Gauging The Impact Of The AdWords Countdown Customizer

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I’m a huge advocate for dynamic ad copy. Between Dynamic Search Ads, dynamic remarketing, ad customizers, and even dynamic keyword insertion, making ads stand out needs to be a part of your strategy. Most importantly, I’ve seen great results from dynamic copy.

For example, instead of promoting a sale through a static ad like this one:

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Example of a static ad

We can show an ad that dynamically counts down to when the sale ends:

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Example of an ad with the countdown customizer

At this year’s Hero Conf (an event run by my employer), I presented a case study about my experience with the AdWords countdown customizer. For this client, the countdown customizer was a large part of the ad copy strategy. The key takeaways from the presentation were:

  • Click-through rate (CTR) was higher with the countdown ads vs. static (non-dynamic copy).
  • Conversion rate of countdown ads was nearly double that of static ads.
  • Conversions were at their highest with 1 – 2 days left of the promotion.

The client I used for this study was a little more than halfway through their busy season at the time of my presentation. (The busy season was January through May.) Thus, data only went through March 24 instead of the end of May.

In this post, I’ll be showcasing and analyzing the totality of the data to determine how effective the countdown customizer was to performance.

Overview

For this study, I compiled data from eight different instances of the countdown customizer. Depending on the promotion, the countdown ads began anywhere from five days before the end of the event to two days. All instances ran for at least three days, including the final day of the promotion. The promotions were either for free shipping or a percentage off the total price.

Some other notes regarding the study:

  • Static ads did not include any copy from the Shopping, Remarketing, Display, and Gmail Sponsored Promotions campaigns. I wanted to do a fair comparison strictly between static and non-static Search Network text ads.
  • In over 95% of the ads, description line one included the countdown and ended with a period. This formatting allowed for a longer and more pronounced headline when ads showed above the organic listings.
  • In most cases, the promotion ended at 11:59 PM on Mondays. For this client, traffic is always highest during the weekend. Even though Monday may have been the last day of the promotion, the volume wasn’t as high as the weekend.
  • Countdown ads were not implemented in every campaign, but rather the top 10 – 15 ad groups across the account.

The Results

I went into the study expecting the CTR to be higher for the dynamic ads since they are more eye-catching and elicit urgency. This hypothesis was proven true, as the CTR of the countdown ads was more than a percentage point higher than static ads.

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CTR of countdown ads vs. static ads

What was interesting was that both cost per conversion and conversion rate performed much better for dynamic ads. In the graph below, you’ll see that conversion rate was nearly double for the countdown ads compared to the static ads. The countdown ads also saw a $3.66 lower cost per conversion against the static ads.

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Cost per conversion and conversion rate of countdown and static ads

Also of note is that the countdown ads accounted for about 9.50% of total clicks and almost 16% of total conversions.

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I didn’t necessarily think that countdown ads would perform that much better, conversion-wise, against static ads since the landing pages were the same; however, the data proved me wrong.

Days Left

The next area I explored was the performance by days left, including the day the promotion ended. Here is the performance of conversions and conversion rate.

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Conversion data by days left

Conversions gradually increase from five days out to three, then see a huge bump with only one and two days left. The day the promotion ends sees many more conversions than days three through five, but not quite as much as one and two. Conversion rate also follows a similar trajectory as it really starts to boom with two days left.

The sweet spot for the countdown ads occurred when there were one and two days left of the promotion. Both conversions and conversion rates were at their highest points of the six total days being tracked. Remember, however, that most of the time the one and two days left occurred on the weekend when traffic was at its highest point.

I also reviewed CTR by days left and saw the same pattern. CTR gradually ramps up and then hits its sweet spot with 1-2 days left.

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The CTR flow during the countdown

Implications

Though the case study I’ve presented here has the most data, I’ve used the countdown customizer in other accounts and have seen similar results. At the very least, the countdown customizer affords advertisers a proven way to increase CTR. Judging by the results I’ve seen, it also helps to improve conversion rate and lower cost per conversion; however, these metrics are just as likely influenced by the landing page experience.

For e-commerce advertisers that run promotions, using the countdown customizer isn’t a matter of, “Should I use it?” but rather, “How do I include it?” While it’s always been important to be testing at least two ads in every ad group, I would go a step further and recommend that at least one ad utilize the countdown (when applicable).

It should also be acknowledged that Shopping ads have a countdown of their own. Using the “Promotions” section within Google Merchant Center, you can list the sale end date and Google will include a countdown. In this example, the free shipping offer for Eddie Bauer ends in 19 days.

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A countdown within a Shopping ad

Why do I bring this feature up? The complete landscape of paid search continues to evolve. Text and Shopping ads both now have countdowns. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bing Ads follow suit with a countdown parameter of their own. Additionally, I’m positive Google will bring the countdown customizer to Display. (Think how powerful a remarketing ad with a countdown would be!)

Based upon the data I’ve seen and the ever-increasing dynamic ad layouts, utilizing the countdown customizer is a sure way to bring attention your ads and brand.

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