Sitecore profiles, profile keys, profile cards, and pattern cards demystified

Posted 05/14/2020 by Sana Kamalmaz

I’ve helped multiple Sitecore users get their feet wet with Sitecore personalization. It’s an interesting journey. And it’s different for each user. But there are commonalities. Yes of course there’s the look of delight when the last piece of the puzzle falls into place, but that comes later, after a good amount of work. The commonality that I’m dedicating this post to, is the collective confusion that creeps into the room as we step into Sitecore’s adaptive personalization.

That is by no means to say that Sitecore’s adaptive personalization is difficult or complicated. It’s not. It’s just that the building blocks for understanding it have abstract names that are easily confused for each other. Enter profiles, profile keys, profile cards, and pattern cards. Because the terminology is abstract, I often find that walking through an example really helps. And this is what this post is about.

Three people interested in three different things

First, a bit about content profiling

  • Content profiling is the process of categorizing your content according to some kind of criteria. This allows you to know more about your website visitors. The more they interact with content in a certain category, the safer it is to assume that they are interested in that category.

  • Content profiling can be used in personalization. Think about it this way: when you know a user is interested in a category, you can use this knowledge to present them with more engaging content in that category to help them move down the funnel (adaptive personalization).

So, what are profiles, profile keys, profile cards, and pattern cards?

  • Profiles, profile keys, profile cards, and pattern cards are the building blocks of content profiling in Sitecore.

  • A Profile is the criteria you’d like to use to categorize your content.
    • Sitecore comes with some default profiles, but you don’t have to use those, and you can create your own.
    • For example, let’s say your organization serves a wide audience that includes people inserted in buying, renting, and developing property, and they have different needs based on their interests. You can opt to create a profile called interest.
    • Each profile must have profile keys.

  • Profile keys are attributes related to a specific profile.
    • In the example above, buying, renting, and developing would be profile keys under the interest profile.
    • Once content profiling is set up, when your website visitors interact with the content on your website, they accumulate points under the different profile keys based on the content they view.
    • Each profile key has a maximum value that a user can accumulate under. You set this up when you create profile keys.

  • A profile card is a pre-set collection of profile key values gathered in one card that you can assign to your content.
    • Think of profile cards as sticky notes; you can stick a note on every piece of content on your website. The note states how many points users should get under each profile key when they view this content.

  • A pattern card is a defined preset that contacts can be matched to based on the profile key values they accumulate by browsing around the website. It is used for adaptive personalization.

Remember that profiles are related to your content (you assign profile cards to your Sitecore items) and pattern cards are related to your visitors (Sitecore assigns pattern cards to visitors dynamically based on the content they view on your website).  

And there you have it. Sitecore profiles, profile keys, profile cards, and pattern cards explained. In the next post, we’ll walk through a simple example of using Sitecore profile, profile keys and card, and pattern cards to help you understand the terminology even better.