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Recapping the Biggest Google Shopping Changes So Far in 2016

Whether you’re a rookie to the world of Google Shopping or you’re an experienced veteran, every SEM analyst knows the landscape can and will change at any minute. Just this year, Google has pushed across many changes—some affecting all advertisers, some affecting only a few.

This article is intended to help you decipher the updates announced by Google so far in 2016.

GTIN Requirement

Of the announcements made this year, by far the most earth-shattering was made on February 2 when Google said they would begin requiring GTINs for all products that have one in the US. GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number, and includes an item’s UPC, ISBN, EAN, or JAN.

Hopefully this isn’t news to you since the deadline to provide GTINs was May 16, 2016, and advertisers which fail to pass these codes stand to have products disapproved.

However, if you’re still feeling the wrath of GTIN-aggedon, there are lots of resources out there to help you reduce unwanted product disapprovals, but start with our (shameless plug alert) blog post chronicling where to find your product’s GTINs.

Showcase Shopping Ads

More related to the look and feel of PLAs on Google is the announcement about a new mobile ad format called Showcase Shopping Ads.

How it works:

Rather than showing a single product for a broad search such as ‘summer dress’, Showcase Shopping Ads show multiple brands with the ability to click into each brand and see a variety of their products related to the specific search. Google is calling this an ‘immersive.’

All merchants running shopping campaigns are automatically entered into the basic version of this beta, where Google charges for clicks in the immersive.

In the premium version, merchants are able to upload their own immersive images, create targeted campaigns in AdWords, and select exactly which products they’d like to show on the various searches.

Google charges on a “cost per experience” basis in premium, with experience meaning how long the consumer spends in your immersive. Contact your Google rep if you’d like to be whitelisted for the premium version.

Many of our clients are excited about this new ad format, but there are still many unanswered questions by Google about this beta. One of the biggest questions revolves around the CPE model for the premium version. What if someone clicks into your brand and steps away from their computer for 10 minutes, never leaving your brand’s page?

From a strategic point of view, it would make sense to show top selling products regardless of what industry the advertiser is in for most of the broad searches.

However, one thing to keep in mind is price point. For example, it may not make sense to feature your most expensive guitar option at the top for a search like ‘cheap acoustic guitar’ even if it is a top selling item.

Expanded Feed Requirements

Announced on May 25, Google made the following changes to data requirements:

                Deadline of September 1, 2016:

  • Non-apparel products must have images at least 100 x 100 pixels in size (formerly 32 x 32 pixels) and will be disapproved if not adjusted by the deadline.
    • Depending on how you host your images, you may be able to add the size onto the end of the image link. If that’s not possible for you, consider sending an alternate image already in the feed that does meet the size requirement.
  • Added requirement to submit a Google product category for products in ‘Apparel & Accessories’, ‘Media’, and ‘Software’ for merchants targeting any country (new for Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, India, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey)
  • ‘Color’ and ‘size’ are now required for apparel products in Germany, France, Japan, and the UK

                Deadline of February 14, 2017

  • GTIN required for merchants targeting any country (new for Austria, Belgium, Canada, India, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey)

                Active immediately

  • Increased the maximum file size for your feed from 1GB to 4GB

Overall, none of these feed specification changes are ground-breaking, but all of them are ultimately in place to improve the customer’s experience, and hopefully lead to more sales for merchants.

Feed Rules

A beta announced on April 26th, Feed Rules is a Google Merchant Center feature that allows sellers to improve their data feed without needing to use expensive third-party tools.

This is particularly useful for small-medium size businesses with feeds under 500 products, as it allows advertisers to submit files with any header you choose and map it to Google’s feed specifications. Larger programs will still find value in more sophisticated solutions.

Similar to third-party tools, this service also allows you to manipulate data in bulk to fill necessary fields.

For example, maybe the size is being passed in your titles but not in the ‘size’ field for the majority of your products. This tool will extract the size from the title and place it into the ‘size’ field for all of the products your condition.


Google has rolled out many updates to Google Shopping so far in 2016.

Some, like the requirement for product GTINs, have already forced advertisers to change how they’re submitting products to Google.

Others, like the introduction of Showcase Shopping Ads, are still taking form as advertisers figure out what to make of the update and the new ‘cost per experience’ model of the premium version.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, all advertisers should pay particular attention to any further announcements that will result in product disapprovals if no changes are made.