No two pearls are alike—and neither are two PURLs. You may have heard this homophone for the popular gemstone in reference to digital marketing campaigns. The acronym refers to “personalized URLs,” or unique web addresses. The concept is relatively simple (at least in comparison to its execution): each target has an exclusive code attached to a link in an email they receive (or the banner they view, etc.). The degree to which this personalization is carried through to the website varies—from entirely unique landing pages, to custom-populated portions of the website (such as displaying the target’s name on the page), to all targets viewing the same exact page, and the codes being used only for backend tracking purposes.
The value of a pearl is determined by several factors: type, rarity, size, shape, color, etc. The value of a PURL is also multifaceted. The first, and perhaps most obvious value (at least to someone in marketing analytics), is that PURLs enable detailed tracking of an individual. Websites, with the help of reporting suites such as Omniture, record activity against each unique code. This tracking then enables a view of each target’s path and interactions on-site. Additional value is obtained when this information is collected on a personal level, and then used to customize further engagement. For example, if a target explores a certain area of a website, the next email to that target can reference this action and/or include further information on this topic. This engagement customization then translates into a third added value: the use of PURLs typically increases response rates. Not surprisingly, targets are more likely to click on a link when it is personally relevant.
The history of pearls in society as a valued possession is long and storied. In ancient times, pearls were rare and highly valued (as the legend of Cleopatra and her pearls implies). In more recent history, the value of pearls has diminished greatly due to the availability of cultured pearls. However, the value of PURLs is only increasing in marketing, and is becoming the cost of entry for a truly effective campaign.
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