Common Google Shopping Feed Errors and Fixes

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If you are a merchant who sets up to sell on Google Shopping, you will need to create a Shopping Feed to tell Goggle all about the products that you are selling. The feed is simply a way of uploading data to the Merchant Center which will help Google identify your product and display it when people search for it. 

To help identify your product, Google needs to know some of the product attributes such as the title, id, condition, availability, description, and so on. This is because unlike search advertisers who bid on keywords, shopping advertisers have no control over which search triggers their shopping ads.

Google, crawls your website and shopping feed to determine which query your ad is most relevant for. Therefore having a robust Google Shopping Feed ensures Google gets the precise data it needs to classify and display your product similar to SEO. 

Getting your shopping feed right not only helps Google display it in the right place but also rank your offering higher compared to your competition.   

It is common for many merchants to make errors in input in their data feed and get frustrated trying to figure out a solution to the error that is stopping their ad. 

Google merchant support articles only give general guidelines and no specific answer to commonly encountered errors. In this article, we have put together a list of Common Google Shopping feed errors that both new and experienced merchants come across.  

Common Google shopping feed errors

1. Missing value [gtin] (old: Item from a designated brand is missing a GTIN)

Reason

The GTIN is an essential attribute for all brands that you provide. It is a unique identifier number that manufacturers assign to their products.

Fix

GTIN numbers depend on the country or continent and are given below the barcodes on the products as the following numbers: UPC (North America), JAN(Japan), EAN (Europe), ISBN (Books), ITF-14. 

Google has a detailed article on GTIN for their merchants for thorough understanding. If you’re selling custom products then the GTIN, MPN, and Brand values can be skipped. In such a case, your Identifier_Exists attributes should be submitted with value as FALSE. 

2. The item uses an unrecognizable GTIN

Reason

There can be a mistake during entering the GTIN in either the digits.

Fix

Ensure you have given the correct number of GTIN digits by downloading the disapproved items report and reviewing your data feed. GTIN’s are 8, 10, 12, 13, or 14 digits long. If you have entered the number of digits correctly, check the validity of the GTIN using this guide. 

If the GTIN is right, get in touch with Google Merchant Center support through live chat or call. If the GTIN is found to be invalid, contact the product manufacturer.

3. Invalid GTIN value (same as Incorrect product identifier [gtin], and Invalid value [gtin])

Reason

This means you have either entered incorrect GTIN values for the products or you have provided GTIN values that don’t apply to custom products. 

Fix

Check the validity of your GTIN values in terms of the number of digits by reviewing your data feed. For custom products set the Identifier_Exists attribute to False. 

Sometimes this issue can also be caused by shopping feed apps autonomously generating GTINs if you haven’t provided one. Switching the app will fix this issue.

4. Insufficient product identifiers: Missing two out of three attributes [GTIN, Brand, MPN]

Reason

This happens when out of the required two attributes, at least one is incorrect or missing.

Fix

You are required to provide a minimum of 2/3 attributes for product identifiers in the case of mass-produced products. That means either Brand+GTIN or Brand+MPN for products without GTIN. 

It is recommended to submit all three attributes so Google can better understand your product and improve its visibility. Refer to this Merchant Center help article to know in detail about it. 

5. Unsupported value (restricted) [gtin] (same as Restricted usage GTIN)

Reason

The GTIN range which starts with 2, 02, or 4 is not eligible for external sharing. If your GTIN starts with those numbers you will see this error. Refer to this support article to learn more. 

Fix

Download the report for disapproved items and check for the GTIN values to make sure they do not have the restricted values. If the GTIN values look right except the numbers starting with the restricted values 2, 02, or 4, contact the product manufacturer. 

6. Incorrect product identifiers

Reason

One or more of the product identifiers such as GTIN or MPN or Brand is submitted incorrectly. 

Fix

The product identifiers you submit help Google understand what your product is so it can be displayed in the right search. The identifiers include Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPN), and Brand name. 

These must be given correctly as invalid entries pop up errors. This Merchant Center support article will guide you in getting the attributes right.  

7. Ambiguous value [gtin] (same as Ambiguous GTIN code)

Reason

Google is unable to recognize the GTIN value you have provided. 

Fix

Download the report for disapproved items and ensure you have provided the correct GTIN value. The GTIN values are all given under the barcodes of the products. 

If you still lack a complete picture of the GTIN identifier, read this support article from Google to learn all about it and where to find them.

8. Invalid images

Reason

Going by what Google says about invalid images the most common cause could be that the given URL opens a web page instead of an image or a 404 Error where the image cannot be found on the server.

Fix

Download the report for disapproved items for verification. Recheck your data feed and ensure that the items image link parameter on the disapproved items links to the correct URL. 

To get your products approved sooner(less than 4 days) it is ideal to use a new URL. Google can otherwise take up to 6 weeks to check your images. 

9. Invalid URL

Reason

Often URLs can be entered incorrectly or with invalid characters leading to this error. 

Fix

  • Go through the URLs to find any invalid characters such as spaces or symbols
  • Check for incorrect entry with backslashes (\). Only the forward slashes (/) are valid. 
  • Check for the validity of your URL. It should be https://www.myxyzstore.com and not www.myxyzstore.com.

10. Images too small

Reason

The product image you have provided is too small in pixels to reveal essential details of the item and does not meet the threshold pixel value.

Fix

Google Shopping apparel product images should have a minimum resolution of 205×250 pixels. For other products, the minimum is 100×100 pixels. It is also essential that the images are no larger than 16 MB in file size. 

11. Unexpected image processing error

Reason

It can be caused by images not meeting image requirements.

Fix

Remember to stick to these minimum image requirements: 

  • Proper display of the product in the image.
  • Use accepted image formats such as GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, and TIFF.
  • Apparel images should be a minimum of 250×250 pixels while every other image must be at least 100×100 pixels.
  • Avoid submitting images larger than 16MB or with a resolution higher than 64 MP. 
  • Avoid submitting thumbnails or scaled-up images.
  • Exclude watermarks, promotional texts, or borders.
  • Avoid submitting generic image exceptions or placeholders.
  • Illustrations are accepted only for hardware or vehicle parts.
  • Single-color images are only allowed in paint categories. 

12. Image not retrieved (crawl pending)

Reason

It Is not possible to pinpoint a reason why Google bots are taking time to crawl your page.

Fix

Your only option is to wait for 3 days as the bots do not crawl every page on consecutive days. Therefore as explained in this article, you will have to wait for the bots to get to your image URL. 

If it continues beyond 3 days with the indicator bars standing still, you can get in touch with the Merchant Center Support through live chat or call.  

13. Promotional overlay on image [image link]

Reason

This happens if there are any promotional texts overlaying on your images.

Fix

Use a fresh image or remove any kind of text on the product images. Once you have a fresh acceptable image, upload it to a new URL to get it approved faster by Google. 

14. Missing value [image link]

Reason

The Image URL is missing in the feed.

Fix

Download the report for the disapproved items and check with the product images. There should be a valid link in the image_link attributes. 

15. Violation of Shopping ads policy (same as “Automatic item disapprovals due to policy violation”)

Reason

Sometimes there would be product attributes in your feed that Google algorithms can deem as violating its policies. The tricky aspect of it is that Google doesn’t tell you which attribute it is that violates their policies. 

This happens commonly with cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and other products that can fall under the restricted category. 

Fix

Since it is very difficult for you to discern the details yourself, get in touch with the Merchant Center Support through live chat. Live chat is recommended as you will have it in writing and the exact details. Some of the products that get this error category include: 

  • Restricted pharmaceutical products and those that are unapproved. This support article details all the products that you cannot sell.
  • Product descriptions with keywords containing restricted substances on the landing pages. 
  • Any claims by you in the description that goes against the scientific understanding/research or facts about the products. For example, a weight loss product claiming a 50% reduction in an impossibly short amount of time.

16. Restricted Products (other message used ‘Violation of Shopping ads policy’)

Reason

You have a product on your page that falls under the restricted products category.

Fix

Go through the list of restricted products given in the link above. If you don’t find your product there contact Merchant Center Support through live chat. That way you can have the exact details and everything in writing.

17. Unavailable desktop landing page

404 Error 

A 404 occurs when your landing pages are no longer available. This can happen if you have hidden the product from your store or deleted it from it but your shopping feed still has the product. 

To fix it, go to your shopping feed or app (if you are using any) and delete the products that you no longer offer. If you are using an app to manage the feed, it will usually detect that your product has been removed and update automatically within 24 hours.

Could not connect (or HTTP 5xx response)

This happens when a Google bot’s request to crawl your page doesn’t get a response from your ecommerce platform. 

To fix it, review the page of your disapproved products and check whether you are able to access them without difficulty. If you are using platforms such as Shopify or WooCommerce, contact their support and explain the issue that you are able to view your pages while Google pops up an error. 

DNS Error/Hostname not Resolvable/Timeout on DNS Lookup

This indicates an issue with your Domain Name System (DNS). Get in touch with your DNS provider and get help with configuring your DNS. 

18. Unavailable mobile landing page

Reason

This could arise from a number of problems that are similar to the unavailable desktop landing page error.

Fix

The same solutions that apply to unavailable desktop landing pages also apply to mobile devices. 

19. Unsecure Checkout

Reason

This error pops up if you are not using SSL- encrypted (HTTPS) checkout pages, or pages that do not have a valid SSL certificate.

Fix

Payments and transactions along with any personal information of the user being processed must be done securely through SSL-protections. Since this is a Google Shopping policy, you will have to purchase an SSL certificate from your hosting provider. 

Alternatively, you can use a free Let’s Encrypt certificate which is also by your host provider account. Google requires a secure checkout process even if PayPal is your only payment gateway. 

If your store is on an ecommerce platform and you have an SSL on your plan, contact the Google Merchant Center support to clarify it. 

20. No Tax or Shipping

Reason

No Tax warning comes up usually when it is not enabled or set to default. No shipping error occurs if the shipping methods are not set to Active.

Fix

The tax setting allows you to have control over not charging tax to services within the United States. You could also specify the initial states you require and choose any of the options to remove the tax configuration message. 

To fix the shipping errors, ensure it is set to Active and choose the shipping method. Products that exceed the shipping limitations must be mentioned as well.

21. Target Location without Shipping and Tax

Reason

Tax rates and shipping varies in different countries.

Fix

You will have to create separate tax rates and shipping for different locations. This is because both the US and other countries need their own tax rates and shipping methods in the feed. Refer to this support article for a detailed explanation on setting up feeds for different countries. 

22. Missing value [tax]

Reason

Missing tax value error shows up when Google is unable to fetch a tax value from the products in your Merchant Center.

Fix

The taxes you collect must be submitted in the feed. If you have done that already, refresh the feed to resolve the error or upload it manually through a new feed. 

This support article details all about the tax rates and tax category and how to submit what you collect. 

23. Missing value [shipping] (same as Missing shipping information)

Reason

Missing shipping can happen if the shipping method is unspecified or not set to Active.

Fix

Shipping information needs to be carefully selected starting with specifying the shipping method. Different countries have different shipping methods therefore set it correctly based on the guidelines. 

Appropriate shipping methods also have to be chosen for different items. There are products that cannot be shipped through air considering the weight and the nature of the item transported. 

Google’s support article gives details on how to set up different shipping methods and more information needed to avoid this error. 

24. Incorrect shipping costs

Reason

Incorrectly provided shipping cost information can vary the total but a significant number. Hence it is essential to provide the right shipping costs, especially on a large scale, or else it could lead to account suspension. 

Fix

Download the report for disapproved items and ensure that the shipping costs are set correctly for all products. To give more accurate estimates you can also specify shipping rates at the level of the products by modifying the attributes in the data feed. 

It’s also ideal to choose the same currency as you have mentioned in your feed even if you are targeting other countries to avoid discrepancies. 

25. Invalid UTF-8 encoding [description]

Reason

When the Merchant Center doesn’t recognize certain symbols in your description such as special symbols, characters that are proprietary or diacritic, this error shows up. It is also an issue that arises from a feed that uses Microsoft Excel which uses different encoding to save your data.   

Fix

Download the report for the disapproved items and change the special symbols that can cause encoding errors. Update your description in the feed and re-upload it. if it still doesn’t fix the issue you can try converting the text format to UTF-8. 

Your description in the new format can be re-uploaded to the feed to solve the error. This article by Zendesk has an in-depth breakdown of the process the summary of which looks like this: 

  • Open Google Drive through your Gmail account. 
  • Create a new Google Document sheet for your feed.
  • Import your CSV file to the new Google Docs sheet.
  • Once imported save it to your computer as File>Download As>Comma-Separated Values.
  • The saved file should now have UTF-8 encoding.  

26. Encoding problem (double UTF8 encoding) in attribute: description

Reason

A double encoding error occurs when the original feed file from the site or database has used a different set of encoding such as latin1/cp1251/ or others – with proprietary characters, special symbols, or diacritics which were later encoded as UTF-8. Since such double encoding is not allowed, an error pops up. 

Fix

To fix the issue as discussed in this Google Support thread, the standard UTF-8 should be used on the original text and then uploaded to Google without any other encoding. 

You could also improve it by removing special symbols or characters and hidden white spaces that would cause issues during the encoding. To keep it simple, start your feed with Google Sheets straight and save the descriptions in UTF-8, and then re-upload it to your feed.

27. Temporary item disapprovals due to incorrect prices (same as Mismatched value [price] (page crawl))

Reason

Incorrect price errors pop up when there is a mismatch between the prices on your ads and landing pages. 

Fix

Download the report of disapproved items and verify that the prices on your website are the same as the prices submitted through your feed. If you are manually updating the feed then update the price changes immediately to keep it relevant. 

A different cause as explained by this piece by Highstreet.io explains how currency conversions when selling in a different country can create discrepancies in prices. Since Google expects your site to display prices in the currency of the country you are selling in, the automatic currency switchers convert the currency according to the IP address. 

These apps can also change the content on the landing pages and disrupt the uniformity of information. If you are using automatic updates configure it to update periodically, preferably on a daily basis to keep up with your page.  

28. Unknown ‘Google product category’ value (same as Invalid Google product category)

Reason

The Unknown product category error indicates a mistake in providing the correct product category that is in accordance with the Google Product Taxonomy. 

Fix

Google’s product taxonomy is extensive and continuously evolving to incorporate all the new products and categories that come up on the platform. Every product is assigned a category from this categorization so it can be displayed accurately. 

Your feed data with proper information in the titles, descriptions, brand, GTIN, Pricing, etc will be used to correctly categorize your product. Although Google has an automatic categorization feature, the Google Product Category attribute can be used to override it and update the correct information. 

When providing the category info it is essential to include the full path. For example, if your product is a food and water dish for birds, the category goes as follows: Animals & Pet Supplies > Pet Supplies > Bird Supplies > Bird Cage Accessories > Bird Cage Food & Water Dishes.

29. Missing value [color]

Reason

Color is an essential attribute for all apparel that includes clothes, jewelry, watches, belts, etc. Google also expects you to keep the names of colors simple and use the dominant color when there is more than one. 

Fix

The feed rules have all you need to know as explained in this article.

  1. Log in to Google Merchant
  2. Go to Products> Feeds> Feed Name> Feed Rules.
  3. Under Feed Rules click on Add Target Attribute and choose ‘color’.
  4. Click on the button next to ‘Create a value based on criteria in a feed field’.
  5. Select Title > Contains and type the color in the text field and continue.

30. Missing value [size]

Reason

This error shows up when you enter an incorrect product size that does not match the standardized sizes accepted by Google

Fix

Size is an attribute that you can choose to fit your product into one of the standardized categories. It’s essential to accurately define this attribute as it shops up in relevant searches. 

Download your report on the disapproved items list and review whether your sizes adhere to the standards set by Google. Update your data feed and upload it to your Merchant Center to modify.  

31. Missing value [description]

Reason

This error pops us when you have missed writing a description or have written too short a description.

Fix

The recommended description for shopping should contain 500 characters. It is also highly recommended to optimize descriptions with keywords to help with SEO. 

Ideally, descriptions should contain all the info your prospect might be looking for in a concise manner. This also means that the description shouldn’t be keyword-stuffed but maintains a balance between what feeds the engine and what catches your prospect’s attention. 

32. Invalid value [price] (same as Incorrect price)

Reason

You would see this error when the price in your Shopping Ad is different from what is on your website. 

Fix

Download the report on disapproved items and review if the prices you have submitted are the same as what you have on your website. 

If it checks out the error could be coming from the currency switcher apps that convert your price to the currency of the country you are selling in. 

You could create country-specific landing pages or domains/subdomains to work around this problem. 

33. Missing value [age group]

Reason

Age group is one of the essential attributes as many products are often designed to fit a particular age group. Not filling this attribute for every product can return the feed with an error.

Fix

Google has a range of age groups starting from newborn, infant, toddler, kids, and adult. If your products have a specific age group limit, it needs to be assigned a range in the feed. 

If all the products are for one age group only, then setting the attribute is effortless whether you’re doing it manually or using an app. In cases where products are meant for two age groups such as (kids and adults), set the attribute to the broader category as ‘adult’. 

34. Missing value [gender]

Reason

Gender is a mandatory attribute for products in the apparel and accessories category. 

Fix

Download the report on disapproved items and review the gender attribute set for –females, males, or unisex for all apparel and accessories. 

Gender definition is used along with size and age category to determine the right results to show in searches. If your product can be used by everyone, set it to unisex.

Conclusion

The Google shopping feed is the tool that gives you control over all the information you present about your product to Google which ultimately ends up in front of a prospective buyer. 

Every product is defined by a range of attributes that helps Google to identify and classify it to be presented during a relevant search. Getting the attributes right is essential to have your offering rank higher in search while getting it wrong or providing incorrect information can get your product off the ads. 

The most common shopping feed errors are often minor and boil down to mistyped values and insufficiently understood guidelines. Therefore whether the feed is uploaded manually or through an app there is always scope for errors that can be corrected with a good understanding of the Shopping Feed

About the author

Karthik Ramachandiran

Google Ads Expert From Bengaluru. Share his Expertise Here