How to Get Users Hooked On Your WordPress Site with Web Push Notifications

Web push notifications are one of the newest additions to the arsenal of tools available to internet marketers. However, like all marketing tools, they have a time and a place.

There are two keys to getting the most out of web push notifications:

  • First, you need to understand what sort of messages web push notifications are good at delivering.
  • Second, you need to know how to write and deliver notifications effectively.

In this article, I’ll get you up to speed on web push notifications, consider their benefits and shortcomings, determine the sort of messages they excel at delivering, and wrap up with a few tips on using push notifications effectively. By the time we’re done, you’ll know whether or not push notifications are right for your website and be ready to craft an effective strategy for their use.

What are Web Push Notifications?

Web push notifications are short messages delivered within a web browser to website visitors who opt in to receiving notifications. They are supported by modern versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. That means that significantly more than half of all web users are eligible to opt-in and start receiving web push notifications from your website.

Web push notifications work in two steps.

Step 1: website visitors opt-in to receiving notifications.

We use Roost on the WPMU DEV Blog to deliver web push notifications.
We use Roost on the WPMU DEV Blog to deliver web push notifications.

When a visitor reaches a site that uses web push notifications they’ll be prompted to allow notifications.

Step 2: the website sends out a notification.

Web push notifications on the WPMU DEV Blog in action.
Web push notifications on the WPMU DEV Blog in action.

Notifications are delivered immediately (or according to the schedule defined by the sender) to all users whose browsers are open at the time the notification is sent. Users who do not currently have a browser open will see the notification the next time they open their browser.

There are many providers of web push notifications. We’ve talked about some of the best options for WordPress websites and walked through web push notification setup in our post How to Add Web Push Notifications to Your WordPress Website. So, we’ll skip over implementation details in this post and jump right into figuring out how to use them effectively.

Web Push Notifications: Pros and Cons

There are a lot of things to like about web push notifications but they aren’t without their share of shortcomings. If you don’t understand these facts, then you’ll be ill-equipped to use web push notifications effectively.Let’s take a look at three characteristics of web push notifications to get a better handle on their real value:

Let’s take a look at three characteristics of web push notifications to get a better handle on their real value:

  • The effectiveness of web push notifications.
  • The ease of setting up and using web push.
  • Web push shortcomings that make them a poor replacement for email notifications.

Effectiveness: Web Push Notifications Have an Excellent Response Rate

What percentage of your email subscriber list do you think used a throwaway email address? Not an insignificant percentage. In addition, email inboxes are crowded, and while email marketing is certainly valuable, email response rates aren’t very good.

On the other hand, web push notification opt-ins are always valuable. This is because there’s no real incentive for users to allow notifications. So, visitors who opt in actually want to receive your notifications. Since web push notification opt-ins aren’t incentivized, every opt-in is valuable.

As a result, the list of users who get your notifications is usually higher quality than your email marketing list and click-through rates for web push notifications often dwarf email click-through rates. While statistics on this newer form of marketing are limited, in one case push notifications produced click through rates more than three times as high as email notifications.

Ease of Use: Web Push is Easier than the Alternative

First, let’s talk about opt-in.

Web push notification opt-in is dead simple. All that visitors have to do to opt-in is click a button. Email opt-in, on the other hand, requires that users type out an email address and then go through an email confirmation process.

Second, let’s talk about implementation.

Web push notifications are often compared to mobile app push notifications. In one regard, mobile app push notifications are superior to web push notifications: they are delivered even when the app in question is closed. However, web push notifications are vastly easier to implement.

Setting up web push notifications for a WordPress website takes less than an hour. Building an app? Who knows how long that might take. In addition, the cost of setting up push notifications is negligible — you can get started without spending a dollar, try to get an app built for that price tag.

Third, let’s talk about the complexity of designing and writing notifications.

Web push notifications are easier to design and write than email. The real estate available for written copy on a web push notification is very small and the design is static. As a result, you must be concise and direct when writing web push notifications and you don’t have to think about layout or design. This means that writing web push notifications takes dramatically less effort than writing and designing marketing emails.

Shortcomings: Web Push Notifications Cannot Replace Email

Web push notifications are only delivered once, and once they’ve been delivered they cannot be recovered. This makes them a poor delivery method for messages that the receiver may want to save or view more than once. Email, on the other hand, is a great delivery method for information that the receiver may need to access multiple times.

In addition, web push notification opt-in is really easy, but so it opt-out. Once a visitor has opted out of receiving web push notifications, getting them onboard is extremely difficult, and depending on the technical prowess of the user it may be impossible.

Messages that Push Notifications Excel at Delivering

With the benefits and shortcoming we just covered in mind, let’s move on to identifying the types of messages web push notifications excel at delivering.

In general, push notifications are an appropriate choice for delivering three specific types of messages:

  1. Time-bound messages
  2. Content updates
  3. Requests for user feedback

Time-Bound Messages

A time-bound message is a message that will be most useful when received within a small time window. While push notifications don’t guarantee a timely delivery — they’re only delivered when the user’s browser is open — on average, they do provide much faster delivery than email. This makes them ideal for time-bound messages such as:

  • Limited-time coupons and discounts: “This deal expires in 4 hours!”
  • Product availability updates when in-demand product is received or stock levels are low: “Product XYZ is back in stock!”
  • Breaking news updates that readers would like to know about in a timely manner: “Company 123 has been acquired!”

Content Updates

Content updates are messages letting your site’s readership know that new content is available. We use push notifications on this blog to update our readers whenever a new post is published. This is similar to the idea of using an email newsletter to alert your readers when new content is available, but the response rate to push notifications is often much better than the response rate to email newsletters.

User Feedback Requests

You wouldn’t want to send feedback requests as frequently as time-bound messages or content updates, but they are still worth mentioning. Since users that receive push notifications are generally regular visitors to your site, they represent an excellent group which you can ask for feedback by linking a survey or poll to a push notification.

Tips for Using Push Notifications Effectively

To get the most out of push notifications use them to send the right sort of messages and develop a thoughtful strategy for delivering those messages. We’ve already talked about the sort of messages push notifications are good at delivering, so let’s talk about push notification strategy.

Here are our top four tips for developing an effective push notification strategy.

Tip #1: Use push notifications alongside other marketing channels.

Push notifications need to fit into a larger multichannel marketing strategy. While push notifications are good at delivering specific sorts of messages, they cannot replace your email newsletter or other ongoing marketing efforts such as ad retargeting, exit pop-ups, and social media marketing.

Tip #2: Push notification copy should be short and direct.

When writing push notifications remember that you’re dealing with very limited visual real estate. The most effective push notifications are short and direct.

Tip #3: Deliver relevant messages in a timely manner.

Use the list segmentation and delivery personalization options made available by the provider of your push notification system. If the provider you’ve selected does not offer list segmentation and personalized delivery, consider switching to a provider like OneSignal that does offer these features.

Setting up web push notifications with OneSignal.
Setting up web push notifications with OneSignal.

With OneSignal you can build list segments based on factors including user session activity, user language, device type, geographic location, and more. Use these segments to make sure that the messages you deliver are relevant to the users that receive them.

List of send-later options available in OneSignal.

You can also configure push notification delivery on a per-user basis based on the timezone of the user. Test out different delivery times and keep an eye on the analytics provided by your push notification provider. Adjust your delivery strategy over time based on the delivery timing that produces the best results.

Tip #4: Don’t over send push notifications.

The frequency with which you deliver messages will vary depending on the types of messages you’re sending and the action you’re asking your users to take. In general, content updates should be limited to one notification per day. The timing of time-bound e-commerce notifications, on the other hand, will vary widely. During prime shopping times, such as the holiday shopping season, you may send multiple notifications in a single day. Then, during slower shopping seasons you may go several days without sending messages.

Remember that once a subscriber opts out getting them back on board is extremely difficult if it’s possible at all. Watch the analytics data provided by your push notification system provider. If the response rate drops, send fewer messages.

Wrapping Up

Web push notifications are great for delivering simple, time-sensitive messages to your website visitors. They are ideally suited to e-commerce sites, websites that are updated frequently, and websites that rely on repeat visits.

Compared to other marketing channels, web push is simple for both users and marketers to use. However, getting the most out of web push requires careful consideration of the types of messages to be sent and the strategy for delivering those messages in a timely fashion.

Jon Penland
If you're already using push notification, have you found them to be an effective marketing channel for your WordPress website? If you aren't already using them, what's holding you back? Let us know in the comments section below!