Originally written March 2021, updated July 2023.
You never want to hear it, but every once in awhile, trauma strikes and you get the email you'd been dreading... your Google Merchant Center account has been suspended without warning for some unknown thing you never anticipated!
What do they mean by "unacceptable business practices" or "misrepresentation"?
And why is that word so hard to spell?
I have been hearing of so many businesses lately who have been getting suspensions or warnings on Google Merchant Center with both of those reasons when they are not engaged in any sort of purposeful acts of malicious behavior.
If this is you, then you're not alone. My theory is the automated filters Google utilizes to monitor this sort of behavior were recently fine-tuned and are more than aggressive than usual.
Apologies this is happening to you, I'm sorry and there is (frustratingly) not much additional detail as far as explanation. Google doesn't happily share this with the outside world, in large part because they don't want their filter algorithms gamed by people who actually would take advantage of that for malicious reasons (not you, of course).
What can cause one of these dreaded Google Merchant Center Suspensions?
It's worth pointing out, that we have seen this filter trip in companies where nothing was changed, and Google manually removed the suspension once they investigated it (this can take days, unfortunately, with your Shopping Ads down).
For the rest of us, when Google is looking at a specific thing flagging that "Misrepresentation" filter, here are some things to watch out for:
1) Make sure you don’t have any unsupported claims on your site, ANYWHERE.
For instance, do you say "#1 best selling widget"? If you can't support that claim (or don't on your site), then remove it.
2) If you have been searching your site and are still unsure what it is, start getting aggressive with other claims you’re making on your PDPs, your return policy, your category pages, anywhere.
If you’re in a health or supplements industry, especially watch the claims about what your product can or cannot do. For instance, can your product actually CAUSE hair growth, or does it simply add nutrients to hair? Watch out for those kind of claims (in your product feed as well).
3) Make sure your business details on the website match your Google Merchant Center details.
This goes for returns/shipping claims/physical address/phone number/etc. Look through all of that stuff, but I've seen it specifically flag from an address. Just move buildings? Make sure the address got updated on both your site and in Google Merchant Center.
4) I was told recently by Google that UGC (user-generated content) such as user submitted reviews displayed on your website can flag this Google Shopping Misrepresentation filter in an account.
So if a review on your site claims that your skateboard raised someone's great-great-grandmother from the dead, then you might want to pull that review off your site.
EDIT 7/20/23: Google has expanded helpfully on what it considers consumer confidence issues and triggers. When they call out something like this, it's important to listen and checking over this list could point you to some helpful things to dig into if you are facing the Misrepresentation policy warning or suspension.
Google source: Building trust with your customers
Whatever you do, enlist Google's help early and often for the Google Shopping "Misrepresentation" suspension
The last piece of advice I have, is to hit up every single possible Google connection you can hit up.
Connect with Google Ads support immediately, and enlist as much of their help as they offer.
As I noted previously, they might be able to resubmit your site immediately for review if nothing is truly wrong with it.
Or, you may discover that one rep will give you some insight that another doesn’t offer. Connect with Google Ads support, and then connect with GMC support (navigate there through the Google Merchant Center contact option in settings).
Call multiple times a day. Stay on it!
One final thought, if you’re a Googler reading this who has some internal impact here, 99.999% of the businesses I have seen talk about this genuinely want to follow the rules… they just don’t know how to fix it. But they want to fix it. But they can't.
Instead of a generic warning or immediate suspension, can the system give additional detail (as specific as possible without allowing others to game the system) so we can make the changes we need to make? That would be fantastic so we can continue handing our hard-earned cash over for the privilege of adverting on your platform ;).