Receiving an email from Google alerting you that your Merchant Center has been suspended is a worst-case scenario for any advertiser utilizing shopping campaigns to promote and sell their products. All campaigns immediately cease delivering and will remain in this state until the Merchant Center is reinstated. Navigating Merchant Center suspensions can be confusing and frustrating, especially as direct revenue may be affected and your advertising budget screeches to a halt. There are ways, however, to proactively prevent suspension and to navigate through if it does affect your account(s).
Merchant Center Policies and Common Reasons for Suspension
The first step in utilizing the Merchant Center and shopping campaigns in Google is to pass the initial approval process after following the On-Boarding guide. Google will review your items to ensure they meet requirements and, as Google mentions, if the review is successful, your products will become eligible to serve in Shopping ads. Google will continue, once you are approved, to monitor your products and website to ensure compliance. The ongoing monitoring and auditing are what can lead to sudden Merchant Center suspension. Once approved, the next step to avoiding suspension is to understand and stay up-to-date on Google’s Shopping ads policies. Counterfeit goods, products Google deems dangerous, and inappropriate content can all lead to suspension. Practices such as misusing customer information or misrepresentation of your business or products can also result in a shutdown.
Top reasons for a Merchant Center suspension are:
- Copyrighted Content and Trademarks: If you are legally authorized to sell products for another company, as a vendor, 3rd-party retailer or otherwise, it is recommended to get a 3rd party authorization form completed for each brand your e-commerce site represents prior to Google auditing your account. This is an important area to be proactive in with your Merchant Center.
To ensure you are effective and efficient in your efforts:
- Know the correct contact. If you do not know who the applicable point of contact (POC) is, you may ask your POC at the company directly. Your Google Account POC will also have access to the contact information of the copyright owner representative.
- Send the form to each of your vendors/partners
- Screenshot the steps and assure them it is a quick process
- Follow up with them to ensure completion
- You can learn more about the 3rd party authorization form and it’s applicable uses in my blog, “8 Common Reasons Your Google Ads Are Being Disapproved”
- Website Policy Violations: Google has requirements for your website that must be followed in order to utilize the Merchant Center and shopping campaigns. Google lists the following as website requirements in their shopping ads policies:
“a display URL that does not accurately reflect the URL of the landing page, such as “google.com” taking users to “gmail.com”, gimmicky use of words, numbers, letters, punctuation, or symbols such as FREE, f-r-e-e, and F?€€!!, sites that are under construction, parked domains, or are just not working, sites that have disabled the browser’s back button, sites that are not viewable in commonly used browsers”.
Additional requirements include having a guest checkout option and having return and refund policies clearly listed on your website.
When it comes to the return policy, your policy should explain exactly how you handle returns and refunds, including:
- What the user is required to do
- Under what circumstances you offer returns and refunds
- The timeframe in which you accept returns
- When your user can expect a refund
- Misrepresentation of Self or Product: Solutions are not always the same for each seller and misrepresentation of self or product is a key example of this. Misrepresentation of self or product can be a complex issue with multiple reasons for flagging. In the Feedonomics article, “Resolving a Google Merchant Center Account Suspension: “Misrepresentation of self or product”, the various issues and possible solutions for this suspension reason are discussed so you can know what to avoid or how to troubleshoot once you are presented with this issue.
What to Do if Your Account is Suspended
One of the most common frustrations surrounding Merchant Center suspension is the resolution. There may be times when you find it simple to resolve your suspension and the reason for the suspension is straightforward. Other times, this may not be the case. Google’s shopping policies are complex and you may often be in violation of one or more. For example, you may find that your account is suspended due to being linked to another account that is not compliant. Regardless of the complexity or reason, there are steps you can take to effectively resolve the issue.
- Contact both Google Support and your Google Account Manager/Strategist. Google Support via chat is an effective way to get answers as you continue on with your daily business. Reach out to Google Support to see what they can find out on their end. They do not always have the visibility necessary to solve the issue but they are a great starting point. Alert your contact at Google that you have done so and what the support team at Google has done or information they have provided. Ask your Google POC to confirm or to seek out any additional issues.
- Ask for clear steps to resolution. Do not rely on the web resources Google provides to try and solve the issue once it is identified. Ask for clear steps and direction as you will likely uncover answers to questions you would have encountered down the road. For example, if Google tells you that you are missing refund information in your return policy on your website and you set off to fix the issue without asking any further questions, you may fail to ask if you need to update the footer on your website in addition to the landing page. The fewer times you have to go back to Google with questions before requesting to be reviewed for unsuspension, the more efficient your resolution will be.
- Check for issues with any linked accounts. You may not realize you are linked to an old account that could be causing your issues. Identify any linked accounts in both your Merchant Center and Google Ads and ensure they are compliant and in good standing.
- Follow up with Google to ensure you are now compliant and you are set to be unsuspended.
Interruptions in your advertising and sales process are urgent and impactful. Taking steps to proactively avoid interruptions and knowing how to fix them when you do will go a long way on your way to consistent performance and success.