Google Countdown Ads: What You Need to Know

Kaitlin Pursley / 7th May 2015 / Comment

This is the second in a series of “What You Need to Know” posts from our esteemed SEM expert Kaitlin Pursley. Be sure to check out her previous post on Bing Image Extensions

In September 2014, Google released ad customizers to provide advertisers opportunities to create more tailored ads. There are a variety of different ways to use ad customizers, but today I’m going to focus on countdown ads.

What Are Countdown Ads and How Do They Work?

Countdown ads let you change your ad in real-time to count down to a specific event. Most commonly, I’ve used these ads with clients to mark the end of a sale.

countdown ad

Countdown ads show like any other search ad, when they are triggered by keywords in your ad groups. However, you get to choose how far in advance of a sale/event that you’d like your countdown ad to begin showing. The countdown ad will first display a countdown of days, then hours, then minutes.

Why Should I Use Countdown Ads?

Countdown ads first and foremost create a sense of urgency. When people feel this sense of urgency, they are more likely to act quickly to avoid missing out.

Let’s look at the data.

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.

If that isn’t compelling enough data to at least test countdown ads, then I don’t know what is.

How Do You Set Them Up?

Setting up countdown ads is very straightforward, albeit time-consuming and manual. Unfortunately, countdown ads cannot be set up in AdWords Editor.

First, go to the ad group where you would like to create a countdown ad. Then, click the red “+Ad” button and select “Text ad”.  Start typing your ad copy and when you are ready to insert your countdown, type “{“, and then you will see two options appear:

setting up countdown ads

Next, click the “countdown” option. Another window will appear:

advanced options countdown ad

Advanced options for countdown ads

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.

Next, be sure to expand the “Advanced” section of the countdown window.

  • 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 at 5pm PST / 6pm MST / 7pm CST / 8pm EST. Essentially, the sale/event ends at the exact same time for everyone, regardless of their time zone. By selecting “Ad viewer’s time zone”, you are ending the sale/event at 5pm PST/MST/CST/EST. So, the sale ends when 5pm occurs in the viewer’s time zone.

Finally, make sure you have at least one static ad in each ad group where there is a countdown ad. If you don’t have a static ad and you have your countdown ad set to start three days before you sale/event ends, no ads will be shown for the keywords in that ad group because there will technically be no active ads.

Now, the tedious part begins. To get this countdown ad into multiple ad groups, select the countdown ad, click “Edit”, then “Copy”. Next, go to one of the ad groups that you’d like that ad in and select “Edit”, then “Paste”. Repeat until you have the ad in all of the ad groups that you’d like it in.

copy paste countdown ads

Copying and pasting countdown ads in Google AdWords

While countdown ads are a bit cumbersome to set up, they more than pay dividends by driving additional conversions and improving conversion rates.

By Kaitlin Pursley