By Eshani Bhatt

Running promotional activity, particularly in verticals such as retail and e-commerce, is part of the day-to-day running of a paid search account.

This blog will cover the different ways promotional activity can be supported through PPC and will provide you with some top tips to make sure your promotion packs a punch.

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With so many promotional formats to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know which to use. Here’s a list of your main options and their associated benefits and considerations:

1. Sitelinks

Benefits: With the ability to add account-wide associations, this is a quick and easy way to get your promotional message on the results page and across all campaigns in your account. It’s particularly handy for clients who regularly come in and out of promotion, without having to continually change ad copy and submit ads through the approval process.

Considerations: Ad extensions, including sitelinks, are not always guaranteed to show alongside your ad. Additionally, sitelinks have a limited character length (85 characters in total for a sitelink), so this might not be the best fit for slightly more complicated, tiered-spend type promotions. 

2. Promotion Extensions  

Benefits: A promotion extension is eye-catching, helping your ad take up more space on the results page and serving to visually differentiate your ad from your competitors. Promotion extensions can also be customised depending on the occasion, with a number of options ranging from ‘Black Friday’, ‘Labor Day’ and ‘Chinese New Year’.

Considerations: Promotion extensions have only two formats – a monetary discount or percentage discount – meaning that you cannot use this extension for other types of offers, such as a free-gift promotion. As with a sitelink, there’s also no guarantee that this extension will be shown every-time your ad is searched for. 

3. Google Merchant Center Promotions

Benefits: As shopping’s take on the promotion extension, merchant extensions are a great way to celebrate your promotional activity through your shopping campaigns. Google displays a ‘special offer’ link next to the image of your product, making your product stand out from your competitors. There’s also a wide range of promotional formats: percentage off, buy one get one free, buy one get 2nd percent off, free item or free gift. 

Considerations: Unlike its search counterpart, Merchant Center promotions can be slightly fiddly to set up, especially when your promotion is relevant to only selected products with selected SKUs. Merchant promotions take more time to be approved – around 24 hours, although sometimes this is longer – so forward planning is required in order to ensure the promotion is approved and live in time.

4. Ad Copy Changes

Benefits: The OG way to support promotional activity, good old ad copy. Making use of Google’s new expanded text ads means you have ample room to convey your promotional message. By ensuring your ad copy contains your promotional offering, you can be guaranteed that user will see your offer when they see your ad.

Considerations: Frequent ad copy changes can disrupt key metrics on an account and changing ad copy regularly also means there is little consistency in brand messaging, which could impact a user’s experience.

How Google Merchant Center promotions look on the search engine results page

How To Make Your Promotional Ad Copy Shine

There are many ways you can make your promotional ad copy stand out from the crowd. In PPC, testing is everything so if you are a client who runs regular promotions through ad copy, be sure to run promotional ad copy tests to figure out the most effective way of presenting your offer. Aside from this, you could also try out: 

Countdown Timers

These are great to provoke a sense of urgency and build up anticipation, particularly in the run up to the final hours of the promotion. Across the agency we see best uplift when the countdown commences 24hrs before the promotion ends. 

Be sure that per ad group you have one ad variation that does not have a countdown time however, as when the countdown finishes, your ad copy will no longer show!

Promotional Code

With the majority of promotions accessed on site via a code at checkout, including this explicitly in the ad copy is a bold way to indicate that you are running an offer. Promotional codes are also usually in capital letters which, alongside a results page of ads in title or sentence case, can really make your ad jump out.


Ad customizers are a great option to adapt your ad copy to specific audiences, personalising your copy and ensuring your offer really resonates with users.  As an example, you could tailor messaging for users who have previously purchased via promotion and go slightly stronger with your promotional messaging, as you know this audience responds well to promotion.

Google Ads Countdown Timer

Merkle’s Practical Top Tips

To help you manage promotions for your clients, here are some top tips which will save you lots of time and make moving in and out of promotion stress free:

1. Labels, Labels, Labels

Who would have thought that a label could save you so much time? Use a label for all of your BAU ads and a label for your promo ads. Go as granular as you require (for example, if you tend to run promotion only on specific campaigns create campaign specific labels) or keep these as account wide if you tend to roll out promo messaging to all ad groups. 

Setting up filters for the BAU labelled ads and for the promo ads will save you even more time. 

2. Create Two Ad Copy States For The Account – BAU Ads And Promo Ads

Constantly adding new ads to your account for each promotion not only makes it more difficult to manage your account due to the sheer number of ads but can also inflate your CPCs, as each new ad must build up ad rank from scratch.

Creating two ad copy variations for the account, one BAU (with 3 variants per ad group, as per best practice) and one promo set means that you can easily alternate between core and promotional messaging.

Promotional ads can be updated with new offers and re-submitted for approval. Worried that you will lose data on previous versions of the ad? Not to worry, right click on your ad and view ‘version history’ to be able to see previous iterations of the ad and all your key metrics. 

3. Template Sheets

Create and save promotional ad copy template sheets for your campaigns. These will be useful when you need to create a new promotional ad altogether or perhaps when rolling directly from one promotional activity to another. 

With ad group specific details such as URLs and paths, promotional headlines and descriptions can be simply applied to the whole account using Excel’s handy autofill option. Once your ads are ready, simply import into Google Ads or Bing Ads Editor and your new set of promotional ads will be ready in an instant!

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