A guide to web push notifications

Web push notifications are little alerts that can be sent directly to a subscriber’s web browser. These notifications can be used to notify of a website update (e.g. a new blog post) or alert subscribers to a sale that you might be having, or more.

Getting an alert on desktop and mobile

These notifications can be customised with your own brand and allow for clickable functionality, and therefore provide websites with a great way to communicate updates to their customers.

Released back in 2015 in the Google Chrome version 42 update, web push notifications have slowly gained in popularity as a marketing tool for businesses. In a recent survey conducted by PushCrew, they found that eCommerce and Retail made up a large majority of the web notification early adopters.

Graph Percentage of businesses using web push notifications by industry

Web push notifications are somewhat similar to their mobile app counterparts. Both can deliver messages to mobiles and tablets, but web push messaging can also deliver alerts to desktop users too. Although mobile dominates overall web traffic, desktops still account for 42% of total internet time, making web push notifications a channel that can talk to a significantly sized audience.

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “do web notifications work”? The general feedback for this new technology seems to be a resounding, ‘yes’.

According to the digital marketing blogger, Neil Patel, click-through rates for his notifications are over 20%. Additionally, a study conducted by kahuna.com showed that web push notifications can achieve click-through rates upward of 40%!

Have I grabbed your attention now? Great, let’s dive deeper!

In this article, I’ll cover how web push messaging works and why they should be part of your digital marketing strategy. I’ll also cover push notification reporting and how to optimise your campaigns to deliver great results for your online presence.

In this article

What are website push notifications?

Web push notifications are alert-style messages that come from your website. When a web visitor subscribes to your notification service, you can directly send them messages to their desktop or device even when your web page is no longer open on their browser.

As mentioned, web push messages have gained traction as of late, particularly on eCommerce sites, but in case you’re unfamiliar with these alerts, let’s quickly cover off what they look like.

If you visit a site with a website push service, you’ll typically be presented with a prompt such as this:

Example of a web push notification subscription alert

This is the opt-in stage of the push notification. By clicking on to the “Allow” button, you’re agreeing to receive notifications from the site. Much like opting in to an email marketing list, the opt-in visitor gets added to a subscriber list.

Once a subscriber opts-in to your push notification service, your website can start sending subscribers notifications straight to their web browser. Depending on what operating system or device the subscriber uses, they will see a notification pop-up on their screen. The notification can contain a message with a link that subscribers can click on to.

Example of a web push notification message

Why your site should use web push notifications

Web push alerts are a relatively new technology. Even so, some of the initial data being collected looks extremely promising!

High click-through rates

For instance, according to the guys at PushCrew, the average click-through rate for notifications when sent to lists of 5,000 or less is a massive 10.85%!

When you compare this to email’s average click-through rate of between 3-4%, it makes this stat even more impressive.

Even when sending to lists of 20,000 or more, click-through rates typically hover between 4-6%!

High message visibility

Another upside to web push alerts is its high visibility. According to PushEngage, viewership of push notifications ranges from 45% to 90%. This is huge when compared to other platforms like Facebook’s organic reach, where a typical post averages an audience reach of less than 1% of followers.

No content filters

Unlike platforms such as Facebook or even email, there are no algorithms or spam filters (yet) that can prevent your message from being seen. Therefore, unless your subscriber has opted out of receiving your alerts, in most scenarios your subscribers will have at least received your message. When it comes to digital marketing these days, delivery of the message is half the battle!

Real-time messaging

Nearly instantaneous engagement is another positive trait of web push notifications. Upon receipt of an alert, people tend to act upon web push notifications almost immediately. Unlike email, which can sit in people’s inboxes for an average of 6.4 hours before being read, web push notifications will often see a majority of its engagement occurring within a few minutes of a send. This can be useful for time-sensitive campaigns!

Anatomy of a website push notification

Website push messaging can carry a number of configurable elements that you can set to help make your alerts stand out and be more engaging. Let’s take a look at the different elements that you can set for your own notifications.

Anatomy of a web push notification

Notification Title

The notification title appears at the top of your alert. Depending on the browser, longer titles run the risk of being truncated. Aim for 30 characters or less with your title.

Notification Content

This area makes up the bulk of your alert’s message. Again, depending on the browser your message has anywhere between 30 to 120 characters to work with.

Notification URL

This is your website domain. This helps the recipient of the push notification identify where the notification came from.

Notification Icon

Ideally, the notification icon should be your brand icon, but any image will do. The recommended size for your icon is 192 x 192 pixels.

Notification Image

Subscribers that use Google Chrome on Windows or Android get the added ability to view a notification image. This appears below the notification content. The recommended size for your image is 360 x 240 pixels.

Notification Badge

Finally, notification badges are for Google Chrome users on Android devices. Instead of seeing a Google Chrome browser icon, brands can replace this with their own badge. The minimum recommended size is 72 x 72 pixels. Note, the icon will be converted automatically into a monochrome version.

Web push notification reporting

Not only can you push notifications to your website subscribers, you can also measure the engagement rates of your notifications!

The most notable metric for web push notifications is the click-through rate. The click-through rate is calculated by dividing the number of subscribers that clicked on a notification by the number of people on your notification list.  Web push notification services can provide the ability to report the number of people that clicked on your alert.

On top of this, if you apply a UTM code to your push notification link, you can use your Google Analytics reporting to measure conversion rates based on web push notification traffic!

Some web push notification services like OneSignal also report on other metrics such as Active and Inactive users and what browsers they used to subscribe and what country they subscribed from.

You can even segment your audiences to deliver more targeted content in th future.

Example of web push notification reporting

Optimising your web push notifications

Now that we’ve taken a look at how web push notifications work, let’s discuss how you should structure your notifications to get the best possible engagement from your audience and drive more traffic to your site.

The first area that we should look to optimise is the message itself.

Crafting Web Push Notification copy

Writing content for web push notifications is similar to copywriting for a tweet or a meta description for Google. With web push notifications, you have a limited amount of characters to work with, which means it’s important to get creative in order to get your message across.

The first consideration is whether your message will be cut off. With only 40-120 characters (depending on platform or device), your message needs to be concise and clear. Let your landing page expand on the details.

Next is the actual content. When you are drafting the copy for your  notification, think about how your title and message can be used to get your subscribers to click through. A great way to draft good push notification copy is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What type of content interests them and how does your message provide value to your subscribers?

Let’s say you’re running an eCommerce site, some great content ideas include:

  • New product launches
  • Notifying of an abandoned cart
  • An offer or sale that you’re running
  • Invitation to an event
  • Notification of a competition

Make sure the content you’re delivering from your web push notifications is content that presents value. Simply spamming messages with little relevance or value is a quick way to get your subscribers from opting out or blocking notifications from your site.

An example of a web push notification for eCommerce

Timing your web push notifications

A significant part of marketing is about timing and web push notifications are no exception. Given the nature and format of push notifications, if the subscriber does not perform the call to action immediately, it is unlikely they’ll engage at a later date. Older notifications can get easily buried underneath more recent sends.

Once a notification misses its mark, people typically do not go into their notification folder to follow up on older alerts.

A classic mistake that companies make when it comes to sending push notifications is delivering messages in a single batch. Your customers may be subscribing from all sorts of different countries and time zones, meaning your notifications might be arriving when people are asleep!

According to research, evenings get the best click-through rate, in particular between 5-7pm. Additionally, Wednesdays tend to get the best engagement with an average CTR of 6.21%.

Web push messaging tools like OneSignal allow you to segment your subscribers by country. Therefore, segment your audiences based on their time-zones and schedule your web push notifications for optimal engagement.

One thing to keep in mind is that every brand has a unique audience. Therefore, if you want to get more sophisticated with your timings, log on to your Google Analytics account and pinpoint when people (by country) are most active on your site. You can use these insights to then properly time your alerts based on customer behaviour. Watch your click-through rates soar!

The frequency of web push notifications

Like a lot of marketing, over-communicating can often lead to undesirable results. In the case of push notifications, if you’re inundating your subscribers with alerts, they might be tempted unsubscribe.

Be mindful of the volume of push notifications you’re sending out. Web push notifications are a relatively new technology and there isn’t a lot of data out there in regards to engagement, but unless you’re a news site, for most brands one alert per day is probably more than enough.

Personalising your web push notifications

Another important aspect of marketing is the relevancy of content. The more relevant the content is, the more likely customers will engage. Fortunately, web push notifications allow for personalisation to deliver more relevant content!

If your web push notification service is integrated with your site, you can collect and use data to segment and deliver highly targeted notifications. For instance, if you’re a fashion brand with an eCommerce website, rather than sending all your subscribers an alert about Men’s Shoes, you can use web push notifications to target just the male portion of your database for a better engagement rate!

Another example of web push notifications includes remarketing products to customers that haven’t completed their order. With the right platform and proper integration, you can send out web push notification reminders such as abandoned cart reminders, product recommendations or even welcome drip campaigns.

Conclusion

Web push notifications are a relatively new technology and very few brands have implemented them into their digital marketing strategy. This provides an excellent opportunity for your brand to get a competitive edge over your rivals!

A well-targeted web push notification channel can lead to a boost in site traffic and conversions.

In fact, a study by Localytics into mobile apps showed that (app) push notifications increased user retention by 26% after 90 days.

There isn’t much in the way of web push notification data, because the format is so new, but because both web and app push notifications work in similar ways, there is strong belief that web push notifications can benefit sites in a similar way.

Has your site adopted web push notifications? If so, how are you currently using them? Alternatively, if you haven’t implemented this alert service, what has stopped you from doing so?

Leave a comment below and let us know what your thoughts are.

Wei Tan is a digital marketing consultant, based in Melbourne, Australia.

I work closely with businesses to help them achieve growth and sustainable profitability through online marketing. I have over 15 years of experience working with multinational brands through to startups.

On top of empowering businesses online, I’m also a founder of a leading digital agency, operator of several eCommerce brands, and an avid content writer on all things digital marketing.

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