The key to a healthy Google Shopping campaign is a product feed free of errors, warnings and notifications.
If left unaddressed, these pesky errors can turn into an even bigger headache -- account suspension, which can put a real damper on your product marketing. To help you avoid these, we've compiled a list of the most common Google Merchant Center errors we see here at GodataFeed--as well as ways to fix them.
But first, let's look at the three types of flags in Google Merchant Center.
Errors are the most serious Merchant Center flags. They usually indicate item disapproval or account suspension. Errors will prevent products from appearing in Google Shopping searches.
Warnings won't cause account suspension or item disapproval. They can, however, negatively affect performance of your product listing ads. It is also possible they might eventually lead to item disapproval or even account suspension.
This is a suggestion to optimize your product information to get data quality to the next level. It won't impede your products from showing, but Google is letting you know that product data is subpar.
1. Incorrect price
Google crawls your website to ensure that the prices you are submitting in your feed match those that are on your website. If it sees any discrepancies, those products will be disapproved. There are several reasons for this error. Maybe you haven't submitted a fresh feed in a while or maybe you are sending the regular price as opposed to the sale price or vice versa.
The Fix: First and foremost, submit a fresh feed everyday. That way, Google will receive your most up-to-date, accurate data. Check your price and sale price fields. If your sale is no longer going on and you are still sending the sale price, then this is where the discrepancy is occurring. To eliminate this in the future, you can use the "sale price effective date" field in the feed to indicate when the sale is going on. If you are using data feed management software, you can create rules to ensure that you are sending the sale price when the product is on sale and the original price when the product is not on sale.
2. URLs do not belong to your website
The product URL you are sending in your feed must match exactly that of the domain you claimed within your merchant center account. This is a common error for Shopify merchants as they are automatically given a Shopify-hosted domain name containing “.myshopify.com” When setting up a Google Merchant account, merchants often claim their custom domain name as opposed to the one provided by Shopify, causing the discrepancy.
The Fix: You can either change the domain name claimed within Google Merchant Center or use data feed software to create a simple replace-text rule that removes the "myshopify" from your main URL. You can learn more about this error in our previous blog post.
3. Policy violation
Google has content restrictions in place that every merchant must pay close attention to. For example, Google does not allow the promotion of any products that they consider dangerous, including firecrackers, ammunition, ammunition belts and switchblades. Many merchants overlook these restrictions as they are used to selling items like these on their website or across other channels.
The Fix: Remove all restricted products from your data feed. Software can make this tedious process much less of a pain, allowing you to filter out products based on fields in your data. For example, you can create a rule to only submit products where "Name" does not contain "knife."
4. Incorrect availability
Google has three accepted values for availability: in stock, out of stock or preorder. If you are submitting a product as in-stock when it shows as out of stock on your website, your item will face disapproval.
The Fix: Submit a fresh feed -- daily feed submissions are crucial. This could be another case of Google not receiving the most up-to-date data. If you are still seeing a discrepancy then compare the availability of the products in the feed file to the availability of products on the website. If you're automating feed submissions, you can create custom rules based on your stock quantity field in your data. These rules will automatically label a product as out of stock if the quantity field you are mapping drops below 1.
5. Item requires a GTIN
With Google cracking down on GTIN values, it is important to get your feed up to speed. While this is only a warning as of now, it will be upgraded to an error after May 16, 2016.
The Fix: Make sure you are providing an accurate GTIN for all products that require them. Not sure if your products require a GTIN? Check out Google’s UPC guideline. To find your product's GTIN, you can try taking a look at the barcode. If you still aren't having any luck, then reach out to the product's manufacturer.
6. Product pages cannot be accessed
If Google cannot access the product page URLs in your feed, they will disapprove the affected products. It's possible that some of your URLs are resulting in a 404 error or that your website was not accessible during the time Google was attempting to access it. You can view more potential reasons here.
The Fix: If your URLs are resulting in a 404 error, carefully review them to see what is causing them to break. You can create rules within your data feed software to build your URLs based on various fields in your data. For example, if your URL is missing your product code, you can append that to the end of the URL. If the URL in your data feed contains an extra value, like an extra "/", you can create a replace-text rule to remove this value. Once you make the URL updates, it can take up to 48 hours for the products to be reinserted into Google.
7. Missing description
While we don't see this issue a lot over here at GoDataFeed as our validation tool picks up this error, this is common for merchants submitting their feed manually. According to Google, a quality description can actually boost your ad performance -- so get to writing!
The Fix: There are a couple of routes you can take here. You can either add descriptions to your missing products or you can use the product's name as its description. Make sure the description doesn't contain any promotional text, like "free shipping." For more information on Google's editorial guidelines, click here. If you want to avoid doing this manually, data feed software can automate the process of using another field as the description.
8. Invalid shipping & tax
Oftentimes, we see that merchants simply forget to set up their shipping and tax information within Google Merchant Center. You can set this up either at the account level or with item-level overrides. From our experience, it is more common for merchant's to set this up within the account itself.
The Fix: Go to Settings > Tax to set up tax information in your merchant center, then go to Settings > Shipping to set up shipping rules. Need help setting up these rules? You can reference Google's help center here.
9. Unknown 'google product category' value
Again, this is not a common error that we see here at GoDataFeed as our template provides merchants with an automated way to categorize their products. Google will only accept their predefined taxonomy values for the "google_product_category" field. You can view the taxonomy here.
Another important thing to note is that Google will occasionally update their taxonomy. To ensure that your products are in the most accurate categories, it is important to keep up to date with any taxonomy changes.
The Fix: Be sure to use Google's predefined taxonomy and not category values specific to your store. Even if your product falls into multiple categories, only use one. If you've done this long enough, you know the categorization process can be tedious. That's why GoDataFeed provides an automated solution to quickly and efficiently get those categories up and running.
10. Invalid images
Google requires an image for all products in your data feed. You may receive this error if your images result in a 404 error, if they point to a web page as opposed to an actual image or if the image is not in an accepted format. Acceptable formats include JPEG, a non-animated GIF, PNG, TIFF or BMP. Also, it is important to note that apparel items require an image of at least 250 x 250 pixels.
The Fix: Always check your image URLs before you send them in a feed to ensure that they take you to the product's image and that they follow Google's requirements.
The longer you wait to fix Google Merchant Center errors, the more you miss out on impressions and sales. So don't wait. Use the info above to clean up your in tip-top shape. Go. Do it now!