Can You Decipher This Warning from the Google Shopping Team?

Dear Google Shopping Merchant,

It has come to our attention that your Google Merchant Center account does not comply with our Google Shopping feed specifications.

Your listings are currently at risk of suspension because Google Shopping doesn’t allow product listings with generic or dysfunctional landing pages.

Deadline: ASAP

Sincerely,

The Google Shopping Team

If you’ve ever received this notification from Google, it’s possible you’ve stared at the screen in disbelief and thought,

“How can this be?”

“I’m following all of the rules!”

“What the heck does ‘generic or dysfunctional landing pages’ mean? All my LP’s are working!!”

This message can cause even the most precise and policy-centric advertiser stress. Google is clearly alerting us to something that’s not quite adding up, however they’re not always clear on exactly what the problem is. This makes it challenging to pinpoint the single, or sometimes multiple issues they might be referring to. So, the next and only step is to continue to read on, and try to determine what Google is alluding to…

Email Example 1: Generic or dysfunctional landing pages may be the result of adapting landing pages based on the user’s location or the user’s IP address. In such cases, users outside of the target country might see generic or dysfunctional landing pages that are different from the promoted items’ actual product landing pages.

Email Example 2: Currency mismatches may be the result of adapting the landing page based on the user’s location or the user’s IP address. In such cases, users outside of the target country might see a currency which doesn’t match the currency of the target country. Please make sure that the prices on your product landing pages are displayed in the appropriate currency of the target country regardless of the user’s device, browser, location, cookies, your ad targeting choices, or any other consideration.

Okay, so there’s obviously something going on with “generic and dysfunctional” landing pages relative to target countries, in addition to mismatches in currency. But what does it all mean in this context? Another thing we can identify here is the reference to IP address, which may ultimately give us some insight into the problem. IP detection is often used by websites to automatically set the country and currency settings based on wherever the end user is. So if you’re based in Germany, the language will be German and the currency will be the Euro. It makes for a good user experience and a painless process for the advertiser – totally logical, right?

Not in all scenarios. In fact, Google doesn’t follow this path of logic when it comes to Product Listing Ads (PLAs), and sometimes – we’ve learned – for good reason. Instead, the language and currency need not necessarily match where the user is, but rather it needs to match the user’s target country – or the country where Google serves the ad.

And here, fellow advertisers, we’ve found our potential problem…

Remember our German shopper? Well, he’s actually American. Though searching from Germany, he chose to override the automatic settings so that he could search within Google.com US. Even though we may have specific, unique feeds targeted to Germany and the US, it doesn’t always play out that the end user is actually in that targeted country. Because he’s now interacting with US ads, the PLA he clicks on must lead to a US landing page, not a German one. Sound a little counterintuitive? This all goes back to the cornerstone of PLA programs: complete data accuracy. As we explained in a previous post around Minimized Advertising Policy (MAP) pricing, shopping feeds, ads and landing pages must be in complete alignment. It’s also critical to provide the most seamless experience possible for the end user – in the above scenario, our American shopper would have had a very frustrating time trying to translate from the German language and currency. And a frustrated customer probably doesn’t make a very loyal one.

Now that we’ve identified the issue, what are the next steps to take? In this user guide, Google provides some specific “how-to’s” based on URL structure to help compensate for any automatic currency or language changes. You may already have the correct structure that keeps content from adapting based on user agents, location and cookies – in this case, you’d submit these stable URL links, as Google explains here.  Keep in mind, you don’t need to disable IP detection on your entire website, rather you can add in the necessary parameter to your product URLs that will ultimately ignore the IP address.

Given that you may not always encounter the “American shopper vacationing in Germany” scenario, it might also be a good option to include other relevant information on the landing page, like price, availability, shipping options for the user’s current estimated location and an invite to change the user language). As long as the more permanent and central info on the page is matched to the target country, you’re still meeting the requirements of the policy.

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