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Google Shopping Policy Changes: What You Need to Know

Google regularly updates their policies to improve the user experience on their platforms. Their recent changes to Google Shopping policies aims to provide more clarity and accessibility for merchants.

As an e-commerce merchant, it’s important to stay on top of these policy shifts to ensure your campaigns and products continue to comply. Let’s take a deeper look at what’s new with Google Shopping and what you can expect going forward.

The New Google Shopping Policy Centre

In February 2016, Google launched their updated Shopping Policy Center to make the regulations more engaging and understandable for sellers. Instead of scattered pages, all Shopping policies are now centralised in one easy-to-navigate hub.

Some key aspects of the new Policy Centre include:

  • Simplified language: Policies are written in clearer, less legalistic terms.
  • Interactive format: Users can search, filter, and browse policies in a more visual layout versus walls of text.
  • Regular updates: Google commits to reviewing and refining policies on an ongoing basis versus one-time overhauls. This allows them to address new issues more nimbly.

Having all policies together in one place centralises the reference point for merchants. It makes staying compliant much more manageable.

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Core Policy Areas Covered

Within the Policy Centre, Google’s regulations fall under four main pillars:

1. Prohibited Content

Content that Google does not allow merchants to advertise or sell on their platforms. This includes counterfeit goods, illegal/dangerous products, theft tools, offensive materials, etc.

2. Prohibited Practices

Actions merchants cannot take, like spamming, improperly collecting user data, or misrepresenting products/brands.

3. Restricted Content

Materials like alcohol, adult content, political ads, or copyrighted works have limitations on how they can be promoted.

4. Editorial and Technical Standards

Baseline principles websites and listings must follow regarding functionality, security, and user experience.

Understanding these core categories helps merchants quickly scan what’s allowed and what’s restricted. It’s also a good framework to refer back to when auditing existing campaigns.

Changes to Note

While most parts of Google’s policies remained the same, there are a few tweaks merchants need to account for:

  • Expanded prohibited content: more types of counterfeit goods, deceptive academic products, and recreational drugs now banned.
  • Better data collection policies: stricter rules around handling sensitive user information like credit cards or SSNs.
  • Additional gambling limitations: ads cannot promote offshore/unregulated betting sites.
  • Specialised healthcare rules: tighter guidelines for medical devices, drugs, and supplies based on government approvals.
  • Copyright/trademark nuances: marginal shifts in how protected works/brands can be depicted.

As always, merchants need to comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws in addition to Google’s regulations.

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Key Takeaways

In summary, while the core of Google’s shopping policies remains the same, there are a few noteworthy shifts from their updates:

  • The new Shopping Policy Center centralises all rules for easier reference.
  • Prohibited, restricted, and best practice categories provide a clear framework for evaluating campaigns.
  • A handful of expansions to prohibited/restricted content focus on protecting user privacy and trust.
  • Healthcare, gambling, and intellectual property see specialised refinements.
  • Staying on top of changes is crucial to avoid account suspensions or policy violations down the line.

With the situational awareness these changes provide, e-commerce merchants can optimise campaigns to deliver the best possible user and shopping experience on Google.


How often does Google update its policies?

Google reviews and refines their policies on a regular basis, usually broadcasting major changes 6–12 months in advance. Merchants should check the Shopping Policy Center at least twice a year.

What is the process if my products violate policies?

Google will notify merchants of any non-compliant listings or campaigns through their Merchant Centre account. You have the option to remove/modify the issues or appeal with a policy specialist. Repeated negligence can lead to account suspensions.

How do I make sure my policies stay compliant?

Conducting bi-annual audits of all products, listings, and marketing campaigns against Google’s rules is recommended. You can also use policy checklist templates provided by ad management vendors. It’s wise to have legal counsel review any edge cases.

What are some examples of prohibited content?

Specific types of prohibited goods include counterfeits of brand names, recreational drugs, weapons, software for dishonest behaviour like hacking or piracy, and content that promotes cruelty or lack of informed consent.

Do the policies differ between countries/regions?

Yes, some aspects may vary depending on local cultural norms and legal statutes. Google tailors its policies to adhere to rules in different territories and jurisdictions. It’s best to check the policies for your target country or location.