190: Push Notifications for Bloggers with Josh Wetzel

Welcome to episode 190 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Josh Wetzel from OneSignal about using push notifications on your blog.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Blake Bailey from Process Street about the importance of documenting your processes. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Push Notifications for Bloggers

Chances are that you’ve seen a prompt on a blog that says something like, “Do you want to opt-in to browser notifications?” Pinch of Yum might be one of them!

Those are called push notifications, and OneSignal is a company that helps you create those push notifications to increase user engagement on your site.

Josh Wetzel, OneSignal’s Chief Revenue Officer, is here today to talk about the benefits of using push notifications on your blog and the results that you may see after enabling them for your website.

In this episode, Josh shares:

  • How he started with OneSignal
  • How notifications work
  • How voice notifications work
  • How to create a customer journey strategy
  • The different types of messages you can send with OneSignal
  • How you can monetize notifications
  • How you can write engaging notifications
  • How intelligent delivery works

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Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about why it’s important to diversify your traffic, and then Bjork interviews Josh Wetzel from OneSignal about using push notifications on your blog.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, lovely listener. You are listening to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Welcome. We are so glad you’re here. Today’s episode is sponsored by our wonderful friends over at WP Tasty, the makers of popular WordPress plugins, like Tasty Recipes, Tasty Pins, and Tasty Links. You can learn more about their plugins for food bloggers over at wptasty.com.

Alexa Peduzzi: For today’s tasty tip, I’d like to chat about a post that was actually recently published on the WP Tasty blog called Diversifying Traffic: How Different Sources Perform Over Time. As you can probably tell from the title, this blog post takes a fascinating look into popular traffic sources for bloggers, and how you can anticipate the traffic that those sources will bring a blog. They take a look at organic search, Pinterest, social media, email, and content sharing sites like foodgawker, and I think you’ll really find it helpful to anticipate traffic, both in the short-term and the long-term. For instance, social media, excluding Pinterest, can potentially deliver some impressive short-term returns, and it’s also extremely valuable for evaluating what is resonating with your audience at a specific period of time. Traffic is grown through both short-term and long-term successes, and this article will help you make the most out of both kinds of traffic. You could head on over to wptasty.com/diversify to learn more.

Alexa Peduzzi: Now the episode. Chances are that you’ve seen a prompt on a blog or two that says something like, “Do you want to opt-in to browser notifications?” Pinch of Yum might be one of them. Those are called push notifications. OneSignal is a company that helps you create those push notifications to increase user engagement on your site. Josh Wetzel, OneSignal’s chief revenue officer, is here today to talk about the benefits of using push notifications and your blog and the results that you may see after enabling them on your website. It’s a really interesting conversation, and we really hope you enjoy it. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Josh, welcome to the podcast.

Josh Wetzel: Bjork, thank you. I really appreciate being part of this.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Super excited to talk to you. We were chatting a little bit before and kind of reviewing what we’re going to talk about. I’m super excited to jump into this, not only because I think this is really important for our audience to be aware of and to know, it’s something that would fall under traffic, marketing, just intentional business improvement, but also because, for us personally on our food blog, Pinch of Yum, this is something that we’re starting to do, and we’re actually using OneSignal. We’re going to talk about what OneSignal is, what it does, why it’s an important thing to be aware of. Before we do that, I always love to hear a little bit about the people that we are talking to, so would love for you to give an overview of who you are, what you’re about, and how you ended up at OneSignal.

Josh Wetzel: Yeah. Again, thank you for having me on. As I mentioned in the preamble, I’m a big foodie. I love traveling and visiting local farmer’s markets and love cooking.

Bjork Ostrom: Perfect.

Josh Wetzel: It’s meditation for me, so-

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure.

Josh Wetzel: I’m sure there’s many of these sites that I’ve been to in the past. On myself, I was born and raised in California in Palo Alto, home for Stanford and right in the heart of Silicon Valley, so I like to think that I got hit by the lucky pitch. My whole career has been around this customer journey kind of on the digital side. I’ve worked in eCommerce, a couple stints at eBay. I worked in marketing technology, software. That’s really how I ended up at OneSignal is I feel deeply in that journey and constantly innovating to find different ways to engage consumers, keep them understanding what’s going on and really finding ways to bridge and grow your product, right, so understanding how to get to them in relevant, kind of timely ways. That’s really what OneSignal is about is helping provide that conduit in this with push notifications.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. What was it like to grow up in Palo Alto? I’m so curious to know, do you feel like that has impacted your thinking on business or startups? We’re in Minnesota. We love Minnesota and it’s a great place for us, but it’s definitely not Palo Alto. I’ve been before and I’d sit at Peet’s coffee shop and just listen to people talk and I was so giddy to be around startups and people that were speaking the same language, so to speak. Did you feel that growing up there, just out of curiosity?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah. I mean, look, we could make a whole other podcast just on this, but it was a very special time. I think it’s changed a little bit, but I always like to say that it was very much about intellectual affluence. Most of my parents’ friends, some were in tech, but a lot of them were professors. They were very ambitious academics, so you were surrounded by this open-ended idealism of you could create something, you can think something, you can be whoever you want to be.

Josh Wetzel: I think one of the things that was definitely a blessing was growing up and going to high school here, when I graduated it was like, “You are gonna go do something great.” It doesn’t necessarily mean to be you make a lot of money, but you’re gonna make an impact on the world, and there’s a pressure that comes along with that.

Josh Wetzel: I think when I look around people I knew around that era, most people have gone on and done great things. Great things may be they’re successful in their own way. They’ve got a handful of kids and they’re a doctor or they’re working in high tech, but I think it was a very special time and place. It’s become now very much about tech and the affluence has become more material than it was I think when I was growing up, which is time and place. People change. Things evolve.

Josh Wetzel: But to your point, I love going to the local coffee shop or I love that everywhere I go, people are having discussions about things that could materially change the world. Now, 99% of those discussions don’t ever amount to anything, but it is exciting to be around it. I find that energizing.

Josh Wetzel: I lived in LA for a couple years and it’s very different there. There’s a lot of idealism and talk about creating and art, but it’s really in that confine of just art, right? I think here, people think about tech but what tech really is enabling. I know people that are working on next generation electrical cars or robotics, medical devices. It’s really pervasive across every industry and it’s about approving the human condition and whatnot, so that’s really empowering. The wealth and the money has definitely changed the environment quite a bit.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. One of the things that I think is so valuable with any community like that are essentially the things you talked about where it’s like you were around these people that are ambitious and they have these goals and they would expect the same of you, not in, “Hey, you have to do this,” but, “You are fully capable of this,” and what an awesome thing that is, and also to be around those conversations is so beneficial. I’ve found that podcasting and being artificially a part of some of those other communities that I’m able to get some of that, so hopefully able to do a little bit of that for the listeners today as we’re talking about OneSignal.

Bjork Ostrom: A little bit of a background. Speaking of communities, I went to a conference, and it was people who are building online businesses essentially and somebody gave a presentation strictly on notifications. For me it was this thing of, “Oh my gosh, you are doing such cool things with notifications and it’s such an important piece of your business,” and it was a website. It wasn’t an app where we maybe normally think of notifications. It made me think, “We need to be doing this.” If we’re gonna be intentional about maximizing all of the different avenues of this valuable thing we’ve created, in our case our website, we need to be seriously looking at notifications. But before we could do that, we really had to understand what they’re all about. That’s one of the things I hope we can do on this podcast.

Bjork Ostrom: So for those that are listening that have a website that maybe are kind of familiar with the concept of notifications and how they work, can you do a high level overview of what those are and how a notification works just on a really ground level, a really foundational level? What is a notification and how does it work?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah. Most people are probably intimately familiar with those messages they see on their home screen on their mobile phone. If you have a smartphone, Android, iOS, you get all these little notices that come on your phone. They’re either on the lock screen or when you open up and you pull down your home, you’ll see all these notifications.

Josh Wetzel: Typically, if you use a ride sharing application, they’re sending you things that are really necessary and timely, like, “Hey, your driver’s almost here,” or if you’re ordering food for example, it may be that it’s coming or, “Here’s the timeliness of it.” That’s fundamentally what push notification is. I can walk you through the details, but those started really around 2010, 2011. I don’t know the exact date when Apple introduced them and Android had them as well.

Josh Wetzel: It’s really critical to the functionality of those applications. If you talk to and you have an application, you’ll find that it really becomes an extension of the product and a critical way to engage and bring people back into your service, or again, to extend your product. If you’re a breaking news site or you’re a blogger writing about recipes, it’s a way to get that content out and bring people back in.

Josh Wetzel: It was in about ’13 or ’14 where the browsers, so the web browsers that you use on your computers, realized that this was a great way to extend the utility of any website, and so they opened up push notifications as well. Today we live in a world where essentially every browser supports push notifications.

Josh Wetzel: We’re also seeing the push for things like Alexa, so if you have an Alexa skill, you can do audio alerts to drive engagement, to bring people back into the skill within Alexa. So it’s reserved for people who have obviously built that, so it’s extending itself into a bunch of different platforms and it’s becoming a crucial way to engage with consumers.

Bjork Ostrom: Are these skills for the … We need to figure out a non … We talked about it a ton on the podcast, a non-trigger word. We’ll call it, how about Echo? We’ll do that. The only problem is we have ours called Echo, so I might trigger them in the other room, but for the Echo devices, we’ll say that, is that something that OneSignal has tied into or will potentially down the line? Idea being, you create an app for that skill and then what can happen is you have a notification. I would assume it’s just the green ring that shows somebody, “Hey, there’s something on this device that’s waiting to notify you of something.”

Josh Wetzel: That’s correct. Just to give the introduction on OneSignal, so OneSignal is a software solution that enables everyone from small single proprietor WordPress bloggers to very large organizations, major news organizations and entertainment companies and Telecom companies utilize to bring in all their consumer information, segment them and send them messages, AKA push notifications. We power it across all of those solutions, whether it’s all the browsers, the mobile platforms, and then now new emerging areas like Alexa.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Josh Wetzel: In the case of Alexa, for the select people who have built skills, it’s not an endless … ’Cause it’s a difficult thing to do and you’d have to have a very large audience to want to do it … For the people who have built them, we support it where they would draft and create an audio message and then that would get pushed into people who have opted in and those people who have opted in would then see the thing would rotate at the top and then you would activate it and then the audio message would go through.

Josh Wetzel: One thing you did ask that I didn’t answer which I think is important is how does this work and what is it, its ability. So just real clear and easy on that, kind of like email, all of the various channels have their own rules and regulations on how people can receive messages, but universally they all have an opt in procedure. So what that means is when someone visits Pinch of Yum, for example, you prompt them at the top of the website, “Would you allow messages from this site or not?” When you say yes, you’ve now opted in to receive messages, and that’s where a OneSignal solution helps you then go message those people.

Josh Wetzel: OneSignal manages all of the opt ins and then also has the ability to do the messaging, but you have to get an opt in from that user. Once the opt in happens, then you can send them messages, so very similar to email where someone actually has to give you their email and they’re implicitly opting in. It’s the same procedure and kind of flow for a push notification as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There’s actually some elements of subscribing or accepting that are different than email in that number one, you don’t actually have to enter in any information, which makes it really seamless for people to say, “Yeah, okay, I want to be part of this.”

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that’s interesting is, as far as I understand, and correct me if I’m wrong, the pricing structure would be little bit different with a tool like OneSignal where email, it’s like, “Hey, from here to here, this is how much it costs, and then if you go from 1000 to 10000, this is how much it costs.” Can you talk a little bit about how that works with OneSignal and what the different options are when you’re signing up and what that looks like?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah, that’s a great question. So we’re a young fast-growing company. We have a premium service that allows you to use the product up to 30000 subscribers, and we charge on a basis above that. The paid plans start off, the starter plan is $99 a month and that includes that first 30000 subscribers and a bunch of premium features, and then above that you pay on a per thousand subscriber basis an incremental fee. That fee declines based on total volume.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Josh Wetzel: So I would actually say the pricing is very similar to email. The difference is because we have scaled so rapidly and grown and we have a large base of overall users and customers on the platform, we’ve decided ’cause it’s part of our roots that we want to be developer, startup, blogger friendly if you will, so we have free tier that we will maintain forever, whereas in email, most providers charge even for the base product and whatnot.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, great. So, I think people would be for the most part familiar with that. So you go see, you see a website, they say, “Hey, do you want to let this website send you notifications?” You can either say yes or you can say no. The same is true for what you’d see on a device. Now, the difference would be if it’s an Apple device, if you’re using an iPhone, there’s gonna be restrictions with Safari. Is that right, or is it with iOS devices in general as to what types of notifications you can send, or am I not understanding that correctly?

Josh Wetzel: Well, it’s a little complicated, but you’re on the right track. So Android has allowed notifications from browsers as well as applications. So Chrome enables, you can actually send mobile web notifications as a say, blogger. Anyone who visits your site from an Android device could opt in and then would receive messages. Apple has made the decision that they don’t support any browser notifications.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Josh Wetzel: You can’t opt in. You can’t provide this opt in or send messages to people if they’re using an iOS device and accessing you through any browser, whether it’s Chrome or likely Safari, the default browser. Who knows when that may or may not change, given the growth of notifications and the importance and how much it’s worked well on the Android side. Our hope is that they will eventually change that policy to support it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, got it, ’cause that would be a big section of people obviously, people using Safari or just iOS device in general for browsing, if you could open that up, a huge chunk of people, but nonetheless even for Pinch of Yum as we started to use notifications, still have within the first month or so of turning it on, thousands of people that have said, “Yeah, we want to get notifications.” So anytime a new blog post goes out, we notify people, and then we also have this queue that we’ve built up where when somebody signs up, we’re making sure that they’re seeing some of our most popular content via the notifications.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s something that we’ve tried to be really intentional to do is say, “Hey, what are the shining stars that we have as a blog?” And as much as possible, try and get those in front of people, whether that be via email for somebody that signs up to be part of the email list or now notifications, and not only do they know about new content and we can bring them back with a notification, but also our best content.

Bjork Ostrom: So, that’s how we’re using it, but I feel like it’s maybe a little bit of a 101 version of notifications. I’d be curious to know some of the other ways that content creators or bloggers or business owners, ’cause I know it could cross over into eCommerce even, some of the ways that we can be using notifications that are beyond just the 101, “Hey, I have a new blog post,” into 201, being a little bit more intentional with some cool ways to use notifications.

Josh Wetzel: That’s a great question. I think a big factor here is understanding your audience and what you’re trying to accomplish and then devising what I like to consider a customer journey strategy and plan.

Josh Wetzel: In the case of a blogger or just traditional media owner, I think the most simple phase two if you will or step two in sophistication would be thinking about and segmenting your user base into extreme loyalists, want to read everything to general want to come once a week or engage, and then devising a strategy where you are sending everything to the loyalists but you’re not burning and wearing out the people that maybe want to come once a week and appreciate the content but they don’t want to be bothered with notifications nonstop.

Josh Wetzel: So what we’ve seen is there’s companies out there who really understand that spectrum, and some of them are very large. For example, if you were to use, I’ll use CNN as an example, when you sign up to them, they actually engage you and they ask in the notification process, so after you’ve opted in, they essentially engage you on, “Do you want to receive everything?” Which by the way, can be dozens if not more notifications a day, “Do you want to receive the headlines?” I think they actually list it out like 6 to 10 a day, or, “Do you want to get the summary once a week?” What they’re saying is, “Hey, you opt in but you should opt into the frequency you want so that you’re comfortable and happy with what you’re getting.” I think from a media perspective, that’s a really good example of how you can think about and make sure you’re treating and customizing just the general experience to your customer.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Josh Wetzel: Just real quick, if you go into eCommerce, the obvious thing would be figuring out triggers of, okay, they’re now at the cart page and they left, why is that, sending them and building a message sequence where you would be sending them a note saying, “Hey, come back,” and ,“we’d love to have you back,” or things of that nature.

Josh Wetzel: Another thing, by the way, for any site or anyone using push notifications, it would be good to think about the frequency. So if somebody hasn’t come in a week or two weeks or three weeks or whatever you want to define as the time, send them an automated message at that point when they haven’t come back that says, “Hey, we miss you. Love to see you,” whatever the message and the tone that you set within your experience to encourage them to come back into the experience.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s some pretty powerful automation type stuff that you can do. The example you gave with CNN, is that via the notification that they’re doing that or is that, let’s say they sign up and they say, “Yes, we want to receive notifications,” and then after that do they go to some sort of page on the website where they say, “Here is who I am. I am the person that wants to receive one update a day,” and then that segments them in OneSignal?

Josh Wetzel: That’s correct. So they built that themselves, but they’re tagging it and it’s an easy thing within OneSignal where you would just send a tag saying, “Hey, they selected the one a day frequency,” or they set the all frequency, and then they’re in that group and then every notification that goes out would be sent to that entire group or vice versa.

Josh Wetzel: I think the same thing is true for even the automated stuff, so just to touch on that for a second, you can set, “User has not been back to the website in X number of hours, days.” You build a template and then you have the automated message and it would be sent when each user triggers that timeline. So let’s just say you set three weeks, you would set that. You’d have the template. You’d have the message. It automatically gets sent to that user that hasn’t returned in those three weeks.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. That makes sense. What I love about this is one of the things that we often think about is, not how do we 10X something. I think that’d be great and obviously wonderful for any startup or business if they’re able to 10X something. One of the ways that we think of businesses and the blog is, how do we every day layer in another 1 to 2% improvement?

Bjork Ostrom: I think this is a great example of that because you are able to connect with and reengage people in a way that you weren’t able to do before. Now we have, let’s say … I would have to check and see what this number is … Maybe 500 to 1000 people who are coming back to the site because we send a notification when a new blog post goes out or they’re able to see a piece of content that they wouldn’t have otherwise because we have this little queue that we’ve built out of our best content.

Bjork Ostrom: But there’s obviously some work that has to go into setting that up. At the most basic level, for somebody that’s just starting out, maybe they’re not super technical but they are interested in trying this out for their blog, they want to go for that premium level or the freemium level where they’re not having to pay, can you talk about what’s involved from a setup process? Do you need to be somebody who’s super technical, or would somebody who has a blog, runs a blog, understands the basics of running their blog, would they be able to get up and running with notifications for their site?

Josh Wetzel: That’s a great question. So one of the values and power of OneSignal, quite frankly, and what’s contributed to us growing so fast, so by the way in less than four years, we’ve gone from our first user, which was the original company that was building mobile games, to over 55000 people who have used and installed this service and we send about 4.3 billion notifications a day on their requested behalf.

Bjork Ostrom: A day. That’s crazy.

Josh Wetzel: A day, yeah. Collectively, it’s grown massively. It really comes to the setup. I can give you one example. People may not believe me. Since I grew up in Palo Alto, they think I’m technical, but I don’t have a technical bone in my body, and I set this up on a WordPress blog in about 15 minutes.

Josh Wetzel: The way we did that was in the setup process, it’s very simple. You sign up. You come into the platform. You name what your site or app’s going to be. You click on whatever channel you want to set up, whether it’s an iOS app, an Android app, or web push, and if it’s web push, which is a majority of the audience I suspect listening hee, you come to this page where it says, “Complete your web push.” You choose your integration. You could have a typical site integration or you can click on the WordPress blog and our website builder.

Josh Wetzel: From there, we have builtin plugins that make it extremely easy and essentially automated for WordPress, Shopify, Blogger, Magenta, Drupal, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, and so on, and many more.

Josh Wetzel: If you click on that, there’s a couple things you have to fill out on both sides in terms of passwords to connect your sites, and then you’re off and running. Then literally, you then would go in and define how you want your prompt to be and you can set it up so it’s easier to use and more user-friendly for example. Once you start getting your opt ins, you now can start sending messages to users and you’re off and running.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. It’s a great interface, so go back to the back end and you’re able to see the different areas and it’s super simple to navigate and understand. One of the things that I think is really cool is the ability to do AB testing. So, sending a message and saying, “Hey, let’s see which one of these has a higher click through,” and starting to learn more about effective messaging, but can you talk just a little bit about the different types of messages that you can send? I’m thinking specifically of, so we have the automatic updates that go out, and we can speak specifically to web-based, whenever a new piece of content is out. We have the queue for the automated messages. I’m guessing we could do, if we wanted to, one off messages. What would you consider to be the most important areas in regards to web push notifications that people should look at right away and make sure that they set up?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah. Look, I always encourage people to start small, right? It’s the whole crawl, walk, run approach. So I think the first thing is just what is your tone of your site, what’s your personality, and I would always bring that to a welcome message. I would always make sure you’re extending a new post or something that you’re excited about that you’re pushing and you want people to come engage with. Make sure you’re extending that within the notification.

Josh Wetzel: I would just start small there, and then I think if it’s reengagement and it’s like the person hasn’t been there in three weeks, set up that automated prompt. It’s really simple. You just create a template. You build the automated message, and then you create a user segment for that automated message that would be tagged to the amount of time that a user has not been back to the site. I would just go with those small little tactics.

Josh Wetzel: In terms of what you can do in the message, one thing that’s really important for everyone to know is OneSignal enables you to send these, but every platform has their own rules. So there’s things you can do with iOS that you can’t do with Android and vice versa. On the web browser side, there’s things you can do with Chrome that you can’t do with Safari.

Josh Wetzel: So there’s little nuances and you have to be mindful of that, but ultimately, it’s about that engaging copy, creating really basic messages that are in line with your tone, and starting with that and then building from there as you get more comfortable.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There’s something so true about that. OneSignal can be the best hammer in the world, but if you don’t put it in the hands of a skilled carpenter, somebody who’s gonna actually craft the thing, then it’s not gonna be this magic button. You have to be really intentional and say, “Okay, how do we create content that is engaging, that’s interesting, that’s helping people,” and that being another really important piece to the puzzle. That’s something that we’re continually trying to figure out, hey, what does engaging copy look like that is not only gonna encourage people to click, that’s one thing, but then once they do click, actually deliver on the promise that was somehow communicated via the message.

Josh Wetzel: That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that we talk about occasionally on this podcast is this idea of we call it the egg carton method. For people who are thinking about being solopreneurs or building a business or building a blog and creating an income from it, we say, “Hey, don’t think about just one way that you can create an income.” It’s not only ads. It’s not only sponsorships. It’s not only affiliate marketing. There’s lots of different things that you can do and the goal is to fill up each one of those spaces in the egg carton.

Bjork Ostrom: I think this is potentially an example of, okay, this could be another, I think, another avenue to create income not just through getting traffic back to your site, but there might be some other ways that I’m not even thinking about. Do you have any thoughts as you look at other content creators, as you look at other businesses and how they’re using notifications? Do you have any thoughts for people that are listening to the podcast in terms of ways that they could be using notifications that would translate to income? Are there income producing ways that we can be thinking about using notifications?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah, that’s a good question actually, and at the core of my earlier career, I was heavily in web media monetization, so built a product at what is now eBay around shopping. Think about AdSense but for shopping. I’ve been very close to this for a lot of my career.

Josh Wetzel: Look, it directly translates to your point. When you send out a push notification and you bring in a couple thousand people on the site, you’re generating incremental dollars from your onsite monetization.

Josh Wetzel: I think one thing to just stress here, and OneSignal doesn’t really have a formal policy on this, but there are some terms and conditions with some of the platforms just outright ads in push notifications. There’s a lot of people that are skirting this and they’re starting to build ad networks if you will for push. We’re not against that. If someone wants to add ads into their push, that’s great, but it’s not gonna be a core part of OneSignal. We are a software provider only. We’re not trying to get into the ad space. So you have that.

Josh Wetzel: I think one of the most innovative or one of the most common ways I’m seeing this with larger media companies, and you could do this at a very grassroots level too if you have paid posts or you have things that are co-sponsorship with some kind of brand or product. KitchenAid is doing something with one of the bloggers around using their product and then it’s really a paid experience around this recipe. Actually, I would highly encourage to think about leveraging push as an incremental value add or something that you would sell in that package to KitchenAid where you incorporate KitchenAid into a push to drive people back into that paid post.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Josh Wetzel: What a lot of media companies are doing is to leverage push in their audience around push notifications to say, “Hey, you’re gonna sponsor for this period of time this site or this category,” or whatever it may be, “And we’ll incorporate X number of push notifications to that audience to bring them back into that experience that’s gonna drive this many more engagements,” and things of that nature.

Josh Wetzel: In those ways, it’s 100% driving income. It’s just not direct. eCommerce, obviously there’s a huge direct correlation, right, ’cause they’re sending out cart abandonment promos around discounts or coupons. All of that is allowed. It’s the pure just like, “Here’s an ad for some service that’s nothing related to my site,” that it’s a gray area.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. It’s interesting. I’ve heard of a couple different people who are doing things like that and saying it feels like, when I see things like that, using their notifications from their website to create income from ads that they push through the notifications. It seems like one of those things where it’s so early on that people haven’t formulated hard rules around exactly what that looks like.

Bjork Ostrom: This is a question somebody on the team asked. Is it possible to do affiliate links in a notification? So let’s say that we have a product that we really like and we want to recommend. If we’re doing web notifications, can you include an affiliate link, or would you have to link to a post that has an affiliate link?

Josh Wetzel: I think best practice would be to link to a post that is promoting or editorializing the quality of a product or service. Otherwise, it is a pure ad. Here’s how I would think about it, and I would encourage the audience to think hard about this. To me, push notifications, it’s an extension or a new version of email. So it’s now replacing email, but it’s a new channel that a healthy percentage of the consumers, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but let’s call it 30 to 50% of consumers prefer over email.

Josh Wetzel: On your email list, would you just send an email to your list that says … Say you’re a food blog, right? Would you send an email saying, “Hey, Sprint’s got a great deal on a prepaid plan. Click here to go to Sprint’s site,” right? That’s not a positive consumer experience and you’re likely to get a lot of people to opt out of your email list from that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, or in the same way, if you had Uber as an app and they sent you a notification that said, “McDonald’s hamburgers half off today,” you’d be like, “Wait a minute. This is a huge disconnect from what I thought I was signing up for.”

Josh Wetzel: Correct. That’s exactly right, and so you really want to be thinking about it like what’s the best customer experience, ’cause that’s what’s gonna ultimately win you your audience and loyalty and people coming back to your experience. So, I would encourage people not to be really shortsighted and say, “Hey, I can make an extra dollar today,” versus 10 or $15 in the next 15 years in a relationship with a consumer.

Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. So, when you think of crafting the actual message, do you have any insight for people as to what it looks like to write a good web notification message? When we look at Instagram, we have an idea of what a good description is. Maybe some people have thoughts around how to write an engaging subject and a good email, but notifications are a little bit different and I would assume require a little bit of a different thought process around how the content is crafted. What would your advice be for people who have never written a notification in terms of creating one that’s really effective at engaging and getting people to come back to their site?

Josh Wetzel: Well, first I’m gonna cop out a little bit and say I think every individual blogger or somebody who’s amassed an audience has amassed it because they have a voice that people are attracted to, and so I would keep that. Stay true to your tone. Stay true to what you’re about.

Josh Wetzel: The little nuances though that are important to take into consideration, for whatever reason, and I started to do it too in my versions of this, emojis and visuals in general are really important. So, leveraging emojis in the actual headline are engaging. They attract attention and you can be fun with them. If it’s a food blog, you can have funny, whether it’s fruits or vegetables or some kind of image for a mix or whatever it may be that may be tied and relevant to the actual notification, right, the message you’re trying to send out.

Josh Wetzel: And then when you can, adding images are key. What I say by when you can, I mean you should add an image every time you send but not all the browsers support them. So, in OneSignal, you send it to everybody and the browsers that support it and the devices that support it, they would get them, and the ones that didn’t didn’t. But you should always have an image and you should try to use emojis or visuals within the actual copy, but the copy itself should be true to your voice and what the message is. I wouldn’t go against that because again, that’s why people are already coming to your experience and why you gained their trust to opt in in the first place.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s super insightful. I think people understand that in terms of value of voice and having a voice that is similar across all platforms and how important that is. So, how about some of the data, the metrics, the info as it relates to numbers with web notifications? Do you have any general norms in terms of if you set up opt ins for web notification, here’s on average the conversion rate of people that will accept those, and then when you send one out, here’s the average number of people that would actually click on it.

Bjork Ostrom: I know that that probably varies widely, but just for people to crunch the numbers a little bit and think about what they might be able to do in terms of getting new people to subscribe and then converting those people back into visitors, any general numbers or percentages that you can share with that?

Josh Wetzel: Of course. Yeah. It varies greatly by what the service is, as you can imagine. If it’s food delivery or ride sharing or something that’s mission critical, you’re not gonna get a lot of notifications, but when you get them, they’re really critical, the click through rates are really, really high.

Josh Wetzel: But I would say for typical media sites, it varies but it’s somewhere in the 2 to 8, 9%, 10% range. It would vary based on the content, when you send it, how you send it, that type of thing, but it’s always typically relevant or tied to what that site is about and what they’re talking about and is that post and the copy compelling. Those are all major factors that would be at play.

Josh Wetzel: Also, segmentation, right? If you’re sending a group to a very highly loyal group who really want to receive a recipe, the click through rate of that is gonna be much higher than the automated message to the less active reengagement group.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Interesting to think about that. So let’s say that you have 10000 people that have subscribed to your notifications, and we’ll use something right in the middle there and say 5% click throughs, so that’s a potential of 500 people that would be reengaged with your content whenever you publish a new piece of content.

Bjork Ostrom: For bloggers that are a little bit more established or business owners that have some insights into metrics on their own site, you can start to play around with what those numbers are and you can say, “Okay, if I know that on average I make $15 for every 1000 page views, then I know that the value of a single notification could be up to $10 and I could get that back with the additional traffic that I get,” and you can crunch some of those numbers, which I think is helpful for people to know.

Bjork Ostrom: In terms of how many people actually subscribe when they see that notification, do you have a guess as to what that would be, so the initial prompt? So if somebody has, let’s say 10000 visitors or 100000, just to make it easy, per month, what percentage of those would you guess would convert over into notification subscribers?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah. Similar to click through rate, it’s gonna vary so much by again, the brand and how much people rely on this stuff, but typically, I would say we see nothing lower than the 2% range and we see it as high as 10-ish to 15% for bloggers, media sites in general.

Josh Wetzel: Those rates are off the charts for things where people see push notifications as crucial to the service. Again, I keep going back to these mission critical messaging apps or mobile games, right? It’s part of the game to get warned about an activity or something that you’re gonna get, so those experiences see upward north of 50.

Josh Wetzel: So it’s typically usually a little bit higher, much higher than email, and I think just to close off that comparison, again, this does not replace email. It’s a new channel, but for people that do opt in, we see much higher engagement here than email. OneSignal does support email, by the way. We’re much more transactional, so it’s one of our new beta products. So we do have some insight into that. I think you’re gonna see a higher opt in rate than email.

Josh Wetzel: To your earlier point, you don’t have to actually write in your email. Obviously if the opt in is much easier, that’s gonna be probably one of the factors, and then the engagement’s higher because I believe it’s a little more intimate, right? If you’re getting this notification in your browser when you’re live on a website, it’s a lot easier just to click it and go in versus I have to go into my email, I’m reading it, I have to click it. I’m already kind of in this laborious work mindset when I’m going through my email. So, the engagement’s lower. Email’s still very valuable, but I think push is a much more engaging experience to bring people back into your audience.

Josh Wetzel: The last thing I would say about this too with push, it’s really about awareness. So one of the things we see, particularly with media partners with larger sites is they see a ton more engagement in general on an article not necessarily from the click through but people will see it, they feel like, “Oh, I’ve learned that piece of news. I’m more engaged,” and they come more frequently. So there’s a bunch of data on this out there, but people who have opted in to push notifications actually come back to the site more often.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of like a billboard in the sense of you’re not actually taking action on it, but you’re top of mind, so next time somebody thinks of a recipe, if they’re a Pinch of Yum notification, they receive notifications, it’s like, well, they’ve maybe had in that week three different notifications and so there’s a higher probability that they think, “Oh, I wonder what Pinch of Yum would have for this certain type of recipe.”

Josh Wetzel: That’s right. That’s right.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I think that is something, it’s hard to quantify and it’s hard to track, but there’s inherent value in brand awareness that also needs to be factored in which I think is an important point.

Bjork Ostrom: So, specifically with OneSignal, are there things or maybe just notifications in general, I love that you talked about these devices that we have in our home, Echo devices and those starting to become integrated with notifications, but are there things that are coming down the line that you think that we should be aware of, even if it’s a little feature or functionality that’s being added to OneSignal or notifications in general?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah. So high level, we’re a very nimble, fast team, so every time a platform adds a new functionality allowing you as a website to send, whether it’s more rich imagery or whatnot, we add that within days. In fact, we’re typically on the developer side, so we’re fast on that end.

Josh Wetzel: I think what we’re focused on is we see so many consumer devices and users every day, and we want to provide … A lot of people talk about artificial intelligence, AI, machine learning, but that’s a real big area for us because we want to make these things easier for people to use.

Josh Wetzel: So, one example of a feature we already have out that’s driven by this today and it’s an example of features you’re gonna see in the future is what we call intelligent delivery. Intelligent delivery at its simplest, instead of saying, “Send the message right this minute,” or, “Send it in three hours,” it will actually in the next 24 hour period send it to each individual user based on the best time that most likely they’re gonna be on their computer engaging with your site or sites in general. Send it to them then because the likelihood of them engaging is much higher, and so we see much higher click through rate using that product.

Josh Wetzel: That’s really a big focus for us is how do we leverage all of the information and knowledge we have about users in general and just aggregate it so that we can automate some of these workflows and automate and improve engagement and make it easier and more efficient and just a better product to use overall for all of our users.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Yeah. I just love the idea of a tool becoming smarter without you needing to train it. It sounds like that’s some of the stuff that’s currently happening and on the horizon. It’s starting to create a better experience without anybody being directly involved, which is so cool.

Bjork Ostrom: Last question that I have for you, I’d be curious to know, when you think of websites that are maybe in a similar space as to the things that we’re talking about, recipe, it wouldn’t have to be food content, but it could be media in general, producing content that you’d have an audience and main driver of the business is the content. Can you think of sites … You had mentioned CNN, but other sites that are using notifications really well that are smart about how they’re using notifications, so we can go out and say, hey, these would be good examples of what to look at and what the potential would be so we can understand as creators, here’s some ideas for how we could be doing similar things at a high level and being really strategic about it?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah, that’s a great question. Some of them I can’t talk about.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, yeah.

Josh Wetzel: We have examples on our website of sites where they’ve done a good job or existing customers, but I think overall, there’s examples, CNN is a very active user of push notifications. There’s actually an article out Columbia Journalism School did analyzing newsrooms in particular and their use of notifications and the frequency and habits and how that works with brand loyalty, which I encourage people to look at, and I’m happy to send you a link to it so you can share with your audience.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’d be great. Yep.

Josh Wetzel: I think that I would encourage people to think about, you want to make sure that you’re being smart about and customizing the prompts. That’s something that you could talk about offline in terms of Pinch of Yum. So when people come in, they see your brand they’re like, “Oh, I get what it’s gonna be,” and it creates two prompts. It creates the, “Yes, I accept,” and then you still have to do the browser one, but there’s this more synergistic, like, “Oh, I get what they’re doing,” versus I think some people see the base browser prompt as, “Is that spam? What is that?” That’s one example.

Josh Wetzel: And then I think the things we already talked about, which is visual, when you send a message, trying to constantly think about what is gonna be the best thing for the consumer because that’s gonna drive that loyalty, that’s gonna drive higher click through rate, and even the people that don’t click, it’s gonna be people like, “Oh, I really love that site and I love that they did this. I’m not gonna click on this recipe right now, but when I’m thinking about my next X thing I want to cook or bake, that’s gonna be top of mind,” right?

Josh Wetzel: That’s when it comes back to the ads. If you’re pushing out push notifications and it’s essentially just an ad for some random product that has nothing to do with your site, you’re likely to burn some of those bridges, right? There’ll be people who see that and say, “This is kind of a spammy experience,” right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, got it.

Josh Wetzel: So I think those are the key things is that, and then there’s nuances around segmentation, but again, going back to the crawl, walk, run, I would crawl and then I would start experimenting with the walk and then once you start building and scaling and it’s working, you can start running and getting much more sophisticated with how you automate messages and the different ways you approach it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and to explain what you were talking about with Pinch of Yum, when you go right now, just the default message, it’s like, “Hey, can we send you notifications?” What you’re saying is sometimes it’s helpful to have a first notification, that little prompt that says, “Here’s what we’re doing. Are you interested in it?” And selling and explaining what it is, so then people understand it and say, “Yeah, I’m interested in that,” and then are more likely after that to accept the second stage, which is, “Can we now integrate in with your browser to send these notifications?”

Josh Wetzel: Yep, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Cool. Super helpful insight, really great advice. We’re really excited to start using this for Pinch of Yum and hope that some of the listeners are able to implement it as well and see those continual improvements for their site, which I think is so important to be thinking about.

Bjork Ostrom: Josh, if people want to follow along with OneSignal or you personally, what’s the best way for them to take the next step and to learn a little bit more about what OneSignal’s up to? I don’t know if you guys have content channels that would be good for them to check out, but what’s the best way for people to pick things up and to stay connected with OneSignal and what you’re up to?

Josh Wetzel: Yeah, you can come to OneSignal.com and opt in to push notifications.

Bjork Ostrom: There you go.

Josh Wetzel: You can follow us on Twitter @OneSignal, and then I personally am just letter J Wetzel, W-E-T-Z-E-L, for Twitter. But I really appreciate you having me on. It’s great. I love food. I’m actually getting hungry now. I think I’m gonna go find a good spot to get something to eat. But I appreciate you having me on and love what you’re doing and continue to do what you do.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Thanks, Josh. Really appreciate it.

Josh Wetzel: Take care.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that is that, my friend. We hope you loved this interview with Josh and learned a lot about what OneSignal can do for your blog and business.

Alexa Peduzzi: But before we wrap up today, it’s time for our reviewer of the week. This review comes from a listener with the username Crackersandcabernet, which sounds like a delicious way to spend a Friday night, and it says, “This is an amazing podcast for new and seasoned food bloggers alike. Bjork is a wonderful interviewer, very professional and witty. He asks tough questions and has explored a variety of food blog topics. The podcast cover everything from SEO, which is search engine optimization, to recipe development to social networking. Everyone would be able to take something away from this podcast. Very well done.”

Alexa Peduzzi: Thank you so much for that review. We absolutely love reading what you all think of the show. If you’d like to leave us a review and potentially get featured in an upcoming episode of the podcast, all you need to do is leave a review for us on iTunes with your name and blog name. So thanks again for tuning in, friends. We’ll see you here next Tuesday and from all of us here at FBPHQ, make it a great week.

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