Want to add a countdown timer to your WordPress site? While there are plenty of coming soon plugins that help you add countdown timers for website launches, there are surprisingly few plugins that let you add countdown timers to existing WordPress pages...at least for free.
But after digging around, I did find one free plugin that gets the job done, though it might require some custom CSS. In this post, I’ll give you a tutorial on how to use that free WordPress countdown timer plugin. Then, at the end, I’ll suggest a couple of premium options that are a bit more user-friendly and flexible.
What Are the Benefits of Countdown Timers?
Countdown timers help you do two things:
- Build anticipation for an event or launch
- Create a feeling of scarcity for a limited time offer
Both are valid uses for a timer. And both can help your marketing strategy out.
For example, if you post a limited deal without a countdown timer, your readers might not feel a sense of urgency that the deal is actually ending soon. But if they see that countdown timer tick, tick, ticking away? Yeah, that reminds them they don’t have unlimited time to act!
What’s An Evergreen Countdown Timer? How Is It Different?
Fixed date countdown timers are probably what you think of when you picture a countdown timer. That is, the timer is always ticking down to one specific date and time, no matter who visits the page. If the timer is set to expire on May 15th at noon, it expires on May 15th at noon for everyone.
Evergreen countdown timers are a bit trickier. They use the power of cookies and other tracking to display different timers for each visitor. So if you set an evergreen countdown timer for seven days, each one of your visitors will have seven days from the first time they visit your page.
Done right, evergreen countdown timers can be a powerful scarcity marketing tactic. Done wrong, though, and they might give your readers the impression you’re trying to trick them.
I’ve never found a quality free plugin for evergreen countdown timers, so I’ll focus mainly on a basic fixed date countdown timer for the tutorial. Then, I’ll suggest a good plugin from Thrive Themes for evergreen countdown timers at the end.
How to Add a Countdown Timer to WordPress for Free
I dug around for a quality WordPress countdown timer and encountered a graveyard of out-of-date, poorly reviewed plugins...until I finally stumbled on T(-) Countdown.
I went with T(-) Countdown because:
- It meets the criteria of being free
- It doesn’t require you to sign up for an account just to use it.
- The reviews are good at WordPress.org - 4.5-stars.
- The developer has resolved every support issue over the last two months
- It’s popular with 20,000+ active installs
- It uses CSS to power the timer - not Flash
The only downside is that the included templates aren’t especially modern, so you may need some custom CSS depending on your site.
Of the free versions, it’s definitely the best I’ve found, though Download
Waiting: One-click countdowns also looks promising (feel free to suggest others in the comments!).
Here’s how to use it…
Step 1: Install and Activate T(-) Countdown
T(-) Countdown is listed at WordPress.org, so you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard.
Once it’s installed, there’s not really anything to configure. You can view the settings page by going to Settings → T(-) Countdown.
The only thing you need to do here is make sure to check the box to Enable Rockstar Features as it gives you a little more flexibility if you use the plugin’s sidebar widget.
Other than that, everything else deals with custom CSS.
Step 2: Use the Widget for a Sidebar Countdown Or Build a Shortcode
Time to display your countdown timer! To display a timer in any widgetized area, you can use the plugin’s included widget. And if you want to display a countdown timer in your post, you can build a shortcode.
Let’s start with the sidebar. Head to Appearance → Widgets and drag over the T(-) Countdown widget:
Go through and give it a:
- Target (the date and time when you want your countdown timer to expire)
Then, you can fill out the Rockstar Features. These allow you to add custom HTML above or below your countdown timer. And you can also run HTML that launches when the countdown reaches zero, which opens up some nice possibilities for changing your content after your timer expires.
If you’re building your countdown timer in your post, you’ll need to create your own shortcode. While a shortcode builder would make this easier...the developer includes detailed docs to help you create your shortcode the old fashioned way.
The basic shortcode is:
[tminus t= "DD-MM-YYYY HH:MM:SS"]HTML to be displayed when the countdown reaches zero.[/tminus]
So entering [tminus t= "12-05-2017 01:01:01" style="jedi"]HTML to be displayed when the countdown reaches zero.[/tminus]
Will give you something like this on the front-end:
Remember - you can add custom styling to make the timer fit your site if you don’t like the included styles.
Once the countdown timer expires, the code or text inside the shortcode will appear:
Premium Options to Add Countdown Timers to WordPress
These plugins add more functionality and better default styling...but lose the coveted free price tag of T(-) Countdown. If you want countdown timers in your page builder or evergreen countdown timers, consider these. If you just want a basic countdown timer, you can stick with the free version.
If you read WPLift a lot, you probably know that both Daan and I are big fans of Elementor. And guess what? If you go with Elementor Pro, you’ll get a handy countdown widget that lets you add stylish countdown timers to your posts and pages as easily as you would any other Elementor element.
This is definitely the simplest and quickest way to add a countdown timer to WordPress...it just requires that you upgrade to Pro because that element is not available in the free version of Elementor.
Thrive Ultimatum is one hardcore countdown timer plugin. Thrive Themes brands it as “The Ultimate Scarcity Marketing Tool for WordPress”. And after playing around with it for a review, I have to say that I agree.
It lets you easily run:
- Fixed date campaigns
- Recurring campaigns
- Evergreen campaigns
And it also includes beautiful built-in styles for your scarcity timers, as well as a variety of different ways to display timers. For example, you can opt to include a notification bar with a countdown timer, or just stick a countdown timer in a post. And the really cool thing is that you can do both.
So when a visitor lands on your page, they start the timer. Then, you can have a notification bar follow them around with that same timer ticking down.
At $97 for a single site license, it certainly ain’t cheap. But it does have one of the best feature lists that you’ll encounter.
Wrapping Things Up
If you just want a basic countdown timer for your WordPress site, you should go with T(-) Countdown. Just be aware that it might be worthwhile hiring a designer to write up some custom CSS for your timers.
If you need more functionality, Elementor offers that handy countdown widget and Thrive Ultimatum is the gold standard for scarcity marketing and countdowns as far as I’m concerned.
Now over to you - do you know a great WordPress countdown timer plugin? While there are some solid premium options, the free options seem to be fairly limited, so I’d love if you shared a good one in the comments.