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GTIN and EAN: the Google Merchant Center is evolving

Caroline Poyet
by Caroline Poyet

Reading : 2 min

The quality of product feeds is key to the performance of Google Shopping campaigns. It's a fact that poor-quality product data can adversely affect the distribution of your ads and the likelihood of a user clicking on it.

In some cases, poor-quality product data can quite simply lead the Google Merchant Center to reject the ad. In other words a poor-quality product feed means you will be wasting your money. Missing or incorrect GTIN | EAN codes are a frequent cause of rejection by the Google Merchant Center.

What is the point of EAN/GTIN codes?

A GTIN (i.e. Global Trade Item Number) is one of the pieces of information required by the Google Merchant Center for each product. It corresponds to a unique number supplied by the manufacturer for all manufactured goods. The European version of this code is known as an EAN (i.e. European Article Number). You'll find them on the barcodes of your favourite products.

The GTIN Code

The GTIN | EAN allows the Google Merchant Center to uniquely identify products, to cross-check information submitted by different advertisers. This mechanism improves the ability of Google Shopping's algorithms to display ads on relevant searches. GTIN and EAN codes are crucial to ensure that Google can offer the best possible Google Shopping experience to users.

Given the importance of this information, the Google Merchant Center has historically applied a very strict rule to online sellers. Any products* with a missing or incorrect GTIN | EAN code are automatically refused. This causes a big loss of profit to the online sellers concerned by this type of problem.

*An exception is made for “non-manufactured”, vintage and handmade products which don't have a GTIN | EAN by their very nature. The Google Merchant Center allows them to be distributed on Google Shopping by selecting the option “identifier_​exists” = “no”.

The new rule implemented by the Google Merchant Center

In a recent announcement, the Google Merchant Center said that it was going to make changes with regard to GTIN | EAN codes. Products without codes will now be accepted by the platform. This is a very positive change for online sellers who have had a lot of products rejected because of a lack of GTIN | EAN codes. They will now be able to distribute their products on Google Shopping and increase their turnover. The financial impact will be even greater during the key periods of Black Friday and Christmas.

However, GTIN and EAN codes are still very important to improving the performance of Google Shopping campaigns. Google has announced that products with this unique code will be prioritised in the search results. Thus, GTIN and EAN codes remain a crucial challenge to online sellers. Correct codes will always have a positive impact on the performance of Google Shopping campaigns.

The strategies to be applied

Which strategies need to be used to make the most of this new feature?

The target to optimise the performance of Google Shopping campaigns, remains 100% correct GTIN | EAN codes. According to Google, they can bring about a 40% increase in clicks and a 20% rise in conversion rates.

On the other hand, a new strategy is becoming possible for products with incorrect GTIN | EAN codes. It means no longer having to submit a GTIN | EAN so the products will be accepted by the Google Merchant Center. Thus, the Shopping ads for these products will be able to generate turnover.

In parallel, it is wise to check regularly on the number of products with missing GTIN | EAN codes. They represent areas for optimisation that are not to be overlooked. However, where on earth do you start if you've got hundreds of missing GTIN | EAN codes? One answer is to prioritise products according to the potential loss of profit. This can be assessed by cross-referencing “Ad-Centric” data, such as those from Google Ads with “site-centric” data, such as those from Google Analytics.

And now, what are the next steps? These strategies require rapid iteration of feeds, regular monitoring of rejected products and ad hoc analyses of multiple data sources. This work is extremely time-consuming or simply impossible if you don't have the right tools.

This fact of business life is the reason why we created SmartFeeds, our marketing feed manager, with advanced monitoring and data exporting features.

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