Google Merchant Center

How To Use Identifier Exists Attribute Correctly in Your Product Feed

0 · by Dennis Moons · Updated on 24 March 2023

Product identifiers are crucial for matching products with search queries. But what to do when there are no identifiers for your item?

This is a common issue for many products

In this article, we’ll explain the relationship between unique product identifiers, like GTIN, MPN, and brand, with the identifier exists attribute. 

We’ll also cover  how to configure it to avoid item disapprovals, and how to solve feed issues.

Let’s dive straight in.

This article is part of our Google Product Feed hub.

What Is the Identifier Exists Attribute in the Product Feed?

With the identifier_exists attribute, advertisers can specify whether there is a unique product identifier for their item.

For example, when there is no identifier (no GTIN, no MPN, and no brand), you can indicate this to Google using this attribute.

We will consider all options for the identifier exists attribute in the sections that follow.

Is Identifier Exists Required?

The identifier exists attribute is required for some categories of products, especially when an identifier is unavailable. Let’s take a closer look at this.

Brand is required for products in the apparel category.

GTIN and MPN are required for products where a manufacturer has bought these product identifiers. have a GTIN in wide circulation. (Learn here how you can find the GTIN number online.)

Some items, like consumer electronics, can have all three identifiers.

However, if there is no unique product identifier for your item, the identifier exists attribute is probably required. Here are some instances:

  • Products without an identifier: if no one has bothered purchasing codes
  • Custom-made items: unique t-shirts, handcrafts, art pieces, and similar items
  • Vintage and antique items: no GTINs and MPNs (or they aren’t important because the item is rare)
  • Books published before 1970: this is before ISBN (or the GTIN for books) was introduced

Google will assume there is an identifier, unless you use identifier_exists to inform it otherwise.

So, first, check whether some of the identifiers (GTIN, MPN, and brand) are required for your item, and if they aren’t, consider populating the identifier exists attribute.

Ok, now let’s take a look at the role of identifier_exists.

How Is the “Identifier Exists” Attribute Used in Google Shopping?

In essence, [identifier_exists] tells Google whether the item you sell is a custom product or an item that’s available elsewhere (i.e. sold by other retailers).

For example, if there is a GTIN for consumer electronics, it’s likely that the original manufacturer and other merchants carry the item, meaning the item is widely known. When there is no identifier for consumer electronics, Google immediately knows that there is an issue.

Maybe the item has an incorrect product category, or there is a GTIN but the advertiser has failed to provide it in Google Merchant Center.

This is even more obvious when you deal with products in the apparel category. For instance, if the t-shirt has a brand as a UPI, then the product is widely known. 

When you sell a t-shirt printed with a custom design this product is unique and the identifier exists attribute is used to signal this.

The same goes for knitted articles of clothing, engraved or custom-made jewelry, a piece of furniture that’s no longer mass-produced, etc.

Let’s check the formatting options for this attribute.

Options for the “Identifier Exists” Attribute

There are only four supported values for identifier_exists:

  • yes
  • true
  • no
  • false

These apply to both text feeds and XML feeds. In XML feeds, the value is put within two tags (before and after the value). For example, if the value is “false”, it should be configured as follows:

  • text feed: false
  • XML feed: <g:identifier_exists>false</g:identifier_exists>

Only two of these values are supported in Content API feeds: “true” and “false.”

Let’s cover how to ensure you’ve set the right value for this attribute.

How To Set the Right Value for identifier_exists

There are 2 values for identifier exists (true/yes, false/no) and four different attributes involved (identifier exists, GTIN, MPN, and brand).

Let’s look at the different options:

1 – The value for identifier_exists should be set to “false” (or “no”)

When you sell items that don’t have a GTIN or MPN. Do this only if you’ve confirmed that there is no GTIN or MPN. 

If you don’t know there is a GTIN or MPN, look at the next option.

2 – The value for identifier_exists should be set to “true” (or “yes”)

When you sell items that have a GTIN (or MPN) and brand. Alternatively, you can leave the identifier_exists without a value – if there is a GTIN, MPN, and brand for the item, Google will consider identifier_exists as if it’s set to “yes” by default.

If the product you’re selling has a GTIN or MPN, but you don’t know it, you need to find it first!

Let’s check the methods for providing the values.

How To Add Identifier Exists to Your Product Feed

There are two ways to provide value for identifier_exists: through an ecommerce platform and directly in Google Merchant Center.

If you use an ecommerce platform, the changes you make in the product data will be automatically forwarded to your feed.

On the other hand, in Google Merchant Center, you can create a feed rule to specify which items from your feed you want to configure. The changes will be applied to all items that satisfy some criteria; for instance, if you change the value to “false,” this will affect all items selected through the “rule.”

Another option would be to add a supplemental feed where one column has product ids, while the second column has the corresponding values for identifier_exists.

Next, we’ll offer some tips for solving feed issues with identifier_exists.

Common Problems With the Identifier Exists Attribute

Although identifier_exists is not required for all products in your feed, if you provide incomplete or incorrect value, Google will disapprove of your item. We’ll consider two common issues.

Identifier_exists is set to the wrong value

When the value for the attribute is “no” but the item has unique product identifiers. To avoid this issue, double-check the GTIN, MPN, and brand for the item before you set the value to “no” (or “false”). 

Simply put, you can’t fool Google: if you don’t know the GTIN, better leave the identifier_exists attribute as is, i.e. it’s better to not populate it than to provide a wrong value.

Missing a unique product identifier

This is actually an issue with the GTIN, the MPN, or the brand attribute, however, it depends on the value for identifier_exists. When the value is “yes” or “true”, you will solve the issue with identifier_exists, but then you’ll have to provide value for the GTIN, MPN, or brand (whichever is applicable).

So don’t set identifier_exists to “yes” as a workaround for getting your item approved, because this will only redirect the issue to the unique product identifiers (UPI) attributes in your feed.

Issues with identifier_exists might seem intimidating at first, however, you can easily solve them once you understand how this attribute interacts with the GTIN, MPN, and brand.

Product Identifiers Play an Important Role

If you’re not using product identifiers correctly, the visibility of your products will be limited.

One important part is the identifier exists attribute, where you can set the value to one of the four supported options: “yes,” “true,” “no” or “false”, and help Google learn about your product. 

If there is a UPI, you will need to add it as a GTIN or MPN, together with the brand attribute for product data. The default setting for identifier_exists is “yes” and it’s assumed even if you don’t provide value for this attribute.

However, if you do decide to alter the value, make sure you’ve done your homework on UPIs for that product first. Submitting a value “no” for identifier_exists when there is a UPI will cause feed issues.

The best way to solve these issues is to double-check the product identifiers before taking any action.

Dennis Moons

Dennis Moons is the founder and lead instructor at Store Growers.

He's a Google Ads expert with over 12 years of experience in running Google Ads campaigns.

During this time he has managed more than $5 million in ad spend and worked with clients ranging from small businesses to global brands. His goal is to provide advice that allows you to compete effectively in Google Ads.

Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *