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

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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.