6 Changes to Google Shopping Products Feed Specification

June 9, 2015

Digital Marketing Laura Lane By Laura Lane

Google is displaying PLAs in search results far more frequently. In fact, new research shows that they’re up 118% year over year. Yesterday, Google announced updates to the Google Shopping Products Feed Specification to improve the experience for shoppers and deliver better value for retailers. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at these new requirements and deadlines that you’ll need to be aware of.

1. Changes to ID Attribute

What’s Changing: Currently, you can use any sequence of letters and digits in your Google Item ID attribute, including sequences that can be difficult to use in a user interface (whitespace and control characters are good examples). With this update, your ID attribute should, if possible, match your SKU and contain alphanumeric characters along with defined punctuation signs (underscore, dash, colon or slash). Google recommends that you use your SKUs for this attribute if they’re unique across your inventory. The identifier for each item must be unique within your Google account and shouldn’t be reused between feeds for the same country in the same language.

Who’s Affected: This change affects retailers globally.

Deadline: In the Diagnostics tab in Google Merchant Center, Warnings will be displayed from 1 June. Errors will be displayed from 15 September, when the items with duplicate item IDs will stop being displayed.

2. Clarification About Where GTINs Are Needed

What’s Changing: With this spec change, Google is clarifying where global trade identification numbers (GTINs) are needed. Retailers in the UK, US, Australia, Brazil, Germany and other countries (see below) will need to submit GTIN and brand values when the brand is a designated brand and the condition is new. Google recommends that retailers in other regions submit GTIN and brand for products when the brand is a designated brand. Google has said that in the future, GTINs will be a requirement for all products, so this is a good chance to get ahead.

Who’s Affected: Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, UK and US.

Deadline: Warnings will be displayed from 1 June, and errors will be displayed from 15 September onwards at the item level. At that point, items with missing or incorrect unique product identifier values will stop serving.

3. New Numeric IDs for All Categories

What’s Changing: Google’s releasing numeric IDs for all categories in addition to Google product category (GPC) text so it’s easier for you to reference these categories programmatically. You’re required to provide either GPC text or GPC numeric IDs for feeds targeting select countries (see below for list) and for all items in the Apparel & Accessories, Media, and Software categories. However, Google recommends providing either GPC text or GPC numeric IDs if your products don’t fall into one of those categories.

Who’s Affected: Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, UK and US.

Deadline: Because GPC was already a mandatory attribute, Google isn’t enforcing a deadline with this update. With the new category ID, you have more flexibility to choose which format to use when sending data to Google. 

4. Shipping Data Required for More Regions

What’s Changing: Today, retailers in Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the US are required to provide shipping data. This requirement is expanding to new regions so that more countries will be able to display accurate shipping costs to shoppers.

Who’s Affected: Retailers in the Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland should be providing shipping data.

Deadline: Warnings will be displayed for missing shipping data from 1 June, with errors being displayed from 1 February 2016 onwards. From that point, if feeds lack shipping data, then the entire feed will stop serving.

5. Apparel and Variant Information

What’s Changing: Today, apparel and variant information is required for France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US. This requirement now extends to Brazil. Additionally, Google has merged apparel and variant attributes into detailed product attributes and opened variant attributes up to non-apparel products. Retailers in the six regions should ensure that the information for colour, pattern, material, age group and gender in the Apparel & Accessories category are provided, as well as the size attribute for shoes.

Who’s Affected: Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, UK and US

Deadline: Google will continue to reject offers that either don’t supply these attributes at all in the required categories or that supply these attributes incorrectly. Warnings will be displayed in Google from 1 June. Errors will be displayed from 15 September onwards at the item level, and items with missing or incorrect apparel variant values will stop displaying.

6. Units and Quantity

What’s Changing: Until now, Google supported only metric units. With this update, US units have been introduced as a specification as well. Now US volumes, weights, lengths and area measures are included. With this update, there’s a new per-unit measure for units that rely on unit pricing. If you’re a retailer that relies on these values (for example, if you sell flooring and carpet or food items), Google recommends providing details for these categories.

Who’s Affected: US retailers

Deadline: This is just a recommendation, so items will be rejected only if you provide incorrect values. Warnings will display in Google from 1 June, and errors will display from 1 October.

Next Steps

Online retailers have been steadily shifting more and more pounds to Google Shopping. PLAs have created a better search experience for shoppers and have led to an increase in conversions. These changes are part of this continuing evolution of needing to provide better data and content to Google.

You’ll notice that many of these time lines give you the chance to prepare and adapt before the final deadline, so make use of this time to optimise your listings. Get ahead now so that you don’t find yourself running into issues when these deadlines loom, especially because many will be when you’re ramping up for Christmas!

200x200In the meantime, if you want to learn about more ways to improve your Google Shopping campaigns, register for our upcoming webinar, No More Guesswork: Stop Sabotaging Your Google Shopping Campaigns, which takes place TOMORROW at 11 am EDT/8 am PDT.