What You Need to Know About Ads in the 3-Pack

Posted · 11 Comments

Last year at a marketing conference in Seattle, Google first announced that they were testing ads in the 3-pack.  This peaked the interest of the people in the audience, myself included, as this would be game changer for Local SEO.  Google has been testing pay-to-play models in other industries but adding an ad in the 3-pack was something they were testing for all local business types.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing these ads show up
consistently now for businesses we were testing it on, but only on mobile.  We have yet to see them show up on computers but assume that is coming soon.  


What Does it Look Like?

The ad shows up as the first listing in the 3-pack making the total # of listings increase to 4 (1 ad, 3 organic listings).  There is a little green icon on the ad that is easy to miss.

What Decides Where it Shows Up?

The main thing that drives where the ad is shown are the keywords in the AdWords account.  The ad will not show for a search unless you are targeting that specific keyword inside your account.


Does it 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.  In the example below, this business is in Bartlett, IL but her ad shows for a search in Elgin, IL because she is targeting it as a keyword in her AdWords account.

Does Google Show Ads for Branded Keywords?

Yes, they do.  And yes, you can even show for a competitor’s brand name if you are targeting that as a keyword (scary…)

Is there Any Way to Make it Show all the Time?

No, but there are tricks to make it appear more often that we have been testing.


Can I control 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 the Location of the Searcher Impact Where it Shows?

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.

Can I appear in the 3-pack Twice?

Yes!  In fact, you can actually appear 3 times because the ad in the 3-pack does not replace your regular ad at the top of the page. Check out this example of a business that shows up first as an ad, then you scroll down and she shows twice in the 3-pack as well.

11 Responses to "What You Need to Know About Ads in the 3-Pack"
  1. Eric says:

    Joy – great info, thanks for putting this together.

    I’ve also triggered these in Chrome incognito mode on desktop, but not normal browsing mode.

    You may want to add a section about what happens when you click on the ad…as you probably know it opens the GMB page, and the session basically turns into an organic session at that point (i.e. if I click on the 3-pack ad and then click through to the website, it will show up in Google Analytics as an organic visit).

    I don’t see a clear way to track activity on these ads yet. However, Google says that most of the clicks attributed to the “get location details” click type can be attributed to map ads.

    • Joy Hawkins says:

      Hey Eric,

      Great point. I know if you click the call button it also shows up as a mobile click-to-call. Personally I think that’s the best option.

  2. Here in Florida the ads only show up when you click to see more,in the three pak.

    • Joy Hawkins says:


      I’ve seen them nationwide but only on mobile and there are some searches that don’t show them.

  3. Joe Sinclar says:

    Great summary. Could I setup as anConsultant a Call only ads for a Client’s listing (as long as I have access to the email of the GMB page) and change the phone number on the ad so I can track it. ?

    • Nikki McLean says:

      Great question! Yes, you can use a third-party call tracking phone number on a call-only ad. When you create a new call-only ad, you’ll manually input the business name, phone number, description and URL. When you create your ad, you’ll also want to enable call reporting in AdWords and set a conversion action.

  4. robert lane says:

    I’m now seeing this rolled out to other industries and on desktop. Anyone else? Anyone have insight into getting an ad into the 3-pack? We show up regularly in the maps and “more places” sections of search, but I’m not seeing anything related to the 3-pack ads.

  5. Blair says:

    Sometimes the ad shows as a 4 pack. Sometimes the ad will not show until the more places button is pressed. Is there any control over which one it shows in?

    • Hi Blair,
      Thanks for this great question! The short answer is no, there’s no way to guarantee a spot. Google will show the best ad depending on the searcher’s query. In my experience, when there’s an ad in the local pack and more when you click “More Places”, the top ad is the same ad from the local pack. To improve your chances of showing in the local pack and not just the Map listings, try raising your bid and adding location-targeted keywords!

  6. John says:

    “There are tricks to make it appear more often that we have been testing.” Okay, what works?

    • Hi John,

      Currently there’s nothing an advertiser can do to make the local pack ad appear more often. We recommend you optimize your keywords for your target area, use specific location targeting (Campaign > Settings > Locations) and bid by location. To bid by location, you can create a target radius around your synced Google My Business location and increase the bid adjustment:

      1. Click the Campaigns tab.
      2. Click the name of the campaign that you’d like to edit.
      3. Click the Settings tab.
      4. Under “Locations,” Edit link.
      5. Click Advanced search in the settings box that appears.
      6. At the top of the window, click Location groups.
      7. From the “Choose location group type” drop-down menu, select My Locations. Then enter the radius you’d like to target around each of your locations.
      8. Click Add. Click Done.
      9. Increase the bid adjustment for this location.

      Google has also suggested enabling Search Partners (Campaign > Settings > Networks: Edit to include Search Partners).
      Good luck!

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