For online retailers, Google Shopping is an effective channel for showcasing products, reaching your target audience and generating sales. Behind every successful Google Shopping campaign is a Google Merchant Center account.
It’s common for advertisers to encounter frustrating hurdles when setting up their product feeds using Google Merchant Center, one of which is the Google Merchant Center misrepresentation error.
The Google Merchant Center misrepresentation error can hinder the ability to display products on Google Shopping and impact visibility and sales. In this article, you will discover how to fix misrepresentation and better still, how to format product data to avoid Google Merchant Center Suspensions altogether.
- Learn why Google suspends accounts due to misrepresentation, affecting product visibility on Google Shopping.
- Discover effective strategies to fix misrepresentation suspension, ensuring you remain in compliance with Google's guidelines.
- Understand the significance of properly formatting product data to align with Google's requirements, minimizing the risk of future suspensions.
- Learn how to appeal a suspension to reinstate your account when you believe the suspension is wrong, or after addressing policy issues.
Why Does Google Suspend Accounts?
Google Merchant Center suspensions are common and they can be encountered regularly by advertisers (this is true for all online advertising platforms).
The reason Google suspends accounts is to maintain the quality and integrity of its platforms, which then translates to users having a positive online experience. In essence, it’s to protect its users.
“To ensure the success of your products and to provide a good experience for potential customers, we've developed a set of policies and data quality requirements for Merchant Center.” Google
While safeguarding users from illegitimate and untrustworthy advertisers is a good thing, it does mean that the good guys can sometimes get caught up in wrongful suspensions.
How Long Does a Google Suspension Last?
The duration of a Google Merchant Center account suspension can vary significantly depending on various factors.
For less severe misrepresentations or first-time offenses, Google often provides the opportunity to resolve the issue promptly. If the issue is quickly addressed and the account complies with Google’s policies, the suspension may be lifted within days.
On the other hand, if the misrepresentation is considered a severe breach of Google's policies, or if your account has a history of repeated violations, the duration of the suspension could be significantly longer. In some cases, suspensions may last weeks or even months, especially if the violations are perceived as deliberate or particularly harmful to users.
It is important to acknowledge that while a suspension is in effect, your products won't be visible on Google Shopping, impacting performance. Therefore, it's best to address any misrepresentations promptly by correcting issues to lift account suspensions.
How to Know Why You Were Suspended?
If your account has been suspended, you will receive communication from Google alerting you to the violation and account suspension, which can be via email, in Google Merchant Center, or both. A reason for the suspension will be given in the email or account notification and that’s the starting point for then working out how to resolve the issue.
Here’s an example of an email from Google alerting the advertiser to a rejected Google Merchant promotion, which explains the reason for the rejection:
Here’s an example of an email from Google alerting the advertiser to an account suspension, again providing a reason and a link to appeal the suspension:
Here’s an example of a notification directly in a Google Merchant Center account, alerting the merchant to the suspension and the policy violation, which in this case is the Google misrepresentation policy:
If Google has provided specific reasons for the suspension and highlighted the areas that need correction, you’ll have a good idea of how to fix the misrepresentation error.
How to Fix Misrepresentation of Self or Product Error?
To resolve a misrepresentation of self or product error, you first need to pinpoint the exact issue. There are four common misrepresentation issues and the chances are, it’s one of these.
They include untrustworthy promotions, unavailable promotions, omission of relevant information, and misleading or unrealistic promotions. Let’s explore how best to address each of these problems in order to get your Google Merchant Center account re-enabled as quickly as possible.
1. Untrustworthy Promotions
Untrustworthy promotions are a violation of Google Shopping policy that involves misleading customers by exaggerating the benefits or misrepresenting the terms of an offer.
This could include falsely advertising a deal such as "Buy One, Get One Free" when the actual promotion offers a lesser-value item for free upon purchase. Or it could be flagged if a merchant promotes free delivery on all products, however upon checkout, there is a minimum spend to qualify for free delivery.
If your promotion is flagged as untrustworthy, the first thing to do is review the content of the promotion and ensure it accurately represents the offer. If there is any sort of discrepancy, that will need to be amended in order to fix the problem.
Remove any deceptive or misleading language so that the promotion is clear and accurate. Do not exaggerate or hide any of the important terms and conditions of the promotion. Once the promotion has been amended, whether it’s been changed in Google Merchant Centre or the promotion terms and conditions have been amended on the landing page, request a review.
2. Unavailable Promotions
Another common issue that can trigger the Google misrepresentation policy is unavailable promotions. There are two reasons why this error can occur:
- If the promoted products are out of stock or otherwise unavailable for purchase, for example, a special discount for a product that is temporarily out of stock.
- If the product price in your ads does not match the price on your website, for example, the price displayed in Google Shopping is $9.99 and on the website, $11.99.
To prevent this error from happening, or to fix this error, ensure that your product availability is up to date in your product feed. This will ensure that products that are unavailable on the website will also be marked as unavailable in the product feed.
An inventory threshold to prevent overselling products is a popular choice for large retailers, especially if products are being sold on multiple platforms such as Google, Shopify, Costco, Amazon, etc. This will allow efficient and accurate management of stock and inventory.
Discover an easy solution when using FTP connections to upload your data feeds to various sales channels, such as those mentioned above.
Product feed rules are another great way to manage inventory and in this case, if stock drops below a certain quantity, you could automatically label it as "out of stock" in your feed to prevent product misrepresentation and your account from being suspended.
Google suggests using a tool called the Rich Results Test to examine the structured data markup on your webpage. This allows you to ensure that the prices and product availability information on your page are accurately marked up using structured data, which is important for Google to properly understand and display this information in search results.
3. Omission of Relevant Information
Omission of relevant information means leaving out essential product information in either the product feed, Google Merchant Center or the landing page. This could include details such as model numbers, key features or important terms and conditions, which then leaves users with inaccurate or incomplete information, which hinders user experience.
For example, if a company selling smartphones fails to provide the specific model numbers in the product title and description, users will be unclear or confused about the specific product that’s being promoted, which results in it being harder for them to make an informed decision about a purchase. Another example is if the product feed is incomplete, missing attributes that are required or incorrectly using optional attributes.
Here’s a list of product feed attributes highlighting whether or not each attribute is a requirement or optional. For a fully optimized feed, it is best practice to use as many optional attributes as possible, in particular brand, gtin or mpn, Google product category, and all other attributes that apply to your products.
id: A unique identifier for each product.
brand: The brand or manufacturer of the product.
title: The name or title of the product.
gtin: Global Trade Item Number, such as UPC, EAN, or ISBN.
description: A brief description or overview of the product.
mpn: Manufacturer Part Number, a unique identifier assigned by the manufacturer.
link: The URL where users can find more information or purchase the product.
google_product_category: A predefined Google product category that best describes your product.
image_link: A link to the product image.
additional_image_link: Additional images of the product.
price: The cost of the product.
shipping: Shipping details and costs for the product.
availability: The product's availability status (e.g., in stock, out of stock).
color: The color of the product.
condition: The condition or state of the product (e.g., new, used, refurbished).
size: The size of the product (e.g., dimensions, clothing size).
weight: The weight of the product.
material: The material the product is made of.
age_group: The age group targeted by the product (e.g., adult, kids).
gender: The gender for which the product is intended (e.g., male, female).
If your account has been suspended due to Omission of Relevant Information, first ensure all mandatory fields are filled in with the correct details, and these details match the landing page, especially pricing which is a common source of errors. Ensure the correct landing pages are being used for each product and that all relevant information is clearly displayed on the website.
4. Misleading or Unrealistic Promotions
An account suspension due to the policy violation ‘misleading or unrealistic promotions’ is similar to the ‘untrustworthy promotions’ violation, however, it involves presenting offers that are not accurate or achievable for users.
For example, advertising a ‘50% off all products’ promotion when only a limited selection of products is eligible for the stated discount would likely trigger this Google misrepresentation policy because it is not accurate and could frustrate users. Another example is an offer that advertises an incredibly high discount but restricts it to a small number of customers, such as ‘90% Off for the first 10 customers’. Although this can create a sense of urgency and excitement for users, it can also mislead potential customers who might not realize the limited availability of the offer.
If this error is triggered, revise your Google Merchant Center promotions and the landing page to ensure they are honest and realistic. The offers need to be accurate and achievable for users. It’s also advised to review product feed data to ensure banned keywords and claims, incorrect or untrue affiliations or certifications are not present.
How to Format Product Data to Avoid Google Merchant Center Suspensions?
Properly formatting your product data is crucial for avoiding Google Merchant Center suspensions like product misrepresentation. Google’s full guide on product specifications can be found here.
We’ve put together eight key guidelines that advertisers should follow, alongside Google’s product specifications, to ensure product data complies.
1: Accurate and Up-to-Date Information
It’s important to provide precise and up-to-date information about your products, including titles, descriptions, prices, availability, and any promotions. Ensure this information aligns with the data on your website to avoid disapprovals, rejections and suspensions.
2: Valid and Complete URLs
Make sure your landing page URLs are the right ones and ensure they match each respective product in your feed. For example, users who click on an ad for the new iPhone 15 don’t want to be taken to a page that’s selling iPhone 14s. As well as matching the product, all of the product details need to match and the page itself needs to be functioning to ensure a seamless user experience.
3: Relevant and High-Quality Images
Images are a powerful way for advertisers to stand out, differentiate and experiment. Whether it’s a simple white background or the product in action, as a standard practice images need to be high-resolution and accurately represent the product. Images should comply with Google's image guidelines, portraying the product clearly and appealingly.
4: Detailed Product Titles & Descriptions
Write informative and accurate titles and descriptions that clearly describe product features, specifications and benefits. Avoid using excessive capitalization, promotional language, or misleading information in the titles and descriptions. The best approach is to keep it simple and apply the same logic used when writing titles and content for SEO.
Titles are such an important component of Google Shopping ads that it’s best practice to a/b test them on a regular basis, as a way to optimize them. DataFeedWatch allows you to a/b test by running 2 different versions of your product titles, followed by a clear overview into which performed best.
To set this up, the first step is to ensure the ‘ID’ field in the Internal Fields section is mapped, which can be found in the internal fields panel in the side navigation bar (skip this step if IDs have already been mapped):
Next, enable title split up by heading over to the mapping panel of the channel of your choice (‘Edit Feed’), then click on the A/B test button in the top right corner:
Set-up version A and version B of your product titles by first deciding the variable you would like to experiment with. Choose the desired title structure for each version in the exact same way as for all other feed attributes.
Finally, preview each of the titles by clicking on the eye icon in the top right corner and once you’re happy, save the changes and your feed will get updated.
Once enough data has been gathered, get insight into the best performing product title and roll this winning structure out across all products.
5: Precise Pricing Information
It’s really important that the prices that are being shown in Google Shopping ads are accurate, and that they accurately reflect the prices for the product on the website. Any discrepancies or inconsistencies will lead to suspension, so prevention is the best practice here.
6: Compliance with Policies
Familiarize yourself with Google's policies and guidelines regarding prohibited content, restricted products, and other relevant policies that might apply to your products or your sector. Abide by these rules to maintain compliance and avoid penalties.
Google Merchant Center misrepresentation is just one of the prohibited policies, however, there are several policies that advertisers should familiarize themselves with, which include:
- Counterfeit goods, dangerous products
- Products that enable dishonest behavior
- Unsupported Shopping ads content and inappropriate content
- Irresponsible data collection and use
- Abuse of the ad network
- Adult-oriented content
- Alcohol, gambling, healthcare and political-related content
- Trademarks and copyrighted content
- High-fat, sugar and salt food and beverages
7: Structured Data Markup
To enhance Google’s understanding of your web content and enable more accurate and informative search results for users, use structured data markup.
Implement structured data markup, like schema.org or other compatible formats, to provide organized and categorized information about your products. This enhances Google's ability to comprehend and display your product data with greater precision.
8: Correct Categorization
Ensure that each of your products is accurately categorized in your product feed by assigning an appropriate category and subcategories. It helps search engines understand what you are selling and therefore show users the right products when they search.
For example, a categorization hierarchy for this Google Pixel 3 mobile phone is the following:
- Primary Category: Electronics
- Subcategory 1: Communications
- Subcategory 2: Telephony
- Subcategory 3: Mobile Phones
For the dress below, the following categorization has been used:
- Primary Category: Clothing & Accessories
- Subcategory 1: Clothing
- Subcategory 2: Dresses
This categorization process is crucial for organizing your products and it’s also good for user experience as well as product visibility.
By following these guidelines and carefully formatting your product data, you enhance the accuracy and quality of your product listings, reducing the likelihood of a Google Merchant Center suspension and receiving the dreaded notification ‘your business name has been flagged’.
Using a third-party tool like DataFeedWatch, it’s possible to automate product categorization so that products are accurately categorized at scale. The main benefit to this method is saving advertisers loads of time that would have been spent manually categorizing products.
How Do I Complain About a Google Merchant Center Suspension?
If you believe your account was suspended by mistake, which can happen since the suspension process is triggered automatically, or if you've corrected the issues and want to appeal the suspension, contact Google Support.
It’s possible to contact Google through the Google Merchant Center rather than Google Ads and that way the support will be specifically for GMC. Explain your situation clearly and you may be asked to provide any supporting documentation or screenshots.
Click on the question mark in the top panel, and then ‘Help center and support’:
Next, a window will pop up on the right of the screen, at the bottom click on ‘Contact us’:
To avoid account suspensions in the first place, since prevention is the best solution, choose DataFeedWatch as your feed management tool. DataFeedWatch optimizes your feed specifically for Google, eliminating anything that could trigger an error or suspension, and this happens from day one.
Try DataFeedWatch for free in our 15 day free trial and see for yourself how fast and effective it is for feed management and optimization, resolving issues and improving performance at the same time.
Dealing with a Google Merchant Center misrepresentation error can be challenging, but understanding the cause and taking appropriate action will get you back on track. Providing accurate and transparent information about your products and promotions to maintain a positive online presence is the key to Google Shopping success.
You may have heard that Google announced a new, simplified version of Google Merchant Center called Merchant Center Next, featuring a brand new user interface and many new features and capabilities. Read everything we know so far about Google Merchant Center Next.