Google have today released a message to a number of e-commerce stores where Google has identified problems within the GTIN product identifiers being used in the merchants’ product listing submissions. Most common of these identifiers used in the UK and USA are the EAN (European Article Numbers) or UPC (Universal Product Codes) respectively.
Google have now announced that starting on 17 September 2013, they will require that all values included in the ‘gtin’ attribute field of the product submission be valid ‘gtin’ values. Items that include invalid values for the ‘gtin’ attribute will generate errors and will not appear in Google Shopping.
This requirement will be enforced initially in Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain,Switzerland and the UK. This requirement is already in effect in the US. More information on GTINs here.
You may have items within your feed with invalid ‘gtin’ values which you can see are currently generating warning messages. These are displayed in the “Feed status summary” section of your Google Merchant Center account.
Google have provided some common reasons for invalid ‘gtin’ values:
1. Too many or too few digits – formats of UPC, EAN are very specific. We see lots of incomplete/short or overlong numbers in the raw data we process
2. Letters or symbols (instead of numbers only) – we often see merchant feeds containing numbers with spaces, dots, hyphens and other non correct values. Avoid any of these. Be careful too of any numbers that get converted to scientific format in your data feed (typically self generated feeds that are converted from another format to TXT prior to upload)
3. Invalid check digit (the check digit is the final digit within the GTIN that is used as a mathematical check to make sure that the product identifier is accurate). This is a function of the number itself. If the check digit calculation fails, Google will regard this as an invalid number.
Our Feed Manager platform routinely removes all GTIN numbers that fail to comply with the above, protecting merchants from the problem, by using formatting and the same check digit compliance.
Clearly Google is becoming more and more stringent in terms of enforcing data quality. This is the second notice within a week. Their previous release covered disqualification of products which generated crawl errors for their bot. Both have enforcement dates of 17 Sept 2013.
This just gets tougher and tougher, but as Shopping gets ever more profile and visits, Google’s insistence on improved merchant product quality is understandable. Note that invalidation for Shopping will also mean that a product is unavailable for Product Listing Advert (PLA) purposes.