When you update your website or publish a new post on your blog, how do you tell everyone? There are many ways and one is by using website notifications. Here’s how to alert your followers.
Getting the word out that there is a new post on your website or blog is essential to make it successful. After all, if no-one knows you have a great new article on your site, they might never realise and might never read it. Tell people there is something new and exciting and they may come and see.
It is sometimes said that you have to spend as much time promoting posts on your website as you do writing them. Without some way to tell people that there is something new, your site will look like a ghost town with no visitors.
Website notifications is one of many ways to alert people to new content and you may have seen pop-up messages like this from various websites you visit. You might have seen one from this site.
It gives the visitor the opportunity to opt in to notifications. What might a website notify you about? A new post is one example. With a free account at OneSignal and a free WordPress plugin, anyone who clicks the Allow button will see a notification whenever you post a new article on your site.
It has to be said that most people click the Block button, but it is no worse than other methods. Email open rates are typically low for example, and could be no more than 20%.
Don’t expect every visitor to allow notifications, but people that like your site and content might. There is no sign up and once the Allow button has been clicked, notifications are automatic. (In Chrome go to Settings > Advanced > Content Settings > Notifications to enable/disable notifications.)
Here I am going to use a web service called OneSignal to create website notifications. I am not associated with it and only chose it because it was free – I like free stuff! There are alternatives if you want to search for them, but this one seems to work fine.
Get a OneSignal account
Go to the OneSignal website and there are options to create an account or get started. Click Get Started next to Web Push. All create a free account and either an email address is required or you can log in with Facebook or Google. It takes less than a minute to get an account.
Add a OneSignal app
After creating a free account, this appears and you are prompted to add an app. If you have never used OneSignal before, it isn’t really clear what this does, but since it is the only option open to you, click the Add App button.
Name the new app
An equally confusing prompt for the app name appears. Don’t worry, the name is unimportant. Name it ‘YourSite Notifications’ or something similar and then click Add App.
Select the platform
Next you must select the platform. phones and tablets can receive notifications, but what we are interested in is website notifications, so select Web Push. It is no coincidence that the Google Chrome icon is displayed and we will see why later.
Select WordPress integration
OneSignal notifications can work across many different types of systems, but here I am using WordPress (like millions of other people). Select WordPress Plugin or Website Builder and then select WordPress.
Setup for WordPress
Now you must configure OneSignal for WordPress, which is really easy. Enter your website’s name and URL, and upload an icon – a small image. There is nothing to it.
Get the codes
Next you are shown two codes, an App ID and an API Key. Copy them and save them somewhere because you will need them later. If you forget to save them, log in to your OneSignal account, select the app you created, click Settings at the top and select Keys & IDs on the right. These codes are then listed.
If you return to Settings you will see that All browsers (except Safari) is active – basically Chrome. Click Apple Safari and enter your website name and URL to activate it.
Once activated, click Apple Safari again and another ID is provided. Copy the Safari ID and save it somewhere. (You can return here and get it again if you forget it.)
Install OneSignal plugin
Now that your account is set up, log in to your website admin, select Plugins on the left and click the Add New button. Enter ‘OneSignal’ into the Search box, then click Install Now next to the OneSignal plugin. Activate it afterwards.
Configure the OneSignal WordPress plugin
Remember those codes you copied earlier when setting up your OneSignal account? Select OneSignal Push in the WordPress sidebar and select the Configuration tab. Copy and paste those codes in. Then scroll down to the very bottom of the configuration settings and click the Save button.
More notification settings
Find this setting on the Configuration tab – Automatically send a push notification when I create a post from the WordPress editor. Turn on the switch to send people notifications of new posts. There is also a notifications checkbox in the post editor, so you could choose not to notify people for a particular post if you wanted to.
Notification subscription methods
OneSignal has two methods of getting people to subscribe to notifications and If you want a standard pop-up message at the top of the browser window when people visit the site, turn on the switch Automatically prompt new site visitors…
You may or may not want the Subscription Bell. When this is enabled, a red icon appears in the bottom right corner of the browser window. Clicking it enables people to opt in to notifications. You could have both the standard pop-up and the Subscription Bell or just one. It is up to you. I would try the Subscription Bell and see whether you like it. Return here and turn it off if you don’t.
Once notifications are set up, there is nothing more to do and it works automatically. Visit your website and check that the opt-in message appears. Click Allow so that you can see your own notifications, which will allow you to check that they are working the next time you publish a new post on your site.
Log in to your OneSignal web account and the number of people signed up is shown. Apart from this, there is almost no information about them. It is not that type of service and you can;’t tell who they are. It just sends out notifications.
If you check the numbers, you should have one user – you! Two if you visit your site in both Chrome and Safari and sign up with both. Seeing the users is confirmation that the service is working. Resist the temptation to check user numbers every day and give it a week or two, then see if anyone else has opted in.
Suppose you want to stop showing notifications on your site – just disable the WordPress plugin.