different URLs, create a rule with two URLs in the Value field. OR is automatically added after you press Enter/Return.

Variable Match type Value
Page Referrer equals http://store.google.com/ or... http://www.google.com/store/

Check your rule

Optimize includes a convenient ability to enter any URL and verify whether the page targeting condition(s) above it will apply. Enter a full URL (copied from your browser’s location bar and includes the prefix http:// or https://) in the Enter URL field then click Check. If the condition you created above applies to the URL, you’ll see a green checkmark next to it. If the condition doesn't apply to the URL, you’ll see a red circle with a line through it.

To ensure that a condition applies to visitors of your regular website (http://) and your SSL website (https://) simply use the “or…” section of the condition builder to add both under page targeting. Then the condition will apply to visitors of both URLs.

Additional considerations

When entering a URL, you need to escape special characters. Use entity escape codes for the characters listed in the table below.

Character Escape Code
Ampersand & &
Single Quote ' '
Double Quote " "
Greater Than > >
Less Than < &lt;


For example, if your URL contains an ampersand ("&"), e.g.:

  • topic=1638563&rd=1

You must replace the ampersand in that portion of the URL with the "&amp;" escape code:

  • topic=1638563&amp;rd=1
Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu
Search Help Center