06 Sep 2016

Google Product Feeds (pt. 2) – Feed Disapprovals

Welcome back to part 2 of our series on Google Product Feeds. In part 1 of our series we discussed what a product feed is, the various attributes which make up the feed and we discussed the various types of feeds. Be sure to go back and read Google Product Feeds (pt. 1) before continuing on to part 2 if you missed it. In part 2 we’ll be covering Feed Disapprovals. We’ll examine why feeds and items are disapproved, where are feed and item disapprovals shown and finally how item disapprovals can be self-serviced.

Google Product Feed Disapprovals

So why would Google disapprove a feed? As we discussed in part 1, your feed is a catalog of your entire product line. Google must take this and treat it as Gospel. Google’s users have to take it for granted that the data is correct when they are searching since they have no other comparison without clicking through to your website.. If there is a gap your data or an unintentional misrepresentation in your data of your products, Google would rather not have that product shown or rather confuse the user or even cost you money by sending inaccurate traffic to your website.

Common Issues for Google Product Feed Disapprovals

  • Price and availability – this is by far the most common reason. Often times during busy holiday seasons, merchants change their prices for sales or stock changes rather quickly.
  • Landing page status – the page in which your ads are directing traffic should not be under construction or lead to an error page.
  • Image issues – using “coming soon” or a gray box/watermark for a product photo is not allowed. This is often seen when a merchant adds a new product to their website and feed, but has yet to upload a photo for the product. Remember, the product photo on your website is what Google will pull from to display on the Google network for your ad.
  • Return or refund policy missing – Google requires that you clearly provide your visitors with the terms of your return or refund policy. If you do not allow returns you must state just that.
  • Secure checkout missing – For the security of your customers you must have a secure checkout using a SSL certificate.

There are two types of feed disapprovals:

  1. Data Quality Disapprovals
  2. Policy Disapprovals

Data Quality Disapprovals

Data Quality Disapprovals result from violating the Shopping Products Feed Specification.

Top Reasons Include:

  • Price mismatch between feed and landing page
  • Availability mismatch between feed and landing page
  • Watermarked or placeholder images
  • Generic landing page

Policy Disapprovals

Policy Disapprovals result from violating the Shopping Policies

Top Reasons Include:

  • Unsecure checkout / Missing refund policy
  • Healthcare and medicine
  • Endangered species – e.g. siberian tigers for sale
  • Adult products
  • Counterfeit – e.g. knockoff purses

Where are Feed and Item Disapprovals Shown?

Begin by logging into your Google Merchant Center and click on the “Diagnostics” tab. The Diagnostics tab has been around since February of 2015, and it provides a easy to understand snapshot of the health of your Google Product Feed. If everything is good your health chart will be all green. You can also easily identify if there are three or four of your products which need your attention – this data is updated daily.

Diagnostics Report

Let’s take a look at screenshot of the diagnostics tab report below and examine the individual parts.

Google Product Feed Diagnostic Report


In this example report you can see in the top chart that for about the first 2 weeks of the month, this merchant had an issue with their product feed. All of their products were disapproved. This could have been for any of the reason mentioned above, but after this two week period, you can see that about 90% of their products were approved and now show in green.

Current Issues

  • Account – this is where you’ll find any quality issues with your feed. For example if you were engaging in one of the prohibited policy sale types such as selling Siberian tigers, you would see a disapproval of your entire feed here. If the disapproval is egregious enough you’ll be immediately disapproved.
  • Feeds – while uploading your feed if Google detects and issue with the integrity of the data or the character encoding of the file itself, those errors will be displayed here.
  • Items – this is the one you’ll probably look at most closely and it provides you with details on individual product issues. These are commonly related to missing product images or g_tin numbers missing.

Click on each of these headings within the diagnostics report will allow you to drill down further.

Within the Items section you may see items marked in red, yellow and blue triangles.

Google product feed disapprovals

Red items are the most serious and it means the issue is causing disapproval of one or more products in your feed. Often times these are because of a policy violation as mentioned above or there is a data mismatch such as an invalid product category.

Yellow items warnings and you should keep an eye out for. They are not immediate issues, but you should still correct them. In part 1 we mentioned that Google makes changes to the Google Product Feed specifications on a yearly basis – normally in September. They give you 3 – 6 months to change your feed to remain in compliance. Items in your feed which are not in compliance as a result of these yearly changes will appear as yellow items in your Items report.

Blue items are simply suggestions. One such suggestion might be that Google see’s that you have set the product condition for a product in your feed to “used”. As such since Google know this is not a new product, but rather a used one, they may suggest to you that you should use microdata on your website to indicate the condition. We see this often for websites where they are selling used machinery. Using the microdata will improve your search results listing for this particular used product.

How Am I Notified of Feed Disapprovals?

Understandably most merchants are not inside of their Google Merchant Center diagnostics report on a daily basis. So you maybe wondering how you are notified of issues.

Google Merchant Center feed disapproval message notificationGoogle will send an email to the technical contact notifying you of any issues with your account (at Bluehive Interactive, we serve as the technical contact for our Internet marketing clients). They give you 7 or 28 days to correct any issues. The more severe issues are given a lesser amount of time to solve – think back to the Siberian tiger.

You may also view your feed disapprovals within your Google Merchant Center by clicking on the envelope icon in the upper right of the dashboard. These messages will be archived in your account for 90 days.

How Can Item Disapprovals be Self-Serviced?

Finally once you’ve identified that an item in your feed  has been disapproved, you maybe asking how can I then fix that?

Let’s begin with an example – you are selling a product which was flagged as disapproved because of medicine / medical. The product you are selling actually is not a drug, but rather a supplement which helps prevent grey hair – Go Away Grey!

In order to have Google take a second look at this product you will need to begin by logging into your Google Merchant Center. Once logged in, navigate to the products page section. Here you’ll be able to flag the product and tell them to have a second look at.

Google Merchant Center Product Disapproved

What’s Next?

We’ve presented a lot of data today about feed disapprovals within Google Product Feeds — common issues for feed disapprovals, how you are notified of feed disapprovals and how you can easily self-service feed disapprovals within Google Merchant center.

In part 3 we’ll dive deeper into Google Product Feeds and review feed maintenance. We’ll be reviewing how to automate price/availability updates, mapping your product data to Google specifications and how to find missing inventory for your business.

Bluehive Interactive specializes in making the running of your e-commerce website as easy as possible. We’ve setup up several feeds both manually and using some automated processes. We’d love to chat with you to learn more about your unique business needs, and discuss how we can help you get your entire product catalog on Google Shopping. Give us a call today at 412-275-6555 or drop us a line.

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24 Aug 2016

Google Product Feeds (pt 1)

Product Feeds

We’ve had so many questions from clients about getting their products to show up on Google search result pages. Understandably you want to be where the highest concentration of eyes are, and you just can’t deny the power of Google Shopping. The process of getting your product catalog uploaded to Google and then getting it approved so you can run ads can be a bit of challenge if you’ve never had to do it before.

Follow along in this multi-part blog post series as we explain just what the heck Google product feeds are, how they can be denied and what to do if it happens to you. If you get through this post and decide this is not for you or you just don’t have the time to complete it yourself, give us a call or drop us a line and we’ll be happy to get you setup.

So Just  What Exactly is A Product Feed?

Simply put it is collection of all of the products which you sell on your e-commerce website. Product feeds are structured data, much like a spreadsheet, that contain your offers and provide all of the the product information which Google uses to run your Product Listings Ads; the higher the quality of your feed, the better campaigns generally perform. You can think of it as your product catalog.

So What Does A Product Feed Look Like?

Here is a screenshot of feed we recently configured for a client:

Google Product Feed Sample

You can see that it has an IP, title, description, links to the product, stock availability and much more. It is a roadmap to every product which you sell and it tells Google all of the details about each of them. The goals is to provide Google as much information about each product as possible in the feed.

What Are Product Feeds Used For?

The foundation of your Shopping ads is your product data. It is this data which is provided to Google as a product feed like the screenshot above. As the owner of your product catalog, it’s up to you to provide the most accurate catalog of data to Google — and transform it so it meets Google’s advertising guidelines.

Once your feed is created you have to upload it to your Google Merchant Center, which is connected with Google’s advertising system, with AdWords and builds the basics of your Google Shopping campaigns.

Which Feed Types Does Google Shopping Use?

Google actually has 2 feed types:

  1. Regular Feeds – this is the core, holistic type of feed mentioned above. Its the full snapshot of your product catalog.
  2. Online Product Inventory Update Feeds – this feed allows you to easily update individual products when the price or inventory level changes. Rather than having to update the entire regular feed, you can make quick updates with this feed type. This feed type is processed much faster by Google.

Google Product Feed types

What Are The Required Feed Attributes?

This actually differs by country, but the core required attributes are:

id, title, description, link, image_link, condition, price, availability, gtin and brand

Additionally required attributes in most countries, depending on which products are being sold:

google_product_category, mpg, item_group_id, shipping, color, age_group and gender

Google updates the product feed specification once per year. You can learn more about these at https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/188494?hl=en

Let’s specifically call out the g_tin attribute for a moment. You maybe asking yourself what this is. g_tin is the unique product number which Google expects you to provide. This should not be confused with your SKU or skew number. Multiple advertisers could have the same SKU number. Imagine if you sold candles and your Eucalyptus scented candle SKU was CANDLE-EUCALYPTUS-12OZ As you can see, this SKU is pretty common and anyone could use the same one. As such Google doesn’t consider a SKU to be unique enough.

In May of 2016, Google started to require all merchants to provide them with a UPC, EAN or JAN barcode for every product in the feed in the form of a g_tin. Since barcodes are issued only once, there is no need for Google to be concerned about the uniqueness. Furthermore having UPC, EAN or JAN barcode allows Google to more easily show comparable products to your potential customers.

Many small business owners do not have UPC barcodes for products they manufacture themselves unless they are selling in established retail brick-and-mortar stores.

We understand this concern and we are able to work with you to secure barcodes. It is actually easier than you might think. Just drop us a line.

Why Are So Many Different Feed Attributes Required?

This screenshot shows how the various attributes from the data feed appear within the Google search results page and the Google Shopping results page.

Different Feed Attributes

By having all of the data attributes filled out you’re ensuring that Google presents your product to your potential customers in the best light possible. It also ensures that your potential customer can see as much data as possible before they actually click to your website. More well informed visitors are more likely to ultimately buy when they click through – as we all know, every click costs you money, and by having as many attributes as possible will in the end save you money since everyone doesn’t need to click through to find this data.

How Often Should Feeds Ideally Be Updated?

Regular Updates

  • Update as often as your offer information changes — up to once per day
  • Preferably schedule data feed to be updated automatically
  • Remember to at least upload a new feed at least once every 30 days

Best Time to Upload

  • Ideally schedule your feed to refresh in the middle of the night when your merchant site traffic is at its slowest

We recommend updating your feed on a daily basis. Imagine for a moment that you had 20 products go out of stock Friday afternoon. Let’s say your office is closed on the weekend as most small business e-commerce tend to be. You now have your ads running all weekend long and searchers keep seeing your ads and clicking on them. This really presents a lose-lose situation for both your potential customer and you as the merchant when they see the item marked on your website as out of stock.

By automating the product feed update to Google on a daily basis, you will not be upsetting potential customers, losing out on sales and needlessly spending your ad budget on out of stock products.

What’s Next?

We’ve presented a lot of data today about what Google Product Feeds are, the attributes which go into making up a feed and the frequency of which they should be updated. In part 2 of this series on Google Product Feeds we’ll discuss how your product feed can be disapproved.

Bluehive Interactive specializes in making the running of your e-commerce website as easy as possible. We’ve setup up several feeds both manually and using some automated processes. We’d love to chat with you to learn more about your unique business needs, and discuss how we can help you get your entire product catalog on Google Shopping. Give us a call today at 412-275-6555 or drop us a line.

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