Google Shopping offers an amazing opportunity for retailers around the world to drive new customers to their stores.
But in order to take advantage of this great resource - you need to play by Google’s rules.
So what is the first step to doing that?
- Make sure your product feed is in line with Google’s guidelines and properly optimized
Why is the feed so important?
Unlike Google Search Ads, Shopping Ads don’t get triggered by the keywords you choose to bid on.
It is the product data included your feed, that helps Google decide whether your ad should be displayed or not.
The feed is, in fact, the backbone of your Google Shopping Campaign:
- it influences the relevancy of your ads
- it’s a base for campaign segmentation
Have you ever logged onto your Google Merchant Center account only to discover your products have been disapproved?
As the exact cause is not always clear, we’ve seen many Merchants struggling to get their products onto the Google Shopping carousel.
But, fear not! For we have found the solution…
In order to help you get your feeds in great shape, we have created a comprehensive guide on how to tackle some of the most common Google Merchant Center Errors.
After all, what doesn’t kill your feed, will only make it stronger ;)
Table of content:
- How do I identify feed issues?
- DataFeedWatch - Feed Review
- Google Merchant Center - Feed Upload
- Google Merchant Center - Diagnostics
- Errors, warnings, and notifications
- Most Common Google Merchant Center Errors
- #1 Missing or incorrect required attribute [price]
- #2 Missing shipping information
- #3 Invalid or missing GTIN value
- #4 Insufficient product identifiers: Missing two out of three attributes [GTIN, Brand, MPN]
- #5 Product identifiers provided, but ‘identifier_exists’ set to false
- #6 Invalid or missing required attribute [color]
- #7 Unknown 'google product category' value
- #8 Invalid or missing required attribute: availability
- #9 Encoding problem in attribute: description
- #10 Item disapproved due to policy violation
- Recommended further reads
How do I identify feed issues?
Identifying and troubleshooting feed issues can be quite cumbersome at times. It gets much easier once you know where to look for key information.
Let’s take a look at a few resources that can help us get on the right track with our product feed:
DataFeedWatch - Feed Review
Why fix the Google Merchant Center errors if you could avoid them in the first place?
If you’d like to check your Google Shopping feed for potential errors prior to submitting products - here’s a way to do it!
DataFeedWatch Feed Review is a separate tab in your Channel Mapping Interface. Request a channel feed review, and verify whether product data you’re about to send to Google Shopping is complete.
The review will check your feed for the following:
- Missing data: are the required or optional fields populated with values?
- Uniqueness validator: Do your unique identifiers, SKU, UPC, have duplicates?
- GTIN validator: this feature checks if your GTINs are valid
- Pre-defined fields validator: this feature checks if fields with predefined values are mapped correctly
There is a list of affected items provided for each potential issue. This is accessible in the form of a summary and a downloadable report.
Google Merchant Center - Feed Upload
The very first thing Google does once your feed is uploaded is to check for basic product data correctness. If issues are found, they will provide you with a brief report summarizing the errors.
Items that successfully pass this verification, will enter the next stage of the review process. The 2nd phase can expose issues undetected during initial processing.
For a complete overview - refer to the Diagnostics section.
Google Merchant Center - Diagnostics
‘Diagnostics’ is a separate section in Google Merchant Center, accessible from the side navigation bar. It offers detailed issue reporting across your account & feeds.
Diagnostics show all the errors, warnings, and notifications that need to be addressed to make your products eligible for Google Shopping. Along with a full report on affected items, which you can download as CSV.
Errors, warnings, and notifications
When uploading your products to Google Merchant Center account, you might come across different kind of feed issues.
They could vary by severity - some issues might turn out fatal for your Product Listing Ads, some may represent an opportunity to improve feed quality.
⇒ ERRORS (marked with the red icon):
Errors indicate critical feed issues. They lead to product disapprovals and, consequently, prevent you from showing ads of the affected items.
In some cases, errors might result in account suspension and disrupt your marketing efforts for a longer period of time.
Bottom line - better stay clear of errors! And if you do get them, make sure to place them right on top of your priority list for fixing feed issues.
⇒ WARNINGS (marked with the yellow icon):
Warnings are far less severe than errors, and typically don’t cause Google to reject your items.
Those issues will negatively impact feed quality and can decrease the performance of the affected items in your shopping campaign.
If warnings remain unaddressed for a long time, they might at some point also lead to product disapprovals.
⇒ NOTIFICATIONS (marked with the blue icon)
You can treat the notifications simply as tips from Google.
They let you know which parts of your product feed could use adjustments for better ads performance.
It’s not required to follow these recommendations, but why say ‘no’ to a suggestion coming straight from the horse’s mouth?
Now that we have clarity on what each type of issue indicates, let’s dig in and take a closer look at some of the most common Google Merchant Center issues. And how to resolve them efficiently!
Most Common Google Merchant Center Errors
#1 Missing or incorrect required attribute [price]
Price plays a key role in Product Listing Ads - no need to convince anyone of that. But how do you get the price attribute right in your feed?
We will consider 2 possible reasons you might have received this error:
Read on to find out how you can get those resolved :)
- No currency assigned
If ‘missing price’ error is accompanied by another one: ‘Unsupported currency in attribute price’ - there’s a high likelihood that both errors have their source in missing currency.
You may have sent over the correct prices, but including the currency is just as important.
Solution: specify currency
To add currency in the feed - proceed to ‘Edit values’, and use ‘add a suffix’ option. Remember to include the currency code (USD) and not the sign ($).
You may also assign currency directly in Google Merchant Center, in the feed settings section:
- Incorrect prices provided / No price provided
It’s a common misbelief that Google displays this error due to discrepancies between the prices provided and those found in your online shop.
In truth, being one of the initial error messages you receive upon uploading your feed - the issue is connected with not fulfilling Google’s basic requirements for the price attribute.
Unsupported price values:
• blank field;
• used an incorrect input field to map the prices
Solution: correct the mapping for price attribute
First step - check the report for affected items and review your current mapping.
You may do so in the ‘Include/Exclude products’ section by setting up a rule based on price:
⇒ If you don't offer free products you might have used the wrong input field.
As many shopping carts have multiple fields for pricing, such as ‘price’, ‘retail_price’, ‘special_price’, ‘compare_at_price’, it’s not hard to get confused as to which one you should use.
In DataFeedWatch, you can review all the price fields we downloaded from your store in the ‘Show products’ section and pick the one with correct pricing.
Then, in the mapping panel, assign the selected price field.
#2 Missing shipping information:
If you receive this error it simply means you’ve neglected to provide your shipping rates to Google. It’s a required attribute for all Merchants, no matter the location or vertical. It also applies to retailers offering free shipping.
Solution: add shipping details
Missing shipping issue can be resolved easily and there are a few ways to do it:
1. You can quickly add shipping information to your feed in DataFeedWatch - navigate to ‘Edit Feed’ and scroll down to the ‘Shipping’ section. Then, specify location and rate.
If you offer free shipping make sure to enter 0.00 in the price field, as it will only accept numeric values.
2. In case you require more complex shipping set up, for example - shipping cost depends on product’s weight, and:
a) rates are determined by yourself: you can adjust the rule by adding IF statements
b) rates are calculated by the shipping carrier: set up the shipping info directly in your Merchant account (see point below)
Tip: In such case - remember to include the ‘shipping_weight’ attribute in your feed ( in ‘Optional fields’).
3. There is a separate tab in the Google Merchant Center dedicated to shipping settings. You will find it on the side navigation bar, right below ‘Tax’.
To add shipping - click the + sign and complete the necessary steps.
Here you can find further instructions from Google on this process
#3 Invalid or missing GTIN value:
* Just in case you’re wondering what GTIN is and how you can get it - here’s an article for you.
Currently, Google requires GTIN for all new products, which have had the GTIN assigned by the manufacturer.
⇒ Google uses GTIN to better understand and classify your products. Thanks to that, your ads are showing for more relevant searches, which equals increased Conversion Rate.
And the icing on this GTIN’s cake? :)
It contributes to a higher quality score, which in the result helps you save up on CPC.
Now that we’re familiar with the perks, let’s move onto the potential causes & solutions of the GTIN error:
A. Invalid GTIN issue
Google verifies all the GTINs submitted and will notify you if yours are incorrect. It might be a matter of missing or additional characters in the code - the only way to learn would be to check the error report.
If the GTINs seem alright to you, try contacting the manufacturer to request an up-to-date list of GTINs.
Solution: adjusting GTIN mapping
Various mapping functionalities in DataFeedWatch can help you get your GTINs in order.
Let us consider the 2 most common examples:
→ Example 1:
If GTINs contains additional characters, eg. letters which shouldn’t be included - remove them in ‘Edit values’.
Enter the exact characters you wish to remove or use a regular expression if appropriate.
The above rule would remove any letter-characters present in the GTIN field.
→ Example 2:
Thirteen-digit EAN codes usually start with a 0, perhaps you’re missing it for some products?
You can add a prefix to any GTIN that doesn’t start with a 0:
B. Missing GTIN issue
The GTINs haven’t been provided within the feed? Let’s populate this field!
Solution: populate the GTIN attribute
Here’s how you can include GTINs in the feed:
⇒ Match the GTIN field with a corresponding attribute from your store. Depending on your shopping cart, it might be ‘barcode’, ‘upc’, ‘GTIN’ or something else.
A simple ‘Rename’-rule will be enough.
⇒ Your source file doesn’t contain GTINs?
No problem, you can provide them using a ‘look-up table’:
In a csv file, or Google Spreadsheet fill in 2 columns:
• 1st column should contain an attribute that could be used for item identification in DataFeedWatch.
Good choices might be variant_id, SKU, mpn.
• 2nd column will contain the GTIN
Back to top or Schedule a demo with our team of Feed Experts
#4 Insufficient product identifiers: Missing two out of three attributes [GTIN, Brand, MPN]
Receiving this error doesn’t necessarily mean you’re missing exactly 2 identifiers. And surprisingly, it’s also tied to ‘identifier_exists’.
⇒ For those of you unfamiliar with ‘identifier_exists’:
Identifier_exists’ attribute tells Google whether universal identifiers (brand, GTIN & mpn) are available for your products. Accepted predefined values are: ‘false’ / ‘no’ and ‘true’ / ‘yes’.
And heads up - chances are you’re not gonna come across this attribute in your feed.
It’s an optional field which only has to be included if set to ‘false’. Whenever not submitted, Google will assume it’s default value - ‘TRUE’.
Seeing the error means that ‘identifier_exists’ field is set to ‘TRUE’, which amounts to stating you have the identifiers. And Google is expecting you to deliver on that word…
We will consider 3 solutions here:
- provide identifiers when ‘identifier_exists’ is TRUE
- set ‘identifier_exists’ to FALSE (for items without any identifiers assigned)
- identifier_exists value differs per product
Now, let’s see how we could get out of this pickle! ;)
A. Solution: provide identifiers when ‘identifier exists’ is TRUE
Identifier_exists’ set to ‘true’ obligates you to provide at least 2 out of the 3 attributes.
Possible combinations are:
• Brand + GTIN
• Brand + mpn
• Brand + GTIN + mpn
→ Apparel products:
In most cases, providing ‘brand’ field, unaccompanied by the other 2 identifiers, should be enough to satisfy Google’s requirements
→ GTIN is assigned:
If GTIN has been assigned to your products by the manufacturer - it should be submitted with the feed at all time. Even if you’ve decided to go for ‘Brand + mpn’ combo.
B. Solution: set ‘identifier_exists’ to FALSE
Examples of products without identifiers could be:
→ products you’re the only seller of
→ vintage items
→ custom-made goods
If identifiers don’t exist for your products - set the ‘identifier_exists’ field to FALSE.
Do not submit any of the following attributes: brand, mpn, GTIN.
This fix can be applied quickly across your feed:
1. Select ‘identifier_exists’ from ‘Optional fields’ and assign a static value of ‘FALSE’.
2. Make sure that brand, GTIN & mpn are not included in the feed:
⇒ remove them from the feed
⇒ use ‘leave empty’ mapping type
Note: Submitting any one of the identifiers while ‘identifier_exists’ is set to FALSE will lead to receiving another error in your Google Merchant Center: ‘Product identifiers provided, but ‘identifier_exists’ set to false’.
C. Solution: identifier_exists value differs per product
You may have product groups for which identifiers exist and other ones without any identifiers.
In such cases, you can set up rules with additional conditions to ensure accuracy for every item.
Let’s say you have:
• the brand attribute available for all products
• mpn & GTIN are only assigned to selected items
Here’s how the rules could be structured for individual fields:
⇒ ‘GTIN’ & ‘mpn’:
Match them with appropriate attributes from your store, without additional ‘IF statements’.
#5 Product identifiers provided, but ‘identifier_exists’ set to false
As mentioned before (see error #4), the ‘identifier_exists’ field informs Google whether your items have the unique identifiers.
The error means that you’ve submitted at least one of the above attributes while informing Google that your products lack identifiers (‘identifier_exists’ = false). As those are contradictory information - you receive the error.
Solution: adjust ‘identifier_exists’ and relevant attributes
⇒ If identifiers are available for your products:
change the ‘idetifier_exists’ value to TRUE and ensure the set-up of the relevant attributes is correct.
(See the previous point, in which we covered the solution in detail)
⇒ If brand, mpn or GTIN was submitted by mistake or containing invalid information:
remove those fields from your feed, or change mapping type to ‘leave empty’.
#6 Invalid or missing required attribute [color]:
There might be 2 reasons you’re receiving this error:
- Google cannot recognize the color name
This could happen if you’re using non-standard color names, such as ‘basketball’ instead of ‘orange’
- No colors provided for apparel items
In certain countries, Google requires the color attribute for all products that fall under ‘apparel & accessories’ category
Here’s how we can tackle it:
A. Reason: Google cannot recognize the color name
According to one of the local radio hosts, men can only tell apart 2 colors, and those would be:
pretty and ugly ;)
Luckily for the advertisers, Google is quite good at recognizing colors.
Cobalt, indigo or even blueberry are rather safe choices. But, let’s not get carried away with creativity. ‘Pomegranate passion’ may be one step too far.
Fancy color names may be exactly what is causing this error.
⇒ Tip: Recommended practice is to use colors in your feed that a user would search for. For example the ‘pomegranate passion’ could become simply ‘red’.
Solution: replace invalid color names
Check the Google Merchant Center error report for a list of color names that need to be fixed.
In the mapping panel - navigate to ‘Edit Values’ to replace the invalid values.
⇒ If you only have a handful of colors to replace you might want to use ‘replace single value’ and create a few rules, just as in the below screenshot:
⇒ To replace many colors in bulk - go for ‘replace multiple values’ .
You will need to provide a csv file, or a Google spreadsheet. Include the rejected color names in 1st column and their standardized equivalents in the 2nd column.
Side note: when uploading a Google spreadsheet to DataFeedWatch, please make sure to use the shareable link & set the privacy of the sheet to ‘anyone with the link can view’.
B. Reason: No colors provided for apparel items
You might also see this error in your GMC account if you've forgotten to include the color attribute in your feed.
For certain countries (currently Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US) Google requires additional information. This may be color, age_group, gender and size (the latter for shoes and clothing only) for apparel items.
Solution: assign colors to apparel items
If you’re missing the color field in your source file/store - you can try one of the following options:
⇒ Use ‘Add static value’
Are colors mentioned in titles, descriptions, tags or some other field?
You can use those fields to build out a rule that will assign colors, specified by you, to appropriate items.
Here’s an example of how the rule may look:
⇒ Use ‘Extract from’
‘Extract_from’ is another functionality allowing you to extract specific information from various fields.
First, indicate the field that contains the color info (A), then provide a list of colors in a csv file or using a Google spreadsheet.
When creating the list make sure that the color names you include are exactly as they appear in your source.
#7 Unknown 'google product category' value
The more ways you use to explain to Google what your product is - the better! And submitting relevant ‘google_product_category’ for your items is certainly the right path.
Although it’s not a required attribute, there are benefits to reap for those who put in a little extra effort and get those categories in order.
We’ve covered this topic extensively in one of our previous posts → Assigning Google Product Categories
In short: Google Product Category helps you get more relevant traffic to your ads, which should result in higher CTR & improved Conversion Rate.
Now, what about the error?
It can only mean that the category submitted doesn’t match any of the predefined values, listed in Google’s taxonomy.
So unless you’ve implemented the exact same taxonomy in your store, using your product_type field for Google category is not gonna cut it.
Solution: use categories from Google’s taxonomy
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to assign your categories in DataFeedWatch, or even 2:
- Categorization via auto-generated rules:
We have created a system to match each product type to the most appropriate Google subcategory, in a matter of seconds:
1) Choose a field from your store containing product type information,
2) Start typing in a keyword & you will receive a list of categories to choose from,
3) Select a proper Google category for each item group.
- Categorization via manual rules:
Handy if your source feed is lacking a field to base the categories on.
To add a category, proceed as follows:
1) Start typing in a keyword and select the best category match from the list.
2) Create rules to specify the products the category should be applied to.
You can assign categories based on certain keywords that could be found in titles or descriptions:
The right category
Now that the ‘how-to’ is out of the way, it only leaves us with one question: ‘What is the right category for my product?’
The answer: The most relevant one. All in all - it would be a judgement call.
Tip: Dive into the subcategories and be as specific as you can. With over 6000 unique Google categories it’s usually possible to find an exact match. If not - the rule of thumb is to go with the closest match.
#8 Invalid or missing required attribute: availability
Certain attributes in the shopping feed come with predefined values only. ‘Availability’ field is one of them.
- In stock
- Out of stock
Those are the 3 possibilities.
Submitting any other value, such as ‘available’ / ‘unavailable’ or ‘yes’ / ‘no’, is going to land you in trouble. You would be surprised how many Merchants have fallen into this trap!
Several shopping carts generate availability fields containing values incompatible with Google’s guidelines.
For example, some platforms may be labelling products with ‘true’ or ‘false’ within ‘is_available’ field.
Solution: use predefined values
- You may continue using the availability field from your store, only with a small modification.
Go into ‘Edit Values’ for the ‘availability’ attribute and swap the values. Here’s how an example rule might look:
Tip: If you’re unsure what values were originally included in your availability field - check out the Shop Products tab (on the side navigation bar) to find out.
- An alternative method to set up availability:
Use ‘quantity’ input field and build appropriate conditional statements - example below:
#9 Encoding problem in attribute: description
This encoding error message means that some of your descriptions contain 1 or more characters considered invalid in your current encoding setting.
According to Google’s help pages, Google Merchant Center supports UTF-8, UTF-16, Latin-1, and ASCII encoding types. The first one being the most popular.
Google will only point out products that the error is connected with, they won’t serve you the invalid characters on a silver platter.
It’s up to you to find the ones that triggered the issue.
We’ve got you covered :)
Solution: remove/replace invalid characters
- Once you’ve identified the products concerned, proceed to ‘Shop Products’ page to review their descriptions.
- The default encoding setting in DataFeedWatch is UTF-8, so you should be able to detect those inaccuracies with the naked eye.
- Then, proceed to the mapping section and remove / replace the unwanted characters in the ‘Edit Values’ section for descriptions.
#10 Item disapproved due to policy violation
Unlike the other errors we’ve covered in this article - this one doesn’t give you clarity on what is wrong with your feed.
If there is 1 conclusion to be drawn from this message alone:
⇒ it would be that Google’s algorithms have found elements in your feed (or in your online
store), which are not in line with Google Shopping policies.
Which elements? That remains a mystery, until…
Solution: you contact Google
To sort out this issue, you first need to learn the answer to the most fundamental question: ‘what was the policy violation on my part?’.
Once you’ve established the exact reason for disapproval - it’s time to fix the feed (if that’s where the issue lies). Or, make suitable changes in your online store.
Fixing the feed will mean different things depending on what the violation is. It might involve:
- Changing images
And many more...
Not sure what could be the solution for you? Feel free to reach out to us anytime! ;)
Recommended further reads
- Four winning bidding strategies on Google Shopping
- Grow Your Business With Facebook and Google Ads
- PPC Strategies for Google AdWords and Facebook [+ Tips to Reach 542% ROAS]
- 7 Tips for Google Shopping Feed Optimization [EXPERT Level]