Unique Product Identifiers - A to Z Guide:
Why does Google need the Identifiers?
Brand, MPN and GTIN - What is required?
What are Unique Product Identifiers?
Product identifiers are a series of numerical or alphanumerical digits - a barcode assigned to a product. They help to identify and recognize a specific product. UPIs are assigned by manufacturers or a designated organization (such as GS1), unlike ASIN or eBay item number - which are identifiers assigned by the selling platform itself.
Product Identifiers consist of a unique barcode to locate products online. Usually, they include Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs) and brand names.
GTINor Global Trade Item Number is used to identify trade items worldwide. Significance of GTINs is about their global role.
They help Google match products to catalog. That increases the chance of showing products up in relevant search results.
Related: How to get GTIN number
MPNis a manufacturer-assigned, alphanumeric value. It is used to identify a product among other products from the same manufacturer.
An MPN is required for all products that do not have a manufacturer-assigned GTIN. Exceptions include custom made products or products that don’t have a clearly associated MPN
MPN code example
BRAND feed attribute
is simply product's brand name. This globally referenced UPI is mandatory for all products that have a clear brand name.
Unique Product Identifiers define the product you're selling in the global marketplace. They distinguish products and help match search queries with your offers.
As the biggest players such as Google, Amazon or eBay require providing a unique product identifier for each item. It’s essential to be able to differentiate types of those identifiers and to know how to obtain them.
So if your product does have one, providing it can help make your ads richer and easier for users to find.
The unique product identifier can be easily found on any individual product. Commonly they can be found below the barcode on retail merchandise.
UPC code example
If you have difficulties with finding the digits there is always a possibility to use the Barcode Lookup tool. Then you will quickly recognize the type of identifier and how the item is categorized.
ISBN code example
If still, you have an issue with localizing the identifier, you may need to get in touch with the supplier or producer. In case, you sell your own brand, remember to purchase the GTIN from GS1.
Types of Product Identifiers
There are different types of UPIs especially of GTINs. They vary based on product type and place/country the products will be sold. Take o closer look on different Unique Product Identifiers categories for better understanding how to properly use them.
Note that Google only accepts the following types of GTINs: UPC: (12 digits) used in North America, EAN: (13 digits) used in Europe, JAN: (8 or 13 digits) used in Japan, ISBN: (13 digits) used for books, ITF-14: (14 digits) used for multipacks.
Benefits of Using Product Identifiers
First of all, providing correct product identifiers is nowadays mandatory and vital to ensuring that Google recognizes your products.
Feeds that include correct GTINs make your products more likely to appear in listings, which have some of the highest user engagement and conversion rates.
As Google has changed rules for UPIs when it comes to submitting identifiers in feeds, they can affect the visibility of products.
Why is it important to use correct unique product identifiers?
If you use the wrong ones you can receive disapproval and put your Shopping Ads in jeopardy. But as always, the real benefit goes to retailers who keep this data correct in their feeds. Especially when acting in competitive sectors among multiple sellers. Those with correct and complete UPIs will get priority over those without.
The use of product identifiers helps you increase listing visibility, rank higher on search engines and cross-promote your listings next to relevant products.
3. Impressions & conversions
It is recommended to provide UPIs on your own website as well. The reason is the increasing importance of search. Online advertisers who follow Google's GTIN requirements may see a 40% increase in click-through rate, as well as a 20% increase in conversions.
The more and detailed information you provide, the better the opportunity to show the right products to the right prospects on the right searches. The precisely identified product gives higher confidence that it matches a consumer’s search terms.
Why does Google need Product Identifiers?
Google wants to understand exactly which products you are selling. If they are able to identify each product, they can:
- match it with search queries
- compare it with the same products (of other merchants) on Google Shopping
The best way to compare products is to compare their unique identifiers, like Brand, GTIN, and MPN.
Identifier exists (or not)
Identifier_exists’ attribute tells Google whether universal identifiers (brand, GTIN& mpn) are available for your products. Accepted predefined values are: ‘false’ / ‘no’ and ‘true’ / ‘yes’.
"Identifier exists" is an optional field but it is set as default 'true' in the feed. So if you don't add this field, it will send to GMC as true.
If you don't have identifiers in the store but they exist in general, then remember not setting field to 'false'. In case you set 'false' but in the same time you provide a brand, you'll get a notification from Google Merchant Center about the error.
So first, Google wants to know if unique identifiers, like GTIN and MPN actually exist for your products. For most products that are manufactured, they do exist indeed. So you set the 'identifier exist' to True.
Only for Custom goods you can set it to false:
- Custom goods are unique products that are handcrafted or no longer manufactured.
Examples are hand-knitted sweaters or antique furniture or vintage items.
Brand, MPN and GTIN - What is required?
Let's take a closer look at these 3 unique identifiers:
The brand name of each product. Google requires you to add this field to your feed in all cases. The only exception is for custom-made items where you have set the 'identifier exist' field to 'false'. But you might as well add your own brand if you offer custom made products.
MPN is a unique identifier issued by the manufacturer. If you have the GTIN in your feed, the MPN is not mandatory. Without GTIN, Google does require you to add MPN & Brand. The exception for custom goods applies here as well.
GTIN is the numerical version of the bar code. It is called UPC in the US and EAN in Europe. A unique ID according to international standards. GTIN is an identifier that is created by GS1, an international non-profit organization.
Google has a database with most of the world's GTINs. If you include the GTIN for each product in your feed, Google can identify each product and knows all product specs exactly. Also: if you provide the wrong GTIN, Google will know instantly and they will disapprove that product.
Related: How to fix GTIN errors in Google Merchant Center
What if you don't have Brand?
A field for Brand is often easy to create. No matter if you sell only one brand or if being a distributor of many.
You can easily add a static value for every item if you have 1 brand. If the brand is different for each product and you do not have this attribute in the feed originally, you can e.g. extract it from the title or description.
You can add one brand for all products:
If the Brand is mentioned in the Title or the Description or another field, so you map it from there:
What if you don't have MPN?
Because of the enforcement for UPIs made by Google last year this is not a problem anymore. Now it’s better to have no UPI at all than provide an incorrect or invalid one.
Remember though that real benefit goes to retailers who keep this data correct in their feeds. Keep your eye on correct and complete UPIs to get a priority over those without them. It's essential on competitive sectors among multiple sellers.
What if you don't have GTIN?
There is no workaround and adding the right GTIN for each product is the only option.
With various mapping functionalities in DataFeedWatch you easily get your GTINs in order. If the GTIN hasn’t been provided within the feed, te solution is to populate this field.
There is a possibility to match the GTIN field with a corresponding attribute from your store. Depending on your shopping cart, it might be ‘barcode’, ‘upc’, ‘GTIN’ or something else. A simple ‘Rename’-rule will be enough.
You don't need to worry if your source file doesn’t contain GTINs. Then you should provide it using ‘look-up table’ functionality in DataFeedWatch solution.
- Use a csv file, or Google Spreadsheet
1st column should contain an attribute that could be used for item identification. Look for:
2nd column will contain the GTIN
- Connect the prepared file in DataFeedWatch and specify which attribute you’ve chosen to identify products.
You can ask your supplier or the manufacturer, check or scan the barcode on your products or visit a GTIN-database to look up the right ones. Here's More info on finding your GTINs.
Prior to selling on Google, review the unique product identifiers available for your products and ensure that they meet Google’s conditions. A result of recognizing your items by Google will be a direct impact on your performance. UPIs help Google algorithm to exactly understand what you are selling.
As we mentioned not all products have GTINs, MPNs, and/or a brand. But before leaving a field blank, make sure that your product really doesn't have UPI. Remember also that for sure that it’s better to have no UPI at all than have an incorrect or invalid one.
Even knowing this, make everything that is possible to stay accurate as possible when submitting identifiers. No one wants to end up with Merchant Center errors right?
Hopefully, after reading this article you know optimizing best practices and will no longer struggle with Google Product Identifiers.