Best Practices for School Marketing Browser Push Notifications

In today’s crowded online space, users are beginning to rely on browser notifications to receive updates on new activities taken by their favorite brands, including schools.

Today’s article will focus on the best practices for developing web push notifications for your school.

What are Web Push Notifications?

A web push notification is a clickable message sent by a website. The user must give permission for your website to send them information.

Push notifications started with mobile app notifications. The mobile version became popular with users and marketers alike, so now they are being used on web browsers. Users like push notifications because they can control opt-in capabilities and marketers like them because they allow brands to engage with users through customized content.

There are two main types of web browser notifications.

  • push API
  • notification API

In case you’re wondering, API refers to Application Programming Interface. It refers to an intermediary software application that allows two other programs to communicate with each other.

Let’s look at these complementary technologies in a little more detail.

Technology #1. Push APIs

A push API refers to a program that is coded to access server notifications at any time. These programs include messages that are “pushed” to the web application and will appear on the user’s screen.

One of the advantages of a push notification is that it works whether the user is on the website or not, which means you can engage with users as long as they have opted in to your push notification. Users will be notified right away because the software is downloaded directly into the browser and runs constantly in the background.

Technology #2. Notification APIs

A notification API works alongside the push API to send a message to a user while they are on your site or have subscribed to updates. They capture user responses and send the information back to the push API.

Notification and push APIs work together in an interconnected way. Notification APIs are automatically configured denied mode, meaning only when someone gives permission will they receive notifications.

Best Practices When Using Push and Notification APIs

The thing to understand about push notifications is, like many marketing tactics, they can be misused. You don’t want to create a situation where you are annoying the user with tired marketing messages that don’t have much meaning to them.

At the same time, push notifications can be useful, especially in situations where you’re looking for a timely response.

Sometimes push notifications can eliminate frustration and sometimes they can cause them. It’s up to you as the marketer to make wise decisions about the use of push notifications.

Best Practice #1. Always put the user experience first

The user experience is paramount when setting up push notifications. A rule of thumb is that your notifications should be assistive, not disruptive

Respect your user by:

  • Always asking for permission before sending the first push notification and give the user a way to opt-out of future notifications
  • Using a push notification when someone is waiting for a message from your school
  • Sending out a push notification when communication will be well-received
  • There is a breaking situation where people need to be notified right away

Best Practice #2. Build trust 

Research shows that as many as 60% of users opt-out of push notifications. Permitting your site to push notifications requires trust on the part of your users. You can build trust by having a well-designed website, helpful content and a clear reason users will want to accept your push notification offer.

Best Practice #3. Don’t be too aggressive about asking for permission

Push notifications have been abused in the past; wise marketers will not want to appear “pushy” by asking for push notification permission too soon. Some browsers have started requiring marketers to wait until users interact on the page in some way – or have stayed on the page for a certain length of time – before requesting permission. This prevents the user from getting asked for permission before they’ve had a chance to read the content enough to know whether they want push notifications or not.

Best Practice #3. Engage with users at the right time

Timing is critical when it comes to push notifications. Remember your notifications are sent immediately, so make sure you are sending them out at a time that makes sense for the user.

  • Follow local time zones
  • Respect parents’ schedule
  • Analyze view rates and open rates metrics to determine the best time to send notifications

Best Practice #4. Follow push notification copywriting guidelines

Just like other types of marketing copy, following best copywriting principles will help entice users to read your message.

Push notifications should have the following elements:

  • Title

The title is the first thing people will see. Title copy will determine whether people will actually read your push notification. The title needs to be intriguing and convey a sense of urgency so people will click on it. Remember to include emojis – push notifications that use emojis have been shown to have an increased open rate.

  • Description

The description is the place to communicate the essence of your message. Be brief and match the title message. Also, make sure you limit your characters so your message won’t be truncated.

  • Website icon or logo

Use your website icon or logo to increase the credibility of your message. Your icon reinforces your branding and will help your user with brand recognition.

  • Image

Web push notifications allow you to include an image. Images help make notifications more appealing and can lead to an increased click-through rate (CTR).

  • Call-to-action

Be sure to include a call-to-action in your notification so the reader knows what action to take next.

Best Practice #5. Write messages with your segmented subscriber groups in mind

Don’t send the same notifications to all of your subscriber groups. Always write messages with your subscriber segment groups in mind. A study conducted by PushEngage found that click rates can be increased by 218% by targeting messaging to segments of your subscriber list.

Along these same lines, be sure to use personalization in your push notifications. Use your personas to write personalized messages.

Best Practice #6. Use landing pages when appropriate

Once a subscriber clicks on the notification, it will disappear. They can’t go back and re-read the notification like you can with an email. For this reason, it is best to set up a landing page with all of the important information you are wanting to convey on it.

Best Practice #7. Be mindful of expiration dates

Users will not receive your notification if they are not online. Then, when a user logs in, they will be bombarded with all of their notifications, including any you have sent since the last time they logged in. If there are too many, especially if they are outdated and no longer relevant, the user is likely to unsubscribe.

You can avoid this issue using one of the following tactics.

  • Keep open for 20 seconds

This type of notification will keep the notification live for 20 seconds. It’s good for confirmational-type of notifications. For example, if they download an ebook you might want to send them a “confirmation notification” within 20 seconds.

  • Keep open until interaction

This command will keep the notification open until the user either clicks on it or closes it.

  • Expiration date

You can include an expiration date in your command. So if the user doesn’t view the notification by the expiration date, the notification will expire and won’t appear in the browser.

Best Practice #8. Create push notification drip campaigns

Like other marketing campaigns, identifying the type of campaign you’re running can help you design a better campaign.

A drip notification campaign uses a series of notifications to be sent to subscriber segments at regular intervals.

  • Nurture campaign

A nurturing campaign is about wanting to nurture prospective families. In this type of campaign you are usually answering frequently asked questions about your school. A Nurture Drip Campaign might include answers about your school offerings, educational philosophy, background of faculty and administrators and what makes your school special.

A trust drip nurture campaign will show prospective parents how your school helped other students. It will utilize testimonials from students, parents and alumni.

You can use a case study drip nurture campaign to show how your school helped a student overcome a major challenge or obstacle.

  • Promotional campaign

A promotional notification campaign is where you promote your school or an event. This one of the most used campaign across all industries. For example, if you want to promote a tour of your school, you could design a drip campaign specifically promoting the event.

Another use of a promotional drip campaign is to share good news related to your school. Have you hired a new faculty, staff or administration employee? Have you completed a school project or received funding for a special purpose? Be sure to let everyone know your good news!

  • Transactional campaign

A transactional campaign is used whenever someone completes a “transaction” on your website. This does not necessarily mean they purchased something, it can mean someone has subscribed to something, downloaded something or completed another action. Basically, you can use push notifications for any action you might set up as a Google Analytics Goal.

You can set up push notifications for the following types of messages:

  • Welcome
  • Thank you
  • Tracking details
  • Delivery confirmation

Best Practice #9. Use UTM parameter tracking

A UTM parameter is a way marketers track performance of a marketing tactic, campaign or piece of content. You can include UTM parameter tracking when using push notifications to see how well your notification performed. You can add UTM parameters when setting up your push notifications. Look for an “Add UTM Parameters” feature in your menu. You can track UTM parameters in your Google Analytics account.

Schools are increasingly adopting web push notification technology for instant, real-time communication with parents and prospective parents; if you aren’t using them yet you are missing out on a powerful mode of communication. Push notifications offer many benefits that can boost your overall marketing strategy and set your school apart from other schools in your area.

At first glance, the above info may seem complicated but it’s really not that difficult or challenging once you get the hang of it. Most push notification application services offer a knowledge base and customer support.

Are you using web push notifications for your school marketing? How is it working for you? Please share in the comments below.

Training and Community for K12 School Marketing and Communications Professionals

In The MarCom Society, we train your team to be better school marketers so you can stand out from other schools, earn more inquiries from prospective families, and understand get the most bang from your marketing dollars

The MarCom Society

MarCom Society