If you haven’t already heard, Google is making some significant changes to their Product Feed policies that are taking effect on September 22, 2011. If you are using Google Base to submit a product feed for your products, you may want to double check your feed to make sure it complies with the new guidelines. Don’t wait until it’s too late – Google will take action against non-compliant feeds. Here’s a rundown of the new Google Shopping Feed requirements…

What’s the Big Deal Anyways?

In the past, several attributes were considered optional, but Google will be requiring specific attributes to be listed in each feed in late September. The biggest impact will occur with apparel products, though, it is best to include as much information in your feeds as possible. This not only helps with compliance, but provides a better user experience for potential shoppers. The attributes you will need to include (at least in the US) for apparel items will be:

  • id
  • title
  • description
  • google product category
  • product type
  • link
  • image link
  • additional image link
  • condition
  • availability
  • price (if you are running any sales, you will also need to include the sale price and sale price effective date as well)
  • brand
  • gtin and/or mpn
  • gender
  • age group
  • color
  • size (for clothing and shoes)
  • tax*
  • shipping*
  • shipping weight*

*These can either be specified in each individual attribute, or through your Google Merchant Center account settings

If you are providing any variants, you will also need to provide these attributes for each variation:

  • material
  • pattern
  • item group id

Google is also retiring a few other attributes, such as:

  • quantity
  • feature
  • manufacturer
  • genre
  • featured product
  • year
  • author
  • edition

You can find a list of these attribute requirements in this Google’s Merchant Center article. The attributes that I suspect will cause the most amount of confusion could be:

  • google product category
  • product type
  • availability
  • gtin and/or mpn

Google Product Category & Product Type

The difference between the google product category and the product type is that the google product category attribute requires Google’s product taxonomy, whereas the product type is denoted by your own taxonomy. Ideally, if you have breadcrumb navigation in your product pages, you can list that. An example might be:

google product category: Apparel & Accessories > Clothing > Dresses > Little Black Dresses

product type: Clothing > Women >Dresses > Black

Availability

The availability attribute is a bit strange since it can be one of the following 4 options:

  • ‘in stock’
  • ‘available for order’
  • ‘out of stock’
  • ‘preorder’

GTIN and MPN

GTIN (or Global Trade Item Number) can either be a UPC, EAN (in Europe), JAN (in Japan) or ISBN (books). The MPN (or Manufacturer Part Number) refers to the part number that you assign to your product to denote the product as being separate from other manufacturers. The MPN isn’t required for apparel, media and custom made goods, or if you’re providing both the brand and gtin attributes. For more information on MPNs, check out this Wikipedia article.

Product Variants (for apparel)

  • item group id
  • color
  • material
  • pattern
  • size

If you are offering variations, you will need to denote each variation. Please keep in mind that these variations need to have separate listings each. So, if you have a product like a little black dress, but you offer it in 5 sizes, you will need to list each size separately. These are considered “child” items, so make sure not to submit the “master” or “parent” file as well.The titles cannot be identical across each variation, so you need to name each variation with the common term (e.g. “little black dress”) along with its unique identifier (e.g. “little black dress –size 2, little black dress – size 4, etc.). Use the same item group id for each of the variations that fall under the same "parent" category.

Update…or else

It is important that the correct attributes are listed by September 22, 2011 or else your products may not appear in the Google Product Search results. On top of that, Google may even suspend your feed if you don’t comply to these policy changes, so get an early start on updating your feed. Google has even said that if you do not include even recommended attributes, it can result in less frequent display of products in Goolge Product Search. If you’re using XML or API, make sure that you use English attribtue names and replace any spaces within attribute names with underscores (e.g. image_link).

To find out more about each attribute, check out this helpful Google article on shopping feed specifications.

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