“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” – Jim Rohn


One of the best ways to create urgency and drive results is to use a Limited Time Offer. Limited Time Offers work because they create a sense of a ticking clock; by adding a Countdown, we can make this phenomenon literal.

Naturally, I was super-excited when Google announced a simple, built-in Countdown function for ad copy as well as a ton of custom options to break away from formulaic ads using Ad Customizers.

This allows you an easy way to get very creative with your ads by inserting dynamic messages within part of your ad copy, a la mad libs. Using the Countdowns function, you can also easily set-up a short-term ad promoting a weekend sale or even an upcoming special event.

Currently, there are two main ways to create a Countdown within AdWords:

1. Use a Countdown function to show the time left for a one-time event, such as a Memorial Day sale.

2. Create a Business Data Feed to count down recurring events, such as a monthly special.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to the simpler Countdown function method and return to my beloved Business Data Feed in a future post.


How to Use a Countdown Function for a Limited-Time Offer

If you have a limited-time offer such as a weekend sale or similar one-time event, the Countdown function is your friend. The way this function works is to simply calculate how many days or hours or minutes remain from the deadline you have set.

To create a Countdown function, you’ll need to have the following details for proper set-up:

1. What’s the Deadline for your offer to end?

2. How long before your offer ends do you want your offer’s ad copy to show?

3. What language do you want the days, hours, and minutes words to be in?

4. Is the deadline universal worldwide? Or does the time zone matter for your offer deadline?

– If the event ends all at same time, such as a live TV event, use the GLOBAL_COUNTDOWN. Your ad will then be set to the time zone of your account.

– If the deadline is relative to the time zone the customer is in, use the normal COUNTDOWN. Your ad will be relative to each time zone your ad is showing in.


Let’s take a look at an example for a Free Shipping offer for a Memorial Day Sale. Notice that there are three parts: (1) the Deadline; (2) the Language code; and (3) the # of days before the deadline you would like your countdown to begin (e.g. start the countdown three days before the offer expires).


Once counting down, your ad will dynamically update to look like this:

Tips and Common Pitfalls to Avoid

-Remember that the Countdown will say “5 days left to save!” as opposed to just the number “5”, so avoid non-sensical ad copy like, “5 days days left to save”.

-If you have a short promotion like a weekend deal, check ad rotation settings or create an AdWords Campaign Experiment to control how frequently your ad displays.

-Keep in mind that the countdown is also subject to the 35-character limits in the description lines.

-You must include a static, non-ad customizer ad in addition to the Countdown ads.

Now go and give your customers a clear answer to the question, “Why buy now?”. The clock is ticking. So make creative use of the Countdown function for your next event or offer.

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Matt Gillooly
Matt Gillooly joined 3Q Digital in October 2014, after a depth of experience in marketing and sales at Digital Agencies and top-tech start-ups like Yammer and Google. He is also a graduate of University of California Berkeley and tweets @mattjgillooly Matt also enjoys Cal football, rock climbing and exploring the San Diego craft brewery scene.