Using advanced product data in Shopify to help your SEO and Google Merchant Center advertising

By Ilana Davis

A customer was asking about how JSON-LD for SEO and Google uses the manufacturer part number (MPN), SKU, and barcode (GTIN or Global Trade Item Number) values.

His specific questions wouldn’t be valuable but then I realized that I’d never written about how this advanced product data in Shopify can be converted into useful results in Google Search and Merchant Center.

First off, all these acronyms are just different ways to identify a product. Their usage is different depending on if you’re a manufacturer, reseller, retailer, or wholesaler.

Here’s a description of how the data is used by JSON-LD for SEO. For the variants:

  1. The GTIN in the structured data comes from the barcode field in Shopify.
  2. The MPN in the structured data also comes from the barcode field, unless it’s blank which will this cause it to use the SKU.
  3. The SKU field comes from the SKU field in Shopify.

In Shopify, the manufacturer part number (MPN) is an odd-duck. This is because Shopify doesn’t have a true MPN field so stores have had to decide if they want to use the barcode/GTIN or SKU. The barcode/GTIN is a safe bet but some stores need to use something different.

(If you’re a store that wants to use a different field for the MPN and you use my app, let me know. There are some advanced features in JSON-LD for SEO that let you customize the MPN values it uses).

The product data (Product section) works the same way except that it will use either the selected or the first variant. Again, this is because of how Shopify’s product data is organized.

At this time, Google Search is now recommending that all sites use these fields though they don’t yet appear to use any of them directly.

Based on what I’ve seen, I suspect Google Search might use them behind the scenes to help identify common products. It’s difficult to say for sure though because of how Shopify treats that data.

On the other hand, Google Merchant Center and Google Shopping definitely use that data. It’s actually a requirement for some features and if you’re missing them, your products might not be available in Merchant Center at all.

Given their growing importance, if you have any of these identifiers for your products I would recommend adding them to Shopify. You can add them at the product and variant level under inventory.

Screenshot of Shopify product admin for the inventory section with SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) and Barcode (ISBN, UPC, GTIN, etc).

Having them set up might give you a leg up in the search results in the future.

If you haven’t checked on your structured data lately and you’re not using JSON-LD for SEO, you might want to.

I’ve seen many stores with missing, outdated, or even error-prone structured data. Those stores aren’t able to take advantage of even the most basic Google search enhancements.

If you’re not sure if JSON-LD for SEO would help you, share your store URL and I’ll give you a free Structured Data Audit.


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