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If you sell a product that varies by attributes such as color, size, or material, you can group these related products together in your Google Product Listing Ads by using product variations. Instead of having a unique listing for each variation of the same product, setting up variations allows the related products to be housed under a single listing. This streamlines the shopping experience by giving shoppers the ability to easily choose between the different product options.

Dealing with variations in product information–size, color, material, etc.–can be one of the most difficult elements to manage in your product data, however.

Fortunately, Google Shopping allows you to add variations of the same product under the same listing. We call these product families.

For product families to be approved, each product in the family should differ by a Google-supported variant attribute. In order to inform Google that these products are related and belong in the same listing, you'll use the item_group_id field.

Google defines the item_group_id field as:

Use the  item_group_id attribute to group product variants in your product data. Variants are a group of similar items that only differ from one another by product details like size, color, material, pattern, age_group, size_type, and size_system.
When you use an item_group_id to group your products, you can ensure that your product and its variants are shown to users as a group, instead of separately.

If you do not group your related products using the item_group_id field, they will each have their own listing, making it difficult for users to navigate between the different options. 

Google’s supported variants include size, color, material, pattern, age_group, gender, size_type, and size_system. If your product varies by an unsupported attribute, check out Google’s best practices on how to handle these SKUs.

Before you get started with submitting variations to Google, you’ll want to determine if your products vary by one of Google’s supported variant attributes:

  • size
  • color
  • material
  • pattern
  • age_group
  • gender
  • size_type
  • size_system

If your products vary by another attribute besides those listed above, don’t set up the variations using item_group_id. Instead, follow Google’s guidelines on best practices for submitting unsupported variants.

Next, you’ll want to review your data to ensure you have everything you need to submit variations without error:

  • Parent-child relationships. There must be a way to determine the parent-child relationships in your data and accurately relay this information to Google.
  • Variant attributes. Besides ensuring that your SKUs vary by a supported variant attribute, you need to confirm that the child SKUs which you plan on listing have a value for at least one of these attributes in your data. For example, if your family varies by color, make sure all child SKUs in that family have a valid value for color.

Setting Up 'Product Families'

Now that you’ve made sure you have the necessary information, it’s time to get those product families set up on Google. To set up the variations, you will need to group items using the Google field item_group_id. Google defines item_group_id as:

ID for a group of products that come in different versions (variants). Sellers usually map their Parent SKU values to this field.

Google provides a lengthy list of requirements and best practices when using this field. We’ve highlighted some requirements below.

  • Each distinct item group must have a unique value for item_group_id.
  • Use the same variant attributes for all products with the same item_group_id.
  • Make sure that the product details displayed on your landing page match the values you provide for each attribute

The item_group_id field has a 50 character limit and supports alphanumeric values, underscores and dashes.

Don’t confuse the id field with item_group_id. The id field should still be unique for all single products. That means that each child SKU within one family should have a unique value in the id field.

After you’ve added values for the item_group_id field, you need to add values to your feed file for the attribute that your product varies by. As mentioned before, this can be size, color, material, pattern, age_group, size_type, size_system.

Key Takeaway

If your product comes in multiple options, it may be beneficial to set them up using product variations. This gives shoppers the ability to easily navigate between different product options and creates a better user experience.

Before we get into the "how"of product variations, we want to make it clear what it is we're talking about. In this next section, we’ve rounded up some Google PLA examples so you can see exactly what a listing with (and without) variations looks like. If you'd like to get right down to business (setting up variations) click here.

Product Variation Examples

Product Variation Examples

Let’s look at some apparel examples for context.

Say you are selling a men’s shirt that varies by both size and color. The options for size are small & large and for color are blue and red. The parent SKU value is 140593. In addition to submitting all of the required fields for clothing & accessories, you would submit the product family using the fields below.

Red Small
Id: 140593-S-Red
Item_group_id: 140593
Color: Red
Size: Small

Red Large
Id: 140593-L-Red
Item_group_id: 140593
Color: Red
Size: Large

Blue Small
Id: 140593-S-Blue
Item_group_id: 140593
Color: Blue
Size: Small

Blue Medium
Id: 140593-M-Blue
Item_group_id: 140593
Color: Blue
Size: Medium

Don’t use the item_group_id field if your clothing item isn’t a true variant. Below are two instances where you should NOT be submitting the item_group_id:

  1. If you are selling a group of items that are related such as a matching outfit where each piece is sold separately
  2. If you are selling different styles of a product (i.e., long-sleeves, short sleeves & sweater) with the same design

Check out more of Google’s best practices regarding clothing & accessories here.

PLA with Variations

PLA Without Variations

The above item only comes in one option and, therefore, is not set up as a variation.

How to Set Up Variants in Your Google Feed

Setting up product variations for your Google Shopping product listing ads can be a major headache if you're unfamiliar with Google's guidelines. In order to correctly set up variations, your products must vary by one of Google's supported attributes which include color, size, pattern, material, age group, gender, size type and size system.

If your product differs by an attribute other than the ones listed, you'll need to follow Google’s best practice guidelines for unsupported variants.

To get you started with setting up variations, we’ve listed out what you need to know about Google Shopping’s supported variant attributes. 

Product Variant: Color

When adding the colors for your variant products, Google wants you to use more than one letter. For example, instead of writing “R”, write out the full color “red.” Also, you want to make sure the color you are submitting to Google matches the color you’ve listed on your landing page. Don’t submit “blue” to Google and have “turquoise’ listed on your website.

If your product has multiple colors, you can submit one primary color along with two secondary colors using “/”. For example, if your color is mostly black but has gray and white, you can submit “Black/Gray/White.”

Variants for a tote bag that comes in black and brown may read as follows:

title: Stella Tote Bag- Black
id: 87649-BL
color: black
item_group_id: 87649

title: Stella Tote Bag- Brown
id: 87649-BR
color: brown
item_group_id: 87649

For more information on Google’s color attribute, click here.

Product Variant: Size

Google wants you to use a standard size value for your target country. They’ve provided a list of examples. It’s also important to be consistent when submitting your size values. If you are selling a sweatshirt that comes in small, medium and large, submit S, M and L. Don’t submit S, M and large.

Shoe sizes depend on a variety of attributes like size, gender and size_system. A pair of women’s shoes that comes in sizes 6 and 7.5 may read follows:

size: 6
size_system: US
gender: Female
title: Tennis Shoes, Womens 6 US
id: 66483-W-6-US
item_group_id: 66483

size: 7.5
size_system: US
gender: Female
title: Tennis Shoes, Womens 7.5 US
id: 66483-W-7.5-US
item_group_id: 66483

For more information about the size attribute, click here.

Product Variant: Pattern

The pattern attribute is used to describe either a pattern (i.e., stripes) or graphic (i.e., sports team logo like a dolphin). You want to be careful not to add a value here that belongs in another attribute such as color or material.

Blouses that vary by a pattern may read as follows:

pattern: stripped
color: black
size: 4
id: 74934-B-ST
item_group_id: 74934

pattern: polka dots
color: black
size: 4
id: 74934-B-ST
item_group_id: 74934

For more details regarding the pattern attribute, click here.

Product Variant: Material

Add the material or fabric that your product is made of to this field. Some examples include leather, suede, polyester and cotton.

Google states that if you are selling a precious metal (i.e., gold or silver), you would submit this information in the material and color attribute.

Ballet Flats that vary by material could read as follows:

size: 6
material: suede
color: blue
title: Suede Ballet Flats, Womens 6 
id: 43290-W-6-S
item_group_id: 43290

size: 10
material: denim
color: blue
title: Denim Ballet Flats, Womens 6
id: 43290-W-6-D
item_group_id: 43290

For more details regarding the material attribute, click here.

Product Variant: Age Group

Some products vary by the age demographic that they are targeting. Google’s supported values for age group include: newborn, infant, toddler, kids, and adult.

Flip flops that vary by age_group may have the following values:

gender: female
size: 6
size_system: US
size_type: regular
age_group: toddler
id: 39202-6-US-T
item_group_id: 39202

gender: female
size: 6
size_system: US
size_type: regular
age_group: kids
id: 39202-6-US-K
item_group_id: 39202

For more information on age_group, click here.

Product Variant: Gender

The supported values for this field are male, female or unisex. If your product varies by gender then you need to fill out the gender attribute for all child products.

Google provides the following example:

title: Men’s Android Smartwatch- Gold
gender: male
material: gold
id: 9856-m-gold
item_group_id: 12345

title: Women’s Android Smartwatch- Gold
gender: female
material: gold
id: 9856-w-gold
item_group_id: 12345

For more information on the gender attribute, click here.

Product Variant: Size Type

The size type should describe the cut of your product (width, regular, petite). When you don’t submit a value in the size_type field, Google defaults to regular.

If your product varies by the cut of your product, then you’ll need to submit the correct size type for all variant attributes.

Women’s trousers that vary by size_type could read as follows:

target country: US
title: Women’s Navy Cropped Dress Pants- 6P
size_system: US
size_type: petite
size: 6
gender: female
id: 4432-6P-US
item_group_id: 4432

target country: US
title: Women’s Navy Cropped Dress Pants- 6
size_system: US
size_type: regular
size: 6
gender: female
id: 4432-6-US
item_group_id: 4432

For more information on size_type, click here.

Product Variant: Size System

This attribute is used to describe the country’s size system that you are using. For example, US sizes vs EU sizes.

title: Women’s light Wash Denim, 2
size_system: US
size_type: regular
size: 2
gender: female
id: 2293-2-F
item_group _id: 2293

title: Women’s light Wash Denim, 34
size_system: EU
size_type: regular
size: 34
gender: female
id: 2293-34-F
item_group _id: 2293

For more information on size system, click here

Conclusion

If your products vary by one of these supported attributes, you may want to set up your listings using product variations. This not only cleans up your product listings but creates a better overall shopping experience for potential customers. 

After you’ve set up the product relationships correctly and added all other necessary fields, you should be able to proceed with submitting the file to your Google Merchant Center account.

An alternative to manually building a feed file is to submit the feed using a third party feed management software. Using a software such as GoDataFeed allows you to easily set up the variations in bulk using customizable rules. This not only saves you time but can help streamline the process. If you are interested in learning more about our services, or you need help with a Google feed that includes variations, talk to one of our feed experts today.