Why GTINs are important

Hold on, for starters, what is a GTIN? GTIN stands for “Global Trade Item Number”, which is a broad term used to describe the various product identifier systems used internationally e.g. UPC (Universal Product Code) and ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

A GTIN is a ‘thumbprint’ assigned to Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) and, traditionally, these numbers have allowed businesses to optimize processes and create a streamlined supply chain for a product. Google’s primary products are, in reality, clicks – and they are always looking for ways to improve the quality of these clicks. Requiring advertisers on Google Shopping to submit GTIN numbers is a strategy to ensure that products are accurately listed, improving the consumer’s user experience and ultimately the quality of the clicks to your online shop.

The GTIN journey

Google started requiring its retailers to use GTINs in mid-2015, but only across 50 specific brands. If the GTIN was not included in the product feed, the ad would not be served. In February 2016, Google then expanded this requirement to all products that have a GTIN from their manufacturers. Retailers had by May 2016 to ensure that their product feeds reflected the required GTIN.

Why the change?

Remember, Google sells clicks. So, how will these tedious requirements for retailers improve the quality of the clicks? For starters, it allowed Google access to richer accurate information about products which it trusts. This then opened the door for Shopping to be able to displays ads in more places, including on other Google partners.

Reason number 1: More product data, better user experience, more engagement

The more quality product information available to Google, the more likely they will serve your ads to the right customers. When Google can precisely identify the product via a GTIN number, it has more confidence that is matches a consumer’s search terms. GTIN numbers also allow advertisers a level of control on the targeting (who are often left floundering without the control of keyword use). And it works… feeds containing GTINs realize more engagement and higher conversions.

Reason number 2: Increase the number of impressions and conversions

Adding GTINs results in significantly more impressions. In the initial case study by Google, it quotes up to 40% more impressions after adding GTIN numbers (also validated by results for a group of Search Engine Land’s clients). But, better yet, Google claims that adding GTIN numbers resulted in up to 20% higher conversion rates.

While sourcing GTINs can be time-consuming, they are readily available online and directly from manufacturers, and it is well worth ensuring that your feed is up to date with all of these numbers to fully leverage Google Shopping – arguably the most effective sales tool for online retailers.


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