This year’s updates focus on improving the quality of product information across both paid and organic Shopping listings.
Google’s product data specification requirements ensure that all product data submitted to the Merchant Center is formatted appropriately for both successful Shopping ads and organic Shopping listings.
Every year, Google updates these specifications with the aim of improving its shopping experience. The company released the 2021 updates for search marketers yesterday. Below is a list of changes that merchants need to be aware of.
Changes effective immediately
The following are changes that started taking place on April 6, 2021.
Checkout price enforcement. Google has had a longstanding policy requiring that the price in Merchant Center product data be consistent with the price shown on landing pages. It is now enforcing that policy and verifying price accuracy throughout the checkout process. Merchants found violating this policy will receive a warning and have 28 days to resolve the inconsistencies. If they are not resolved, Google can suspend your account.
Region-specific shipping times. Shipping times for particular regions can now be specified at the item level using the min/max_handling_time and min/max_transit_time sub-attributes. These new sub-attributes apply to paid and organic Shopping listings, but not to products listed through Buy on Google.
Backordered and preorder products. Merchants can now specify that products are backordered when they use the availability attribute by adding the availability_date attribute to inform potential customers when the product will be available again. Availability_date can also be used when a product’s availability is set to preorder. This is applicable to both paid and organic Shopping listings, but not to products listed through Buy on Google.
“Big,” “tall” and “plus” sizing. The size_type attribute can now be used to indicate certain variations of clothing sizes. Up to two values can be provided (e.g., “big and tall” or “petite maternity”). And, the “oversize” value is no longer accepted; instead, Google recommends using the “plus” value.
No support for cross-border payment plans. Merchant Center no longer allows products using the subscription_cost or installment attributes to be listed across countries using a single feed. You can still list a product with a payment plan across countries by duplicating the product and adding it to a separate feed for each country. Products with payment plans targeting more than one country will be disapproved. This applies to paid and organic Shopping listings in all countries where the subscription_cost or installment is available.
Changes starting on June 15, 2021
Add time zones to date-time attributes. If the timezone is missing from your availability_date, expiration_date or sale_price_effective_date attributes, Google will assume the attribute refers to the UTC timezone. This does not apply to the promotion_effective_dates and promotion_display_dates attributes.
Proper product identification. Google may disapprove your products if several of them use the same Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) and brand combination. Here are the scenarios to avoid:
- Multiple products sharing the same mpn and brand combination, but with different item_group_id values.
- Multiple products sharing the same mpn and brand combination and the same variant attributes (color, material, pattern, size, size_type, unit_pricing_measure, gender, product_detail, condition and multipack).
Item-level warnings started going out on April 6; you can view them in your Diagnostics. These warnings will become disapprovals if unresolved by June 15.
Changes starting on September 15, 2021
Shipping country sub-attribute requirement. As of September 15, the shipping country sub-attribute will be required when providing the shipping attribute for products shown in more than one country. If this information isn’t filled in by September 15, you run the risk of Google disapproving your products. Item-level warnings for this change have already gone out on the Diagnostics page.
Why we care
Adhering to Merchant Center guidelines, including the updates mentioned above, can ensure that your product listings are eligible to show in search. Additionally, some of the new attributes, like timezone and region-specific shipping speed, can help ensure that customers have a positive experience, while other attributes, such as the sizing values, can help them find the products they’re looking for.
George Nguyen is an editor for Search Engine Land, covering organic search, podcasting and e-commerce. His background is in journalism and content marketing. Prior to entering the industry, he worked as a radio personality, writer, podcast host and public school teacher.