What you need to know about Google Merchant Center identifier enforcement updates

The changes that can affect the visibility of your products in Google Shopping.

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With the holidays at our heels, it’s a good time to do a final sweep of your Google Merchant Center accounts to ensure you have your product identifiers in order. This is particularly important given recent changes.

Earlier this year, Google announced it would be updating enforcement around unique product identifiers (UPI) for Shopping ads in 23 countries starting September 30.

What is a UPI? First, the basics. A UPI is a unique identifier that is associated with a product. Common UPIs are Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs), and brand names.

What are the UPI enforcement changes? First, the big one. In the past, Google Merchant Center automatically disapproved products that did not have required UPIs in the feeds. Now, products that are missing UPIs will be eligible for Shopping ads. But, there’s a catch. Products that don’t have (correct) UPIs assigned in the feed will receive lower priority than products from sellers with correct UPIs in their feeds. Essentially, missing UPIs puts your products in a tier below your competitors that provided the UPIs for those products.

Another rule: If you can’t find a product’s UPI, don’t try to get around that by setting the identifier_exists attribute in your feed to “false.” If Google understands that the product does have a UPI, it will disapprove the product. Set that attribute to “true” and leave the UPI fields blank until you can get the information from the manufacturer.

Finally, GTINs are unique identifiers. If you use the same GTIN for multiple products, they’ll be disapproved.

What countries does this update affect? The enforcement rules for UPIs for Shopping ads apply to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czechia, India, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Why we should care. It’s a big change to be able to gain exposure in Google Shopping for products that do not have UPIs. This means it’s better to have no UPI than an incorrect or invalid one.

However, there is a real benefit and incentive to having this data correct in your feeds, particularly in competitive sectors where there are multiple sellers advertising the same products. Those with correct and complete identifier data will get priority over those without.

Note that although Google said this change would start taking effect at the end of September, you may still be seeing disapprovals for products with “Missing identifiers [gtin, mpn, brand]” in Merchant Center.

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About the author

Ginny Marvin
Ginny Marvin was Third Door Media’s former Editor-in-Chief (October 2018 to December 2020), running the day-to-day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin wrote about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, MarTech and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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