What is GTIN? ...and why is it important

What is GTIN?  ...and why is it important

If you run e-commerce accounts, you have probably felt the terror of the GTIN requirement Google released. In my experience with this terror, it rests less in the knowledge of the facts around the situation, and more in the fact that there has been little information released around the announcement… until now!

Thankfully, our confusion was heard and Adwords today held a Hangout to discuss only this GTIN requirement. I felt that the information was extremely helpful and will give you the details below.

You can read the original announcement here: GTIN requirements are expanding soon

And as a bonus, there is more information about it here from last September (when GTINs were required for 50 brands): Reach more customers online: Add GTINs to your Google Shopping data feed

You can view the entire hangout here:


Figuring Out the Google Shopping GTIN Requirements


The first thing to note is that a GTIN is a superset of specific standardized numbers. What this means is that if you are already submitting EAN, UPC, or ISBN numbers (among others) you are good to go, stop stressing, go home for the day. If you have products with existing GTINs, then stop reading this and go work on those.

The reason GTINs are required actually makes a lot of sense to me. Basically, for applicable products, Google wants a standardized way to verify exactly which products are related so they can best group those identical products together.

Because merchants (myself included, heh) are notoriously bad at providing accurate details, Google decided to move forward with the common standardized way of product identification, the GTIN. For the US (where I am based) this GTIN is the UPC code.

Why can’t we just use Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs) or SKUs you ask? Well, Google said that they’ve tried that and that we’re all really bad at giving the exact numbers. In all seriousness, there are often legitimate reasons for mismatches, but Google has learned they cannot depend on something like MPN and product details to give them the necessary information for product identification.


The first question I had was “who/what will this affect??” I have a number of clients who don’t have GTINs for many products. This was even more confusing because I was hearing conflicting things when this first hit. One source made it sound like no-GTIN products would ALL be disapproved and then manually reapproved, even if custom products, and then a Google rep I talked to made it sound like this wouldn’t happen!

The primary questions/concerns I and others have had seem to revolve around products with no existing GTINs.

Thankfully this video clears it up!

Here are the specific products that DO NOT require GTINs and will NOT BE DISAPPROVED.

  • If the product does not have a GTIN from the manufacturer
  • If the product is used
  • If the product is a custom product
  • If you are the only seller of this product
  • If the product is a house brand

Mike from Google did note that if you don’t have GTIN products, you still need to have the required MPN and Brand fields for every product to allow them to go live on Google Shopping.

How Do I Find What Products Are Affected?

If you’re like me and don’t have your GTIN products and your non-GTIN products memorized yet (har har) then you might appreciate this. Google is giving each merchant a chance to fix ONLY THE NECESSARY products long before the May 16, 2016 Google Shopping GTIN deadline.

Here’s how to get this information:

  1. Log into Google Merchant Center.
  2. Navigate to the Diagnostics tab.
  3. Select the Blue “Items” box
  4. Note the field that says “Item requires a GTIN, resolve by May 16, 2016”
  5. Click the “Download Arrow” button to the right and above the Current Issues to get a CSV of the products that need to be fixed.
  6. Send CSV to your client or product team!

It is helpful to note that the warnings you see in Merchant Center are likely to be the only warnings that will show for your current products. If Google went through your Merchant Center already (I know when they first announced this they said it would be different timing for different merchants), then the warnings now are the only ones you need to worry about. So fix those and rest easy for May 16! I would still check them once in a while to verify, but that’s just me.

What about products that don’t have GTINs naturally and are eligible to show in Google Shopping, will GTIN products be prioritized in the algorithm? Mike from Google says NO, GTIN products will not be prioritized over non-GTIN products in the auction.

Custom Bundles: What about custom bundles of GTIN products that your client builds to sell on Google? Mike tells you to go ahead and either (1) submit the primary product GTIN, use the “is bundle” field in the feed, OR (2) submit the bundle without a GTIN and mark “is bundle” in the feed.

One final note on this section to be aware of, is that all product variants (let’s say apparel variants like colors, styles, etc) should have unique GTINs.