Here’s a breakdown of the new changes Google announced this morning.

- Google Product Category column required in addition to Product Type column.

- Additional Image Link – up to 10 additional images are now allowed by including additional image columns in the feed.

- New rules for product variations: Google wants the parent SKU to be included with the child SKU.

- New Apparel Rules: Google now “requires” Gender, Age Group, Size & Color for apparel products. Seems like their best-case scenario is to get all child products included in the feed (they only want 1 value in the size/color columns) along with a parent SKU which would allow them to create a much more detailed product page for apparel products if they wanted to.

Google Product Category is now a required column in addition to the Product Type column. New definitions:

Google Product Category: This is where we put Google’s categories found here -

Product Type: The merchant’s category.

Until now we had been updating the product_type column with Google’s recommended categorization. Now we need to add a Google Product Category column and move those values over to that column.

Additional Image Link: If we have multiple image URLs for a product we should be including them in the Google feed.

Variants: According to Google it’s now required that product variants include some additional columns, most importantly an Item Group ID. Basically this is a parent SKU. If you have a merchant who has product variations Google is asking that all variations of a product be linked together by a Group ID.

This could lead to a decrease in the total number of listings for a merchant. For example, instead of having a listing for a red shirt, a white shirt and a blue shirt, Google might condense all 3 color variations into a single listing.

Apparel Requirements: The following columns are now listed as required for Apparel Merchants. FYI even if the merchant’s category is clear that a product is apparel, Google will NOT recognize it as apparel unless you include the appropriate Google Product Category in the feed. Google let apparel merchants slide on the UPC requirement, but since they’re unable to clean those listings up with product IDs it looks like they’re trying to go about it by getting more detailed data from apparel merchants.

- Gender

- Age Group: The target age group of the item (either Adult or Kids)

- Color

- Size: They want actual measurements for things like dress shirts if possible. Their example is “17/36 Tall” for a men’s dress shirt

For more expert tips on Google Product Search click here to check out our recorded webinar with Hubspot by CPC Strategy CEO Rick Backus.

About the AuthorJeff is a graduate of the University of California San Diego with degrees in Economics and Psychology. He currently works as one of our Senior Account Managers at CPC Strategy, helping research new management techniques and train new CPC Strategy employees in the art of comparison shopping marketing.   Jeff has been with CPC Strategy since February 2009 and is a pillar for information and resources related to anything about comparison shopping, especially Google Shopping. See all posts by this author here.

  • Gena Cornett

    I have been reading the new requirements, and I am very concerned about the apparel variant requirements. Apparently, Google will be requiring a separate picture for each product variant:

    “If you’re selling multiple variations of a product (such as a t-shirt in multiple colors), you must give an image of the correct variation (except for variations of sizes). If you do not have the correct image for the variation of the product, you may not submit the item.” So if we don’t have pics of every possible color of an item, we can’t submit those variants.

    Also, this is looking like a tremendous amount of extra work:

    “Submit one item per variant. For example, if you offer a t-shirt in 4 colors and 5 sizes, you need to submit 20 items (if you offer all color size combinations). Don’t submit the master item as a separate listing, only all “child” or variant items.”

    Does this mean creating a separate listing page for every single size/color combination?

    • CPC_Andrew

      Gena, great point, essentially Google is trying to normalize the data in it’s database. Don’t submit a color, and it won’t get displayed. Needless to say, the bottom line is all variants will be held under a parent SKU moving forward.

      Will it be worth the work? Probably. Google is going to push category and color matching more and more after their recent acquisition of

      I do not believe you need a product page for each listing, just a listing itself in your Google Product Search feed. That does require some extra work, but there should be some excel rules that could help you expedite the process.

      Contact me if you’re interested in learning more and I can put you in touch with our tech team.

      • Gena Cornett

        Thank you for the comments. My product feeds are automatically submitted by my ecommerce provider, so I am sure they will adjust the feeds to incorporate the new requirements. I still, though, really have no idea how to go about implementing the variation requirements.

        However, I continue to be concerned about the image requirements. I am a one-person business. On one of my websites, I have (currently) 725 products (small potatos, I know), with 10-60 size/color variations per product. I currently list each product on its own page with drop down lists that allow the customer to select the size/color option they want. This seems to be a fairly standard method for listing apparel across the web. I use stock photos and color chips provided by my supplier for each product, but I do not have photos of all the possible variations. To get photos of every color variation of every product for a small retailer like me is going to be pretty much impossible. As I see it, the new requirements will probably be no problem for large retailers with the staff and $$ to add them. For small retailers like me, without the time, staff, and resources to comply, it is going to make it near impossible to have our apparel items included in product search. Especially when given only 3 months to comply at the time when we are adding product for the holiday season.

  • David

    How does Google expect us to photograph service contracts and software licensing? These are virtual items that physically do not exist.

    We list over 275,000 items, many of which fit into the two categories I just described.

    Google is shooting itself in the foot with this strategy. Hi Bing…

    • CPC_Andrew

      I’m sure there’s a way to use filler images to fill that gap somewhat. There has to be a workaround. Leveraging images should increase your conversions across the board as well, not just on Product Search. Might be a good time to invest in them.

  • Aviva Apparel

    I wonder if we will still be able to put the colors in the decription. Because I cannot see myself taking pictures of 25000 items, neither creating a separate page for each color and size.