Google may suspend merchant sites that show invalid product availability

Google Merchant Center has a new policy named “Inaccurate availability” that is caused “due to inconsistent availability between the landing page and checkout pages on your website,” the company said. This policy replaces the existing “Delivery issues” policy violation and goes into place on September 1, 2021.

What is the inaccurate availability policy. Google explained that a Google Merchant Center account can receive a warning or a suspension when “one or more of your products show as unavailable for purchase at checkout even though they’re displayed as being in stock on your landing pages.” If you are showing users that a product is available on the product landing page but when they click to add it to the cart, it changes that availability as not available, that can lead to violating this policy.

Google said “it’s a bad customer experience if product availability changes from “in stock” on the landing page to “out of stock” or “unavailable” after the product has been added to a cart, and customers will be less likely to try and purchase from your store in the future.”

Reasons you may have violated this policy. Google laid out some common reasons why you may have violated this policy, they include:

  • Use of IP detection / geolocation. Don’t change the availability of your product based on a user’s location. If you only target certain locations within a country, use regional pricing and availability.
  • Non-functional buy button. The product appears to be available on the landing page, but after pressing the buy button, it shows as out of stock or unavailable.
  • Product cannot be shipped to a home address. During checkout, after providing the shipping address, the product is no longer available and cannot be directly delivered to a user’s doorstep, excluding PO Boxes. If you have a product that’s only available for in-store pickup or that ships to a pick-up point, check the shipping cost guidelines to see whether these options are allowed in your country of sale. Otherwise, ensure your product is excluded from online offers by using the excluded destination [excluded_destination] attribute. Alternatively, you may consider trying local inventory ads.
  • Products are not available to check out within the whole country of sale. If you sell products that are only available in some of the regions of the country of sale, check to see whether regional availability and pricing is available in your country of sale.

Pricing changes also. In February, we reported that Google can also suspend merchants that show higher prices in the cart than they show on the product landing page.

Receive a violation. If you received a violation for this, you can learn more about to handle it over here in this help document.

Why we care. If you run an e-commerce site or have a client that runs an e-commerce site, you should ensure that the product availability that is displayed at checkout matches what is displayed on the landing page.

Do not upset your users by telling them a product is in stock and only after clicking over to the cart page, show that product is no longer available.

About The Author

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.

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