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Google and eBay Tell Merchants to Pay Attention to Product Identifiers

Online sellers who want their products to be part of the search results derived from Google Shopping will want to be sure their data quality is up to the task. Otherwise, they risk having products disapproved or demoted from appearing in those results.

In August 2013, Google announced their intent to enforce unique product identifier requirements for Google Shopping. These identifiers are Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) and go by various names; American merchants generally know these as UPC and ISBN depending on the type of product.

Google recently noted on their Inside AdWords blog a reminder of Google Shopping’s requirement for ecommerce pros to meet unique product identifier requirements. Item data delivered via product feed to Google Shopping that isn’t “comprehensive and accurate” may be subject to Google’s penalties.

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“Soon we will start to (1) disapprove products with incorrect GTIN, MPN (manufacturer part number) and brand and (2) globally demote products that incorrectly use the identifier_exists attribute. We will continue to ramp up enforcements to find and disapprove products with incorrect GTIN, MPN and brand data in the coming months,” Angelika Rohrer, Program Manager, Google Shopping, said in the blog.

Interestingly eBay is making some changes to help ensure the exposure of eBay listings in Google Shopping results as part of its Spring Seller Update announced on March 11th. eBay advised sellers:

“In many categories, unique identifiers are required for your items to show up in Google Product Search. The best way to ensure your listing contains the information required by Google Product Search is to list your item with the eBay catalog whenever there’s a product match. If listing with the eBay catalog isn’t possible, fill out the item specifics for Brand, Model, UPC, ISBN, EAN, Color, Size, Gender and/or MPN wherever they are available/applicable.”

The way Google Shopping displays results likely presents a mixed bag of desirable and undesirable qualities for online sellers. Ideally, with all the data from various sellers being equally accurate, Google Shopping will display an item and a list of sellers.

While such visibility is a positive for merchants, it can be a negative for someone who doesn’t appear to be priced as competitively as others selling the same product. A seller may have valid reasons for a slightly higher price, but to a browsing consumer a favorable price may be enough to drive the visitor to a different seller for the potential sale.

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David A Utter

David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR’s “All Things Considered” with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.


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