The Google 3-Pack Problem

You are probably aware of the Google 3-Pack. For reference, I have included an example below:

The search phrase used was “saskatoon car sales”. As you can see, the results might not be what you would expect. Depending on your browser, search preferences and internet provider, the results could vary.

The most important thing to note is that some of the “BIG” auto players that you would think should show up in Saskatoon, are not.

Our team came across this about 3 months ago. Google made some changes to their search algorithm and one of our clients was impacted. The first thing we did was let them know that something was rotten in Denmark, and then set out to fix it.

Now here’s the thing. “Fixing it” can be quite the challenge with Google at the helm.

What did We Do?

Well, we did a lot, and it took over 2 months to sift through everything, but here is a quick checklist.

1. We checked all competitors

One of the things we do for all of our clients, is track what competitors are doing and how they are ranking. What we found out in this case was that the top competitors were getting penalized the same way. On top of that, sites that shouldn’t be in the 3-pack were.

In fact, one company was in the 3-pack and it did not have any of the following:

  • no website.
  • no facebook page.
  • they had not even claimed their Google Business account!

Jokingly, I told my client that what they should do is stop all marketing, delete their website and all social media accounts and then they would be on top!!


2. We Called Google (seriously)

This was a very painful process. Calling into Google is not something you want to do. We probably spent 10hrs on the phone total and spoke to 5 different departments. At the end of the day, Google told us that everything we were doing was fine, and we would just have to wait.


3. We kept our client updated

The whole thing dragged out over a couple of months. The main reason for this is because we had to wait for Google to send us some signals as we collected data. It is also important to note that you do not want to change too many things at once because Google might view that as suspicious.


4. We implemented some additional SEO ninjitsu

Our crew is always testing and tuning the SEO on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We reviewed the entire site and made some tweaks. I won’t go into the boring details, but one of the changes we made (and we will be making to everyone’s sites) is adding SSL. You can see this in your web browser (see the image below):

You can see in the above image that there is a little lock and the web address starts with https://.

The reason that this helps is because Google gives you points for taking extra measures to make sure that your site is as secure as possible.



The End Results?

It was a combination of waiting for Google and putting in some extra effort. The website is now back in the 3-pack across multiple keywords. In addition to that, several sites that should not have been in the 3-pack are no longer there.

Google will continue to sift and sort, but these are the kind of things that you really want to pay attention to because showing up in the 3-pack is a big deal.


The short version is this:

  1. We saw the pattern across multiple verticals of business. (still seeing it)
  2. We reviewed our compliance (even getting several Google departments on the phone) to make sure we had not made a mistake.
  3. We implemented some “turbo charged” SEO efforts.
  4. We eventually saw our client return to the 3-Pack.

The good news is, we are going to be applying all of these findings to all of our client sites to help out SEO.

– Chris.