A well organized product data feed is the foundation for advertising your products in Google Shopping, and in more ways than one can either make or break your overall shopping campaign performance. Not only should you take measures to optimize your product feed, but you’ll also need to ensure the continued compliance of your product data to Google Merchant Center policy.
The latter is an all too often overlooked aspect of managing successful Google Shopping campaigns.
When product data no longer aligns with Google policy, items will become disapproved and ineligible to receive any impressions. This could easily cost you valuable search traffic and ultimately sales.
And in the worst case scenarios you could end up with a full Merchant Center Account suspension.
Types of Merchant Center Errors
First, let’s go over the different types of product-level errors reported in Merchant Center, as not every one means disapproval.
This is the least severe of the three errors you’ll see in Merchant Center, and this one technically wouldn’t qualify as a real “issue,” in the technical sense.
Notifications will appear with a blue icon, and are more of a recommendation for optimization from Google. This may be add more to your description, include non-required fields, and more.
These are nothing you NEED to work on, but they’re worth reviewing and acting on where possible.
A warning isn’t quite as severe as a disapproval, but the products will be limited in its potential exposure in search ads until you make adjustments. They are marked with a yellow icon next to the issue in your Diagnostics.
If you fail to address the warning presented by Google Merchant Center you run the risk of item disapprovals and/or account suspensions.
So although a warning isn’t the worst thing you could see, you’ll need to act sooner rather than later before it leads to a potentially much worse situation.
Disapprovals are the most severe issues present in your product data feed. If a product or products are disapproved, this means they are ineligible to receive impressions and clicks in Google Shopping ads results.
These are the issues that you will want to prioritize first in terms of taking action when you’re reviewing your Google Merchant Center account, and will be marked with a red icon.
Products are disapproved because they fail to comply with a Google policy and/or they don’t meet the required Google Product Data Specifications.
There are many reasons why products can be disapproved, and something merchants run into very often. Let’s go over some of the most common disapproval reasons and how you can fix them.
Promotional overlay on image [image link]
Google requires all product images shown in Shopping ads are clear of any overlay text or graphics. That’s why when their bots crawl images and detect these obstacles, products are disapproved.
“Since clear images of a product help to inform online shoppers, all items on Shopping ads and free listings require an image with an unobstructed view of the product that does not contain additional promotional elements,” says Google.
How To Fix This Issue
To fix this, you’ll need to re-submit your product data feed with updated image links after you’ve updated your primary product image to no longer include any overlays.
There are a couple of different ways you can go about this.
- You can simply change the primary image you submit to Google to be a different option (if you have multiples for the product) so that the image link you submit to Merchant Center is clear of overlays.
- You can do some work in Photoshop, or whatever photo editing software you use, and edit our the overlays off the image.
However you go about fixing your images, you’ll need to your product(s) won’t be approved again until you’ve resubmitted your product feed to Google Merchant Center.
Again, there are a couple of different ways to go about this depending on how your feed is curated.
If you manually submit a feed, you’ll need to paste in the newly updated image’s link into the image_link field of your feed.
If you submit an API feed, like with the Sales & Orders feed tool, this process will be automated.
PRO TIP: If you’re using the Sales & Orders feed management platform, one way to change your image link manually is creating a rule in the Feed Rules section:
(Learn More About Our Feed Management Platform)
Invalid value [availability]
Availability is one of several fields in a product data feed that has predefined accepted values. They are:
- In stock [in_stock]
- Out of stock [out_of_stock]
- Preorder [preorder]
- Backorder [backorder]
Note: the values in the brackets are how the values must be input in the data feed for Google to accept them.
With this in mind, if you’re not submitting one of the above values for the availability field in your product data feed in Google Merchant Center, your items will be disapproved.
How To Fix This Issue
This one is fairly straightforward. If you see a disapproval for this reason you’ll need to review your data feed and adjust the submitted values for this field.
If you’re submitting “available/unavailable,” “yes/no,” or anything else besides the accepted Google values the products will be disapproved.
The Sales & Orders feed management platform automatically inputs the correct values for this field when building your product feed. This ensures continued compliance.
And in the event that an issue were present, you could easily remedy it by creating a feed rule.
Mismatched [price] (page crawl)
Simply put, if the price on your page and the price in your data feed don’t match than your product(s) will be disapproved.
This occurs when you make a change to your price on your landing page, but fail to reflect the same update in your data feed.
Google is strict on this one to ensure there are no deceptive marketing tactics being deployed via Shopping ads by misleading searchers into clicking through with an incorrect price that may be more enticing than the true value.
Another common cause for this is retailers selling in bulk. Google requires that the minimum order price of the bulk order is reflected as the price rather than the per unit price.
For example, if the minimum order is 25 units and the price is $2 per unit you would have to show at least $50 as your price rather than $2. Continued failure to do so could result in an account-level suspension.
How To Fix This Issue
Beyond the obvious manual adjustment of your feed, you may want to consider enabling Automatic Item Updates in your Google Merchant Center account.
(Automatic Item Updates can be enabled in your Google Merchant Center settings)
Enabling this feature will allow Google to automatically fetch and update this field, although this is not meant to be an end all be all fix for the problem. It is meant more as a temporary fix according to Google.
The best way to avoid this issue is to generate your product feed via a tool that will sync your landing page and feed dynamically, like the Sales & Orders feed management platform does.
Missing Value [Size]/[Color]/[Gender]/[Age Group]
The Size, Color, Gender, and Age Group fields are required for most products that fall into the Apparel & Accessories product category when advertising Google Shopping ads in:
- United Kingdom
- United States
Basically, if you are advertising apparel products in these countries and any of these fields aren’t filled in or are incorrectly labeled your products will be disapproved.
There are some specifics within sub-categories of products for each field, and for those you should refer to Google’s Product Data Specifications (individual links included above).
Gender and Age Group both have predefined accepted values, but Size and Color do not.
For Gender the accepted values are:
For Age Group the accepted values are:
- Newborn [newborn]
0-3 months old. Newborn sizes are often identified by the age range in months (0–3) or just “newborn.”
- Infant [infant]
3–12 months old. Infant sizes are often identified by the age range in months (3–12).
- Toddler [toddler]
1–5 years old. Toddler sizes are often identified by the age range in months (12–24) or years (1–5).
- Kids [kids]
5–13 years old. Children’s sizes are often identified by the age range in years (5-13).
- Adult [adult]
Typically teens or older (13 years old or more). All sizes within this age group have been manufactured to fit an adult or teen.
When entering color and size, you’ll want to keep as close to the popular verbiage as possible. For example, with color the best practice is to have the primary color i.e. red, blue, black, etc. rather than overly abstract names.
With size, you’ll want to be stick with traditional verbiage like small (s), medium (m), large (l), etc.
How To Fix These Issues
Review your diagnostics in Google Merchant Center, and find which products need addressing. From there, be sure you either change fields to the predefined accepted values or complete the fields that are empty.
In the Sales & Order feed management platform, you are able to create rules to edit these fields in bulk. Additionally, when creating the rule, if you are editing a field that has predefined accepted values, you can choose which one you want to apply rather than writing it out.
Image Too Small
Believe it or not, this is an issue we see quite often, especially when retailers add new products to their catalog.
Most of the time, apparel products will be disapproved because the requirements are different from all other categories.
For apparel products, the minimum image size is 250 pixels x 250 pixels while everything else is 100 pixels x 100 pixels.
How To Fix This Issue
If the image is too small, and you don’t have access to the full size original, you may want to consider retaking the product photo entirely so you don’t damage the image integrity.
When you increase the size of an image that is too small you run the risk of warping it and damaging its overall quality, thus potentially negatively impacting your performance in Google Shopping ads results.
Once you adjust the size of your image, reupload it to your website and update the image link field in your feed to reflect the change.
When using the Sales & Orders feed management platform, any image updates will dynamically import from the site into our system when we regenerate your feed nightly for submission to Google Merchant Center.
Excessive capitalization [title]
One thing Google doesn’t like is overly aggressive advertising techniques being utilized in their interface.
This is exemplified in their disapproval of products that contain excessive capitalization in their titles.
Beyond the first letter of each word or abbreviations, nothing else should be capitalized in a product title. If Google spots anything else, your products will be disapproved.
They want to maintain user trust in their system by regulating sellers who could be seen as spammy or fishy that use these tactics.
How To Fix This Issue
You’ll have to create a title that abides by Google’s requirements. Any products that are disapproved for this reason will have to be adjusted.
There are a couple of ways to do this in the Sales & Orders app depending on how you want to change your titles.
You can create a Feed Rule that applies all items in your feed, or filter a select number of items you want to edit, and select the Capitalize To Human option. This will trigger the tool to capitalize the first letter in every title the rule will affect.
When running Shopping ads with the Sales & Orders platform, you can utilize search term data to create a hyper relevant title on each product individually.
Though this may take a bit longer, you can address this issue by simply writing in your own title with the Keyword Injector Tool.
You build a title using the heat map, or just type it in yourself manually. Either way, the title will save to your feed and update in Merchant Center.
These are some of the most common causes for product disapprovals in Google Merchant Center. There, or course, are others as well.
If you run into issues that you’re having trouble resolving yourself, utilizing a dynamic product data feed optimization platform, like Sales & Orders, can help you not only with your generating your feed, but assisting your via support channels as well.