Google Announces its 2020 Product Data Feed Specifications Update for Merchant Center

Early this morning emails starting arriving for Google Merchant Center account owners, announcing a full round of changes to product data feed specifications for 2020.

Google is definitely working toward two major goals this year:

As it is customary with every new year, Google has rolled out a series of updates to product feed specifications, the outline of both required and optional attributes that merchants must include in their product feeds when submitting to Merchant Center, and to be able to access programs such as Shopping campaigns in Google Ads, Surfaces across Google, and Shopping Actions.

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The email reads:

“Starting September 1, 2020:

Products that fall within certain Google product categories, including some sub-categories of Media and Apparel and Accessories, require additional attributes and/or a combination of unique product identifiers. If these required attributes, such as gender, age_group, size, and color are not provided, your products will remain eligible to serve but their performance may be limited. Similar products that do include the required attributes will be prioritized above those that are missing these attributes.

You can use the optional google_product_category attribute (GPC) to override Google’s automatic categorization of your products if the category assigned is incorrect.

To ensure that your products continue serving, please review the Diagnostics page of your Merchant Center account and apply the necessary changes.

Thank you for your participation in the Merchant Center programs.


The Merchant Center Team”

The Initial Focus

So, the prominent message here is really focused on Apparel & Accessories merchants – and its good news!

Essentially, Google is loosening up its restrictions on missing attributes that would normally cause product disapprovals in Merchant Center.

The catch? Although the products may not be disapproved any longer, without data such as age group, gender, size, and color those products may see their performance in the search results dwindle.

Google Product Data Feed Specifications 2020

Those merchants who continue to submit said attributes for those products will have a competitive advantage as Google will prioritize those products against others.

Missed the “Fine Print?”

What is not so obvious in the email is the full scope of the 2020 product data feed specifications update which goes so much deeper. 

What is coming immediately?

Very excited to see Google bringing in some fresh data options for merchants which are likely to enhance a product’s ability to appear in the search results.

  • Product detail attribute: “To help improve product data quality, we’re introducing the product_detail attribute, which can be used to provide technical specifications that aren’t covered by other attributes. This optional attribute lets you provide readable, structured data and enhances our ability to surface individual products based on user queries.”
  • Product highlight attribute: “We’re introducing the optional product_highlight attribute to let you add short sentences to showcase your product’s most important features.”

We’re working closely with Google, and quickly we might add, to be able to bring these new attributes to the S&O feed tool.

Two other changes include:

  • Installment and subscription cost attributes: “Values for the installment and subscription_cost attributes will be accepted for wireless products and services in approved countries for Shopping ads only. Submitting values for these attributes for other product categories may lead to disapprovals.”

This we’d like to call out strongly as well seeing as Google is again loosening some of its restrictions on special notifications in Shopping ad units:

  • Sale price annotations: We’ve relaxed the requirements for displaying sale price annotations in Shopping ads. In order to show this annotation, the base price, or a higher price, must have been charged for a period of at least 30 days in the past 180 days. (Note: days do not need to be consecutive.)

2020 Google Merchant Center Feed Specifications Update

What is coming as of September 2020?

Since we already covered those unique product identifiers such as size and color for Apparel & Accessories merchants, what was also not immediately apparent were two other changes to product feed specifications.

  • Description attribute: The description attribute is required for all products. Products that do not include a product description will still be eligible to serve, however their performance may be limited. Similar products that do include a description will be prioritized above those missing a value for the description attribute.

So this again is in the vein of “loosening restrictions.” Although it is a bad practice to not have a product description, it does help merchants who may be struggling with issues with their e-commerce platforms in getting descriptions uploaded for a large number of products. 

This change gives them time to submit a feed without descriptions, with minimal penalty, and then work their way back to fill in the missives.

And the final update is going to be far more of a rare occurrence, but it is important to note that Google will issue warnings in Merchant Center for:

  • Material, pattern, and image link attributes: Products with more than one value submitted for the material, pattern, or image_link attributes will receive warnings. If your product contains multiple materials or patterns, you will still be able to specify more than one material or pattern value using slashes and hyphens, but you may not separate values with commas. The additional_image_link attribute can be used to submit additional images.
Stay Informed, Keep Watch

These are some pretty major updates for Merchant Center’s product feed specifications, and merchants should get to know and understand how this changes may impact their efforts to effectively advertise and/or showcase their products on Google.

For merchants using our platform, you can stay on top of feed health and diagnostics, including product error breakdowns, right from within the feed tool:

And, as always, never hesitate to chat with our team right from within your account in case you have any questions or concerns over the 2020 product feed specifications updates for Google Merchant Center.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and happy selling!