Five reasons why GTIN should be your new favorite Google Shopping acronym

Global Trade Item Numbers are an often overlooked aspect of Google Shopping ads. Columnist and Googler Matt Lawson explains why you need to take them seriously.

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global trade item number for use in google shopping

There’s a deadline coming up in the wonderful world of Google Shopping. Third Door Media’s paid media reporter Ginny Marvin talked about it back in February, and you might be seeing some warnings on the Diagnostics tab in Merchant Center.

Here’s the deal: If you sell a product that has a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), you need to include that in your feed by May 16, 2016, or else those items will be disapproved.

You’re probably already including some of these, as we’ve required this from 50 brands for more than six months, and many of you have been providing GTINs for most products in your feed for years. But now you need to include it for everything that’s a new brand-name product sold by multiple merchants.

Like all of you, I have complicated emotions when it comes to deadlines. They help get things done, but they can also be a pain in the butt. There’s plenty of other stuff to do, so why is Google (my employer) forcing this change?

Because it makes things better — that’s why. We’ve seen that adding GTINs makes a variety of things better in a variety of ways. Instead of bemoaning that the deadline is approaching, I want to instead highlight why this can be a very good thing for your Shopping ads. The sooner you make this very important update to your feeds, the sooner you can start seeing those benefits yourselves.

1. Better product data leads to better user experiences & more engagement

Shopping ads are an incredibly visual way to merchandise your products online. Well, guess what? All of that merchandising happens on the back of your feed.

The more information you provide in it, the better the opportunity you’ll have to show the right ads to the right users on the right searches. Which is the name of the game for any reader of Search Engine Land.

When we can precisely identify the product you are listing, we have higher confidence that it matches a consumer’s search terms. I know a fair share of control freaks still miss keywords when managing Shopping ads.

Adding in those GTINs gives you back a measure of control. It’s not keyword targeting (nor will there be keyword targeting in any type of foreseeable future), but it’s more control and better targeting for you.

And it works, too. Feeds that include correct GTINs make your products more likely to appear in product cards, which have some of the highest user engagement and conversion rates of any ad format.


2. Increase the number of impressions you can receive

Impressions are a good thing, right? Right. The best way to become eligible to grab more impressions is to provide the right data for that product in your feed via GTINs (and other unique product identifiers). And this isn’t a minor increase, either. Based on internal data, we’ve seen that merchants who care about those product identifiers see up to 40 percent more impressions across their ads.

Where are those impressions coming from? Most of that gain is attributable to our ability to do a better job matching your data to our product catalog, which increases your chances of appearing on

It also gives you an opportunity to appear in places like YouTube, search partners and even Google Now. They’re valuable placements that aren’t available without the right feed info in place. GTINs are your way into those new impressions.

3. Increase the number of conversions you can receive

Impressions are great, but for performance marketers, they’re often irrelevant. You know what’s even better? Conversions. I don’t care who saw my Shopping ad — I care who bought something from me.

I have good news, then. Providing Google with the correct GTIN for a product in your feed can increase the conversion rate for that product by up to 20 percent (based on an internal analysis of advertisers who have already added GTINs).

4. You already have this information available

GTINs are literally printed on the boxes of stuff. It’s a global standard, so they’re most likely on a box somewhere nearby.

There are different types of GTINs across regions and product types:

  • UPC in North America
  • EAN in Europe and other regions
  • JAN in Japan
  • ISBN for books
  • ITF-14/GTIN-14 for multipacks

examples of global trade item numbers

This information is readily available, for you, your client, your manufacturer, your distributor or someone else in your organization. You should be able to find them in-house in one form or another.

They’ll either be on the packages, or better yet, stored in a spreadsheet or database somewhere waiting to be uploaded into your feed. Someone in a different part of your company probably has this info, and you may or may not have easy access to that part of your company. Finding these numbers is eminently doable, but it might not be simple.

Finding your complete set of GTINs might take some additional legwork, but  your account will thank you. And you’ll also have a new face to talk to at the office barbecue.

5. GTINs are global, so this work will pay off outside of AdWords

It sounds obvious (“Global” is part of the acronym, after all), but GTIN is a global standard. Properly setting up your GTINs for Shopping ads will equip you to engage with plenty of other merchants. Different marketplaces and retailers rely on GTIN, so by setting this up, you’re enabling all sorts of other activities.


Look, the deadline is May 16. You can wait until the last day and feel the weight of that deadline on you, or you can get started now and feel like the brown-nosing student who reminds the teacher that homework is due.

Only now, instead of drawing the ire of your classmates, you’ll be improving the performance of your campaigns. I’d say more impressions and conversions are preferable to a wet willie and a punch on the arm, though.

If you have more questions, you could check out a Hangout-on-Air we recently hosted or head on over to the Help Center for more info.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Matt Lawson
Matt Lawson is Vice President of Ads Marketing for Google, responsible for a broad portfolio of ads products including search, shopping, display, and analytics.

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