The almighty Google algorithm is not perfect.  I admit, even as I write this I am a bit nervous the algorithm is going to take its wrath on me. Irrational, but as web entrepreneurs we live and die by it.  Google doesn’t like your site, you’re toast.  Doesn’t like me personally?  I have to wonder if some autonomous car will find me and run me over “by accident” LOL.

The interesting thing is that Google is a very different company for users and merchants.  Google believes that if it takes care of the user (you and me) everything will sort itself out.  If you haven’t read “How Google Works”, I recommend it.  It’s a quick and enjoyable read and pretty good insight into how they think as a company.  

If you are a merchant, Google is like any other big company and has a set of rules and guidelines that you must follow.  It is large, bureaucratic, and working with it can be a bit maddening.

This is where the story begins.

I took over the site this week and sometime during the 12 hours a day with the seller, he introduced me to Google PLA (Product Listing Ads aka Google shopping) and Google Merchant Center.  The Merchant Center is simply the place that lets you know if all the Google Shopping ads you are putting in meet the guidelines.  It does more than that but for the purpose of this post, that’s all thats relevant.  

The site has a tool that tells you how many of your ads are delisted due to any number of issues.  Basically, if you don’t meet the guidelines, they won’t post your ad.  Makes sense, right?  I think so.  For those that don’t know, the guidelines are not necessarily content related but can be about code as well.  

However, what if you do meet the guidelines and the ads still aren’t included?  

Yeah, that might be an issue.

We looked at the merchant center and about 2% of the ads are not being listed due to being out of compliance.  Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence and you need to be on top of it weekly.  We dig deeper and the issue seems to be that the price we have on our website product pages does not match what we are telling Google.  They think some prices are off by a factor of 10, off by $.10, even off by $715,000 (not kidding).  The last one made us laugh because the original price was around $1.

We call The Google (yes, The Google) and talk to a very nice customer service person.  We explain the problem, verifies that our prices in the data and our site are correct, looks at some stuff on her end and says the words you really never want to hear. “Hmmmm….I can see what you are talking about.  I have never seen this before, very interesting indeed.  Let me send this over to the engineers and see what they say.”

Great.

A few hours later she gets back to me (impressive) and gives an example of how our code is incorrect and how we need to fix it.  We start looking at the explanation from the engineers and realize that they are not looking at the right piece of code and more importantly, the code that they said we should have on our page is there and is correct.  (For the tech geeks out there, they were looking at the Facebook open graph tags instead of the schema.org PLA tags).  

After some back and forth, the very nice customer service agent sees what I am talking about, agrees the code is correct and once again says something I don’t want to hear.  “I think our advanced engineering group needs to look at this.  We will get back to you in 48 hours”. 

Wonderful.  Google is broken.

Ok, not really but when you have 6,000 ads all built the same way, 2% aren’t working and are the exact same code and format as the others, you can see why I am a bit nervous.  The experienced ones among us (i.e. not me) will know that this stuff happens and it does get fixed.  For those of us that just bought a business and are Google newbies, it’s a bit more “exciting” to say the least.

It got fixed worked out over the next few days but it is really interesting to see the other side of the all knowing Google.  Not good, not bad, just really interesting.

What’s your experience with working with Google?  Any good stories to share?