Partners Support Log In
Martin Cogburn


    Back to Top

    Rules Overview (Legacy)

    Note: Sequences and Rules are legacy features and are not enabled by default in new accounts. We strongly recommend you use Campaigns instead of Sequences and Rules. This documentation is provided for legacy clients still using these features.






    About Legacy Rules

    Applies to: ONTRAPORT Pro and above.

    Prior to ONTRAPORT's Campaign Builder, Rules were one of the the main automation components in ONTRAPORT. They were located either as steps in a sequence or as stand alone, global Rules in Contacts > Rules. Having Rules listed in different areas made it difficult to see the relationship between the Rule and the action it was taking.

    Rules are no longer used as the major driver for automation. The Campaign Builder uses a superior, trackable method for automation, and is recommended instead. Triggers and Goals have replaced Rules and, because they live on the Campaign Map itself, they have eliminated the need to keep detailed notes about how a contact entered the campaign.

    Introduction to the Rules Collection

    The Rules Collection lists all the Rules created in your account. Just like the Contacts Collection, you can click the item to open it for editing, select one or more items for Actions that appear in the Action Bar, create Groups and apply Group Actions to all items selected in the Group.

    The Group Quick Selection Icon is positioned on the left in all Collections and allows you to quickly select all items in the Group, all the items on the page, or to deselect all the selected items with one click.

    Group quick selection icon

    Along the top is the Group Dropdown, where you can create a new Group or select one you have previously created. The Edit Group button allows you to edit the criteria for the selected Group. The Actions button will show the actions available for the selected items, with the Action Bar showing at the top of the screen. Note that Actions that cannot be taken because no item is selected, or because the action is not available for that item, are presented in a lighter, faded color. The New button will allow you to create a new Contact (shown) or Sequence, Rule, Form, Message, Upsell Form, Partner Program or Landing Page as appropriate for the section you are in.

    the Group dropdown, edit Group, Actions and New buttons

    At the right top are three more tools for the Collection. You can search for data in any of the columns displayed in columns in the Collection, click the Pin icon to add the Collection page to the Pinned Items page, and add columns to the Collection listing.

    add column, pin page and search icons are at the top right

    The Pinned Items page is accessed by clicking the Pin Icon in the main navigation bar when it is visible. The page will show all the pinned items, allowing you to jump to that page with one click.

    the pinned items appear in the page, allowing one-click access to any page in ONTRAPORT

    The Add Column button displays all the available columns allowing you to select what to show in the Collection. Here are some of the columns available and what they are:

    Rules Collection

    • Name (the name you gave the Rule)
    • Status (indicates if the Rule is currently "Live" or "Paused")
    • Last Run (the most recent date the Rule was activated)
    • Date Created (added Nov. 7, 2017; will show a date if the Rule was created after that date)
    • Date Modified (added Nov. 7, 2017; will show a date if the Rule was modified after that date)

    fields available for column headings in the Rules collection

    Other Features of the Collection

    You can resize the width of the columns by hovering over the far right side of the existing column and dragging the <> indicator.

    change width of the column

    To select a new field for the column, hover over the column name and click the pencil "edit" icon. You can select a new field, delete the column entirely, or move the column by clicking and dragging on the move icon.

    move icon to rearrange the columns


    URLs listed in the columns with the external link icon will open in a new window or tab when clicked.

    the external link icon

    At the bottom of the collection you can decide how many records per page should be displayed, along with navigation controls to page through the records.

    pagination controls on the collection

    Rules & Automation

    Legacy Rules were used to automate the management of contacts prior to the Campaign Builder. Rules were set to act when a contact performed an action or failed to do so. An optional condition narrowed the selection of contacts affected by the Rule. Rules could be paused to prevent them from acting on any contact until unpaused.

    Rules Actions Menu

    Legacy Rule Components

    Legacy Rules were composed of three parts, the Trigger, optional Conditions and the Actions to take.


    Triggers are an action that a contact takes or doesn't take. Opening an email, clicking a link, having a Tag added, etc. could all trigger a Rule. Today, the Campaign Builder includes all of these Triggers (and more) in the Trigger and Goal elements.

    Rule trigger drop down


    Conditions are used to further refine your triggered automation. For example, you could set up a rule to fire if a contact has clicked a link more than 2 times, or contact has a particular membership level on a WordPress site, or contact has a declined credit card. In the system it’s labeled as AND THIS IS TRUE:

    Blank conditions drop down


    Actions are the outcomes that occur once a rule is triggered. Some examples of outcomes are: add contact to Sequence, remove membership subscription, remove open order, change a Field to a particular value, generate a Task, etc. In the system it’s labeled as THEN DO THIS:

    blank actions drop down

    Full List of Triggers, Conditions, and Actions


    • Contact is created
    • A field is updated
    • When Contact is added to Sequence
    • When Contact is removed from Sequence
    • Subscription to Sequence is Paused
    • Subscription to Sequence is Resumed
    • Opens Email
    • Clicks an Email link
    • Sends you an Email (tracked by IMAP Settings)
    • Gets a refund on a Product
    • Visits a Landing Page
    • Visits a PURL
    • Open order is created
    • Open Order is charged or updated
    • Credit card is charged or declined
    • When Contact is added to Tag
    • When Contact is removed from Tag
    • When Contact is added to Fulfillment List
    • Is given access to WordPress Membership Level
    • Loses access to WordPress Membership Level
    • SMS Received from Contact
    • Contact visits URL
    • Clicks Tracked Link


    • Has been on a sequence for a certain amount of time
    • Was subscribed to sequence before or after a certain date and time
    • If Contact is subscribed to Sequence
    • If Contact is not subscribed to Sequence
    • Subscription to a sequence is paused
    • Subscription to a sequence is resumed
    • Field is this value
    • Contact has Tag
    • Contact doesn't have Tag
    • Has visited a Wordpress site a certain number of times
    • Has visited a landing page a certain number of times
    • Has opened an Email a certain number of times
    • Has clicked an Email link a certain number of times
    • Has spent a certain amount on a product
    • Has ordered a certain amount of a product
    • Is subscribed to product
    • Has been subscribed to a product for a certain amount of time
    • If Contact is subscribed to Fulfillment List
    • Has access to WordPress Membership Level
    • Does not have access to WordPress Membership Level
    • SMS contains an Email address
    • SMS does not contain an Email address
    • SMS contains text
    • SMS does not contain text


    • Recharge all transactions that are in collections
    • Add Contact to Sequence
    • Remove Contact from Sequence
    • Remove from all sequences
    • Pause subscription to a sequence
    • Unpause subscription to a sequence
    • Add Product to Purchase History
    • Cancel Open Order
    • Notify someone with an Email (any email address)
    • Notify ONTRAPORT User with an SMS
    • Add Contact to Tag
    • Remove Contact from Tag
    • Send an Email
    • Send a Postcard
    • Add Task
    • Send an SMS
    • Change the value of a field
    • Add to Lead Router
    • Ping a URL
    • Add Contact to Fulfillment List
    • Remove Contact from Fulfillment List
    • Remove Contact from All Fulfillment Lists
    • Give access to WordPress Membership Level
    • Remove access to WordPress Membership Level
    • Update Facebook Custom Audience
    How to Create a Legacy Rule
    1. Go to the Admin > Advanced Features > Rules
    2. Click Global Rules
    3. Click +Add Rule
    4. Name the Rule
    5. Create the Rule by selecting the Trigger(s)
    6. Select any Conditions you want to use (optional)
    7. Select the action(s) to be performed
    8. Click Save
    9. Make a note of the Rule, how it is triggered, and the actions it takes in a separate document for troubleshooting

    We strongly encourage the use of Campaigns instead of legacy Rules and Sequences.

    Preview Rule Trigger Resources

    The preview button will display a preview image of ONTRAforms, ONTRAmail messages, ONTRApages and Campaigns you select in the Trigger actions section of the Rule. This allows you to quickly verify your selection.

    Form Preview:

    Rule trigger showing a form preview

    The preview button will not appear, or be deactivated, if the resource is not able to be displayed (legacy landing pages, HTML Editor email, etc.)

    Other Resources

    The ONTRAPORT Q & A Forum offers peer to peer support with our Certified Consultants and ONTRAPORT support staff actively monitoring the forum.






    Articles in this section

    Created - Updated
    Have more questions? Submit a request


    • Avatar
      Paul Coman

      How does the "when contact sends you email" rule work?

    • Avatar
      Cody Ferrel

      Hey Paul,

      That is a really good question and this is a new feature we are offering with ONTRAPORT. In order to trigger a rule based on a contact sending you an email you must first  have an Email Importer set up for each reply to email address in the account. The email importer is similar to parsing but rather than forwarding a message it logs the message in the inbox, and scrapes for a contact match. Once that is set up and a contact sends an email to the "Reply To" address, the rule will then be triggered. Below is a reference to our Email Importer set up instructions.



      If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact support either by email at, live chat, or by phone. (1-855-668-7276)

      **Cody Ferrel**

      Customer Support Sidekick


      **ONTRAPORT | Forums**

    • Avatar
      Peter Price

      Is there a time when it is best to use a rule rather than a sequence? I am getting confused about whether to use a rule to trigger a sequence, or just to have all the required actions in the rule itself.

    • Avatar
      Frank Hagan

      Hi Peter,

      Global or stand-alone Rules in ONTRAPORT are pro-active, waiting for something to happen. At any time in the future, if the trigger is met, the Rule springs into action. 

      A Rule step in a sequence only acts when the contact gets to that step of the sequence; it is not active if the contact meets the condition in the future after they have passed that step.

      Here's an example of when a Rule works in concert with a sequence. If you decide to add a tag to all contacts that visited your website, you can create a sequence and have a rule checking for the website visit and adding the tag. Subscribe all your contacts to the sequence, and the ones who ... in the past ... have visited the website get the tag. That's great, but what about contacts who visit the site tomorrow? They won't be tagged, because they have already been through the rule in the sequence.

      A global Rule can be set up for any future website visits. The trigger is the website visit, and the action is to add the tag. Now, you know all contacts who visited the site in the past are tagged because of the sequence, and all contacts that visit the site in the future will be tagged by the global Rule. 


    • Avatar
      Rowan Gregson


      i am trying to set up a rule based around "when an email is not opened" I can't seem to find where the appropriate statements are in ontraport.


    • Avatar
      Paul Nugent

      Hi Rowena,

      You could create a sequence to do this is by having a rule step with a condition of has opened email this number of times and then adding a tag.

      Here is what the rule would look like:  

      This way you can then create a group that with the criteria of contazct tags does not contain [tag]

      Thanks for your question!


      **Paul Nugent**

      Customer Support Sidekick


      **ONTRAPORT | Forums**

    • Avatar
      Marius-Adi Florea

      Can you tell us what rules should we use for: (Global Rules or Sequence rules )

      • WHEN contact opens email 0 (zero) times send him to sequence 2?

      • when contact opens email 1 (one) time send him to sequence 3 ?

      I cannot make the difference what the global rules are for and the sequence rules are for and when should I use them ?

    • Avatar
      Johanna Burkhardt

      How do you create a rule that when someone gets added to your email list, if they already exists it will just update their record and not duplicate it?

    • Avatar
      Frank Hagan

      Johanna, we already prevent duplicate contacts except in very limited situations. If someone opts in via one of our forms it will merge rather than create a new contact. There are three ways you can create duplicate contacts:

      1. You manually enter a duplicate contact from within ONTRAPORT.
      2. You import a CSV of new contacts and do not select "Merge and Underwrite" as the add method.
      3. You have an application using the API that is adding contacts without checking to see if one exists first (if this is the case, tell the external app to use our "saveorupdate" API call that combines checking and adding or updating in one call).

      You can see how the contact was added by looking in the Automation Log in their Contact Record. Here's a screen shot of the Automation Log in version 3.0 showing that I manually added the contact Susan Smith: