Recent changes to the Google Merchant Center could mean suspensions for unwary merchants. Learn about the 5 most common Merchant Center suspensions and how to overcome them.
Any Google Shopping merchant would cringe to find an email in their inbox that begins with the words:
“Dear Google Shopping Merchant,
It has come to our attention that your Google Merchant Center account ID does not comply with our Google Shopping feed specification (available at https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/188494) . . .”
With Google’s recent changes, however, you may see this message more frequently. Today we’ll be covering five common merchant center suspensions and what to do when your product listings are currently at risk of suspension.
1. Using old data after September 30th
On September 30th, Google began enforcing changes to their attribute character limits and availability values. Be mindful of these changes if you only submit your datafeed monthly or are looking to create a feed for the holiday season.
Availability – The only options acceptable values are now “in stock,” “out of stock” and “preorder.” One simple fix to get your products reapproved is to use “Available for Order” updating in the Google Availability section of your Product Settings.
Character Limit Enforcement – Product titles have a 150 maximum character length and descriptions are limited to 5,000 characters; Google will now flag your products if they exceed these limitations. The quickest way to find out which products have content which is too long is to do a standard export to a CSV and use the =len(Cell) function in Excel. After populating your data sort the columns to edit those which are the largest and make your edits before reimporting.
2. Incorrect Images
Widespread problems with your images is the easiest error to spot, but one of the trickier ones to resolve. Google will inform you that “your account is currently at risk of suspension because Google Shopping doesn't allow product listings with inaccurate images. Images containing promotional messages, including watermarks or promotional text, are disallowed. The image must display the product. Image links pointing to the store’s logo or other generic images are not allowed either. Do not submit a placeholder such as "No image".”
An image-related suspension is different from merely having invalid images. A .gif to JPG switch, or crawl error, can be fixed with information from the data quality tab. An image violation suspension requires a manual review of your products by Google’s Shopping Team, so ensure that all problematic SKUS have been updated.
Any product without an image should be excluded from your data feed. Additionally, using a subpar image is also a major (negative) conversation rate influence. If you’re using a default nophoto.gif or watermarked images, revert to the originals or see if your product supplier can provide new images.
3. Unsecure Checkout
Google Shopping policy requires a way for users to purchase the product online through either a payment service or directly from the website.
Payment and transaction processing, as well as processing of any personal information of the user (such as the address), must be secure (SSL-protected, with a valid SSL certificate). In other words, this information must be transmitted securely over a secure processing server (https://).
Even if you’re using PayPal as your sole payment gateway, Google requires a secure checkout process, which requires an SSL. You can help lower your abandoned carts by passing client information through https:// instead of http.
4. No Tax or Shipping
This Merchant Center warning commonly appears after the first successful data feed submission. The Tax and Shipping settings within the Merchant Center act as a “catch all” if you are not submitting this information in the file. The common issue is that they are not enabled, or set to default.
When creating your Tax settings, you have the ability to not charge tax within the United States or to specify the initial states you require. You must choose one of these options to remove Google’s “tax settings not configured” message.
The most common error with shipping settings is that the shipping method status is not set to ACTIVE. Like the Volusion dashboard, you must activate the shipping method you’d like to use. Also, if you offer free shipping, be sure to set it up within the Merchant Center as well. Google cross-references a product’s weight with your shipping settings and must be informed about specials that may override that information.
5. Restricted Products
Advertising an item from Google’s Restricted Product list can result in a Merchant Account suspension. Google bans a large selection of items from Google Shopping, from live animals to passenger planes, though there are smaller items likely to cause problems, particularly with new changes to their “dangerous product” selection.
Items such as airsoft guns, bb guns and ammunition clips are banned, as are tobacco related equipment, which now includes e-cigarettes and pipes. The best way to resolve this type of suspension is to err on the side of caution and filter any products which may be associated with the restricted list.
And remember, if you find yourself in need of technical assistance, consult our Knowledge Base for instruction on product management and more.
-Sean O'Connor, Search Marketing Specialist