Creating Urgency in Ads: The Powerful Countdown Feature

Chelsea Norman / 21st January 2020 / Comment / SEM

What is Countdown?

Of several ad customizers available from Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, the countdown feature is ideal for featured sales with a definitive end date that can create urgency for users to convert – now, right now! 

Countdown ads let you change your ad in real-time to count down to a specific event. Though you can countdown as far out as you’d like, we recommend no more than 5 days. 

The countdown ad will first display a countdown of days, then hours, then minutes as time passes. As you can see below, the countdown is lowercase by default and can now be case changed. 

Case Study: Improving CTR for a Travel Client

For our travel client, countdown ads improved click-through rate (CTR) overall by just 1.16%. While that may seem inconsequential, the data is most promising when we look at conversion data.  

While running two static ads and two countdown ads over a four-day period, countdown ads drove 65% of all conversions for all period.  

The conversion rate on countdown ads was 73% higher than on the static ads. 

Setting Up Countdown Ads

Set Up Within the UI: 

This syntax is used in both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, meaning it will sync if you import data from one to the other.  

{=COUNTDOWN(“2020/2/28 00:00:00″,”en-US”,5)} 

Go to the ad group where you would like to create a countdown ad and add new Expanded Text Ad.   

The countdown feature can be used in headlines or descriptions and best of all, is not included in your character count.  

Inputting “{“ will populate a menu of ad customizers. Select “Countdown”.  

Select the date and time your sale or event ends. 

  • Note: The time you set is based on 24-hour time. So, if you want your sale/event to end at 11:59pm, be sure to enter “23:59:59”.   

Next, select how far in advanced you want the countdown ad to start showing. 

  • Note: Don’t let the countdown ads show too far in advance of the sale/event or they will lack urgency and will be less likely to be clicked on. 5 days is the default setting from both publishers if the field is left blank. 

Next, select the time zone you want your ad to show.  

  • Note: Be sure to select the time zone that you want this event/sale to end. By selecting “account time zone”, you are ending the sale/event for everyone regardless of the time zone based on the time-zone your account is set up in. Be sure to check the time zone of your account – this can easily be found in the foot note of most UI pages. By selecting “Ad viewer’s time zone”, the ad will serve until the countdown expires in the time zone the device is registered.  

Set Up Within Editor 

The dynamic options of the “{“ function are not available in Editor as they are in the UI, however there is a work around.  

Create your text ad as you usually would and simply paste the syntax in your headline and update the fields. 

You will not have the option of time zones and it will default to ‘Ad viewer’s time zone’. 

Once you have completed the ad, you can then proceed to copy and paste into additional ad groups. It is important to have other ads included and to not have a countdown ad alone in an ad group – otherwise outside of the countdown window, no ad will be available to serve.   

By Chelsea Norman