How to Set up Free WordPress Push Notifications and Get 2,500+ Visitors/Month

By Brian Jackson Updated on August 28, 2018

Push notifications, also referred to as web push notifications, have gained a lot of popularity among online businesses and marketers over the last couple years. These present another way to capture your audience, increase return visitors, and in most cases have shown drastically higher CTR and engagements vs that of your typical newsletter signups. Today we are going to dive into what exactly WordPress push notifications are, how they can help you expand your website’s reach, and how to quickly add them to your site. A typical setup takes less than 10 minutes!

Push notification technology is rapidly evolving from a simple message delivery system to a rich and interactive medium. – OneSignal

We have used push notifications at Kinsta for a couple years now and on average consistently drive 2,500+ visitors to our WordPress site every month (as seen below). And this is just from this single referral source. What’s even better is that a small portion of these also regularly convert into paying customers. How awesome is that? ?

Push notification traffic

Push notification traffic

Push Notifications

So first off, what exactly are push notifications? WordPress push notifications allow you to automatically notify your audience when you have published new content on your site. Or you can send out predefined messages at any time. This can be a notification on a phone or via a browser, such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. Push notifications were originally introduced for Android and iOS devices in 2009 and have been spreading to other platforms ever since. If we look at Google trends between 2014 and today, we can see that the interest around “web push notifications” has been steadily increasing.

web push notifications trends

Web push notifications trends

Below is an example of a push notification signup request, which you have probably seen before. By clicking “Allow” this enables the site to send you notifications via your browser. The beauty for website owners is that the visitor doesn’t have to be on your site for them to get your notification, they simply have to have their web browser running.

push notification example

Push notification example

According to caniuse, global support for web push notifications is around 45%. Safari was the first one to provide web push, followed by Chrome, and then Firefox in 2016. Microsoft Edge and Opera also support push. Google Chrome currently holds around 50% of the browser market share, which means simply enabling push notifications in Chrome alone can reach a large audience. Push notifications also work out of the box on Chrome for Android mobile devices. Here is a screen capture below from an Android device and a push notification request. However, they aren’t currently supported on iOS, although they hope to be soon.

web push notification android

Android push notification

Benefits of WordPress Push Notifications

The major benefits of push notifications are that they provide another avenue of communication for your WordPress site. Lots of people skim over emails nowadays, or simply don’t even read them. Push notifications can help bring customers and visitors back to your site by placing your message right in front of them. If you have some doubts about how well push notifications work, check out some of these case studies:

  • LeadPages saw click-through rates as high as 25% using PushCrew – source
  • Using PushCrew, Tiendeo achieved 30% more engagement than their newsletters. – source
  • Buy Whole Foods Online clocked a 3 digit revenue through one push notification. – source
  • YouNow improved retention by 19% with web push notifications. – source
  • United eXtra Electronics grows eCommerce sales by 100% with web push notifications. – source
  • A+E Networks achieved a 200% increase in user engagement with push notifications. – source

And those are just a couple. There are many other case studies from companies that have had massive success with push notifications. Whether you run an WooCommerce shop or an informational blog, push notifications are definitely something you should try as part of your marketing strategy.

Are push notifications for everyone? Definitely not. Some might feel that they hurt the user experience too much. In any case though, remember not to overuse them, as this might come off as annoying.

How to Set up WordPress Push Notifications

When it comes to setting up WordPress push notifications you have a lot of great options now to choose from. Below are a couple popular and actively updated ones. Note: These include free and premium solutions. Many of them have free plans up to a certain number of subscribers.

Since all of the above solutions have different browser and mobile support, we suggest looking in your Google Analytics data to see what type of traffic your WordPress site has. If you click into “Audience > Technology > Browser & OS” you can see which browsers are most frequently used by visitors on your site. In this example below you can see that enabling Chrome web push notifications would benefit us the most since over 70% of the desktop traffic is from Google Chrome.

browsers being used

Analytics – Browser & OS

In this tutorial we will be using a plugin from OneSignal, which is a completely free solution for WordPress push notifications. As of writing this it currently has 50,000+ active installs and rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

onesignal web push notifications plugin

OneSignal WordPress plugin

According to their website, they are used by over 100,000 developers, including big names such as Adobe, Uber, and Tom’s Hardware. Some of their features include:

  • 100% free to use
  • Unlimited WordPress push notifications
  • Unlimited devices
  • Delivery automation
  • Localization
  • Full API
  • Unlimited segments
  • A/B Testing
  • Delivery scheduling
  • Ability to import and export your data

Sounds to good to be true? Well, one thing to keep in mind. They don’t hide this fact at all and are very open about it on their site. They way they make money is by using the data they aggregate to improve web and mobile experiences. So if that is a problem for you, you can always upgrade to their enterprise version in which they don’t have access to your data. Prices start at $40 a month for up to 500,000 users. Or you can go with an alternative solution such as PushCrew.

An advantage that OneSignal has is that they allow you to setup as many WordPress sites (apps) as you want. So you can login to OneSignal’s dashboard and have 10+ different WordPress sites all with their separate push notification apps and data. If you manage multiple WordPress sites, and are wanting to implement push notifications on all of them, OneSignal can be a great way to easily manage them going forward. Plus its free!

With OneSignal, web push notifications work exactly like the native mobile push. So, you don’t have to create a mobile app just to get the benefit of native push notifications on mobile. Below are the currently supported browsers.

OneSignal browser support

OneSignal browser support

Follow the steps below to get up and going with OneSignal in just a matter of minutes.  While OneSignal has configurations for both HTTP and HTTPS sites, we highly recommend using HTTPS on your domain because web push permissions and subscriptions are separated by domain/protocol. There isn’t a way to transfer your push notifications later. Kinsta offers free SSL to all users, or Cloudflare is another good option.

Step 1

Download and install the free OneSignal plugin. You can download it from the WordPress repository or by searching for it within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins.

install onesignal web push notifications

Install OneSignal web push notifications

Step 2

Next, head over to OneSignal and create a free account.

Step 3

Click on “Add a new app” and give your app a name. In our example, we are simply using the name of our WordPress site. Then click on “Create.”

add new app onesignal

Add new app in OneSignal

Step 4

Select “Website Push” and click “Next.”

website push

Website push

Step 5

We are first going to setup Google Chrome and Firefox. We will do Safari later on. Then click on “Next.”

google chrome firefox push

Google Chrome & Mozilla Firefox

Step 6

Input your WordPress Site URL. Ensure you use the correct protocol, HTTP or HTTPS depending upon what you are running on your site. In our example our site is using HTTPS. Then input the location of your notification icon URL. According to OneSignal, icon dimensions should be 192 x 192 or larger to display well on high pixel density devices. You can upload one to your WordPress media library and copy the URL. The default OneSignal notification icon will be used if you don’t choose one. Then click “Save.”

push notification url

Push notification URL

Note: If your site is running over HTTP, they let you create a subdomain on which allows the app to then function over HTTPS. For example,

Step 7

On the next screen you will need to select your target SDK, in this instance we select “WordPress” and click on “Next.”

wordpress sdk onesignal

OneSignal WordPress SDK

Step 8

On the next screen, you will want to copy your Rest API key and App ID as you will need to input this information into the settings of the WordPress plugin. Leave this window open as you will come back here later.

onesignal api key app id

OneSignal API key and App ID

Step 9

Back in your WordPress site, click into the “Configuration” tab of the OneSignal Push settings. Input your App ID and REST API Key. You can leave everything else on the default settings for now. Scroll down to the bottom and click “Save.”

onesignal app id

OneSignal app ID

Step 10

You will then want to browse to your website and subscribe to the notification to test that everything is working correctly. Click on the “red” symbol on the bottom right and click on “Allow.” You can change these options in the display settings later. (Note: You might need to disable adblocker if you have it running)

subscribe to push notifications

Subscribe to push notifications

You will see a confirmation, of which you can also change the wording later.

subscribe notification

Subscribe notification

Step 11

Then back on the OneSignal website, click on the “Check Subscribed Users” button and click on “Done.”

onesignal check subscribed users

Check subscribed users

Step 12

Now it is time to setup the Safari push notifications. Click into “App Settings” and click on “Configure” next to Apple Safari (macOS).

apple safari push notification setup

Apple Safari push notification setup

Step 13

Input your site name (this is shown in the notification) and your Site URL. You can then upload your notification icons (which include a 16 × 16, 32 x 32, 64 x 64, 128 x 128, and 256 x 256). These are uploaded directly to OneSignal, not your WordPress media library. The default OneSignal notification icon will be used if you don’t upload them. Then click “Save.”

configure safari push

Configure Safari push

Step 14

It will then display your Web ID which you will want to copy to your clipboard.

apple safari web id

Apple Safari web ID

Then paste that into the Safari Web ID field of your OneSignal configuration settings. Scroll down and click “Save.”

onesignal safari web id

OneSignal Safari web ID

And that’s it! You now have WordPress push notifications up and running.

OneSignal Additional Notes and Options

There are dozens of settings you can configure in the plugin, some of which we will cover below. If you are curious about the performance of OneSignal, the plugin is fairly lightweight and utilizes a single script that is under 100 KB. This is served up from their CDN partner, Cloudflare. In our tests OneSignal didn’t slow down our site at all.

onesignal load times

OneSignal load times

There is one thing to be aware of though and that is their plugin doesn’t play nice with 3rd party CDN provider plugins. In our example, we were using the free CDN plugin CDN Enabler and it required us to add the following exclusion in the settings in order for OneSignal to work correctly. If you are using another plugin or CDN provider, you can check out their additional documentation on CDN troubleshooting.

.php,.xml, onesignal-free-web-push-notifications
onesignal cdn support

OneSignal CDN support

Also, if you are using the free Cache Enabler plugin on your site you will need to disable JavaScript minification.

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Automatic Push Notifications

When you install the OneSignal WordPress plugin, it by default enables the option to “send notification on post publish” automatically (as seen below). You can easily un-check this if perhaps you are publishing a post you don’t want getting pushed.

send push notifications

Send push notifications

You can also disable the above from being automatically checked by going into the OneSignal Push plugin settings and flipping off the “Automatically send a push notification when I create a post from the WordPress editor” option. You could then simply manually check it from the WordPress editor when you want to push it. This is probably the safer route to go.

disable automatic push notifications

Disable automatic push notifications

Automatically Prompt Users

If you want new visitors to be automatically prompted to subscribe, you can enable that within the plugin settings. You can also disable the “Red” floating icon if you think it might be too obtrusive for visitors.

automatically prompt users

Automatically prompt users

There are a multitude of other options you can change such as:

  • Adding additional UTM tracking parameters
  • Creating additional custom post types
  • Change the wording on the “thank you for subscribing” option
  • Change the popup wording
  • Change how the widget looks and interacts with visitors on your site
  • Use the post’s featured image for the notification icon
  • Dismiss notifications after ~20 seconds

You can then control everything from the OneSignal dashboard. We were even surprised by the data. On one site that we added it on, we had over 140 push notification subscribers in under 48 hours (see below). Remember, that even if you don’t personally subscribe to notifications, it doesn’t mean that is how your visitors think. Don’t ever assume when it comes to marketing your WordPress site, testing is the best way to get concrete data.

onesignal dashboard

OneSignal dashboard

Make sure to also check out our official case study with OneSignal. In less than 3 months of using OneSignal, it is already our 3rd highest organic traffic source! If you are pushing out notifications directly from the OneSignal dashboard, make sure to add a UTM parameter so you can segment the traffic and track it. Here is an example of what we use on each URL.


As you can see, WordPress push notifications are fairly easy to set up! It might seem like a few steps, but really it can all be completed within a matter of 5 minutes. If you are looking for additional avenues to connect with your visitors or customers, we recommend giving this a try. There really is no risk involved. If you don’t like it, you can simply uninstall the plugin, cancel the service, and return to normal. Push notifications can be a great way to get extra eyeballs on your content and keep visitors returning to your WordPress site.

Have you experimented with WordPress push notifications yet? If so, we would love to hear about your experience or opinions below.

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  1. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Hitesh Sahni December 29, 2016 at 5:03 am

    Great post Brian. I keep seeing these notification invites while browsing websites but never actually got the time to look into how to do this for my own site. Your post is both an excellent reminder and tutorial on push notifications. Have a great weekend!

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson December 29, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Thanks Hitesh. Ya, it is actually quite easy now thanks to some good plugins and services out there. Have a good weekend as well!

  2. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Bünyamin March 21, 2017 at 5:56 am

    OneSignal sell our user data to advertisement platform so i lose my customers before sales on my site. I don’t prefer to use it. I make a search and find this plugin. Any one use it before.

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      tomzur March 21, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Please don’t use affiliate links here. Thanks.

  3. Gravatar for this comment's author
    F1 August 2, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Great article. Personally, not a fan of these intrusive little buggers.

  4. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Farah October 16, 2017 at 2:19 am

    I was happy to find this article, and started to download it to my WP site. I can integrate it with web based Chrome, Firefox and Safari for Mac, but not for mobile phones… Android… the latest documentation on OneSignal reads “Android platforms are for native mobile apps only, not for websites.” Based on my Google Analytics, most visitors are using mobile and on Android….. :-(

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson October 16, 2017 at 9:46 am

      I can confirm this still works fine on Android mobile phones via Chrome.

  5. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Sarath March 4, 2018 at 9:30 am

    This is beetter article than wpbeginner

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson March 21, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks Sarath, we try our best. :)

  6. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Bailey Mills March 12, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    This was an awesome step by step tutorial, I was a little overwhelmed with the multitude of customization options in the setup process. I was wondering though, do you know of a way to customize my automatic push notifications for posts, to reflect the title of the post that is going up in wordpress? Thank you!

    Thank you so much!

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson March 22, 2018 at 12:43 am

      Hey Bailey, if you are pushing them from the WordPress plugin it will automatically use your WordPress titles.

  7. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Kanan April 11, 2018 at 3:10 am

    If I create app from wordpress site by use of plugin then user click on notification at that time what will open website from browser or wordpress app..?

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson May 20, 2018 at 10:12 pm

      Hey Kanan,
      When a user clicks the push notification it will open up your website from their browser.

  8. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Akshara Malhotra August 6, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    I must say; if you are not handling push notifications on your website/blog, then you are missing out on a lot. Just like how email marketing encourages you to convert first-time visitors into subscribers for repeat traffic, web push notifications do the same thing. This helps you to regularly increase your traffic with repeat visits. This is really how most of the top blogs succeed to maintain such a high level of repeat traffic.

    Moreover; if you don’t want to add one new plugin & to keep the number of plugins as low as low possible; you can install Push Notification without a plugin; simply copy the code from PushEngage Dashboard and insert it on your website by using Google tag manager or editing your HTML template file.

    Quick tip; most bloggers let users subscribe to their blog updates and then post them only new blog pages. Instead of doing this, you should feed your newly subscribed users with your most valuable content, your brand ideas, your performances, and other relevant content that benefits your recently subscribed users to read more about your brand. Anyways; very good post to know the push notifications and it’s necessary, thanks sir for helpful information. Keep posting.

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson August 7, 2018 at 12:41 am

      Well said Akshara! Thanks for stopping by.

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