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Google Shopping GTIN Update: What You Need To Know

May 11, 2016

Google Shopping GTIN Update Requires valid GTIN Values as of May 16, 2016

As of May 16, 2016, Google’s GTIN Update is requiring a valid GTIN value in the shopping feed for all products listed on the Google Shopping Network. The only exceptions include used items and items only sold by you, including custom, handmade or vintage items.

What is a GTIN Value?

In short, a product UPC. Officially, a unique product identifier. GTINs, short for Global Trade Item Numbers, are usually printed on a product’s package with the barcode. There are several IDs that qualify as a GTIN aside from the Universal Product Codes (UPC) that we’re used to seeing in North America. This includes International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) for books, European Article Numbers (EAN) for items in Europe, and Japanese Article Numbers (JAN) for products in Japan.

*Note, Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPN) do NOT qualify as GTINs. If you have MPNs but not valid GTINs, your products will start to become disapproved after May 16th

Will This May 2016 GTIN Update Affect Me?

Yes. Especially if you do not currently have GTIN values in your product feed. Plain and simple, if you do not have valid GTIN values for required products by May 16th, your products will start be disapproved and will not run.

This is not to say that you’re going to officially stop serving ads on the 16th. If you already have approved products in the Merchant Center, you should have some buffer time. We expect this update to affect all products within a month. However, any products added after the 16th will be disapproved right away.

To check to see if you are missing required GTIN values, log into your Google Merchant Center Account and navigate to the Diagnostics Tab. Click on the Items, Errors & Warnings section on the bottom right to expand your view. If you see either of the following two messages, you need to take immediate action:

  • Item requires a GTIN, resolve by May 16, 2016
  • Item from a designated brand is missing a GTIN

There are some obscure product exceptions beyond used and custom products that will not be affected,  so if you are at all confused, double check with Merchant Center Diagnostics.

Who Else is Affected by the Google Shopping GTIN Update?

Any merchant advertising on the Google Shopping Network that is targeting any of the following countries:

  • US
  • UK
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Switzerland

*Note, Canada is not on this list. If you are running a shopping campaign that is only targeting Canada, you’re safe. For now.

What Are My Options?

Well, you could panic and give up on Google Shopping, but we strongly advise against that. Especially for reasons that we’ll explore later on in this post.

You have several options ranging from simply changing the way your product feed is gathered, to purchasing valid GTIN values, depending on your situation.

  • You’re GTIN / UPC values may already be listed on your product web pages. If this is the case, consider a data crawler to extract & import the information in your feed.
  • Check your warehousing or inventory fulfillment system, then extract the data.
  • Ask your supplier (either manufacturer directly or distributor) to send it
  • Use a barcode Scanner to gather this data directly from your products. There are free apps that collect the GTIN value for you, including this one.
  • Purchase the rights to unique GTIN values from a 3rd party source, such as this one.

Is Google Just Screwing With Us?

No, and I’d be the first to criticize Google AdWords’ features with a tone that assumes they’re trying to find new ways to get you to spend money (see: Dynamic Ads, AdWords Express, Limited By Budget).

We’re actually confident that Google is forcing this GTIN update in the best interest of the advertisers, mostly because Google is sure to lose out on a lot of ad revenue from the countless set-it-and-forget-it account managers out there who have never heard the word GTIN before, and will no longer be able to advertise their products on this platform.

Google claims that merchants who’ve added GTINs to their product feeds have seen conversion rates increase by 20%! Further, in their official statement regarding the GTIN update in February, Google added:

“When we understand what you’re selling, we can help boost your ad performance by adding valuable details about the product and serving the ad in a more relevant way to users. This also means that your ads can serve in more places on Google, YouTube, and our partner sites.”

In addition, it’s our belief that this update will serve as a competitive opportunity to those who are on top of their game.

Short Term Competitive Gains from the Google Shopping GTIN Update

If you’re reading this post, you’re at least being proactive about the Google Shopping GTIN update. Take a second to pat yourself on the back because many of your competitors are asleep at the wheel. This is great news for you.

It’s no surprise that Google Shopping has exploded over the last several years. According to the Adobe Digital Index, Google Shopping ad spend increased nearly 50% year over year from 2013 to 2014. Since then, there has been continued growth; and just recently, E-commerce technology company Sidecarreported that Google Shopping ad spend increased by 47% YoY during Q1 of 2016, with ad revenue PLA Return on Ad Spend increasing by 52% from 2015!

Source: Merkle Digital Marketing Report, Q1 2016

And you thought that shopping behavior drops off after the holidays…

While the drastic increase of mobile clicks on PLAs suggest a decrease in overall cost-per-click for Google Shopping Ads, it’s commonly accepted that as more merchants list their products on Google’s Shopping Network, the average Cost-Per-Click (CPC) gradually increases (Hence, the sustained growth of Bing Advertising over the last few years). That is, you’re going to spend more for a given click, desktop, mobile or otherwise, with each of your competitors that join the party.

But GTIN-Ageddon is sure to shake that up.

If your product feed already includes GTIN values then you should be excited for the coming months as some of your competitors are going to be either too busy scrambling to add these values to bother optimizing their campaigns, or they’ll inadvertently let all of their products expire and forever be removed from the Google Shopping Platform.

And as a result, you should expect a lower Cost-Per-Click (CPC) and overall greater Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

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