Google Merchant Center

How to Configure the Adult Attribute in Your Product Feed

0 · by Dennis Moons · Updated on 3 April 2023

There are many product attributes in Shopping feeds, which is why sometimes merchants provide values for the wrong attribute. The adult attribute is one of these, it’s easy to make a mistake and restrict the exposure of your ad in the process.

No worries, we’ll help you avoid this issue.

In this article, we’ll discuss the adult attribute for product feeds and explain what it is, how Google uses it, and its formatting requirements, and give you tips on solving issues with [adult].

Join us as we share the best way to configure [adult] for Shopping feed.

This article is part of our Google Shopping Feed hub.

What Is the Adult Attribute in the Product Feed?

The adult attribute in Google Shopping serves to indicate that a product is meant for use by adults only, which usually includes sexually suggestive content or adult merchandise.

However, these “adult products” go beyond items related to sexual activity, and, depending on local laws, can include products like alcohol and similar items.

It’s an attribute that is most relevant for adult stores, i.e. stores with an inventory consisting of adult-oriented products only, but it can also be used to earmark specific adult-oriented items in an otherwise family-friendly store.

Bear in mind from the get-go that [adult] is not to be confused with [age group], where “adult” is an indication that the product is meant for adults (for expressing the age of the intended end user of a product). More on this below.

Let’s dive in.

Is the Adult Attribute Required?

The adult attribute is required if you sell products related to sexual activity, like erotic underwear, sex toys, or product content that features nudity.

There are two ways to let Google know you sell adult products: at an account level (your store has items for adults only) and on a case-by-case basis (when some of the items you sell are intended for adults only).

Of course, if you tell Google you run an adult store, i.e. on an account level, you don’t need to populate the adult attribute for each item separately. To apply the “adult” label on an account level, go to Merchant Center and specify that your website contains primarily adult-oriented content.

Let’s check how this affects the ad setup.

How Is the Adult Attribute Used in Google Shopping?

In essence, [adult] helps Google block ads that don’t comply with its content policy (or the local law).

The end goal is to stop things like:

  • Showing sexually suggestive ads to minors
  • Showing non-consensual sex (including child exploitation)
  • Offering sexual acts for money (through the Google network), etc.

Google’s policy about adult-oriented content is extensive and covers different types of media (including text, photos, video, or audio recordings featuring graphic sexual acts). Keep in mind that adult merchandise doesn’t include only items like sex toys, but also products like magazines, paintings, sketches, cartoons, sculptures, etc.

Bottom line: Google will check whether your products are flagged for adult use only. Based on this, it will decide if your ads need to be blocked from showing to some of its users, in this case, minors.

When you inform Google that your products are for adults only, metrics like the total number of impressions will drop. The extent of users who are restricted from getting sexually suggestive content is huge – the block doesn’t cover only underage users, but also businesses and public institutions, like schools, which apply filters to exclude this type of content (NSFW filters).

Merchants can’t use a workaround to fight this. There isn’t a way to boost the exposure of adult-oriented products, because if merchants don’t comply with Google’s policy, the products won’t get any impressions at all.

Options for Adult

It’s very easy to configure the adult attribute. There are only four predefined options you can populate:

  • Yes [yes] (or True [true])
  • No [no] (or False [false])

Merchants can provide these values in a text feed file format, for example, “yes.”

Alternatively, in XML feeds, the value for [adult] has to contain tags before and after the entry, for instance, “<g:adult>yes</g:adult>.”

Let’s check a few methods for entering these values.

How To Add the Adult Attribute to Your Product Feed

There are two ways to populate values for [adult] in your feed: through an ecommerce platform and through Merchant Center.

When you flag the product as “adult use only” on an ecommerce platform, this product data is automatically shared with your feed.

In Google Merchant Center, you can use feed rules to edit entries for [adult]. Feed rules allow you to select a group of products that satisfy a specific criterion, for example all items that contain “wand” in their product title. The changes will apply to all items defined with this feed rule.

Next, we’ll check product feed issues related to [adult].

Common Problems With the Adult Attribute

If you don’t configure the values for [adult] correctly, the exposure of your campaigns will be limited. Also, repetitive violations of Google’s policy about adult-oriented products will not only get your product disproved, but it can also land you a long-term ban for advertising on Google.

However, the most common issue with the adult attribute is quite benign. Let’s see what it is and cover some other issues as well:

Don’t mix up [adult] and [age group] (with the “adult” value)

The adult attribute is for products that should be used by adults only (ads not shown to children). The “adult” option within the age group attribute is to indicate that a product is meant for use by adults (but can be seen by everyone, i.e. shirt design meant to be worn by adults).

[Age group] is usually important for items in the apparel product category. If you tell Google that a shirt is adult content by providing value for [adult] instead of [age group], you will severely restrict the visibility of that ad.

Be careful when selling alcohol

In some countries, selling alcohol and adult merchandise go hand in hand; sometimes, they are either outlawed or heavily regulated. Take the time to investigate the rules of your target market well – this may affect you even if you sell products like kits containing equipment for home brewing of alcohol.

Be mindful of adult-oriented items when selling bundles

If there is one product that is adult-oriented but sold in a bundle along with a bunch of other non-sexual items (for example, lingerie, candles, a towel, and chocolate) – the whole bundle has to have a value (true or yes) for the adult attribute.

Don’t enter an incorrect value for [adult]

Only four values are supported (yes/true and no/false).

If you don’t provide any value, Google assumes by default that your store is not adult-oriented, so there isn’t really a need to enter “no/false,” but if you populate entries for [adult], make sure they are formatted correctly.

Don’t include inappropriate content on your landing page

If you do this, you have to label the whole site as adult-oriented, even if the product itself might not appear to be. You can’t have both family-safe and adult content on your website, you either have one or the other. This includes the content within a product page where customers land after clicking on the ad.

If Google disapproves your product because of issues with the adult attribute, carefully check the notification. This is most relevant for adult stores, but applies to others as well.

If the product is disapproved for policy violations, you probably have adult content whose distribution is either restricted or prohibited by law in your target market. Countries have different laws, for example, in Germany, you can’t show nudity even if the body parts are censored.

In a worse-case scenario, you can earn account suspension and have up to 7 days to respond. Google will give you examples of policy violations from your product data, so you can sort the issue.

Important note: if Google gives you an example of an adult-oriented item in your store that doesn’t comply with the content policy, you have to sort out all items with similar product data, not just the one that was pointed out as an example. The solution is simple – remove the items that violate the policy or the law and your account will be reinstated.

Provide Values for the Right “Adult” Attribute

There are two product feed attributes where the word “adult” is used. One is the adult attribute, which tells Google that your product is NSFW (not safe for work) and shouldn’t be shown to kids. The other is the age group attribute, which tells Google that your product, usually an apparel item, is designed to be used, i.e. worn by adults.

There are only four supported values (yes/true, no/false) for the adult attribute, so make sure you use them correctly.

Products with the value “yes” for [adult] will have very limited exposure, but merchants can’t avoid this because to do so would mean showing inappropriate content to minors (or other similar violations of Google’s advertising policy and the law of the land).

Dennis Moons

Dennis Moons is the founder and lead instructor at Store Growers.

He's a Google Ads expert with over 12 years of experience in running Google Ads campaigns.

During this time he has managed more than $5 million in ad spend and worked with clients ranging from small businesses to global brands. His goal is to provide advice that allows you to compete effectively in Google Ads.

Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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