Some of the worst news an ecommerce retailer can get is that your Google Merchant Center account has been suspended, effectively removing your products from Google Product Listing Ads. With a variety of highly enforced and ever changing rules that apply to all Google merchant data feeds, suspensions happen to retailers of all sizes and across all categories.
It may seem like the world is ending, but I assure you it is not, and it is important you focus on taking the proper steps to get your account re-instated ASAP instead of the hard fact that you will be making no money from PLAs for an unknown period of time. I’m here to walk you through best practices for preventing a suspension before it strikes and also the steps to take once you have already been suspended.
Preventing Your Google Merchant Center Account From Being Suspended
When it comes to preventing a Google account suspension, the best defense here is a good offense. Here are some best practices:
Always know your product line and, more specifically, if you sell prohibited items.
There are a ton of items and product categories not allowed by Google so be familiar with the lists provided and don’t think you will get away with it forever if you haven’t been caught yet. Google will find and suspend you eventually. Vitamin & Supplement vendors need to be especially vigilant here and the toughest part is that the Google given resources are admittedly “non- exhaustive,” meaning it might be banned though Google doesn’t list it as banned.
Keep in mind that even one prohibited item can lead to a suspension, so mistakes can be costly here and come without warning.
Make sure your most recent data feed is in the Google Merchant Center.
Keeping your latest feed in the Google Merchant Center account will keep your data at its most accurate as far as pricing, inventory, product condition, and image/product links. Non-matching data between your feed and your site is a fast way to get suspended.
Monitor the Google Merchant Center weekly or after major changes in feed data for errors.
Many issues can be solved just by noting the data quality details provided from within the Merchant Center Login. Keep in mind that critical errors are just that, CRITICAL. These errors will get you suspended the fastest and should be addressed as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
Heed warning emails that outline data quality errors.
Consider yourself lucky if you get a forewarning. These messages often come with a deadline to make fixes by, so you may have some time to get your feed straightened out. Couple tips here:
- Realize that the review that occurs on the day of the deadline date is VERY comprehensive and you can be suspended at this time for items that you have not been warned about previously. You need to be squeaky clean on this date.
- If you are unable to make the changes as suggested by Google, I suggest you remove the products whose data contains the errors from the feed completely. You will lose less money by removing products from your feed, than bearing the brunt of having your whole feed down via suspension.
Note: This regards suspension and why you should attempt to avoid it by all means. Once your account has been suspended, you will be under increased scrutiny by Google moving forward and the suspensions often get longer and more severe as multiple infractions pile up. Staying on Google’s ‘good side’ should be a priority as it will save many headaches and lost revenue down the line.
Google Account Already Suspended? Steps To Take
So you have done your best to try a keep a quality feed and heeded all of Google’s suggestions but you still get suspended. What can you do next to get back up and running?? (Try not to take it too hard, it happens to A LOT of retailers, and it truly may be completely out of your hands)
1. Fix data feed errors. This should be your primary mission! Start by focusing on critical errors reported within your Google Merchant Center account and work your way to recommended issues. The critical errors are what got you suspended most likely, so get those cleaned up first, and realize there no sense in proceeding with trying to get re-instated if these reported errors are not fixed. (If you are not sure why you were suspended in the first place skip to step 3)
2. Re-upload your updated feed and submit a reevalutation request via the Google Merchant Center account login (once errors are fixed within your feed)
Note: In some cases Steps 1 and 2 will be all you need to do. This is usually the last step if you have received emails outlining necessary feed fixes (Email titled “Data quality suspension warning of your Google Merchant Center account“). This is typically not a true “suspension” but a rejection of the whole feed. Feed rejections are more minor and almost always come with a warning email.) In the sample rejected feed below, we had to remove the products in policy violation and then resubmit the feed, lowering the product count.
3. Call the help number found within your AdWords account. I find this to be very helpful, especially given that the Google Merchant Center has no phone help line. If you are aware of the feed errors and have fixed them, let them know this, and they can often time be a small catalyst in getting your account reinstated more quickly.
This is no guarantee though, and depending on the severity of the infraction and history of prior account suspensions, it could still take a while. If you have no idea on why the account was suspended and there are no critical errors within the Merchant Center, request a reason for suspension and they will most likely escalate the case, which should get you a definite answer for suspension within a few days. This will also give you a direct email thread to a Google rep who will assist you through the re-review process.
4. Be patient. This is the hardest step by far. Once you have done everything you can on your end to fix your feed and let Google know you have done so, all you can do is wait. I have personally seen accounts come back online within a day or two, and some may take up to a few weeks or longer. It is 100% at Google’s discretion and outside of the above steps, there is very little you can do to expedite this process.
Again, keep in mind that an account can be suspended for containing even a single banned product, and while it is extremely frustrating (and potentially damaging to your business to be suspended from PLAs) it is something that MANY retailers go through.
As mentioned above:
- Stay vigilant in monitoring your data quality within the Google Merchant Center
- Always promptly make corrections to errors given in warning emails
- And work to stay on top of eliminating banned products from you feed
You are now armed with the tools to prevent your Google Merchant Center account from being suspended and how to react if your account does go down. Best of luck out there!
Check this out for more info on how to avoid common mistakes with your Google PLA campaign.