Learn how to fix Google Merchant Center disapprovals — and get tips to avoid future headaches — in this no-nonsense guide.
Here, you’ll find:
- What Google Merchant Center disapprovals are
- Common GMC errors
- Steps to take after GMC disapproves your product
- FAQs about Google Merchant Center disapprovals
Who’s clicking ‘add to cart’ these days? Pretty much everyone — 98% of people, according to Google.
So it’s no wonder Google Shopping Ads are so popular. They drive over three-quarters of retail ad spend.
But then, cue the awkward record scratch: Looks like the Google Merchant Center (GMC) just disapproved your product. Now what?
Turns out, this happens to a lot of brands.
So we chatted with ecommerce PPC whiz and our associate director of SEM Rachel Corak to deliver the 411 on navigating Google Merchant Center product disapproval.
With our trusty trips, you’ll better dodge them going forward.
What are Google Merchant Center disapprovals?
Google Merchant Center disapprovals occur when Google rejects your product listing for breaking their rules (and they’ve got a laundry list of them). The Google Merchant Center is an online retail platform where brands can upload Google Shopping Ads product listings manually to, or sync them up with, ecommerce apps like Shopify or BigCommerce.
Now, what does a Merchant Center disapproval mean for your brand? Corak says at worst, it’s a hit on your ROI:
“If your top-selling products are disapproved in the Merchant Center, this can have significant ROI implications since you would no longer be serving the products with the highest conversion rates.”
Stick around and we’ll show you how to resolve a disapproval pronto. But remember, Corak’s best practice is to avoid them in the first place. Even if you successfully dispute a disapproved product, she says it usually takes a few hours for your product to find its way back to the SERPs.
So, why does the Google Merchant Center play hard to get with product approvals anyway?
7 common Google Merchant Center errors
Think back to your own shopping experience — ever been duped by an ad?
An advertisement has to be true, first and foremost. If you decided to purchase a product listed for $19.99 but then got slapped with a $39.99 charge, you’d probably be fuming.
What if you purchased a designer item that ended up being a knock-off? These are just some of the issues that could get your products benched by Google.
But it’s not always about the purchase. Google’s also got an eagle eye on the customer’s browsing experience. So if a picture looks too blurry or a product description feels too vague? Yep, those are also fair game for disapproval.
Bottom line: Google is a tough cookie when it comes to product feeds. They’ll disapprove listings for any of the following policy violations.
1. Product identification (product ID)
How do you distinguish one product from another? Sure, different product titles are a good start.
But in the eyes of Google Merchant Center, you’ll need more robust unique product identifiers. You might use a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), brand name, or Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) as unique product identifiers. But if that number is absent or inconsistent with your brand attribute submitted, that’s a red flag for Google.
Corak says GTIN mix-ups are a frequent culprit for disapproval, especially since brands don’t realize they can buy them online for a steal.
Another issue: excessive capitalization. Google says shouting text raises a red flag and screams gimmick. Going overboard with caps reminds them (and your customers) of those spam emails that nobody likes. So, review your ad copy, meta description, and product titles to ensure your ad’s letter case is appropriate.
After all, writing compelling ad copy that resonates with your target audience speaks way louder than caps.
2. Issues with product images
A picture’s worth a thousand clicks. So, imagine the crickets when audiences see “no image available.” We wouldn’t dream of such a faux pas for an ecommerce retailer’s ad campaigns. Plus, Google will flag that as a generic image — a recipe for product disapproval.
Image size is also important. Google prefers a clean, white background with your product filling between 75%-90% of the space. Check out more image guidelines here.
3. Promotional overlay
Your brand is already shown as a product attribute in the ad, so there’s no need (or permission) for extra bells and whistles like watermarks or CTAs in your product photos. Google also cautions against the following categories of phrases across your product photos:
- Warranty information
- Price or product information
- Adjectives like best or cheap
- Condition information
- Free shipping
- Product availability
Don’t worry; you have lots of space to include all the goodies your product offers within the product description and attributes.
4. Shipping issues and incorrect prices
Price errors will give your ad the ax, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You need to comb through shipping prices for each target country if you want Google’s nod of approval to maintain your product listing.
Watch out for incorrect tax information too, especially for international ecommerce businesses.
5. Missing values or invalid values
If your Google product category (GPC) attribute doesn’t match other product categories on Google, you might be asking for trouble. Make sure every product has a brand value or, in the case of generics, your store or supplier name.
Google’s also on the lookout for missing details, like gender, size, color, and age group — all potential reasons for item disapproval.
6. Incorrect URLs
We know how much effort you put into your landing page, but what if your would-be customer hits that dreaded 404-error page? Major buzzkill. Make sure you test out every image link before launching your campaign, and maintain a regular audit schedule to avoid broken links that arise from updates.
7. Poor maintenance
Let’s say you uploaded your product with all these things in mind. Then fast forward three months, and you still receive a product disapproval. What gives? Corak stresses that regularly updating your data feed is just as crucial as setting it up right in the first place:
“It’s very common to see product disapprovals as a result of product feeds that are not being updated appropriately.”
Too swamped to stay on top of it? We get it. Corak says that’s where partnering with a Google Ads agency like HawkSEM can lighten your load of Merchant Center tasks:
“Our Google Shopping feed specialists regularly audit Google Merchant Center accounts to identify any issues that arise and advise on optimization opportunities. This is a unique specialty and offering that is not commonly provided by other agencies.”
But in the meantime? Corak says automation via API, XML feed, or various apps is a must:
“As a best practice, we recommend an automated route that updates on a daily basis and connects directly to your online store, so that it only sends the most up-to-date product data to the Merchant Center.”
By now, you probably have a good idea what’s holding up your product listing. Let’s address your product disapprovals, stat.
5 steps to take after the Google Merchant Center disapproves your product
Here, we’ll walk you through everything you can do to get your products back on your customers’ radars ASAP.
1. Assess Google’s warnings
The Google Merchant Center won’t take your ads off the SERPs right away. If they notice an issue, they’ll email you with a warning first. Read the warning thoroughly to identify the issues and note the timeline offered to fix disapproved products on your account.
Warnings also appear on your Merchant Center Account Diagnostics page, under Account Issues, They’ll appear as yellow icon notifications with accompanying text like “poor quality image.”
While you’re in the warning phase, your Shopping Ads will still appear on the SERPs. But if you don’t take any action by the deadline they’ve laid out, it’s a matter of time till your product listings are taken down.
See any red-icon warnings on your Diagnostics page? These warrant your full attention. Red-icon warnings are serious flags that mean your products have already been taken off the SERPS or worse—you’re staring down an account suspension. Ignore these for too long and your Google Shopping campaigns will start to take a hit, along with your return-on-ad-spend (ROAS).
Pro tip: Don’t wait around for Google’s email. Make it a habit to check your Diagnostics page. Factor in a review at the account level monthly or biweekly to get ahead of potential disapprovals.
2. Update your products and request a review
Did Google flag an inconsistent GTIN? Or perhaps an image that was too small? Whatever the issue, the time frame in that warning email is your window to make things right.
Don’t go it alone, either. Make sure you have a second (or third) set of eyes to review each product before submitting them back to Google. Once you’re confident that everything has been updated, you can hit up Google Support for a courtesy review to confirm your product attributes, values, and details are up to par.
But what happens if you don’t request a review? As long as you’ve ironed out all the kinks, Google will lift the warning. However, if you haven’t, they’ll pull the plug on your account and take down all your products from Shopping ads, local listings, free listings, and inventory ads.
3. Consider automation and other solutions suggested by Google
Google’s courtesy review will offer ideas to resolve your product issues. According to Corak, they’ll point you in one of two directions:
- Whip up a new product feed with Google’s specifications
- Opt into an automated solution like the web crawl feed
But she cautions against thinking a courtesy review solves all your problems:
“While the web crawl feed is an acceptable solution in the short term, they are typically not optimized for search and often experience issues regardless, depending on the structure of the website.”
That’s because Google tends to use a one-size-fits-all approach. But here’s the thing: your online store’s site structure isn’t the same as everyone else. That means it needs a little extra TLC to bounce back to its original SERP ranking.
4. Get familiar with the Google Merchant Center guidelines
The ultimate trick to dodging product disapprovals? Don’t get flagged in the first place.
Easier said than done, we know. Your marketing team needs to have a solid grasp on Google’s playbook if they want to sidestep warnings and disapprovals. Take time to review some of the available resources from Google:
Don’t have the time or patience to sift through all of Google’s documentation? No worries. Find a pro who can (Hint: that’s us).
5. Work with Google Shopping Ads experts
Sure, if you follow all these steps, you’ll get your products back on Google’s SERPs in no time. But if you’re aiming for a record-breaking turnaround, Corak says there’s no substitute for teaming up with experts like HawkSEM:
“Our team of feed specialists partner with our other team members to troubleshoot Merchant Center product disapprovals as they arise. This allows for more hands on deck and quicker resolution of product disapprovals.”
Just ask our ecommerce client, 686. We helped them increase year-over-year revenue by a whopping 562% with relentless attention to their Google Shopping campaign’s product feed, high-res photos, and remarketing strategies—without one product disapproval in sight.
We covered a lot, so let’s briefly recap.
FAQs about Google Merchant Center disapprovals
Why are my products disapproved by Google Merchant Center?
Google Merchant Center disapproves products for many reasons, including issues with product identification, missing attributes, poor image quality, outdated product feeds, and missing or inaccurate pricing and shipping information.
How do I fix product data disapproved in Google Merchant Center?
Review the reasons Google offers for your disapproval. You can find this information on your Diagnostics Page or within a warning email. Log into your Google Merchant Center account and correct or add any information requested before submitting for a courtesy review.
What is the Google Merchant Center warning?
Google Merchant Center warnings appear as yellow icons on your Diagnostics page or email reviews from Google. They occur when your product listings on Google Shopping go against Google Shopping policies. Usually, warnings come with a timeframe for you to correct the issue before Google takes your ad down.
Want to crush it in Google Shopping? Step one is making sure your ads are actually live. A Google Merchant Center disapproval can slip past a busy marketer’s sight and cause serious consequences for SERP rankings and ROI. And let’s be real—no ecommerce store owners want that.
Corak sees Google Merchant Center as one of the most nuanced areas of Google Ads account management. The game-changer? Working with a digital marketing agency that knows the ropes and boasts proven results in Google Shopping:
“It’s worth working with a Google Ads agency because product feed and Merchant Center management is complicated.”
We’re talking endless reasons for disapproval, with tons of labor hours monitoring data quality and updating products. Plus, even Google’s own solutions sometimes miss the mark. Juggle that with other ad campaigns and a packed schedule? Google Merchant Center disapproval can seriously torpedo your conversion rate.
With an average of 4.5X ROI per client, seasoned strategists, and niche product feed specialists, HawkSEM is your go-to for avoiding disapprovals or tackling them head-on.
Like Corak says, we go beyond mere onboarding. We set the stage for a Merchant Center strategy that’s as solid as a rock.
Don’t let product feed disapprovals tank your ROI. Let’s make your Shopping Ads shine with more views, clicks, and sales.