Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with additional information to help readers like you. 🙂
Original Publication Date: June 3, 2015
Vanessa shivered and glanced over her shoulder.
She could have sworn she heard something. But the only contents of the dimly lit office were a crushed energy drink can, a MacBook Air, and Vanessa herself.
The MacBook’s screen glowed. Its unfeeling gaze cast oddly-shaped shadows across the walls, adding to Vanessa’s uneasiness.
It was 2 AM. She had been working for hours, finishing a new Google Ads Shopping account build for her newest client.
She double-checked her work, ensured her bids were set correctly, took a deep breath and pushed everything live.
Vanessa closed her eyes and waited. After a long moment, she peeked at the screen. The back of her neck tingled with apprehension.
No disapprovals appeared. No errors were found.
Could it be? Could it be that everything was as it should be?
She stood up and stretched, turning away from the MacBook’s light.
And the shadows, sensing an opportunity, rushed in.
The hairs on Vanessa’s neck rose. She whirled around and, with trembling fingers, opened the Google Merchant Center page.
She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out.
Vanessa was staring at a scarlet bloodbath of disapproved products.
All of her work, for nothing.
The client’s top products — no, all of the products — were flagged as disapproved, and no reason appeared. An endless labyrinth of nonsensical passageways had appeared between her and the product approvals she was desperate for.
Vanessa grabbed another energy drink.
Her long night had just gotten longer.
7 Tips for Dealing with Disapproved Products In Google Shopping
Does this story sound familiar? Have you lost sleep over the Google Shopping ads approval process?
If so, this post is for you.
Google Shopping is a powerful channel for eCommerce websites.
As more attention is given to Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in search engine result pages (SERPs), and as people become increasingly attracted to image and price ads, the platform is becoming even more important.
Unfortunately, the back-end of Google Shopping continues to be a complicated space, even for PPC managers.
For example, a frustration often voiced by PPCers is the helpless feeling of what to do when there is a problem in Google Shopping.
There is currently no direct access to a Google Shopping team member unless you’re fortunate enough to have an agency rep with quick connections.
The Google Shopping team is like the squad from Delta Force. They’re highly innovative, intelligent, specialized, and capable. They’re also completely inaccessible to ordinary people who can’t tap into the secret channels of communication.
This post will help shine a light on how to fix product disapprovals in Google Merchant Center.
While these are by no means exhaustive, here are seven tips I’ve learned from my own experience, Google, and friends on Twitter.
Google Shopping Tip 1: Double-Check Your Information
Google is very specific about the data they need and the format they need it in.
If you’re having problems with disapprovals in your Google Shopping account, this is a great first place to check.
Supplying attributes like availability, condition, and price are easy enough, but Google is very strict about the accuracy of all the data in your product feed. The exact requirements depend on the type of products that you sell or the country you’re selling in. And if the price doesn’t match, for example, your product is likely to get disapproved.
Tip 1 Takeaway
To avoid this problem, double-check all of your product information before you submit it, and make sure to update your Google Shopping feed frequently.
Google Shopping Tip 2: Don’t Trust The Diagnostics Report
I’m currently looking at a client’s account, and the Main View on the Diagnostic tab under “Items” is reporting 3 Errors & Warnings.
When I click through to the Current Issues > Items, I see seven affected Items for ‘google product category’, four disapprovals for ‘policy violations’, and a host of other issues (not included in the screenshot above).
In the past, I’ve seen “47 disapproved” items only to click through several of them and learn that the problem was resolved (which is why I was checking them), and the products themselves in Google Merchant Center were actually approved.
In that instance, I had already contacted my Google rep and asked why these products were still disapproved and she had already contacted the Shopping team when I decided randomly to check the individual products and realized they had actually been fixed.
Tip 2 Takeaway
You can’t trust the “top level” numbers and data. So do some digging before either (1) panicking, (2) contacting Google or (3) both.
Google Shopping Tip 3: Request Re-Approval For Applicable Products In The Interface
Perhaps you didn’t know, or haven’t seen this option before on your products, but you can submit specific product disapprovals for manual approval right in the interface.
This is a welcome and helpful change, and I’m hoping this happens more and more.
Note: According to Google Ads, that the reason for some manual approvals and not others has to do with specific policy violations.
Note #2: Once you request and receive manual approval, if it’s still disapproved… you’re REALLY screwed.
You’ll need to seek out the reason for disapproval from a Google Ads rep for your pay per click agency. If no reason can be given, try to discern the main policy violation and implement “Tip #6” below.
Tip 3 Takeaway
Check into each product that is disapproved to see if you can manually request it to be re-approved. This is by FAR the fastest way to get your disapproved products reviewed.
Google Shopping Tip 4: There’s a Specific Shopping Help Page, But Its Benefit May Surprise You
Did you know there is a place you can go to ask specifically about disapproved products?
This is an interesting page for a few reasons.
First, I reached this page through my MCC Google Account, where I don’t have any Google Merchant Center clients attached.
In that view, the only help option that appeared was for email.
Gil Hong and Aaron Levy on Twitter told me they were seeing a chat and phone option. So I went into the page through a client account that was spending a good amount and — surprise! — there was the chat and phone option.
The second reason this page is interesting is that it does not give you any contact benefit over what you already have in your Google Ads account.
And here’s where things really get interesting…er.
I immediately noticed that the phone number given on the page was the same as the general Google Ads management help line.
So I hopped on the chat and began chatting with a very nice Google Ads rep.
During the conversation that followed, I learned that this help page goes to the same support teams as the Google Ads account help box.
Tip 4 Takeaway
It may save time going through the Merchant Center help page provided above. You’ll already have entered your Google Ads IDs, so the rep can pull things up quickly. But it’s the same team that you can access through your regular Google Ads account.
Google Shopping Tip 5: Some Products Will Be The Bane Of Your Existence & Require Manual Approvals
There are certain products out there that just get caught in some sort of automatic filter every single time.
It’s just the way it is.
This could be related to the industry, buzzwords in the description, pricing, or something else entirely.
As one example, I’ve run into this with products that have Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) policies assigned to them. These really get interesting when you’re trying to balance those with Google Shopping’s policies.
I have written a lengthy post on this “rock & a hard place” issue that you can read here: The Secret Conflict of MAP Pricing & Google Shopping.
If you’re in this category or know what I am talking about, then product disapprovals may be your eternal destiny.
There’s only one real way around this. You’ll need to interact with your Google reps constantly to get your products manually submitted for approval.
Tip 5 Takeaway
As hard as you try, understand that some products will be disapproved all the time.
Take a deep breath and educate your team and the client about this reality so changes are handled carefully. Look for ways to reduce down-time while waiting for manual approvals.
Google Shopping Tip 6: Beware The Current Technical Issue. You May Have to Change Product IDs
I’ve been told this by more than one Googler now.
I have a client with three important products that are caught in one of the automatic filters’ “known technical issues”. I was told that “There’s no timeframe on a fix for this, it’s affecting multiple customers, and there’s no way to manually approve these products.”
Just be aware that some of your products can fall into this well… as well.
If that’s the case, you can either choose to wait it out and hope Google fixes it soon, or change your product ID and description (which will kill your history and Quality Score for that product) and upload it as a new product.
Tip 6 Takeaway
Ask your Google Rep if your account is being affected by this “known technical issue” if you have a product(s) that cannot get approved. If so, choose between (1) waiting out the fix, or (2) blowing up your product history by changing the ID and description/title.
Google Shopping Tip 7: When in Doubt, START HACKING
Last but not least, if you continue to experience policy violations, then start hacking up your title and description.
Remember not to touch the product ID unless you’re okay with erasing that product’s history.
Also, there are a few buzzwords or random phrases that can trip filters for some reason.
Just give it your best shot. Hack up the description and see what happens.
I know that doesn’t sound very scientific. But sometimes this is the best option available. This policy page explains what is and is not allowed in titles and descriptions.
Tip 7 Takeaway
Identify possible words that could be tripping up known policy filters (especially promo sounding or pharma related terms!) and remove them before you resubmit the product.
If all else fails and you don’t care about product history, change the Product ID and title/description so it reloads as a new product.
Hopefully, with these tips, you can reduce the downtime from Google Shopping products for disapprovals.
What about you? Any tips or tricks you want to share with the class?
Leave them in the comments below or Tweet them including @PPCKirk and @KlientBoost in your tweet!