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How is Activity from the Local 3-Pack Tracked in Search Console? 4 Things to Know in 2019

We often get questions about how Google Search Console tracks activity from the local results.  I’m hoping this article will provide some clarity on many questions I’ve been asked over the years about it.

  1. Search Console does report on activity from the local results and it is not automatically segmented.  Organic traffic includes traffic from Google’s local pack along with the traditional search results.  If you get a traditional 3-pack, the first organic position below it will actually be counted as position 4 in Search Console.
  2. You need to use UTM codes in Google My Business (GMB) to separate traffic that comes from the local results.  Earlier in 2019, Google did something that caused UTM codes to stop working but at the present moment, we are seeing that they are working properly.  We recommend adding UTM codes to any URL field in Google My Business including the website field, appointment URL field, menu URL field and Google Posts.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
    1. Use all lower-case letters since Google Analytics treats capital letters differently (tip from Dana DiTomaso)
    2. Keep the source as google and the medium as organic to make sure it doesn’t make it look like you experienced a traffic drop when using some tools (such as the Panguin tool).
    3. Use the campaign field for naming the different fields in GMB.  The end result will look something like this:
  3. Branded Queries that return a Knowledge Panel will make no sense unless you add a lot of filters.  Let me share an example.  Often when you search a business name, you get a Knowledge Panel such as the one displayed below for Sterling Sky which is pulling in our Google My Business listing.
    If I add a filter in Search Console to just look at traffic to a client’s brand name and look at the pages tab, it will break out how many people clicked on the GMB listing vs the traditional organic result.
    What makes no sense at first glance is the average position.  Why is the position 30+?  This is often due to the Google Search Console Insight Knowledge Panel not being presented the same way in multiple countries.  In the example below, this business is in the USA.  If I look at the traffic to just their GMB website URL (using UTM codes) for searches on their brand name, it shows very different results.
    But you might still be wondering why the USA shows an average position 8.4.  Glenn Gabe did a great job explaining how Google counts Knowledge Panel positions by clarifying that positions are counted first top to bottom and then left to right.  Based on his explanation, I would expect the position for this to be 11, not 8.4.  However, this all became clearer when I added the country filter for the USA and looked at the Devices tab.  This explains the variance.  See on mobile, the Knowledge Panel is actually the first result and often shows immediately above the organic results as shown in the example below.
  4. The majority of mobile impressions/actions on the GMB listing are not tracked in Search Console.  If you’re looking in Search Console at the URL that has the UTM codes and wondering why the numbers for mobile look so odd, it’s important to remember that many 3-packs on mobile do not have website fields on them.  This means that you’ll likely see way less impressions from mobile devices when compared to desktop.  If a user clicks on your listing, the website field will be present on the next screen so it often results in a lot of clicks but very few impressions.  Also, clicks for driving directions and clicks-to-call are tracked in the Google My Business dashboard but are not presented in Search Console.       


Want more information just like this? My Local SEO training guide is 300+ pages of advanced training on topics just like this one.  It also includes a ton of tips and explanations that I have never published publicly.

You can also check out our article and get advice on Local Service Ads for Lawyers. And connect with Joy and our other product experts in the Google Business Profile community.

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Why would google allow, disallow and then again allow UTM codes? After having google remove over 100 of the UTM URLs I had added to GMB listings, I don’t think I’ll be putting in that effort again until I am certain it won’t again be removed without warning.

    1. There’s no saying if they’re here to stay or not. I would still suggest using UTM codes though even if they don’t show up in Search Console. They still show up in Analytics either way and that data is very useful.

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