To identify products uniquely GTINs are used which is an acronym for the global trade item number. It is an internationally recognized system for bringing all the products together and making them adhere to a common structure. It is useful for both in-store barcode readers as well as online product databases.

GTIN – Google Shopping Feed Specification Guide

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GTIN in Google feed helps to classify your products into different categories which makes the ads richer for display. Since it distinguishes your product from others by this unique property, they also help in matching search queries with what you offer.  It is also a handy attribute for making your products easier to find by the users. You cannot enable many shopping features without assigning a GTIN to your product.

As per Google merchant center feed guide, a GTIN is a mandatory attribute to be provided if the manufacturer has assigned it. There are certain formatting guidelines that your GTIN has to adhere to to be valid for the Google feed software

GTIN Variations

There are many variations of a GTIN as mentioned below:

  1. 12 digits number – In North America (UPC) it is a 12-digit number that is obtained by converting 8-digit UPEC codes.
  2. 13 digits number – In Europe (EAN) a GTN-13 is applicable.
  3. 8 or 13-digit numbers – In Japan (JAN) a GTN-13 is applicable.
  4. For books (ISBN) one can need a 13 digits number. If only ISBN-10 is provided then one needs to convert it to ISBN-13. If both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 are provided then you must use ISBN-13.
  5. 14 digits number or ITF-14 – If a product is sold in multipacks (shipping boxes for example) it would have an ITF-14.
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Formatting Guidelines 

As per the Google feed specification guide, a GTIN is submitted through the GTIN attribute and must follow the guidelines outlined below for the Google feed software to understand it:

Type It should be numerical, the Google feed software permits spaces and dashes but they have ignored
LimitsThe number of digits could be 0, 8, 12, 13, or 14 digits. This is based on different locations or the type of product (UPC, EAN, JAN, or ISBN)
Repeated fieldUp to 10 propertyType: textValues: Product.ISBN, Product.gtn8, Product.gtn12, Product.gtn13, Product.gtn14

Note: property is used to share your product with structured data markup to the Google merchant center feed. These markups help Google feed software and other search engines to understand and interpret your product accurately. 

Sample GTIN

Let us see an example of an entry for a GTIN

File FormatExample entry
XML Feeds<g:gtin>3234567890126</g:gtin>
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Best Practices for GTIN

In order for your product data to be high quality, there are a few things that you would need to follow. Failing to stick to these requirements will subject your product to be disapproved by Google and the same will be intimated to you in the diagnostics section of your merchant center account:

1. UPI or Unique product identifiers 

There are many product identifiers that enhance the quality of your product data and also distinguish them from other products. If you want Google to understand your product better then you must provide the mpn and brand attributes of the UPI. By providing these properties Google can help you make them richer and also connect users to your product since they are in sync with what you are trying to sell, by the use of these properties. Here is a description of what these attributes mean:

brandBrandIt is the brand name of the product which needs to be clearly visible on the front of the product packaging or label. This attribute is used globally.
mpnMPNMPN stands for manufacturer part number. It is composed of alphanumeric digits which can be of any length. It stands for the number which uniquely links the product to the manufacturer. This attribute is used globally.

 2. GS1 validation guide should be followed to submit the GTIN  

GS1 is the core global standard for business communications. To manage the supply chain across 25 sectors, GS1 has defined certain standards that improve the safety, visibility, and efficiency of this channel across all physical as well as digital channels. It is a common language that makes information easily accessible, accurate, and simple to understand. It tells you how the GS1 barcodes and identification keys should be used. Google needs these standards to be followed with emphasis on the following requirements:

  1. The GSI Check digit calculator should be used to ensure the presence of a check digit and its accuracy. The check digit is the last digit in a fixed-length numeric GS1 identification key. Using this key one can be sure of the integrity of data. The check digit is calculated based on other digits in the GS1 identification key.
  2. GTIN should take care of the restricted ranges and should not be submitted within that range. These restricted ranges are reserved for future use, special purposes, and internal use. Any code with a prefix of 02, 04, or 2 falls within the restricted range. These invalid codes jeopardize the business operations of any marketplace. You can correct these GTINs by logging into their merchant center account’s diagnostics tab. Here you can see all the products which have this issue, with the issue title “Unsupported value (restricted) [gtin]”. You need to correct them by matching them with the ones provided by the manufacturers and resubmitting them for review.
  3. GTIN must not be in the coupon ranges – A GTIN in the coupon range is invalid. A coupon range is any number that starts with 981, 982, 983, 984, 99, and 05. These numbers are reserved for coupon numbering systems by the GSI organization. You can correct this issue by going into your merchant center account and downloading those products from the diagnostic center which have coupon value for the GTIN. You can correct those GTINs which have been marked for coupon value and supply a globally valid value. After Google verifies the corrected values, these notifications would be removed from the Diagnostic tab. This whole process can take up to 24 hours. If you do not furnish a valid GTIN within 30 days of the notification your product data would be disapproved by Google.
  4. No GTIN for Generic products – Any product which does not have a brand name comes under Generic products. They are sold solely based on the characteristics of the product. If you want to sell such products then you cannot provide a GTIN for these kinds of products.
  5. All variants of a product should have the correct GTIN – If your product has many variants, like different colors of a dress or different sizes of a shoe, then each of them will have its own GTIN. You must ensure you are submitting correct and unique values for all the products and their variants.
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GTIN Examples

Let us look at some of the examples of how to provide GTIN for different categories of products:

1. Apparel 

A brand new red dress of size M will have the following attributes

ProductRed dress, size M
titleSleeveless A-line Dress – black – size L
brandLittle Red Dress

2. Food and beverages 

A cow’s milk of 1 liter will have the following attributes

ProductBio Cow Milk
title1l Bio Cow Milk
brandOrganic cow farm

3. Variants  

If your product comes in different sizes, colors then you can provide unique product identifiers to each of them in the following manner:

ProductGoogle leggings
titleGoogle leggings blue small
price9 USD
ProductGoogle leggings
titleGoogle leggings Yellow small
price9 USD

4. Store brand and white-label products 

ProductWhite label sofa
title3 seater sofa – beige / brown
price899 USD

5. Products without a GTIN 

If a product does not have any GTIN assigned then you do not need to submit one. But if it has a GTIN then in the event you do not submit it, your product will be disapproved by Google.

ProductCustomized yellow gown
titleYellow Gown customized with your design – Size L
price44 USD
gtinThis needs to be blank as this is a custom-made product and does not have a GTIN
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Providing a GTN in Google feed is mandatory if your product has a GTIN assigned by the manufacturer. It not only enriches and improves your ads, but it also helps them to appear in search engines. So it is important for you to provide as much relevant information as you can, as per the Google feed specification guide so that Google can classify your product in a better way. That will give more visibility to the right kind of customers for your product and increase conversions.

It is a good idea to review your GTINs for validity so that you do not reach bottlenecks and waste time in getting your product available in Google shopping ads.

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CEO and co founder of AdNabu. Exploring the intersection of data and marketing