How to Troubleshoot your Google merchant center data feed?

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Thought you did everything right but you suddenly find that your product feed has been disapproved of by the Google Shopping carousel? 

No doubt, using Google Shopping is a smart solution to increase brand visibility, but troubleshooting can be a hassle when things awry. 

To make things easy, we’ve gathered the most common issues that Google Merchants come across. Use this handy checklist whenever you encounter trouble, so that you can resolve issues faster.

 

Common Issues in Google merchant center data feed

 

1. Product Crawl Issues

 

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Google routinely crawls your mobile and desktop pages and images for quality issues. If the crawl is unsuccessful, or if Google is unable to access your landing pages, your product will be disapproved. Here are the most common crawl issues:

  1. Page not found (404) error: It may so happen that you’ve delisted the product on your site, but you haven’t followed through with the delisting on your Google Merchant Center Dashboard. It goes without saying that if you’re facing site-wide issues and haven't lived for a while, it may have reflected on Google Shopping console as well.

  2. Server’s robots.txt disallows access: For security reasons, you may have added a ‘robots.txt’ file to your server that prohibits page crawling. If so, then Google will not be able to crawl pages and will disapprove of your product. Alter your ‘robots.txt’ file to allow page crawl from Google.

  3. Invalid URL: Double-check the URL you’ve provided for the product page, character by character. In case of any discrepancies, make the required correction.

  4. Page requires authentication: Much like a robots.txt file, there may be other protections you may have placed on your site. These authentication protocols may prevent Google from accessing your site content.

  5. Hostname not resolvable: If your domain set up on your host has not been done correctly, the DNS records may be missing, corrupt or improperly formatted. If this is the case, you can contact your host to resolve the issue.

  6. Timeout reading page: If your site is taking too long to load, the crawl will be abandoned and the product will be disapproved. Having a slow-loading page may be because you are using a subpar host or your page files are too heavy. There may have also been some server error.

  7. Server redirects too often: You may have placed redirects between an HTTPS as well as an HTTP page. You may also have redirects between different versions of “www” such as “ww1”. If you have more than two redirects, your product will be disapproved. 

  8. Redirect URL too long; empty redirect URL; bad redirect URL: URL redirection/forwarding is a technique to use more than one URL for a page or site. If your redirect URLs are not empty, bad or take too long to respond, you will have to correct the issue before placing your product again on Google shopping feed.

  9. Server’s robots.txt unreachable; timeouts reading robots.txt: Make sure that your robots.txt file allows access to user-agents "Googlebot", "AdsBot-Google", and "Googlebot-Image" to crawl your site.

 

2. Image related issues

 

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Image issues are related to the product images you have provided on your product data-sheet. As product images are visible on the Google search page, continuous vetting for product images is carried out. Below is a list of common errors that occur due to problems with product images.

  1. Items were recently submitted: Once your items are processed, your items will not be displayed by  Google until your images are crawled. If you have been experiencing a low crawl speed, this error may occur. Ensure that your pages aren’t returning 500 or similar errors. You can also set your crawl rate on the Google Search Console. Also, if you are uploading too much at once, ration it to about 10% a day, so that crawl speeds are not compromised.

  2. Images not live yet: If your image is showing up on previews of your site, but aren’t displayed yet there may be some code errors from the backend. A plugin you have added to your site may be preventing your image from going live. If your product image does not live on your server, Google will not be able to complete a successful crawl. This will lead to product disapproval.

  3. Image recently changed: You may have gone with a better quality of different image for your product and simply changed the image on the backend, rather than changing the image URL. We recommend that you change the image URL itself, and update it in your product data on the console. If not it will take up to 6 weeks for the change to appear in your ad. 

  4. Images are in an unsupported format: Google only supports the following formats for product images: GIF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, BMP, and TIF. Also, the image URL must link to an actual image file, not a script.

  5. Your Image URLs aren’t working properly: Again due to widgets or plugins, your image URLs may get affected and won't be working properly. Ensure that your backend is solid before uploading product data on the Google console.

  6. You’ve included spaces within your image URLs: You may have saved an image file as “my picture.jpg”. your image URL will then be displayed as www.xyz.com/my picture.jpg. Although your eCommerce service provider will accept this format, Google will not. Replace the space with %20, for the product image. ( www.xys.com/my%20picture.jpg) . If not, Google will not be able to crawl your product page successfully.

  7. A robots.txt file is on your server not allowing to reach the images: Similar to product crawl issues, image crawl issues also may occur if your robt.txt file has not given permission to user-agents "Googlebot", "AdsBot-Google", and "Googlebot-Image" to crawl your site. Include the following lines in your robots.txt file.

  8. Images redirect: Previously we mentioned that your Image URL should not follow-through to the script, be it ASP, PHP or Cold Fusion. Again, if your image URL redirects to another URL, google will not be able to take a copy of your image to display on your ads. This will lead to disapproval. Ensure that your image URL only links to an image file in supported formats only.

  9. Image size too large: One of the most common issues that occur when it comes to site loading times, is the usage of large files for images. Image size restrictions for having your product displayed on Shopping feed are:

    • For non-apparel products, use an image of at least 100 x 100 pixels

    • For apparel products, use an image of at least 250 x 250 pixels

    • Don't submit an image larger than 64 megapixels or a file larger than 16MB

 

3. Data Feed Errors

 

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Data feed errors occur when Google is unable to read and download the data on your site for various reasons. Some common data feed errors are:

  1. An attempt to download your data feed was denied by your site's robots.txt file: Yet again, most commonly faced crawl issues are due to permissions set on your ‘robots.txt’ file. Your ‘robots/txt’ file is extremely important to Google as it is essentially using Search Engine data to show ads, unlike when it comes to paid Google or Facebook Ads which use targeted marketing strategies. The ‘robot.txt’ file dictates which pages on your site, Google can or cannot crawl. Ensure that you have given permission for Google to crawl your product pages. Google’s user agents are "Googlebot", "AdsBot-Google", and "Googlebot-Image". If you don’t know where or how to edit your robots.txt file, contact your hosting provider e.e. Wix, Drupal, Bluehost, Shopify, etc.

  2. Missing value [description]: If you haven’t product description on your console i.e. schema.org property Product.description is empty, check the diagnostics to see which products are having this issue. An example of a product description could be “This classic red turtleneck is everything you need for biting winter this year. Machine wash cold; imported.” Your description may have errors if you haven’t formatted it correctly, with line breaks, lusts, italics, etc. Ensure that there are no promotional messaging like “free shipping”, all capitals or gimmicky foreign characters. It should look neat and contain only product information. No store, sales, competitor, other products and other unrelated information are allowed. Google will approve the product description, and then only your shopping ad will be visible.

  3. Missing value [size]: All apparel products must have a size attribute. This is because people often search with a specific size in mind. If you want to use a range of sizes, say “S-Xl”, you can use the size_system attribute. You should ensure that the values you provide meet the Shopping ads policies.

 

Submitting Your Feed to Google

 

Google has made it fairly simple in terms of attribute properties that are required to ensure that your product is displayed. The required and recommended attributes are specific to product categories. Make sure that the data you feed is well vetted to include as many recommended products and all the required products. 

Once you update your product data feed to ensure compatibility with Google, you can resubmit using three methods:

  1. Upload a feed: You can direct upload or use FTP, SFTP upload. You can also upload via google storage.

  2. Submit through a Content API: You can develop an applet to automatically do content feeds on to the merchant center.

  3. Import through an ecommerce platform: Use Wix or Shopify to upload data.

Once the errors are fixed and you’ve uploaded the data again, make sure that it no longer appears on the diagnostics page. It may take some time for the changes to reflect.

 

Conclusion

 

The most commonly found errors are with respect to crawling. The robots.txt file is extremely crucial to your Shopping ads feed. Make sure that you have allowed access to your product pages. Most often your web host does this for you automatically, but in case there is a crawl error don’t forget to contact your host’s help center if you are unsure about how to edit your robots.txt file.

Apart from crawl errors, the second most common is in product feed and images, for which Google has fairly simple documentation set up to follow.

Using a search engine like Google, to get you 100% organic results is quite extraordinary in today’s day and age. Shopping ads have so many inherent advantages that other forms of marketing fail or falter. Make good use of this universal platform to help your eCommerce grow multi-fold across the destinations. If you have a niche product that could sell globally, Google Shopping ads can be your first foray into international shipping. There are lots you can do at an analytical level, to see who your target group and how to suit their behavior. Don’t fret if you see a barrage of disapproval on your first attempt; once you’ve got the hang of it, you can set up a content API to do all the work for you automatically! Happy selling!

 

Further readings on Google Feed 

  1. How to Troubleshoot your Google merchant center data feed?

  2. What are the Requirements to Google merchant center data feed?
  3. Tips to Optimize Your Google Merchant Center Data Feed

  4. How to create the correct Feed for multiple countries?

  5. Google Merchant Center Feed Guide.