skip to Main Content

How to Track Calls from Google Ads in the 3-Pack

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - Google Slides - sterling sky seoThe 3-pack: That coveted spot desired by businesses everywhere, positioned at, or very near the top of the SERP sitting under or beside the map result. The name is a bit of a misnomer as a 3-pack actually tends to be a 4-pack or even 5-pack if you include the ad spot or spots that sit right at the very top. I have written previously on how to get ads to show up in the 3-pack.

These ads can be a powerful tool for your business because of their highly visible positioning. They are set up through the traditional Google Ads dashboard as opposed to the LSA Ads dashboard that has been growing in popularity over the last year. The ads are triggered by location extensions added within the Google Ads dashboard. 

One of the biggest hiccups with these ads however is how to effectively track the calls that come in from them. We’ve discovered a process that will allow you to use these ads and the data that comes from them. Below are the steps you need to follow.

The Wrong (Old) Way to Track 3-Pack Ads

Most people think the best way to track these ads is to go into your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) dashboard and click on the info tab. There is a little spot that says “Google Ads location extensions phone” on the right-hand side under the Advanced Information heading. You can enter a unique call tracking number in this spot.

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - Google Slides - gbp sterling sky seo

It would seem like just sticking the phone number on then setting it and forgetting it should work, but there’s a little more to it than that. There are a 2 problems with this method.

Problem 1

On desktop, if a person clicks on the ad they will be taken to the local finder. Once inside it, the ad will still show the correct tracking number but the finder will show your business’s organic phone number instead of the unique call tracking number you applied inside your GBP dashboard. Depending on which one the client uses, you’ll miss out on attribution, capturing this call as being from your ad, if they end up using the organic phone number. 

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - Google Slides - local finder sterling sky seo

Problem 2 

This is the bigger issue. With this implementation, the data from these calls isn’t imported back into the Google Ads dashboard at all. If you do get a call using the tracking number, you’ll see it listed in your call tracking dashboard, but they don’t show up anywhere in the Google Ads dashboard as a conversion. This skews all the metrics in Google Ads. Your cost per conversion will be wrong and how much each keyword converts is wrong. All the data is missing an important piece since it isn’t tracking these calls as conversions and there’s nowhere to import them in Google Analytics.

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - Google Slides - wrong data ads sterling sky seo

The Right Way to Track 3-Pack Ads

Go into your Google Business Profile and activate ‘Preview call history’ (look for the little box inside your home tab). This is a new feature Google has come out with, and is currently only available in the USA and Canada. If you don’t have it yet, be patient and keep checking. 

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - Google Slides - preview call history sterling sky seo

When you have this activated, Google uses a different call tracking number for the ad than it does for the regular listing.

Why it’s different other call tracking systems is because the tracking number is going through Google so the calls actually show up in Google Ads as conversions

To see these calls inside Google Ads, pull up the predefined reports. Next, click on Extensions within that dropdown and it will take you to yet another drop down that has a heading ‘Call details.’ Inside this report you’ll see a number of calls that say Google Business Profile. These calls are actually the ones coming from your ad’s tracking number. 

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - Google Ads call details sterling sky seo

This is huge because it fixes the discrepancies in your Google Ads data. This feature also records the calls for 45 days if you are looking for the ability to go back and listen to past calls. 

Why Is It Important To Be Able To Track Calls From Google 3-Pack Ads?

Having accurate data is so important if you are a small business owner trying to decide if investing in Google Ads is worth it and whether the cost per conversion warrants the spend. When we looked at the numbers comparing the cost of conversion for a client both including and excluding this data the difference was huge, almost $28 cheaper per conversion. 

3-Pack Ads - Tracking - cost conversion sterling sky seo
Cost per conversion before and after adding in ads call tracking data

Contact Our Google Business Profile SEO Experts At Sterling Sky Inc. 

Hopefully, this quick overview of how to track your Google 3-pack ads accurately will be helpful for you. And if you’re a local business that needs help ranking on Google in either the 3-pack or organically, at Sterling Sky we can help. We offer SEO audits, Google Ads services, consulting, or monthly local SEO services. Contact our office today for more information. 


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. Hello. Once these steps are complete, is it necessary to go through Google Ads’ steps to add the call tracking code to the website or can this be skipped? Also, after following your steps on doing this for a client with multiple locations, the same phone number is appearing in the Call Extensions details within the report for each location. Not sure why each location’s number would not be used?

    Appreciate your input.

    Thank you,

    1. Susie,

      It sounds like possibly Google is only serving the one extension – it’s hard to say without looking at it. I would still suggest adding call tracking to the site in case people click on the site and then call you from there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top