Friday, February 26, 2021
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information, and organizing product information for shoppers and retailers is an essential part of this mission. In the last year, we’ve introduced several new experiences that enable brands and retailers to list their products for free on Google, whether that’s on Google Search through a product knowledge panel or on the Shopping tab.
To best help users find your content and products in Search, we recommend that websites clearly identify products mentioned.
In the following sections we provide guidelines for manufacturers, retailers, and publishers on how to ensure that Google understands the products they are selling or referencing.
How Google identifies products online and offline
Google relies on accurate and trusted product data to precisely identify products that are available for shoppers.
We recommend providing clear product identification, as this helps Google to match offers to products, and to match products to relevant search queries. You can improve Google’s understanding of products by using unique product identifiers like Global Trade Item Number (GTIN™), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs), and brand names. When using product identifiers, we recommend that the identifiers follow these best practices:
- Uniqueness: Each product should have a unique identifier that can consistently and accurately be shared across the ecosystem and identify a product in both the physical and digital worlds of commerce.
- Verifiability: Identity of a product (for example, who is the manufacturer) and other product data should be verifiable through a trusted source. This allows marketplaces to verify that product data is accurate and complete through global registries, the organizations that issued and manage the identifiers.
- Global Reach: With ecommerce making the world more connected, relying on an identification system that can be used across the ecosystem globally will help keep product identification seamless for stakeholders in all countries.
Google adopted use of GTINs as the standard in 2015 so that retailers could reach more customers online.
For products that are sold through a variety of sellers and marketplaces, registering products with the GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) System provides internationally recognized standard identifiers for unique identification of products both in physical stores and on e-commerce platforms. Registration makes it possible for consumers to identify the source of the product.
Tips for brands and manufacturers
Brands and manufacturers can submit product data through Google Manufacturer Center for free, and as part of this process, share the product information to uniquely identify the products to Google. Below are some tips to ensure that Google understands the data that you are providing:
- Ensure your products have GTINs: Your products must have unique Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to use Manufacturer Center. To learn how to assign GTINs to your products, visit the GS1 website in your local region.
- Don’t reuse product identifiers: GTINs should never be shared across multiple products; a single product should map clearly to a single GTIN. Reuse of GTINs can cause marketplace catalog data to become out of date and inconsistent, creating confusion. By obtaining product identifiers from unauthorized sources (for example, identifiers sold through bankruptcy proceedings), you run the risk of establishing identity on the foundation of a previously registered product or company.
- Follow best practices for product identifiers for custom products: In certain situations (for example, artisan products, customizable products, or one-off products), a brand can adopt a proprietary approach to solve product identity by managing its products with unique Stock Keeping Unit numbers (SKUs) or Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs). The key here is for manufacturers to incorporate the principles around uniqueness, verifiability and global reach to ensure the benefits of having product identifiers materialize.
Tips for retailers and 3rd-party sellers
Retailers should ensure accurate product identification on their websites. In addition to general guidelines around GTIN, Google recommends:
- Submit high quality product data: Submit structured data to Google in a product feed or add structured data markup to your website.
- Provide a GTIN, when GTINs exist: Retailers must provide GTINs when they’re selling products that have GTINs. The GTIN can be included in both the product feed as well as the page’s structured data. If a product does not have a GTIN, retailers and 3rd-party sellers should rely on brand and manufacturer parts numbers to identify the product.
- Use valid and unique GTINs: Don’t reuse existing GTINs for a new product. Retailers should not invent GTINs and should not register their own GTINs with GS1, unless they are also the manufacturer of the product.
Tips for online publishers
When publishers create content, like reviewing products or sharing the latest deals for a given product, it’s important that the products in those reviews be accurately identified. This allows users to find those reviews when searching for products on Google. Google recommends:
- Use exact product names: Publishers should mention the exact name of the products that are mentioned on the page. This makes it easier for users, and search engines, to understand exactly which product is referenced.
- Use structured data: We recommend adding structured data, including the GTIN, when reviewing products. This makes it easier for search engines to better understand when to show your pages in search.
- Use valid and unique GTINs: GTINs should never be invented or “borrowed” from other products just to provide a GTIN identifier on the content.
Product identity is critical in commerce because it ensures that businesses and consumers accurately understand the origin and unique identity of a product. This also applies to the web and Google Search, where an accurate understanding of a product helps to show the right product to the right user at the right time.