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The Importance of GTINs in Google Shopping

If you’re using Google Shopping, you’re probably familiar with Product Identifiers. Specifically, the GTIN. It’s the most important Product Identifier to exist, and Google uses it to connect products to relevant shoppers and enrich product listings with reviews from approved aggregators like Junip.

Below we’ll go through everything you need to know about GTINs, why they matter to Google, and most importantly why they should matter to you.

What is a GTIN?

GTIN stands for Global Trade Identification Number. It's a sequence of 8-14 digits that's part of an internationally recognized system developed by GS1 to identify products in the global marketplace. Similar to how a person’s fingerprint is unique, GTINs are unique to products. Every product and product variant has its own GTIN.

It’s common for the terms barcode and GTIN to be used interchangeably. However, they’re two different things. A barcode is the black and white symbol of vertical lines that you see on a product’s packaging, while the GTIN is the number you see below the barcode.

Difference between a barcode and GTIN
Difference between a barcode and GTIN

Barcodes are a visual representation of a GTIN. GTINs are encoded into barcodes so that when they're scanned at checkout, the number gets read into the point-of-sale system.

Different types of GTINs

When creating a new product in your Google Merchant Center (GMC), Google lists a few options for possible values to input for the Product Identifier; GTIN, UPC, EAN, JAN, or ISBN.

The different types of product identifiers that Google Merchant Center supports
The different types of product identifiers that Google Merchant Center supports

It’s important to understand the difference between each. A GTIN is a type of Unique Product Identifier that Google uses to differentiate products. UPC, EAN, JAN, and ISBN are all types of barcodes that carry different GTIN structures depending on the product and where it’s sold. The number associated with each barcode is the value that Google wants you to input.

How Google uses GTINs to verify products

Since GS1 created the system for global product identification, they're responsible for issuing GTINs and registering them in their database. When a brand assigns a GTIN to their product in GMC, Google verifies it by checking that the GTIN exists in the GS1 database and that it's registered to the same product the brand has uploaded in GMC. If so, this gives Google 100% confidence the GTIN is valid and their product classification is correct. If not, Google may reject the product or it may experience limited performance.

This is what makes GTINs the most important Product Identifier, they’re the only way to verify what a product is when it can't be referenced in person.

Once your product is uniquely defined, Google can easily display it in relevant search results and enrich your product listings with features like product reviews.

Why Google Shopping requires GTINs

Google uses GTINs to understand exactly what your products are. With millions of products listed on their platform, they need a way to classify each one and make sure they can connect browsing shoppers with the right products.

GTINs are also needed to display reviews and star ratings on product listings. When a review feed is submitted to Google by a review aggregator, a process called product matching takes place. This is when Google matches the GTINs between your product catalog in your GMC account and the submitted review feed to ensure each review is being displayed on the correct product.

Example of reviews from Junip on Kotn's product listings in Google Shopping
Example of reviews from Junip on Kotn's product listings in Google Shopping

Benefits for brands of using GTINs in Google Shopping

There’s a huge upside for brands when Google can leverage GTINs to understand the products you sell. When brands submit valid GTINs on Google Shopping they unlock several benefits for their product listings:

  • Products will be shown in highly relevant search results from shoppers looking to buy the products you sell
  • Google can match reviews from approved aggregators like Junip to products so that brands can display star ratings and reviews on product listings, leading to 32% higher click rates
  • Product listings can be shown in product recommendation and comparison widgets to help new shoppers discover your product
  • Being able to prove product ownership and authenticity so that bad actors cannot list counterfeits of your product
According to GS1, products with valid GTINs on Google Shopping have 40% higher impressions and 20% more conversions.

Getting GTINs for your products

GTINs are a win-win. They provide Google with a reliable method for understanding your products, ensuring accurate matches with relevant search results. They also make it possible to display reviews to your product listings which leads to higher click rates on your product listings.

If you’re using Google Shopping but haven’t gotten around to getting GTINs, you're missing out. Check out our detailed guide for more information about how to get GTINs for your products.

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