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The Ultimate Guide to Local Pack (3-Pack) Ads

Over the last few years, I’ve been a bit obsessed with these ads in the local pack and have spent a lot of time testing and researching how they work.

What do you need to do to get ads in the 3-pack?

The ads that you see in the 3-pack are triggered by Location Extensions in Google Ads.

Do the ads only rank in the city the business is located in?

Nope! We’ve seen lots of cases where the ads show up in surrounding cities that the business is targeting with keywords.  For example, if you are in Minneapolis and you are targeting “home insurance St Paul” you can have your ad show up in the 3-pack in St Paul even though you aren’t located there.

Can I change the way it appears?

No. The name on the listing is the name of your business in Google My Business. If you are ABC Law Firm, you cannot make your ad in the 3-pack show as “Best Fricken Law Firm Ever”.

Does having keywords in your business name help the ads show up more?

This question is part 9 of 9 from my LocalU presentation from March 2020. If you missed the event, the videos are available for purchase here.  We had a business that rebranded several months ago.  The new business name was more keyword-rich than the old name so we assumed that this would increase the relevance score on the ad and cause it to show up more.  After looking at their calls from the Location Extension, we saw no measurable increase after the rebrand.  We also didn’t see any spikes in impressions on the Location Extension.

Do the ads need to be updated?

Sort of.  Location Extensions do not update in real-time.  For example, this restaurant had their GMB listing marked as temporarily closed.  Their ad, however, was still running and listed the business as open.  The easiest way to fix something like this is to delete the Location Extension and re-add it.  I would suggest double-checking the location extension any time you make any major updates to core information on the Google My Business listing to make sure it’s displaying the current, most accurate information.

Do these ads show up along with regular ads?

Yes.  The “unfair advantage” (previously called “double-serving”) policy that Google has for ads apparently doesn’t apply to the local pack ads.  You can have an ad at the top of the page and then also again in the local pack, like in this example here:

Does the location of the searcher impact where they show?

Yes.  It appears to trigger more for users who are close to your location.  For example, if your business is located just outside of Houston, someone in Houston searching “realtor Houston” would be likely to see your ad in the 3-pack.  A person searching “realtor Houston” who is located in Dallas would not see it.

How do you track these?

Tracking these can be a bit tricky.  If someone clicks anywhere on the 3-pack ad other than the call button (which brings up the call screen on your phone), it takes them to the GMB listing, not the website.  Therefore, these won’t show up as visits in Google Analytics.

What you really want to pay attention to is mobile “clicks-to-call” and “get location details” in Google Ads.  “Get location details” is the number of times someone clicked on the ad and got to your GMB listing.

You can see some really powerful data when you do this. I’ve seen major increases in calls after setting these up for businesses.  For example, in one case it increased the clicks-to-call by 55% and the click-through-rate by 121%

You can also track the calls from them.  Lots of advertising agencies are using dynamic call insertion with companies like CallRail or Call Tracking Metrics (who I use). The problem here is that with these ads, the call doesn’t happen on the website – it happens on the ad itself.  Therefore, the call will never show up in Google Analytics anywhere.

With call extensions, Google has incorporated their own call tracking so that calls can be counted as conversions.  This functionality doesn’t exist for location extensions, yet. This means that calls from these ads won’t show up as conversions in Google Ads either!  The “call” icon/button on the 3-pack ad on mobile is not using the call extension.

So if they can’t show up in Google Ads or Google Analytics as conversions, where do they show up?  Well, they do show up in Google My Business Insights as calls but there is a way you can segment which ones came from Ads.   You first need to purchase a call tracking phone number to use.  This would be an offline source if you’re using dynamic call insertion.  After you have that, do the following:

  1. Go into Google My Business > Info and add in the tracking number into the Google Ads Location Extension phone field.
  2. This will cause all your calls from the Location Extension (including 3-pack ads) to show the tracking number instead.
  3. Now your call tracking dashboard will tell you how many calls you got.  Unfortunately, all your conversion data in Google Ads won’t account for these so your cost-per-conversion data won’t be accurate.

Tip: If you’re reporting GMB calls to clients make sure you remember that these calls are already included in the number of calls in GMB Insights so don’t add them in as additional calls.  Instead, segment them so they can see how many GMB calls were actually from ads.

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 6 Comments

  1. Thanks Joy, this is incredibly helpful to know.

    Do you know of any way to track the conversions of clicks to the website?

  2. Seems there’s always something new or spin to learn about Google products. Sometimes it is mind blowing to try to decipher all this stuff. But, thanks for the explanations and the nicely written article Joy.

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