Web Push Notifications

Web push notifications are small, clickable pop-up messages that users receive from a website that are sent in their desktop or mobile browser. For publishers, these notifications allow for real-time delivery of your most important news, capturing readers’ attention without requiring any personal information like an email address.

These notifications alert your readers to new and interesting content published on your site regardless of whether or not they have your site open. Notifications can be automated to be sent every time content is published, or selectively as part of the editorial process. For advanced implementations, these notifications can also be segmented by the reader’s interest which offers the potential to increase engagement with and effectiveness of this medium.

Driving Returning Visitors

For Long Beach Post, web push notifications have become their 6th highest source of traffic to the website, resulting in over 300k sessions to the site in the first seven months since implementation. Over 21k users have opted-in to notifications, and over 8k actively engage with them on a monthly basis. After a surge of opt-ins in October, Long Beach Post has seen a steady 5% weekly increase in users over the course of the accelerator. Because of this, traffic from returning visitors has increased 38%.

We found that leveraging push notifications was especially effective in keeping readers in the loop with breaking news stories and updates to those stories. During the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long Beach Post saw web push notifications account for nearly 5% of their total traffic as the general population’s appetite for news grew substantially.

Case Study | Long Beach Post

Increase in sessions

Catering to Your Most Engaged Audience

While Oil City News hasn’t quite gained the same traction with web push notifications as Long Beach Post, they still make up about 1% of their total traffic to the site after just three months. Similar to Long Beach Post, Oil City News has seen an increase in notification clicks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, while Long Beach Post’s notification users engage similarly to their audience as a whole, Oil City News sees far stronger engagement from this medium of users compared to their site as a whole. Oil City users who entered the site through a notification, bounced 14% less often, spent 60% longer on site, and had a 29% higher pages/session.

Though early in their implementation, San Angelo LIVE! has seen similarly high engagement from their web push notification subscribers. Over the first month, these users spent 34% longer on the site and had an 8% higher pages/session.

Best Practices

For the purpose of this accelerator, 10up utilized OneSignal for web push notifications. This WordPress plugin is one of the most widely used, and provides unlimited web and mobile push notifications for up to 30,000 web subscribers and unlimited mobile subscribers. There are numerous other products in this space worth considering, so doing your research is recommended to find the best fit for your site.

There are a number of best practices around web push notifications, including when to ask for the subscription and when to send notifications, how a notification should look, and sending the right content to the right users.

Prompting the subscription
The initial prompt should slide in from the top of the screen, and feature a compelling message as to why a user would sign up. While many sites show this prompt immediately, experimenting with a delay to only show it after a user has been on the site for a period of time allows them to get value from your content prior to deciding if they want to subscribe. This delay could be a fixed time, such as after 20 seconds, or when a user visits a second or third page in a session. It’s also recommended to add an on-site CTA that users can click to subscribe to notifications even if they’ve already denied the initial slide-in prompt.

When to send notifications
While many publishers will notify users each time an article is published, we don’t want to overwhelm them by sending 50 notifications per day. The exact number to send will require testing for your audience, however most outlets send between 4 and 10 notifications per day. We know for certain that we want to send notifications when our users are most likely to visit the site, which should be determined via analytics. The beginning of the workday, lunchtime, and late afternoon have been observed as highly engaged times, and should be targeted for at least one notification. One way to approach the daily number sent would be to start with sending out 5 notifications per day for a couple weeks. After getting hard numbers on engagement, try bumping that up to 7 notifications per day, then 10, etc. in order to find the sweet spot. Notifications should always be used to send out breaking news alerts. The overall goal is not to saturate users with content and make them blind to notifications, but to make notifications something they feel are going to give them value.

In order to further increase value, as well as notification click-through rate, most web push notification platforms offer the ability to segment users. Many push notification providers offer automatic segmentation based on things like URL, what topics users view the most, and whether they’re a premium subscriber or supporter. This auto-segmentation makes compiling segments easier, and takes a step out of the opt-in process that might normally serve as an additional point of friction. Notifications can then be sent to segments of your subscribers, based on what we know they’re interested in.

Format and creative
Studies have shown that sending notifications with images have a CTR of 200-300x those without images. Notification text should be kept short, with titles no longer than 6-8 words, and a message no longer than 45 characters. Occasionally adding emojis to the notification can also grab a user’s attention.

Most push notification dashboards contain data on things like the number of subscribers and CTR of individual notifications. UTM tracking parameters should also be added to all notifications to tag the source/medium in order to see traffic from these notifications, as well as having the ability to segment these users for additional insights.