For many retailers, the next two months are the most important time of the year for their business. During the holidays, everyone has a reason to buy some gifts. And since they’re buying things for other people, consumers will search for and buy items they wouldn’t get for themselves. Online retailers should check their listings to ensure nothing prevents them from showing up in search. Businesses that use Google Shopping need to check their listings to ensure they follow the latest guidelines from Google about unique product identifiers.
Users can search through billions of products on Google Shopping, and that creates a challenge for Google. Google has to make sure that people are finding the items they want and that there’s no confusion about the seller, the manufacturer, and product type. To that end, Google updated the rules for unique product identifiers a month ago. Businesses that haven’t updated their listings to comply with the new rules could be missing out on revenue from holiday shoppers.
Unique product identifiers (UPIs) are vital to “ensuring that Google recognizes your products and can offer the best experience possible for consumers.” Many retailers use UPIs such as Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs), and brand names. Marketers who are trying to game the system have been known to use inaccurate or misleading UPIs to get their products to show up in more Google Shopping searches. Since October, Google has cracked down on retailers who are improperly using UPIs.
The most important change is the fact that items that are “missing required UPIs will no longer be disapproved.” This change is good because it removes the incentive for people to use incorrect UPIs when they can’t find the right ones. Items that would have been disapproved will now be eligible to serve in Shopping ads. However, items with accurate UPIs will do better on Google Shopping and in ads.
According to Google, “Similar items with correct UPIs will receive higher priority to items that do not have correct UPIs. All items will continue to serve, but the performance of items without correct UPIs may be limited. Make sure to provide the correct UPIs to maximize the performance of your items.”
Google will be more lenient on products with missing UPIs, but it will disapprove products that appear to purposefully be gaming the system. For example, items for which the identifier_exists attribute is set to “false” and there is evidence that a UPI exists, those items will be disapproved. Similarly, using the same GTIN across multiple different products isn’t allowed. All of the items with the resued GTIN will be considered ambiguous, which means these items will be disapproved.
These changes have been in effect for a little over a month in markets such as North America, United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, and others. Retailers who were unaware of the change may not have noticed if some of their products disapproved for having issues with their UPIs. Checking before the holiday shopping season starts ensure that a company’s Google Shopping revenue isn’t affected by these changes.
For more recent news about changes and updates to Google, read this article on the end of indexing for Flash content and what that means for website owners.