The Truth about PURL Formats

The VDP Web® SaaS cross media platform can structure Personalized URLs (PURLs) in any way the user desires. We have created and analyzed several thousand direct marketing campaigns using PURLs in every format imaginable. The analysis of these campaigns, across hundreds of B2B and B2C verticals, provide very clear guidance based on the results of statistically significant split tests conducted regularly since 2004. The three most relevant to PURL format are:

  • 15% of recipients who take the web call to action will truncate their names from the PURL, even if it is presented as a link in email. The PURL set up had best account for that behavior if the correct content is to be served.
  • A PURL that features the recipients name performs, on average, 64% better than a code or quasi name driven PURL such as “smith6526”. There may be good reasons to use such a format (such as security concerns) and we have, but the negative impact on response for many applications, especially lead generation, must be kept in mind.
  • The life span of a PURL campaign is 18 months or more. Hits come from older distribution and it is important to consider that the content should be available for a long time, even if the offer has expired, in order to capture these long tail leads.

If a marketer only intends to run one campaign on one channel then the format of the PURL is less critical because it is no problem to serve all the same content and have one set of reporting. This is not the most common scenario, however. What follows are the most common PURL formats utilizing prospect names and the main considerations of their use.

johnsmith.mycompany.com (wildcard DNS)

Most marketers wish to use their main web address as the base of the PURL for a myriad of reasons. This first format requires a wildcard DNS record to point at the PURL application’s servers. Anything that appears before the “.mycompany.com” will point to the PURL. What happens when that wildcard is already in use for another purpose or the user truncates their name which, remember, 15% of web visitors do? The respondent will be sent to the main company site, correct content will not be served and tracking will be lost. What happens when there is a requirement to run several campaigns to the same prospect at the same time? What happens in the common case when there is a requirement to track separate channels independently? Multiple PURLs per channel would be required to use this format. Recall that codes or quasi name driven PURLs are less effective. What happens when a new campaign is ready to go? Do we abandon the long tail of previous efforts to point all comers to the new content?

subdomain.mycompany.com/johnsmith (variable DNS)

This format allows an unlimited number of campaigns to run off one PURL name. Reporting for an infinite variety of campaigns such as offer.mycompany.com, vip.mycompany.com or win.mycompany.com, etc.) can be run off of one site. The recipient is far less likely to truncate both the subdomian and their name if they are inclined to try and remain anonymous. The main advantage here is flexibility in campaign management and distinct reporting by campaign.

Our larger OEM clients use this method to efficiently control multiple and simultaneous PURL campaigns for several hundred product lines off one website and still retain distinct reporting for each product, offer, and channel. Wildcards do not have this flexibility and are only suited for basic, one time use.

johnsmith.newsite.com (wildcard DNS with new site)

Assuming the client does not use their main site as the web address for the campaign this eliminates the wildcard problem mentioned above, but what happens when you want more than one set of content? What happens when you have two campaigns running simultaneously to the same recipient and want separate reporting by offer or product line? Then you would be required to acquire and manage multiple sites which has a variety of obvious trust and issues. This format for the PURL has all of the challenges and disadvantages of using a wildcard record for the main corporate site – limited content, tracking, and the loss of the long tail of leads being the most important.

newsite.com/johnsmith (variable DNS with new site)

If a new site is chosen, this format still allows an unlimited number of channels, campaigns and offers to be run off of one PURL name.

Take Aways

  • 15 % of recipients truncate their name from the PURL and the system needs to account for that in order to deliver the correct content and maintain accurate tracking
  • A PURL that features the recipients name performs, on average, 64% better than a code or quasi name driven PURL such as “smith6526”
  • Using DNS records is the easiest and most effective way to run multiple campaigns with segmented reporting to the same recipient at the same time on multiple channels with segmented tracking without having to acquire multiple web addresses or use multiple PURL names
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