About unique product identifiers

Unique product identifiers go beyond the 'id' attribute to define the product you're selling in the global marketplace. Common unique product identifiers include Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Manufacturer Part Numbers (MPNs), and brand names. Providing unique product identifiers, especially GTINs, can make your ads richer and easier for users to find.

This article explains the unique product identifiers you may have to provide, how to troubleshoot issues with your identifiers, and what to do if you don't have them.

Contents

Types of unique product identifiers

Name Description Location Format Feed Attribute
Universal Product Code (UPC), also called GTIN-12 and UPC-A A unique numerical identifier for commercial products that's usually associated with a barcode printed on retail merchandise. Primarily North America 12 numeric digits GTIN
European Article Number (EAN), also called GTIN-13 A unique numerical identifier for commercial products that's usually associated with a barcode printed on retail merchandise. Primarily outside of North America Typically 13 numeric digits (can occasionally be either eight or 14 numeric digits) GTIN
Japanese Article Number (JAN), also called GTIN-13 A unique numerical identifier for commercial products that's usually associated with a barcode printed on retail merchandise. Only in Japan 8 or 13 numeric digits GTIN
International Standard Book Number (ISBN) A unique numerical identifier for commercial books published since 1970 that can be found on the back of the book along with the barcode. Globally ISBN-10: 10 numeric digits (last digit may be "X" which represents the number "10").
Note that this format was deprecated in 2007, and not all books can be represented using ISBN-10.
ISBN-13 (recommended): 13 numeric digits and typically starts with either 978 or 979
GTIN
Brand The brand of the product. Globally Name of brand. Brand
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) The number which uniquely identifies the product to its manufacturer. Globally Alphanumeric digits (various lengths) MPN

Include unique product identifiers in your product data

Depending on the type of product you submit, you'll submit different identifiers. For all your items, we recommend submitting all three attributes ('gtin', 'brand', and 'mpn') to help boost ad performance and help users find your products.

Use the following set of rules to provide the correct identifiers for each of your products.

For any items with ‘new’ condition and GTINs assigned by the manufacturer, submit unique product identifiers using these attributes:

  • ‘gtin’ required
  • ‘brand’ required
  • ‘mpn’ recommended

Store brand items and other products for which you are the only seller generally don't have and won't be required to include GTINs. Other products that commonly don't have GTINs assigned by the manufacturer include replacement and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, custom products, antiques, and some apparel products. In addition, you may not have GTINs for items with availability ‘preorder’ or condition ‘used.’ When no GTIN is assigned, submit unique product identifiers using these attributes:

  • 'brand' required
  • 'mpn' required

Some products don't have a clearly associated brand, including movies, books, and musical recordings. You don't need to submit a brand in cases like these. 

In the rare situation where your product has neither a GTIN nor MPN (for example, made-to-order or handmade items), set ‘identifier exists’ to 'FALSE' to indicate that you have no identifier for the product.

Tips for specific types of products

  • Compatible products
    • A compatible product is meant to be used together with another product that's not necessarily from the same brand. For example, compatible products can include chargers, electronics accessories, and toner or inkjet cartridges. If you sell compatible products, submit the GTIN and brand from the manufacturer who actually built the compatible product. For example, if you sell printer cartridges, you'll submit the GTIN and brand from the manufacturer of the cartridge you're selling, not the manufacturer that makes the original printer or printer cartridge.
  • Multipacks
    • A manufacturer-defined multipack is a package of several individually packed identical items sold as a unit. Use the unique product identifiers required for your product type. You should use the identifier that relates to the multipack, not the items contained in the multipack. 
    • A merchant-defined multipack can contain either several units of the same or of distinct products sold as a unit. Use the unique product identifiers required for the individual base item in the multipack.
  • Bundles
    • A manufacturer-defined bundle (for example, a camera body with a lens) is a product that contains multiple items and at least two of the items are different.
    • A merchant-defined bundle is a custom grouping of different products defined by the merchant and sold together for a single price. Use the unique product identifiers required for the product type of the main item in the bundle. Plus, use the 'is bundle' attribute in your data.
  • Products customized by engraving or other personalization
    • If you offer customization, engraving, or other personalization of a product that's been assigned a GTIN by the manufacturer, submit the GTIN and use the 'is bundle' attribute to let us know that the product includes customization. You should also include a description of the product’s customization in both the ‘title’ and ‘description’ attributes.

Troubleshooting

Use the links below to jump to the troubleshooting topics.

Finding unique product identifiers for your products

When you're working with unique product identifiers, it's important that you don't invent or approximate the values. Each product has a prescribed value assigned by the manufacturer, and any other value will be flagged as invalid. The most accurate source of GTINs is always from the product packaging or the product’s manufacturer.

Ways to find unique product identifiers:

  • Refer to the GTIN on your product's packaging. Learn how to find the GTIN.
  • Contact your product's manufacturer or distributor to ask for it.
  • Use the Google Shopping "Compare prices" page under the "Details" section for any product.
  • Look up UPCs or EANs on GTIN Info, which includes many, though not all product identifiers that have been issued. 
  • Look up ISBNs at ISBNdb.com or on Google Books.

Making sure your GTIN codes are correct

Ensure that each GTIN that you submit includes the correct number of digits and check digit (or letter for ISBN-10). The check digit is a digit within the GTIN that can be used as a mathematical check to make sure the product identifier is accurate.

If you use GTIN-14 codes, only use packaging levels (1-8) if you are selling packages containing multiple items, do not use the bulk level indicator (9).

GTIN submissions should not include codes in the restricted ranges (prefixes 2, 02, 04) or the coupon range (05, 981, 982, 983 ).

Resolving invalid identifier errors

If you submit your feed and encounter errors with your unique product identifiers, you can check a few parts of the identifiers to make sure you provide the right values:

  • Too many or too few digits
  • Letters or symbols (instead of numbers only)
  • Nonstandard manufacturer part number
  • Invalid check digit*

We will generate errors for incorrectly formatted values for the 'gtin' attribute. These errors will prevent an item from appearing in Google Shopping.

For more information about the validation of GTINs, refer to the GTIN Validation Guide edited by GS1.

*The check digit is a digit within the GTIN that can be used as a mathematical check to make sure the product identifier is accurate. You can validate your product identifier and check digit at GS1.

Because users rely on accurate product information, each product submitted to Merchant Center must use the correct identifying information. If your products don't have correct identifiers, they'll be disapproved. Remember to use the manufacturer-assigned part number in the case of ‘mpn’; for ‘brand’ an appropriate brand name (not a store name or product name); and for ‘gtin’ there should be a valid check digit.

No unique product identifiers available

In rare cases where a brand name product has no unique product identifier (e.g., replacement parts), provide this information explicitly in your feed by specifying the ‘identifier exists’ attribute for that item with a value of 'FALSE'. If an identifier exists for the item but you don't have it, it's important to add the correct identifier to your feed instead of using the ‘identifier exists’ attribute. Learn how to find your product's identifiers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I sell many products exclusively through my site, and these do not have GTINs. Will these products be disapproved?
    No, store brand items and other products for which you are the only merchant generally do not have GTINs. As a result, we won't require GTINs for these products and won't disapprove them. Instead, submit a brand and MPN for these products.
  2. Isn't ISBN a subset of EAN? How should I submit it?
    Yes, ISBN-13 is a subset of EAN, which in turn is a subset of GTIN; therefore, you should use the 'gtin' attribute to submit your values.
  3. I have books, videos, and DVDs that have UPC and ISBN values (the values are different). Which value should I include, or should I submit both?
    Submit both values. For Text/Tab-delimited format, separate multiple UPCs by a comma and space. For XML format, include a 'gtin' attribute at the item level for each additional UPC.
  4. I sell books that are either too old or rare to have ISBNs. What should I do?
    If the books have an old SBN code (9 digits, used in Great Britain until 1974), you can convert it into an ISBN-10 by adding zero as a prefix. You can also convert an ISBN to ISBN-13 using online tools.

    If the books you are selling pre-date SBN codes, you do not need to submit values for GTIN.

  5. I sell used and refurbished goods.
    Unique product identifiers offer the same ad performance benefits for used and refurbished products, so we recommend that you submit the identifiers whenever they're available.

    We recommend that you always include the GTIN and brand to help your ad appear for more user searches. If a GTIN isn't available, you can still include a brand for a similar effect.

    For example, if you sell compatible toner and inkjet cartridges, make sure to include the unique product identifiers of the manufacturer who actually built the printer cartridge.

  6. What if my products have more than one UPC?
    Use the following guidelines when submitting UPCs:
    • Variant products: For products that have different UPCs for each variant of the item, such as size or color, submit one UPC per item. Be sure to link these items together using a common ID in the 'item group id' attribute.
    • Multiple UPCs: For products which have more than one valid UPC, such as a global UPC and a UPC which is specific to a merchant or distributor, provide all applicable UPCs in the 'gtin' attribute. For Text/Tab-delimited format, separate multiple UPCs by a comma and space. For XML format, include a 'gtin' attribute at the item level for each additional UPC.
  7. I sell magazine subscriptions.
    International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) values can be converted into GTIN codes. Learn more about converting values from the ISSN Centre's website.
  8. I sell prescription or nonprescription drugs.
    National Drug Code (NDC) values in the United States can be converted into GTIN codes. See the GTIN Validation Guide Appendix C.

    Similar conversion rules exist for drugs issued in European countries. See Guideline on the packaging information of medicinal products for human use authorised by the Union published by the European Commission.

    Refer to our policies for more information about submitting prescription and nonprescription drugs to Google Shopping.

  9. I sell printed music.
    International Standard Music Number (ISMN) can be converted into GTIN codes. See the wikipedia page about ISMN for more information.
  10. I sell replacement parts or accessories that are compatible with a brand-name product that requires a GTIN. What identifiers should I submit?
    Submit the GTINs for your products if they've been assigned by the manufacturer. Make sure that the value you include for the 'brand' attribute is the actual manufacturer of the part and not the manufacturer your products are compatible with. You can put details about compatibility with certain brands in the 'description' attribute.

    Don't submit the GTIN, brand, or MPN of the product with which you are compatible. If you do this, your products will be disapproved.

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