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August 21, 2015

Changes to Google Shopping feed specification

Jessica Truscott

Google Shopping – September update

Google recently made some changes to the Google Shopping feed specification and product taxonomy. The forthcoming updates will require any businesses using Google Shopping to make changes to their product data feed by 15th September 2015. End result – a simplified process for businesses providing product information into a feed and an enriched experience for customers.

Changes to the specifications include:

GTINs

Of course unique product identifiers (UPIs) have always been required but Global Trade Item Numbers, otherwise known as GTINs, will improve how easily Google can find a product. GTINs provide a unique number that defines the product you’re selling in the global market.

Moving forward, you will need to submit the ‘GTIN’ and ‘Brand’ attributes for all products in new condition from designated brands. Check if your products comply with these requirements and ensure this data is added to your feed ahead of the enforcement, 15th September. Changes made in advance will minimise disapproved ads and missed opportunities.

Despite current requirements remaining the same for sellers whose products do not come under the current designated brand list, our advice is to begin collecting this data as soon as possible as the list will continue to grow and eventually come in to effect for all brands.

ID attributes

All attributes submitted need to have valid and unique strings, as invalid characters and sequences are difficult for Google to process. White spaces or control characters in ID Attributes will cause disapproval on Google Shopping. If each SKU is unique in your product data, it is recommended that you simply apply those as your IDs.

IDs must be unique, not only in one feed but also across separate feeds, unless those feeds are to cover language changes – the same item in another language is allowed to have the same ID. Once submitted, that ID must not be reused at a later date for a different item.

By best practice, information added to your data feed should already meet this requirement, however this will need to be checked to ensure this.

Detailed product attributes & item groupings

Relevant Detailed Attributes need to be added for all products to help with product identification and improve accuracy. This may include ‘colour’, ‘gender’, ‘age group’ and ‘size’, and only affects you if your products fall under a certain category i.e. accessories or clothing.

Although this requirement has already been implemented in the UK, this may also now affect you if you are selling within Brazil where attributes that were once recommended are now compulsory.

It will now also be enforced that products need to be grouped correctly by item group ID, in order for Google to recognise which products are linked. A configurable product (otherwise known as the parent product) is the main product that appears on Shopping. Simple products (otherwise known as child products) are considered to be this same product but in variations of size, colour etc. This allows the customer to choose from a variation of styles and colours that are in stock. For example, the configurable product below is the ‘Y3 Qasa High Trainers – Black / Red’ whereas the simple product is the variation of sizes they are available in.

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Google product taxonomy

Google has simplified its product taxonomy paths by removing a number of more specific product categories, and placing them into their overall more generic categories to decrease any unnecessary sub-categorisation. For example, ‘Shoes’ and ‘High Heels’ may have once required two categories, however now ‘High Heels’ will be categorised under the parent node, ‘Shoes’. Depending on the amount of products you offer, this may involve considerable rework of a data feed.

If you want to check the new categorisation rules for your products then we suggest downloading the updated taxonomy ID sheet.

Shipping information

Hidden taxes and shipping costs are often the reason for cart abandonment, as these factors are an important part of the total cost of an item. When shipping to Switzerland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain or Japan, it will now be enforced that the shipping costs displayed are accurate.

The new requirement will prevent the customer from encountering any unexpected costs and also increase the amount of users that complete the checkout process. If your ad fails to comply with this and does not provide all necessary attributes and accurate shipping costs, then your Shopping ads will be disapproved as a result.

To check the final shipping cost displayed for products in your feed, you can do this via the Products tab in your Merchant Center account.

Do the changes affect your business?

The commercial value of Google Shopping continues to astound us and numerous eCommerce businesses have become increasingly reliant on it as a significant source of revenue. If your business fails to meet the above requirements, then your ads will fail to reach your customers and the loss of sales can potentially be disastrous.

Do you manage Google Shopping yourself, in-house or perhaps it’s managed by your agency? If an agency is managing this for you then make sure they are aware of the upcoming technical changes required to allow your business to continue to run smoothly. It is crucial this criteria is met by the mid-September deadline, in order for conversions to not be hindered.

To update your data or read more about the new changes, ensure you review Google’s Products Feed Specification, the Summary of Attribute Requirements & the Google Product Taxonomy.