Last modified May 17, 2021 by Shelly Wolfe

Push notifications best practices

Learn how to optimize your push campaigns with our push notification best practices.

One of the most effective ways to boost engagement and retention is through a well-executed push notification strategy. Great push notifications are three things: timely, personal, and actionable. A great push notification that enhances the customer-brand relationship is almost always the result of a data-driven mobile marketing strategy.

This article discusses some best practices for reaching and connecting with your customers via push notifications and empowers you to develop mobile creative that leads to measurable business impact and results. It covers the following areas:

  • Creative
  • Targeting
  • Timing
  • Deep linking
  • Alert sounds
  • A/B testing notification content
  • Campaign goals
  • Rich media content, including image guidelines and interactive elements


  • Use a personalized tone – Your notifications should reflect a tone that suits the relationship you have with your customers. Be relevant and useful.
  • A/B test message tone – Experiment with friendly, formal, or clever tones to understand what resonates best with your user base.
  • Front-load your message – Put the most compelling part of your message first so it’s visible in locked screen or banner views.
  • Character count recommendations:
    • iOS
      • Lock screen: 110 characters
      • Notification Center: 110 characters
      • Banner: 62 Characters
      • Alerts: 235 Characters
    • Android
      • Lock screen: One line (estimated 49 characters max)
      • Notification drawer: One line, up to eight lines when expanded (estimated 597 characters max)
  • Use the expanded notification option – Deliver additional information to your audience with this feature.
  • Include rich media and emojis – Both elements tend to drive engagement up significantly, so try to be as rich as possible, as often as possible.


  • Always ask permission first – Request push notification permission after the customer completes an action that makes the benefit of receiving notifications clear (for example, following a team in a sports streaming app). Use a preliminary in-app message that establishes the value of receiving push notifications before displaying the system prompt.
  • Target relevantly – Personalize the message to each customer. Include details associated with their behavior and preferences.
  • Make your customer feel special – Send pushes based on the recipient’s prior actions and preferences in the app and make them feel they’re getting a message that’s unique to them.
  • Be conservative – Consider the percentage of overall customers to reach and avoid over-messaging customers, especially new ones.


  • Consider timing – Not every customer is the same, so make an effort to reach customers at a time that doesn’t interrupt their day.
  • Time wisely – Swrve gives you the following scheduling options to help you message customers at a convenient time:
    • Optimal time: Depending on the option you select, sends the push notification at the optimal time for each customer within a set window or over a 24-hour time period.
    • Local time: Sends the push notification at a set time in the customer’s local time zone.

Deep linking

  • Drive the customer to the expected destination – Deep link based on your messaging content, creating a connected customer experience.

Alert sounds

  • If you want your messages to be as non-intrusive as possible, don’t include an alert sound. When the customer is free to engage with their phone, they’ll see the notification and might be more likely to open the app from the notification.
  • If you want to attract the attention of the customer by means of a standard sound, use the default sound of their device (as configured by the customer).
  • If you want to clearly identify your app, play a custom sound. The BBC News alerts do this to great effect, using their clearly recognizable news jingle. If your app has a distinguishable soundtrack, then a snippet of this may be suitable as an alert sound.

For more information about configuring sounds for push notifications, see Push campaign prerequisites.

A/B testing push notifications

The following are general guidelines for A/B testing your push notifications:

  • Test up to 10 variations of your push notification content with Swrve’s multi-variant campaigns. To be confident of the conversion rates of each variant, make sure each variant is exposed to as many users as possible. If you plan to run a test with a large number of variants, ensure you are targeting a large audience.
  • We recommend each variant tests a specific aspect of the push notification. For example, change the notification text or try no sound versus sound. If your app is configured with deeplinks, you can also test key/value payloads, such as directing users that accept the push notification to a new feature or the app store. For more information, see Creating push notifications.

Campaign goals

This section details general guidelines for selecting custom campaign goals to measure and report on for your push notifications. The table below outlines example goals you can select to measure downstream engagement or purchase events.

Message summary Primary goal Secondary goal
Purchase of in-app currency. Purchasing in-app currency. Spending in-app currency.
Promoting a new feature, for example, saving content to favorites. Saving content as a favorite. Accessing content in favorites.
Promoting a time bound event. Customer attended event. Anything related to the event.
Tip for helping customers complete registration. Customer followed tip. Customer completed registration.
Encouraging customers to register with their social media details. Customer completed registration. Customer shared status on social media.

Rich notifications

Including rich media in your notification content gives you more options for effectively engaging with your customer. Your message can include images, videos, audio, and interactive buttons.

To make sure you’re able to develop rich push campaigns, review Rich push prerequisites.

Rich push best practices include:


  • Keep the message clear – Ensure the customer understands the message regardless of the media.
    • Make your creative work with or without a related image or video.
    • Include content that supplements the content of the push and that’s relevant to your recipient.
    • Develop your message in a fashion that does not directly reference the media in the push.
  • Include engaging media – Make your media on-brand and relevant to the message being delivered.
  • Use the Media Fallback option – This lets you include fallback content for users who may be missing a specified custom user property.
  • Customize the media – Personalize the media you include in your rich push notification, for example, using a custom URL that references a customer’s profile picture.
  • To ensure images display correctly, we recommend the following maximum dimensions:
    • iOS:
      • As of January 2020, iOS Rich Push notifications can handle images 1038×1038 as long as they are under 4MB, but we recommend using as small a file size as possible. In practice, sending large files can cause both unnecessary network stress and make download timeouts more common.
      • Optimal: 1038 x 1038 px
    • Android
      • Android Extended Notification images must be 2:1 ratio, but do not have a size limit.
      • Android also allows for setting a separate image for the standard notification view.
      • Recommended size images: 512×256 for Small, 1024×512 for Medium, and 2048×1024 for Large


  • Personalize the image – Include custom user properties in the image URL. For example, include a customer’s profile picture or reference a specific destination to which they recently searched for flights or hotels.
  • Capture the moment and capitalize on it – Ensure your content is based on your recipient’s prior behavior and, if possible, their most recent action on the app.


See standard push notifications Timing section above.

Deep linking

  • Customized buttons – Include customizable buttons that enable your customers to complete simple interactions from the lock screen, with no need to open up the app.
  • Remove friction – Provide two or three relevant options for where they want to be driven to in the app, and empower them to decide where they want to go.

Image guidelines

While there are no hard limits on image dimensions, the following guidelines will help you make sure images are displayed correctly.


  • The maximum file size for image attachments is 10MB.
  • The maximum possible dimension is 1038 x 1038 px. iOS automatically scales images, but if the image height is more than 1038, it downscales the image and applies padding so the image is displayed as a square. To avoid this, use a maximum width of 1038 pixels and height less than 1038 pixels.
  • You can use landscape or portrait orientation. Depending on the dimensions, portrait images may look too tall, therefore we recommend using landscape.


  • Android doesn’t have a size limit on images in rich notifications, as it automatically adjusts images so the dimensions of the image are equal to or larger than the corresponding dimensions of the device view. Google recommends using an image with an aspect ratio of approximately 2:1.
  • We recommend using landscape orientation, as some devices may crop the image. To ensure important information isn’t cropped, position your content in the center of the image and not around the edges.
  • We recommend the following dimensions based on the most common Android device resolutions (in pixels):
    • Small – 512 x 256
    • Medium – 1024 x 512
    • Large – 2048 x 1024


Swrve supports including up to three buttons to give your users custom options for interacting with the notification in the extended view. Configure the button actions with deep links to direct the customer to a specific screen in your app, or even use the buttons to create a short survey. For more information on how to configure custom buttons, see Creating push notifications.

Button engagement results are included in the push notification campaign report. For more information, see Campaign reports.

Next steps