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Google Merchant Center suspensions have been on a steady rise since COVID hit, and while some suspensions are seemingly "unavoidable," there are some key steps you can take to not only prevent the majority of them, but of course also fix them as well.
As an ecommerce business owner or advertiser you are already very well in the know of how powerful Google Shopping can be for driving quality traffic to your store(s) that has a very high likelihood to convert.
However, what if you go through all the work of trying to get your products onto Google only to not be able to list or advertise them? What if you've been advertising or listing products for years, but suddenly notice that everything flatlines?
Suspended Google Merchant Center accounts are simply THE WORST! The best offense is a strong defense, as they say, and that definitely holds true for how you can avoid suspensions whether you are just getting started or have been actively running Google Shopping campaigns for years.
What is a Google Merchant Center Suspension?
By Google's own definition:
"We want everyone to have a safe and positive experience when visiting Google and our partner sites. To help make that a reality, we've developed a set of policies that we expect merchants to follow. When merchants don't follow these policies, we might disapprove their items to let them know that something's not right. When they continue to break the rules or break the rules egregiously, then we may have to suspend those accounts."
While Merchant Center account suspensions range widely in reason and severity, you can almost consider them much like a "time out" for "bad behavior." Google takes protecting consumers very seriously and that is why Shopping Ads policies (which also extend to for Free Product Listings and Buy on Google) were put into place.
When your website or products violate said policies, the risk for a Merchant Center suspension is incredibly high. Most of the time suspensions are temporary and simply require that you correct something in your product feed, on your ecommerce store (or in your source code), or sometimes just remove products that are in violation.
That is not to say that they can also be seemingly permanent punishments for not following the rules. There are known Merchant Center suspensions that are, all other things being equal, next to impossible to fix.
The bottom line: When your Google Merchant Center account is suspended you are unable to continue to serve Shopping Ads, have products appear in Free Listings, or have products displayed within Buy on Google.
How do I know when my account gets suspended?
As you can see above, a very clear, bright red warning is displayed within your Google Merchant Center account indicating a suspension and the reason why.
However, you may not necessarily be logged into Merchant Center or might be too busy one day or, even worse, too busy for an entire week to catch that warning.
Good thing is that Google will notify you via email not only when your account is suspended, but they may also issue a warning first that can include a deadline for you to fix any issues.
Here's what a warning might look like, and as you can see Google is providing a deadline to this Merchant - giving them plenty of time to come under compliance:
Whereas, when your account does get suspended
You may also note that in both circumstances, Google is providing guidance on how to correct these issues - whether that is to AVOID a suspension or REMEDY one.
What are the most common suspension reasons?
The answer to this question can be split up with regards to commonality:
- New Merchant Center Accounts - The most common reasons, at least the ones most easy to fix, for new Google Merchant Center accounts center around basic lack of required information both on your website and in your Merchant Center configurations.
- Longer-Standing Accounts - For those who have had an account for some time and suddenly fall victim to a Google Merchant Center suspension the reasons typically stem from a change you made to your own store policies and/or settings, but neglected to make a similar change within Merchant Center.
New Merchant Center Account Suspensions
Being eager to get your products onto Google can cause you to ignore or simply forget about certain things. Totally understood! You are excited! You need visitors that turn into shoppers that turn into revenue.
But, that is exactly what can lead to the most common reasons why many brand new Merchant Center accounts get suspended so often.
Ultimately, every ecommerce store should have these key pages and/or elements secured on their website as a general best practice. Should you not, Google will tell you anyway!
- Billing Terms & Conditions - Your site must provide clear and conspicuous billing terms and conditions
- Return Policy - Your site must provide a clear and conspicuous return policy to users
- Shipping Policy - Your site must provide clear and conspicuous shipping terms
- Contact Page - Contact Page should be its own page and must include: Physical Address, Telephone Number and/or email (All 3 are recommended)
- Accepted Payments - This can be an image or seal representation of what payments or credit cards are accepted
Longer-Standing Merchant Center Account Suspensions
Ignoring the more severe outliers here, those who have had their Google Merchant Center accounts for quite some time are just as prone to suspensions as those with brand new accounts.
Typically, this can be chocked up to "human error" and the two most common reasons are:
- Inaccurate tax information - The tax information you supply to Google from within Google Merchant Center does not match what Google has found when crawling your product pages and checkout funnel. Why? Usually its because you changed how you tax or something changed with your tax app or service provider (Avalara for example) and you did not update your settings within Google Merchant Center.
- Inaccurate shipping costs - The shipping price found in your checkout process do not match the rules you have set up within Google Merchant Center. This is incredibly common! Why? You most likely changed your shipping rates, added new shipping options, or something changed with your shipping calculator or provider app within your store. Problem is you forgot to adjust accordingly in Google Merchant Center too.
How do I fix a Google Merchant Center suspension?
You yourself cannot physically do anything to actually lift a suspension placed on your Google Merchant Center account. The same goes for suspension warnings wherein your account is at risk of suspension but you have time to correct the issue.
Only Google Merchant Center support can do so. However, there is a very simple set of steps everyone needs to go through:
- Determine the reason why - As you saw above in those emails sent by Google Merchant Center or in the warning message displayed in one's account, there is almost always a very clear reason why your account got suspended. The hang up for most merchants is simply understanding the reason as they are not necessarily experts on the subject matter. Should you be confused, working with a specialized Google Premier Partner can make things a whole lot easier.
- Address the reason - Once you know the "Why" you simply need to work backwards to address how to fix it and even who should be the one to fix it. Should it be something on your website that needs to be adjusted then contacting your designer or developer can speed things up. If it is a more deep-rooted issue, then you may need to do some more digging. In other cases, it may just be a matter of adjusting some settings within your Google Merchant Center account alone.
- Correct the issue - When you know where the issue(s) lies, then you can remedy the situation. The important thing is to do so quickly and to make sure that it does in fact ensure that you now comply with Google's policies.
- Request a Merchant Center review - Finally, you now must contact Google Merchant Center support and request that they review your account, store, settings, what have you to check if your corrections warrant them lifting the suspension on your Merchant Center account.
Seems easy enough, right? Well, yes and no. Prior to COVID, it was a lot easier to get in touch with a live representative at Google via either phone or even live chat.
Today, the only real way is to go through this form
Its important to note that it is not all too uncommon for a request to not only potentially take a while - sometimes 24hrs or longer - but that the answer you get may not be to your immediate liking.
Google will, just like before, inform you via email.
As you can see in the below example, this merchant is dealing with one of our aforementioned common suspension warning reasons of [Inaccurate shipping costs] and while they submitted that form, their account still remains under the warning because the issue itself was not resolved:
There's also something that Google does not tell you.
Per each submission via that form in requesting a review of one's Merchant Center account, there is a "cooldown period" before you can submit another should the response you get not be satisfactory. Many merchants are confused by this because Google says that you can click a "Request a review" button within Merchant Center - but that button isn't always there, where they say it is (Products > Diagnostics > Account issues):
In most cases, the cooldown period is a few days or up to a full week. This should give you ample time to go back again and address the fact that you did not actually correct the issue.
What about "those" Merchant Center suspensions?
Without getting any more technical - because, let's be honest here, this stuff is complicated - there are Google Merchant Center account suspensions that even the most seasoned of experts "cannot" get lifted.
These you can bucket into the most severe of cases, and while these types of suspensions have been steadily on the rise since the start of COVID, they are yet still very uncommon.
Either way, what you've learned today should help you navigate Google Merchant Center account suspensions more easily - knowing how to spot them and eventually get to fixing the issues and getting a suspension lifted.
When things do escape you however - never hesitate to reach out for help!