Google Merchant Center

Image Link Attribute: Common Problems and Best Practices

0 · by Dennis Moons · Updated on 22 February 2023

When you’re shopping online, what’s the first thing that catches your attention?

That’s right, it’s the images! In fact, images can make or break a sale. That’s why it’s essential to pay close attention to the requirements for posting image links in your Product Feed.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help you navigate through the process and make sure your images are up to par. 

Let’s get started!

This article is part of our Google Data Feed hub.

What Is the Image Link Attribute in the Product Feed?

The image link attribute is an attribute in a product feed that allows you to provide a URL for the primary product image. This image is displayed to customers in two ways:

  • In Shopping Ads (along with the title and  price), and
  • as a product image in free listings.

Everyone who’s interested in your product will see this image – and the sale itself may depend on it, so make sure this product attribute is configured correctly.

Is the Image Link Attribute Required?

Yes, the image link attribute is required for all products in your feed, but why is it important? The answer is simple: it’s used to display the product image in the ad. 

It’s not just any image that can be used. The URL provided must point to an actual image file, making it essential to check that the link works before submitting the feed.

There are several product feed attributes connected to product images:

  • Additional image link: an optional attribute that allows merchants to submit additional product images (different from the primary image) showing the item from a different angle.
  • Bundle (or is_bundle): a required attribute for products that are sold as a package, or in a bundle, including multiple products available at one price for the whole bundle. It includes an image link, and a title and description for each product in the bundle.
  • Multipack: is a required attribute when you are selling. multiple items of the same product, grouped in a pack and sold as a pack. Of course, the bundle and the multipack attributes apply only when merchants sell a group of products.

It’s recommended to use the additional image link and provide several photos of the product, and we’ll discuss that further down the line.

Options for the Image Link Attribute

Formatting of Image Links in Shopping feeds is straightforward, images can be in one of the following file formats:

  • JPEG (.jpg/.jpeg)
  • WebP (.webp)
  • PNG (.png)
  • GIF (.gif)
  • BMP (.bmp)
  • TIFF (.tif/.tiff)

Here’s an example: 

Tips on Complying with URL Guidelines for Image Links in Google Shopping

Use a photo of the actual product

Graphics, illustrations, placeholder images, logos, and icons are not allowed because they aren’t always related to or representative of the product. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but only under specific circumstances:

1) Graphics, illustrations, or generic images are allowed for three categories of products (based on Google’s product Taxonomy list):

  • Hardware (ID: 632)
  • Vehicles & Parts (ID: 888)
  • Software > Computer Software (ID: 313)

2) Logos and icons are allowed exclusively for software products:

  • Software > Computer Software (ID: 313)

3) Images showing one color are allowed for paint and paint-related products:

  • Vehicle Paint (ID: 3812)
  • Craft Paint, Ink & Glaze (ID: 505378)
  • Painting Consumables (ID: 503740)

Show only the product

The image cannot contain other products (even if customers often use them with an accessory), and it cannot show people using the product. Items should be photographed against a white background and no additional staging is allowed.

Use quality images

Minimal image size requirements are as follows:

  • Non-apparel images: min. 100 x 100 pixels
  • Apparel images: min. 250 x 250 pixels
  • Max image size: 64 megapixels
  • Max image file size 16MB

However, it’s recommended to provide an image that is 800×800 pixels or larger. Google will use this image to serve product ads to customers across multiple devices and browsers.

Sometimes, Google will crop these photos so they fit in the ad placement, wherever this placement is. Low-quality photos might end up being shown to customers as pixelated or blurry images, and if a competitor has a better image than you, your product will stand out (but not in a good way).

Image link has to start with “http” or “https”

This one’s easy to forget, but it’s important if you want to avoid “invalid image link format” notifications.

The link should have only one image

This attribute defines the primary product image for a specific item and has to follow the requirements to the letter (Google tries to standardize all product ads on their platform, hence the rules). To provide other images, use the additional image link attribute.

Don’t add borders to the image

Borders will make your products stand out from other results for users’ search queries, but they’re not allowed. Google has their way of directing a user’s attention to a product by using tags (labels or annotations) and there are four of them: sale label, price drop badge, shipping tag, and return policy tag. An item represented through an image with a border will be disapproved.

The product should take up 75%-90% of the image

Use an appropriate zoom. If you zoom too close (150% of the product?), your image will show only a detail of the item, while other product ads will feature a full view of a similar item. On the other hand, if you zoom too little (10%?), your product will be very small and will lack the level of detail presented in product images submitted by your competitors.

Use URL encoded entities

Symbols and spaces are not supported, so you’ll have to change this part of the URL manually. For instance, replace a comma with “%2C” or space with “%20”

Note that Google has to crawl your site to register a change, and sometimes, this process can take up to several days. So, every time you change the image or the URL address, Google will update the data only after crawling your site.

Because of this, it’s also recommended to use a stable URL for the image link attribute, i.e one that doesn’t often change.

How To Add Image Link to Your Product Feed

As with any other product attribute, there are several options when it comes to providing value for an item in the feed. These are the two most common:

  • Using an external eCommerce platform: the image link is automatically shared from platforms and data feed tools to Google Merchant Center. Most platforms will also provide basic image editing tools so you can configure the image link without leaving the app.
  • With feed rules or supplemental feed: you can use feed rules to easily locate an image link to replace it. When you need to update image links for many items in your inventory, supplemental feeds are the best way to do this.

Ok, now let’s take a look at the optimal uses of the additional attributes for product image.

How To Use the additional_image_link in Google Shopping?

The additional image link attribute is optional, but it’s always good to take the opportunity and provide more images of the same product. Since the image link attribute is often used for the primary product image, using the additional image link attribute can give you a competitive edge.

Rules are more flexible with this attribute, and are allowed to:

Include pictures of the product taken from different angles

Provide a greater level of details about the product, like showing a side view, back view, etc.

Use product staging elements

Show the product in its natural environment (where it will end up being used). For instance, show apparel worn by a model, show tailoring scissors cutting a fabric, use a sketch of a mountain when showing hiking gear, etc.

  • the lifestyle image – to take product image marketing on another level, you can use lifestyle product photography (also known as in-context shots). These images show the product in an ideal environment. For example, running shorts worn by a fit model so that customers psychologically match the product with leading a healthy lifestyle or a basket filled with food and utensils in the midst of an idyllic picnic scenery, etc.

Show a detail of the product

With additional image links, you can focus on a detail of the whole product and put this part of the product in the spotlight. This type of image is helpful for different categories of products, from apparel and jewelry to technical parts, and others.

Use drawings, illustrations, sketches, or similar aides

It’s up to you to incorporate this element with your product. For instance, the illustration can be a backdrop for the product (as opposed to the white background for the primary image provided with the image link). Or you can add the measurements of the product – something you also can’t do with the image link.

There are, however, some formatting requirements you need to follow when you submit values for the additional image link attribute. Most of them are the same as for the image link, but you need to pay attention to details. Since you add multiple images, don’t forget to separate each URL with a comma, otherwise only the first image will be included as an additional image, while the rest will not be published.

Also, keep in mind that different product variations should have a unique image. This applies to differences in design, color, pattern, or similar, which means that you can’t use the additional image link to add an image of the product in a different color.

Let’s turn to product feed issues with image links.

Common Issues With the Image Link Attribute

Google will disapprove an item if the image link attribute doesn’t follow the formatting rules (for the URL) or image guidelines (for the image itself).

Merchants can solve some of the issues by enabling automatic image improvement for Shopping, however, sometimes the problem has to be checked manually and sorted with a tool like the image extension for Search.

Let’s get into specifics.

Image size is too small

If the image is below the minimum image quality requirements (we listed them above), Google will notify you to change it. This happens because all of the other products in your category, submitted by your competitors, have high-quality images, and yours can’t be shown alongside theirs because the difference is too big and it undermines Google’s attempts at standardization of product ads.

Promotional overlay

This is the most common issue and it happens if the image has things like: 

  • text
  • brand name or logo
  • watermark, description
  • price information
  • shipping information
  • call to action

Advertisers out there have already considered this tactic, but unfortunately it’s not allowed. Google wants product images to be just that – images, so you’ll need to get creative with your ad strategy instead!

Image can’t be crawled

This occurs when Google experiences an access problem, i.e. the file is there but can’t be registered. This issue is connected with image URL and you can solve it by making sure that the robots.txt is configured according to the guidelines.

Invalid image

This is either a mistake in the URL (broken link) or mistake in the format (for example, not using “https”). The issue (and its resolution) should be obvious once you double-check the value you’ve provided in the product feed for this attribute.

Customers Check Product Image Before Everything Else

Customers tend to check the product photo first, then the price, and only then the other elements of the product ad. So don’t underestimate the importance of images in online shopping. 

Having an attractive image that shows your product well and grabs attention is essential.

On top of that you need to pay attention to Google’s requirements for image links in your Shopping feed. 

So, treat your image link like a storefront and make sure it meets Google’s guidelines for URL validity, formatting, and updatedness.

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.


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