Google Bans Weapon-Related Listings From Google Shopping


Google has begun notifying merchants that it won’t allow them to continue to listing weapons-related items for sale in Google Shopping.

Searches in Google Shopping for things like “pistol grip shotgun” (above), “gun scopes,” “shotgun shells” and many other terms are leading to a results page that says the term “did not match any shopping results.”

Outdoor Hub broke the news late last week, and linked to an online petition that includes a copy of the letter that Google has sent to affected merchants.

The letter says that Google will “begin to enforce a set of new policies for Google Shopping in the coming weeks,” and links to a Google Shopping policies page that lists “guns, ammunition and knives” as prohibited products.

Google: We’re Applying AdWords Rules To Shopping

A Google spokesperson tells Search Engine Land — and the letter to merchants also mentions — that the company is applying its existing Google AdWords policies to the new Google Shopping experience, which recently switched to a pay-for-inclusion model. The AdWords support area has a page detailing weapons-related policies that now apply to Google Shopping, since it’s now an ad-based service.

But the rules inside Google Shopping Search appear to be stricter than they are for AdWords. That Shopping Search help page specifically says that “guns, ammunition and knives” are prohibited in Google Shopping. But the AdWords help page has a more detailed and nuanced list of what’s allowed and what’s not when it comes to weapon-related ads.

This is shown pretty clearly in a Google Shopping search for “gun scopes.” There are no shopping results, but there are AdWords ads.


Further complicating the issue is that searching on for these now-banned Shopping Search items often brings up a Shopping Search product box in the upper right that promotes the new Google Shopping Search and links to it with the encouragement for shoppers to “see more shopping results.”


What About The Second Amendment?

Mentioned in some of the discussion about Google’s ban on weapons in Shopping Search is the fact that the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the right to “keep and bear arms,” and that this new policy appears to be an attack on a basic right. (Though it should also be noted that Google bans vehicles from being listed in Shopping Search, too, and that doesn’t seem to be an attack on anyone’s right to own a car.)

What has some up in arms is a four-point set of “policy principles” that Google included in its letter to weapon-related merchants and, more specifically, the fourth point on that list, which reads as follows:

4) Google Shopping should be compatible with Google’s brand decisions.

Google Shopping must be compatible with company brand decisions. Our company has a strong culture and values, and we’ve chosen not to allow ads that promote products and services that are incompatible with these values. In addition, like all companies, Google sometimes makes decisions based on technical limitations, resource constraints, or requirements from our business partners. Our policies reflect these realities.

Since most guns and related products are legal in the U.S., it’s that principle that seems to be behind Google’s decision not to allow such items to be included in Shopping Search.

I’m not a lawyer, but it certainly seems to be within Google’s rights to decide what advertisers can and can’t peddle on Google Shopping. But it also seems like a slippery slope to use vague terms like “culture and values” to determine who can and can’t list products in Shopping Search — a slope that’s likely to open Google up to further criticism if it continues to apply that principle to other industries.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: AdWords: Product Listing Ads | Google: Google Shopping | Google: Legal | Legal: Censorship | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • searchengineman

    Here is a rule from the Marketing Handbook 101. * If all your leads are coming from one source “Google”. *You’re not running a business, you’re running a car without brakes.*  And Guess who’ll decides to pull the plug on your brakes… Now look at your online business…hmmmmmm 

  • Cynthia J. Parker

    It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion.

  • Maurice Walshe

    Hypocritical to allow advertising for gun related terms though and realy Google  pissing off the AMA (and losing) and now the NRA Google does like to live dangerously. 

  • Nathaniel Bailey

    I know I live in the UK and we are not allowed guns like you are in the US, but this is still damn silly IMO. Are google even going to ban replica gun searches, bb guns, air pistols, air riffles and so on just because “there company culture and values” are against such products?

    I thought google was the search engine for the people, built and worked on to give the best results for the end use, not for the company (google)?!

    I love my guns and knifes (I have a small collection of knifes, swards and guns etc) so what happened to google making its results the best they can for my needs? Looks like googles loss of market search to bing is about to get a lot bigger!

    It would be interesting to know just how many people search for gun related terms because I would imagine that this bold banning spree will see a lot of people moving over to bing, especially in the US?

  • Nathaniel Bailey

    I just noticed that these searches are still working in the UK so I guess google aint rolled this out across all data centres yet? (Couldn’t edit my other comment, it removed most of the text for some reason, so could that be looked into please? I’m using the latest firefox if that helps)

  • hoboturkey

    Instead of the page displaying items not found, those fools should say search not allowed. How many people run around for hours because ‘geeks’are too smart to be practical. Geeks have no life experience at all , and I bet they are paid so well, they never will.

  • EmptySporran

    Good values, Google.  As a Federal Officer, I cannot use your search engine to shop for equipment (not yet Department-purchased) that may save my life, and may help me save yours, BUT I can search for “barely legal” porn, giant dongs, whatever.  Yea, good respect for values.

  • Joe Moore

    You people are stupid. Who the hell Googles gun stuff in Google Shopping? Just google all the gun stuff you want in the regular google search & everything in the world gun & firearms related pops up. Why even bother going to the shopping part. Ebay & craigslist don’t do firearms either so whats the big deal? Damn you people are dumb.

  • Tech Support

    Joe its everthing wepon related… accessories and all! Google shopping use to be a great price comparison tool. Now I guess we ban google and move to BING.

  • RyanMJones

    I wonder if there’s any legal ramifications here since gun laws vary from state to state (and even city to city like in NY)  Could this just be a move to try and avoid future issues like the one with online pharmacies where they had to pay the Govt tons of money?

  • Okan Kortan

    :) it  is interesting 

  • Casey Meraz

    I just got a notification saying that airsoft guns will not be allowed anymore. This is very disappointing. 

  • Tiesdotcom

    Interesting we just did a search for pistols and are still getting 2 Beretta’s as options

  • Daily E-Marketing

    Alcohol has been removed from Google Shopping as well.

  • Paula R. Robinson

    Geeks have no life experience at all , and I bet they are paid so well, they never will.

  • Paula R. Robinson

    I just got a notification saying that airsoft guns will not be allowed anymore.

  • Maurice Walshe

    What next banning Gamesworkshop and other wargame mini’s it is NOT in any way shape or form any companys role to police what is or is not alowed for sale that is the role of the State.

  • Maurice Walshe

     Rule Zero for the USA is Dont pissoff the NRA :-)

  • Sai Vignesh

    I too found that the searches for guns and ammunition still working in UK searches?

  • Alesia Krush

    in some of the discussion about Google’s ban on weapons in Shopping Search is
    the fact that the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the
    right to “keep and bear arms,” and that this new policy appears to be an attack
    on a basic right.”

    Does it mean that, if I decide NOT to sell guns in my grocery store, I will be
    attacking a basic right as well?

  • Zutronic

    With frivolous lawsuits being a dime-a-dozen and many of them winning, can you really blame Google for this?  When you’re as big as Google things become very challenging and more complicated as more details and consequences must be dealt with, hopefully in advance!  

    Is Google perfect?  Let’s rephrase the question.  What would YOU do if you were Google? 

  • Nagmani Solanki

    “pistol grip shotgun” this keyword is also showing results in India.

  • George Michie

    The Second Amendment argument is absurd.  The Bill of Rights (and 14th Amendment) provide limitations on the power of government, not limits on the rights of individuals and businesses.  Google isn’t the government; it can choose what industries can advertise on its site just as any other business/publisher can.

    The organic listings are still there.  They’re not censoring the internet (though they could do that, too, if they chose), they’re just deciding whose money they do and don’t want to take.  You can disagree with their value choices, but I think it’s hard to argue they don’t have a right to make those choices.

  • brasstacs

    Google’s ridicules decision to block all gun related search’s is just more proof of the dummying down of America with their absurd  political correctness.Google would turn it’s back on an American right,and at the same time allow searches for every type of “smut” known. Google’s twisted priorities, and hypocrisy is a disgrace,and I for one will be using other search engines.

  • Sam Lake

    Google was not always the top search engine and it will not always be the top search engine. I have many friends on Facebook that will switch to Bing over something like this. I already have switched.

  • Billteud

    lol.  The same idiot Libertarian types who are complaining about Google’s choice to not sell guns also argue that it should be legal for corporations to discriminate against black people.  “Let the free market decide! … unless I disagree with it”

  • Billteud

    Hey, what do you have against giant dongs?  I resent that.

  • Billteud

    No one cares what the NRA thinks.

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