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3 min read

Google Shopping’s GTIN requirements for 2016

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Sorry eCommerce managers, it’s going to require a bit of legwork. Have faith though, the benefits will be far greater than simply avoiding Google’s wrath.

What’s the change?

With the new SERP layout still ringing in our ears, you may have missed the other leap forward by Google, which will affect eCommerce businesses. They’ve recently announced that they will begin to require GTIN numbers in Merchant Centre feeds for all new, in stock products with GTINs assigned by the manufacturer. This means that all branded products in your inventory will be disapproved if they only contain a combination of ‘brand’ and ‘mpn’ attributes.

What’s a GTIN?

GTIN stands for ‘Global Trade Item Number’, and represents a unique identifier set by the manufacturer. It’s more commonly known in the UK as the ‘barcode’, and comes in forms such as EAN, ISBN, UPC, JAN or ITF-14.

How long do I have?

From May 16th 2016, Google will begin to disapprove any products that either do not contain GTIN numbers, or have GTIN numbers that are incorrect.

Warnings have already begun to show within the diagnostics tab in Merchant Centre. Don’t be too happy if you’ve avoided these so far as they’re being rolled out gradually. It’s important to be proactive and get things sorted before the deadline.

What if my products don’t have GTINs?

Lucky you! If you manufacturer the products yourself, or the manufacturer simply doesn’t assign GTINs to their products (less common than you may think – definitely ask!), simply set the field “identifier exists” in your feed to ‘False’.

My products do have GTIN numbers – what do I need to do?

  • Don’t ignore Google’s warnings.

Your products will be disapproved.  Even if this is not immediately – they certainly will be eventually. 

  • Don’t enter random numbers for your GTIN.

Google will be cross-checking any feed GTINs against their database. If they don’t make the connection, your products will be disapproved.

  • Do be smart about getting your GTIN numbers
1. Speak to your supplier

 If you can get a spreadsheet from them, it’s easy to match up products using VLOOKUP in excel and then using the export/import product feature of your site platform.

2. Use an online GTIN database

Many sites also offer bulk checking so that you don’t have to manually enter product details several times.

3. Download a barcode scanning app

If you must do it manually, this may well be your fastest way. Google recommends this barcode scanning app for Android, but there are options for iOS too.

4. Pick up your product, and look at your packaging

If your product range is limited, then maybe this option is for you. For merchants with a sizeable inventory, you should have the resource to do any of options 1-2.

Why has this happened?

Back in 2015, Google began to require the GTIN attribute for selected popular brands in specific countries. Better product matching meant improved performance, so now we’re seeing that change rolled out to all branded products.

This is all part of Google’s continuing strive to make search results more useful to its users. Correct GTINs allow Google to better understand the products you’re selling, and match them perfectly to what their users are looking for.

For sellers, this means fewer irrelevant clicks and higher conversions rates. Merchants who’ve added correct GTIN attributes have seen conversion rates rise by up to 20%.