Click Here & Buy ZATO Owner, Kirk Williams' newest book on Google Ads - Ponderings of a PPCer: Revised & Expanded.
Kirk Williams
Google Shopping

Google Shopping GTIN Requirements Explained!

Google Shopping GTIN Requirements Explained!

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

EDIT 2024: while Google previously required GTINs in the Shopping Feed, they have since changed lack of GTIN from a "disapproval" status to a "warning" status. This can still limit your serving, so you definitely want to ensure you get GTINs added to your products if you have them, but now those products with warnings will not be completely removed from serving in Merchant Center.

If you don't have a GTIN (and really, even if you do), make sure to utilize the Brand and MPN for your product sto Google still has some unique identifiers for targeting. If you do not have any  unique identifiers, then you may use the identifier_exists attribute and set it to "false", though make sure you only do this if you do not have GTINs, MPNs, or a Brand. More on identifiers here from Google: About unique product identifiers

I included the original post below so you could see how complicated it used to be, and be thankful we don't have to mess with that anymore...

I watched the Google Shopping GTIN requirement video so you don't have to!

If you run Ecommerce accounts, you have probably felt the terror of the GTIN requirement Google released. In my experience with this terror, it rests less in the knowledge of the facts around the situation, and more in the fact that there has been little information released around the announcement... until now!

Thankfully, our confusion was heard and Adwords today held a Hangout to discuss only this GTIN requirement. I felt that the information was extremely helpful and will give you the details below.You can read the original announcement here: GTIN requirements are expanding soon

And as a bonus, there is more information about it here from last September (when GTINs were required for 50 brands): Reach more customers online: Add GTINs to your Google Shopping data feed

Figuring Out the Google Shopping GTIN Requirements


The first thing to note is that a GTIN is a superset of specific standardized numbers. What this means is that if you are already submitting EAN, UPC, or ISBN numbers (among others) you aregood to go, stop stressing, go home for the day.  If you have products with existing GTINs, then stop reading this and go work on those.

The reason GTINs are required actually makes a lot of sense to me. Basically, for applicable products, Google wants a standardized way to verify exactly which products are related so they can best group those identical products together.Because merchants (myself included, heh) are notoriously bad at providing accurate details, Google decided to move forward with the common standardized way of product identification, the GTIN.

For the US (where I am based) this GTIN is the UPC code.Why can't we just use Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs) or SKUs you ask? Well, Google said that they've tried that and that we're all really bad at giving the exact numbers. In all seriousness, there are often legitimate reasons for mismatches, but Google has learned they cannot depend on something like MPN and product details to give them the necessary information for product identification.

Who and What Products Are Affected by the May 16, 2016 Google Shopping GTIN Deadline?

The first question I had was "who/what will this affect??" I have a number of clients who don't have GTINs for many products. This was even more confusing because I was hearing conflicting things when this first hit. One source made it sound like no-GTIN products would ALL be disapproved and then manually reapproved, even if custom products, and then a Google rep I talked to made it sound like this wouldn't happen!

The primary questions/concerns I and others have had seem to revolve around products with no existing GTINs.Thankfully this video clears it up!

Here are the specific products that DO NOT require GTINs and will NOT BE DISAPPROVED.

  • If the product does not have a GTIN from the manufacturer
  • If the product is used
  • If the product is a custom product
  • If you are the only seller of this product
  • If the product is house brand
google shopping gtin requirement

Mike from Google did note that if you don't have GTIN products, you still need to have the required MPN and Brand fields for every product to allow them to go live on Google Shopping.

How Do I Find What Products Are Affected?

If you're like me and don't have your GTIN products and your non-GTIN products memorized yet (har har) then you might appreciate this. Google is giving each merchant a chance to fix ONLY THE NECESSARY products long before the May 16, 2016 Google Shopping GTIN deadline.Here's how to get this information:

  1. Log into Google Merchant Center.
  2. Navigate to the Diagnostics tab.
  3. Select the Blue "Items" box
  4. Note the field that says "Item requires a GTIN, resolve by May 16, 2016"
  5. Click the "Download Arrow" button to the right and above the Current Issues to get a CSV of the products that need to be fixed.
  6. Send CSV to your client or product team!
google merchant center diagnostics tab
google merchant center issues
google merchant GTIN issues

It is helpful to note that the warnings you see in Merchant Center are likely to be the only warnings that will show for your current products. If Google went through your Merchant Center already (I know when they first announced this they said it would be different timing for different merchants), then the warnings now are the only ones you need to worry about. So fix those and rest easy for May 16! I would still check them once in awhile to verify, but that's just me. 😉

What about products that don't have GTINs naturally and are eligible to show in Google Shopping, will GTIN products be prioritized in the algorithm?  

Mike from Google says NO, GTIN products will not be prioritized over non-GTIN products in the auction.

Custom Bundles:

What about custom bundles of GTIN products that your client builds to sell on Google? Mike tells you to go ahead and either (1) submit the primary product GTIN, use the "is bundle" field in the feed, OR (2) submit the bundle without a GTIN and mark "is bundle" in the feed.

One final note on this section to be aware of, is that all product variants (let's say apparel variants like colors, styles, etc) should have unique GTINs.

How Can I Get GTINs?

If you have products that are flagged as errors, but you don't yet have the GTINs for this, here is how Google suggested you go about getting them.

  1. Use your warehouse or fulfillment systems
  2. Walk out to the warehouse, pull the product, copy the GTIN number from the package. #bonuspointsforhealthandexercise
  3. Reach out to your drop ship vendor and ask them to add GTIN to the data elements you provide to them
  4. BONUS: this is my own addition (was not revealed in the webinar). Use the Shopping page for the product you want to get into and pull the GTIN number from the "details" tab.
google shopping gtin details
macbook air gtin details

One thing Google pointed out that is worth shouting from the rooftops is this: If GTINs don't exist for your product DO NOT try to fake them or go to the hassle of creating them!  

Since there are none, these products won't be disapproved so you'll give yourself a bunch of unnecessary work doing that. Just ignore them if no warnings in Merchant Center.Some have asked why Google doesn't just make a tool that automatically tells you what the GTINs are?

Well, good question but that's kind of the point of them needing GTINs in the first place. Since even MPNs are untrustworthy, Google has been unable to perfectly identify all of our product variants all the time, especially with all the conflicting data sent by multiple merchants.

Therefore a magic tool wouldn't work since, if Google had the magic tool, they wouldn't need to require GTINs in the first place!A couple of other random things to note in this section. First, MPNs canNOT be used as GTINs. MPNs are not standardized (thus this whole requirement), so you need to make sure you are using actual, authorized GTINs.

Second, is the following scenario. What if you submit multiple identical products with unique MPNs to account for compatibility (example given by Mike: ink cartridges compatbile with multiple printers). Products with the same GTIN for now in this scenario will not be disapproved though Google is working on a "more elegant solution" in the future.

Help I'm Not Ready!

Not ready yet? That's okay! Don't sweat it (too much, sweat some because May is coming), after May 16, there will be a 2 week grace period for you to finish getting all of your GTINs added correctly into the feed before any products are disapproved.

Hopefully this has cleared up some of the questioning over the Google Shopping GTIN requirements like it has for me. If you have any continued questions, shoot them over to me on Twitter at @PPCKirk and we'll try to get some answers!

UPDATE 4/4/16: What About Fake GTINs?

So, let's say you have a schiesty competitor who is willing to bend the truth (i.e., boldly lie) about their products' GTINs so that your products all get disapproved since they are making up fake GTINs and you have none. What are you supposed to do?Well, lucky for you, I asked Google this.

They told me that their system will identify and disapprove any product with false GTINs, and the account may actually face a suspension for doing this!If you suspect this is happening, then submit this form and they will investigate it: Report a violation.I thought this was helpful information to have, so I updated the post!Want to share the love? Great, just RT this here!

Missed the latest GTIN requirement news? Here’s what you need to know: #ppcchat

— Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk) March 25, 2016

Want more free content like this delivered directly to your inbox?
Subscribe Here
Kirk Williams
@PPCKirk - Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter or Linkedin.

In 2023, Kirk had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx Billings on one of his many passions, Stop the Scale: Redefining Business Success.

Continue reading

Find what you're looking for here: