It can be extremely frustrating when time and energy have been spent on setting up your product feed and Google Shopping campaigns, only to experience disapproved or invalid products. It’s another hurdle faced by advertisers and more often than not it’s caused by minor issues, meaning there’s a quick-fix solution, providing you know how to get all of your products approved.
In this guide to Google Merchant Center disapproved products, we will help you to understand what causes disapproved or invalid products in the first place, the most common disapproval reasons and most importantly, how to resolve them as quickly as possible. After all, the more products that are eligible for ads, the greater the chances of generating sales and revenue.
- Approval issues arise from policy violations that can relate to the Merchant Center account setup, the product feed or issues with product feed data.
- Discover 7 of the most common Google Merchant Center disapprovals and how to fix them, from Disapproved or invalid (1 country) to inaccurate pricing and issues to GTINs and MPNs.
- Consider using a feed optimization solution to handle the management and maintenance of your product feed, which is the best way to minimize the risk of disapproved products.
- Follow our 7 best practices to help avoid product disapprovals from happening in the first place - prevention is the best cure.
What are the causes of disapprovals in the Merchant Center?
Disapproved or invalid products in the Google Merchant Center are a missed advertising opportunity because those products will not be eligible for Shopping ads. But what causes this disapproval to happen in the first place?
A violation of Google Ads policy is the reason for disapproved products in GMC. There are a vast number of reasons why products can get disapproved because there are numerous policies that need to be taken into account. The main areas that can cause disapproved products are the following:
- The Google Merchant Center account needs to be set up properly, include accurate information about your business and website and it must be linked to Google Ads. The many important Google Merchant Center account settings need to be right in order to have a healthy account.
- A product feed that contains all of the product data you wish to submit to Google must be supplied to the Merchant Center in the correct format. Here are the methods of uploading a product feed to the Merchant Center.
- Product feed data, which includes all of the required and optional attributes, must be formatted correctly and following Google’s product data specification.
These are the three steps that Shopping advertisers must work through and get right to successfully run Google Shopping ads. Issues that arise at any of these steps can cause product disapprovals.
If some products are approved and some are disapproved, it is still possible to run Google Shopping campaigns with the approved products. It’s just the campaign will be smaller and limited in comparison to ensuring all of your products are approved.
7 reasons Google Merchant Center disapproved products and how to fix them
Let’s explore some of the most common reasons for disapproved products in the Merchant Center and how to resolve them so that your products are quickly approved. Out of 35 of the most common Merchant Center issues, these 7 are what advertisers are faced with the most.
1. Disapproved or invalid (1 country)
If you are seeing ‘disapproved or invalid (1 country)’ in Google Merchant Center, then there is an issue with the product data in your feed. Disapproved or invalid (1 country) can appear when viewing the All Products list and it means that there’s data in your supplementary feed that doesn’t comply with a country you are trying to target.
For example, if you are using the [shipping] attribute in your product feed, this may need to be updated using sub-attributes to define the country, delivery area, service, price, handling time and transit time. Or if possible, the best solution would be to use the Merchant Center account shipping setting rather than the feed attribute.
Another reason for seeing ‘disapproved or invalid (1 country)’ in the Merchant Center could be to do with the currency and the country you are trying to target. The currency that’s being used in your product feed or supplementary feeds must be supported in the target country. A discrepancy here could trigger the ‘disapproved or invalid (1 country)’ error.
This particular Google Merchant Center issue can only be resolved on a case-by-case basis because the reason may differ for each retailer. The most important step is to understand what’s causing this error based on the countries you are trying to target and your product feed data, and then ensure the feed attributes match.
2. Omissions in shipping and tax details
If your products are disapproved because of omissions in shipping and tax details, it means that you haven’t supplied enough information in regards to shipping and tax, or the information you have supplied is inaccurate.
This step also applies to those that offer free shipping, which is something that still needs to be specified. Otherwise, the shipping service in Google Merchant Center or your product feeds needs to reflect what’s shown to users on your website. A mismatch in information will cause product disapprovals. If the shipping cost varies due to the size of a product or the value of an order, this must also be reflected and you must overestimate rather than underestimate to avoid this disapproval.
Tax information must also be included where relevant and in the US this is something advertisers should pay close attention to, given how tax rates vary by each US state.
3. Issues with MPN or GTIN
MPN and GTIN are unique product identifiers (UPIs), used to define the product that’s for sale in the global marketplace. UPIs are unique to each product and used by Google to distinguish products from one another, as well as match them to relevant user search queries.
It’s important to point out that unique product identifiers are assigned by manufacturers, meaning that if retailers are selling the same products, the MPN or GTIN will be identical.
Since Google uses UPIs to match products with search queries, including them in your product feed is a great way to increase visibility, which can translate to more sales and revenue.
The most common issue regarding MPN or GTINs that retailers face is ‘limited performance due to missing identifiers’. If you are seeing this error, ensure that the [brand] attribute is being used in your product feed, along with either the [MPN] or [GTIN] attribute. If you are using UPIs and still seeing an error, make sure the MPN or GTIN numbers match each corresponding product.
If the products that have been disapproved or limited due to UPI issues do not have an MPN or GTIN number, for example, they are one-of-a-kind or vintage, instead, add the [identifier_exists] attribute to your product feed along with a value of false. This communicates to Google that the products in question do not have UPIs and they will be approved for advertising.
4. Inappropriate landing page URL
Within your product feed, it’s important that the [link] attribute is being used accurately for each product. It must include a landing page that relates to individual products, allowing users who click on an ad to view the product on the website, with an opportunity to purchase it.
Here’s how it should work. If a consumer searches for ‘asics sneakers’ on Google and clicks on an ad for a specific pair then the landing page that’s being used in the product feed should take the user to this product page on the website:
Common issues that can trigger an ‘inappropriate landing page URL’ error include not taking a user straight to the right product page, whether it’s a general page or the wrong product page, or if there’s an issue on the site, such as a blank page or a 404 error. These issues will get flagged in the Merchant Center (similar to how they are flagged in standard search campaigns) and the affected products will get disapproved.
To fix this error, export your feed and ensure all of the [link] attributes match the corresponding products. Once the landing pages have been updated and they match, reupload the feed.
5. Inaccurate pricing
Inaccurate pricing will get triggered in the Merchant Center if the price of a product in the feed differs from the price of the product on the website. They must match in order to be eligible and get approved. This includes the regular product price and if a promotion or sale is running on the site, the product feed must be up to date with the latest price information.
For example, in the screengrab below, Temu is advertising dried flowers for £8.19 and when you click through to the site, the purchase price is also £8.19.
There’s a promotion running and the price on the website has been discounted to £8.19. This could be better communicated in the shopping ad by showing that it’s a sale price, however, the most important thing is the prices match.
If you are faced with this Merchant Center error it is a quick fix. Simply update the price attribute so that it reflects the price of the product on the site, refresh the diagnostic page and the products should become approved. There are 6 common pricing errors in Google Merchant Center, so the first step is identifying why the error is being triggered and following that, you will be able to resolve it.
6. Unacceptable images
Google maintains high standards when it comes to product images in shopping ads. This is to provide the best possible experience for users who are searching for products on Google.
If your products have been disapproved due to unacceptable images, several factors could be causing this. However, the main thing to keep in mind here is that the image you’ve supplied goes against a policy and it should be replaced with an image that complies.
Here is an overview of image guidelines that must be followed to prevent Google Merchant Center disapproved products. To read the full guidelines, check out this Google guide.
- Meet the image size requirements and use the highest-quality images, up to 64 megapixels, 16 MB file size and at least 1,500 x 1,500 pixels
- Accurately showcase the whole product in the image, showing a clear view of the main product being sold
- The image background should be transparent or white and it’s best practice to frame your product in the image
- If you are selling a bundle, the image must show all products in the bundle. Only show products that are included though, don’t show products not included.
- Logos and icons, generic images, graphics or illustrations will get disapproved (unless the product category is hardware, vehicle parts or computer software)
- Images cannot contain promotional text that covers the product
Another thing that can also trigger the unacceptable image error is the [image link] attribute. For example, if the image link points to the website instead of the image file, then the product will be disapproved.
7. Inaccurate product availability status
Product availability is another attribute that Google takes seriously and again it’s to protect user experience. If a user searches for a product, clicks on a shopping ad and it turns out the product is unavailable, this will result in poor user experience. So failing to use the availability attribute correctly will result in product disapprovals.
Google will know whether or not this attribute accurately reflects a product’s availability by checking if the shopping feed attribute matches what’s being displayed on the website. So if this error has popped up in your Merchant Center account, check the availability status on both the website and in your product feed.
There are five options to choose from when specifying product availability; in stock, out of stock, limited availability, backorder and pre-order.
8. Be mindful of buzzwords
There are certain buzzwords and phrases that are known to trigger product feed errors. If you are experiencing the same error over and over, or if you are continuously facing the same error, then consider avoiding certain terms altogether to help prevent further disapprovals.
This also applies to advertisers that know their particular sector can trigger disapproved products, such as pharmaceuticals or finance.
To do this, first become au fait with Google’s editorial & professional policy and then using filters in your product feed, search for terms that could trigger a disapproval and amend them. The only feed attribute you should be careful not to change is product ID, unless you don’t mind losing historic product data.
How to fix disapproved products with a feed optimization solution
The most effective way to manage your product feed, fix product disapprovals and minimize the risk of more product disapprovals in the future is by using Google Shopping optimization software. A feed solution uses automation for feed maintenance and management, taking out the need to manually manage and optimize it.
Here's how a feed optimization solution works to fix disapproved products and the benefits this has on performance.
Troubleshoot your product feed
A feed solution such as DataFeedWatch can troubleshoot your product feed regularly and check for any issues, including invalid or disapproved products. Not only that, it can spot things that may eventually lead to disapprovals before they’ve even happened. This makes it a really easy and effective solution to feed management and help identify problems as well. The following elements are reviewed:
- Empty fields
- Invalid GTINs
- Identifier not unique
- Invalid ISBN
- Invalid values
- Missing UPIs
Feed quality score, issue severity and solutions
As part of the feed review, you will be given a feed quality score made up of the following criteria:
- The % of your products that contain errors
- The rate of errors and warnings for individual products
- The % of products that are error-free and ready to be listed
- The % of products that contain some warnings
Alongside that, there’s a severity rating out of high, medium and low, which tells you the urgency in which an issue should be resolved, as well as the best solution for getting it resolved.
So not only are issues identified, but it allows you to prioritize the most important issues first and then provide you with the solution, so you can take the necessary action needed to resolve them.
Rules and automation
A feed optimization solution can also help speed up the task of fixing feed issues by using rules and automation. This is especially helpful for ecommerce businesses with large inventory or a lot of invalid or disapproved products and it can save a lot of time and energy.
For example, if your product feed is missing GTIN or MPN data and needs to be added for all products, there’s a quick way to do this with DataFeedWatch. Either a simple ‘rename’ rule can be used to replace a barcode or an existing GTIN number that’s incorrect.
Or it’s possible to do bulk edits in DataFeedWatch and provide a spreadsheet containing UPI data, along with an attribute that identifies each product.
Rules and automation can be used to fix - or simply optimize - any feed attribute depending on what your requirements are. It’s a powerful solution that can save a lot of time, improve the quality of your product data and result in more Google Shopping revenue and profit.
How to avoid product disapprovals - 7 Best Practices
Prevention is the best cure and this is true for product disapprovals in the Merchant Center. If you can avoid disapprovals in the first place, it’ll make for smoother management of your Google Shopping campaigns. Here are 7 best practices to follow to help you avoid product disapprovals from happening.
1. Double-check your product data
The first thing to do is double, if not triple-check your product data, reviewing all of the information that you are submitting. This should include all of the product attributes - titles, descriptions, prices, images, UPIs, and shipping.
By doing this, you can minimize the risk of product disapprovals for inaccurate or incomplete product information, by spotting errors before the feed is submitted. Brushing up on Google’s advertising policies, especially concerning Google Shopping, is also a smart move when double-checking product data.
Automate this step and ensure the checks are as effective as possible by using the DataFeedWatch feed checker tool. The tool will troubleshoot your feed in minutes and highlight any potential errors that may eventually lead to product disapprovals, meaning the issues can be rectified before the feed is submitted. The main benefit here is avoiding errors in the first place.
2. Don’t trust the diagnostics report
Diagnostic reports in the Merchant Center can be helpful, but it’s important to not solely rely on them. This is because they can flag products as being disapproved, however on closer inspection, the product issues had quietly been resolved and the products are in fact approved.
Also, diagnostic reports only highlight certain issues once the disapproval has already taken place, meaning it could have been prevented with pre-warning. This is where a feed optimization solution can come in handy because it can alert you to issues prior to products getting disapproved, helping you to the product disapproval.
3. Request approval for applicable products
Once your product data has been updated, resubmit the product feed by manually uploading it, resubmitting it through the Content API or importing it via your feed management platform. Doing so will put your product feed under review so once this is done, head over to the diagnostics section of the Merchant Center to review the approval status.
For products that were disapproved in the past, you may have the option of proactively requesting manual approval, by clicking on ‘Item status’ and then ‘Request review’. Putting as many products as possible through the review process will speed up the time it takes for them to become eligible for advertising, providing there are no issues.
4. Submit appeals
If a product or ad has been disapproved and you have taken measures to rectify the issue in line with Google’s policies, submit an appeal. This also applies when you believe a disapproval has happened in error and your product data or ad does comply. The latter is common due to the automated nature of the approval process and the fact it can be sensitive.
It’s best practice to submit your appeals as promptly as possible, to get your products approved swiftly.
5. Request manual approvals for some products
Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to request manual approval of your products, for instance, if they are continually being disapproved in error.
This usually happens for certain industries or for products that are susceptible to being disapproved via the automated process. More often than not, products may be related to the following issues but still in compliance, but due to the sensitive nature of these issues the products still get disapproved:
- Legal restrictions
- Personal hardships
- Identity and belief
- Sexual interests
- Access to opportunities
A manual review will override the automated approval process and ensure your products become eligible for advertising.
6. Technical issue? Change your product IDs
In situations where you encounter persistent product disapprovals due to technical issues, one method to overcome this is changing your product IDs. Doing so will reset the association between the product and the technical issue in question, providing a workaround for whatever was causing the problem.
Doing this may lose historic product data so make sure it is the right decision and consider contacting a Google Rep first to determine if it is the fastest and easiest fix.
7. Use a feed optimization tool for automated product imports and updates
Finally, it’s best practice to use a Google Shopping feed management tool such as DataFeedWatch, to benefit from automation. Feed management tools allow you to automatically import feed data regularly to ensure product data is accurate, up to date and compliant with Google policy.
This is the best way to minimize the risk of product disapprovals due to the product feed being out of date or not aligning with inventory and product data on the website.
Don’t be disheartened by any of the disapprovals you are faced with, whether it’s disapproved or invalid (1 country), missing GTIN or MPN data or inappropriate images. Google Merchant Center disapprovals are common and happen to most advertisers, regardless of experience and the size of an account.
Thankfully, more often than not there’s a quick-fix solution that will send you on your way to Google Shopping success. This is especially true for those who opt for a feed management solution that can automate the maintenance and management of your feed.
If you’ve developed a product feed and it’s ready for action, upload it using one of the 3 available methods, which include a URL, a local drive file or an FTP, with the latter allowing multiple daily uploads, minimizing the risk of product disapprovals.