Google Merchant Center

The Complete Guide to The Product Type Attribute In Google Product Feed

0 · by Dennis Moons · Updated on 28 April 2023

Product categorization teaches Google about the products you sell. The more Google knows about the product, the better its algorithms can match that product with relevant search queries. There are two ways to categorize items from your inventory: either through the Product Type attribute or Google Product category.

In this piece, we’ll discuss the product_type attribute: what it is, how merchants use it, its formatting rules, and some tips on configuring product_type values in your feed.

Let’s dive in.

This article is part of our Google Merchant Center Feed hub.

What Is the product_type Attribute?

With the product_type attribute, merchants can push the categorization they use in their online store into their feed.

If on your site you have the following categories:

“Men > Footwear > Running shoes > Minimal running shoes”, you can push this into Google Merchant Center.

Google has its own categorization system (defined with the google_product_category attribute), but the “product_type” attribute complements and improves this system.

This attribute helps to match user queries with relevant product ads. As a result, metrics like click-through rate and conversion go up.

In the next sections, we’ll take a look at how you can use the product type attribute.

Is product_type required?

No, “product_type” is an optional attribute. 

There are a number of reasons to consider adding product_type values, even though they aren’t required. Here are some of them:

  • Your product categories can be used to organize campaigns, ad groups or products groups – this is useful for optimizing campaigns
  • It’s a way for you to tell Google what your product is about 

It serves as an alternative to Google Product Categories (which used to be required but are now optional as well).

Let’s check how product type helps you organize campaigns.

Organizing Campaigns Using Product_type

You can generate a sales report per product type. This can give you valuable performance insights about a specific campaign.

For example, let’s say you sell wood-cutting tools, saws in particular, and you want to know whether the power saws perform better than hand saws. Add the respective product type for these trade items (i.e. power tools vs hand tools) and compare the metrics.

This data will be useful when you organize campaigns, ad groups and product groups, as it can help you choose the focus of your next marketing campaign.

You can either include or exclude products from an ad group based on these metrics.

Bid Adjustment Using Product_type

Ad groups and product groups can also be used to modify bids.

Following on from the example above, if the product group “power tools” outperforms “hand tools,” you can increase the bids for “power tools.” As these items get better exposure to relevant audiences, this will likely improve the campaign’s overall performance.

Do note that this applies only to campaigns with manual bidding. When the campaign is set to automatic bidding, you can’t adjust bids for a particular product group.

Product groups based on the product_type attribute also help prevent spending your ad budget on poorly-performing items. You can pause the product group (even if the campaign is set to automatic bidding) and the money will go into pushing your other, better-performing items to become bestsellers.

In a nutshell, product_type is crucial for organizing campaigns, especially if you have many SKUs.

Now, let’s check how this is different from the options available with the default Google Product Category.

Product_type vs Google_product_category

Google uses both product_type and Google_product_category to match search queries with relevant products. However, sometimes online marketers are confused as to the exact role each of these product attributes play, so in this section, we will put them head to head.

Attribute requirementOptionalUsed to be required, now it’s optional
Value entry methodManuallyMerchants don’t need to add it. If it’s empty Google will add one (most often correct but not always)
Product CategoriesFlexible, merchants can create their own multiple level product categoriesGeneric, merchants specify items by choosing one of the available product categories
FormatAttribute values are defined by the merchantAttribute values have to comply with product data specification
ScopeImproving organization on a campaign levelIt’s a broad categorization for Google, and can be used at feed optimization level
ExampleHardware > Power & Electrical Supplies > Solar Panels > Solar Panels for RVsHardware > Power & Electrical Supplies > Solar Panels > Solar Panels for homesHardware > Power & Electrical Supplies > Solar Panels > Solar Panels for sailboatsHardware > Power & Electrical Supplies > Solar Panels > Solar Panels for office and workplaceHardware > Power & Electrical Supplies > Solar Panels

Google_product_category is a required attribute, but merchants don’t need to add it. If you leave it empty Google will add a product category for you automatically (most often correct but not always).

The options for Google_product_category  follow strict product data specifications. They  can be one of the many categories in the Google Product Taxonomy (and nothing else). 

Product data for this attribute helps optimize the feed.

On the other hand, product_type is optional, and merchants can choose the values for this attribute (formatting rules are flexible). 

As a result, the product_type attribute offers options similar to what is available through the product feed custom labels – creating product groups that are very specific and granular. These product groups are also useful for organizing campaigns.

Let’s illustrate this.

Say you sell consumer grade solar panels. The category for solar panel products in Google’s product taxonomy is: Hardware > Power & Electrical Supplies > Solar Panels. This is good enough for Google to match your ads with generic queries.

Product_type enables you to be very creative and get specific. In terms of solar panels, you can add an extra level after “solar panels”. Here are four examples:

  • “solar panels for RVs”
  • “solar panels for homes”
  • “solar panels for sailboats”
  • “solar panels for office and workplace”

Chances are, the technical specifications for solar panels for boats are different from those for residential use, and your value for the product_type attribute can help provide a better match for customer search queries.

Let’s check how value setting is done and what the limits are (if any).

Options for Product_type

Merchants have the freedom to choose the value for product_type. The only limit is that it has to be up to 750 unicode characters.

Usually, product_type values are product titles or niche products, and the goal is to have as specific value as possible.

It’s recommended to use a multiple level product_type to achieve that.

How To Use Multiple Level product_type Attribute Values

In theory, nothing stops you from using only a niche designation as a product_type value – for example, “Little Black Cocktail Party Off the Shoulder Velvet Dress.”

However, if you use multiple level product_type values, you can help Google better understand what the product is, and thus improve matching. Multiple level attributes are defined by using the “>” sign to separate levels within the same category. In this example, that would be:

Home > Women > Dresses > Evening Dresses > Little Black Cocktail Party Dress > Velvet > Off the Shoulder Dress

Multiple levels help you better organize campaigns. For instance, you can create a product group at a more general level and go more granular from there. In this case that would be “the Little Black Cocktail Party Dress” category, and then you go down to other subcategories.

Miscellaneous product_type Formatting Tips

The formatting rule is to use an empty space before and after “>”.

Also, do note that the use of commas for this product attribute separates different product types. So, if you put “Little Black Cocktail Party, Off the Shoulder, Dress” as a product_type value, Google will consider it as three separate products.

The value can be repeated up to 5 times, but when it comes to reporting and bidding, Google takes only the first value into consideration.

Let’s now check out how to add a product type to avoid this.

How To Add a Product Type to Your Product Feed

The method you’ll use to add product_type to your feed depends on the platform and the number of items you sell.

Often, merchants use breadcrumbs to teach Google about the items they sell, and it’s recommended to include each level when describing a product category. It’s always better to recover the full category path with a multilevel product_type value than to simply provide the specific product type.

Most ecommerce tools will actually push the breadcrumb as a product type.

Automatic product feed tools offer a lot of options for adding product_type values. Some even allow you to combine automatic and manual configurations of product_type values. For instance, one aspect of the product type can be populated using a feed rule and then you can manually provide granular product data.

Sometimes, you need to configure this product attribute manually. Everyone has to use the same Google Product Categories, however, since Product Type allows you to be more specific, it’s where you can stand out relative to the competitors.

This can be done by adding product info to the product page. Data entered in the field for product_type will be pulled automatically.

Merchants are advised to provide the product type attribute for items in their feed. This helps Google learn more about the products you are selling (and improve matching as a result). 

Also, you are probably more familiar with your particular niche than any entry in Google’s product taxonomy list, and you will enrich the list by adding product type.

Common Issues With the product_type Attribute

The value for product_type is not limited by specification and formatting, so issues with this attribute are rare.

Even though you are free to use whatever product_type value comes to mind, it’s recommended to provide “keyword-rich” values. They will be more useful to both Google and your customers and will help in matching your product with relevant searches.

The product_type Attribute Provides Opportunities for Growth

The more info Google has about the category of products you sell, the better it will match them with user search queries. 

Since the Google Product Category attribute is required, every online merchant out there will have it. However, by creating and populating the optional product_type attribute, you can get traffic that’s more relevant and results in better CTR and CVR.

Moreover, product_type attributes allow merchants to organize campaigns using ad groups or product groups. This is particularly important if you want to sell in a market, i.e. a country, in which bid adjustment through Google Product Categories is not available.

The formatting of product_type values is defined by you, so choose values that add an extra layer of product data to product categorization: this can teach both customers and search engines about items in your catalog. Give as many breadcrumbs by adding a multilevel product type value separated by “>”.

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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