From GS1 Global Forum to SEO Innovation: Insights for a Connected E-Commerce Ecosystem

In October, Phil Archer emailed me about the opportunity to speak at GS1‘s big annual get-together in Brussels in February. I’ve known and followed Phil’s work since the early days of my involvement with Linked Data—a very long time ago. Phil has been directly coordinating W3C‘s efforts in the Semantic Web and related technologies and has been at the forefront of many standards shaping today’s Open Web before joining GS1 in 2017.

Given my previous relationship with him, I was introduced to some of the standardization work GS1 does in favor of sharing product data across multiple value chains using the semantic web stack. GS1 Standards are used for identifying, capturing, and sharing information—about products, business locations, and more. Think of every physical product you own. Behind the scenes, a crucial language allows all involved parties – manufacturers, retailers, and even search engines – to understand each other seamlessly. This language? It’s powered by GS1 and used by over 2 million companies worldwide. While SEO experts might recognize GS1 from GTIN codes in structured data and Google Merchant Center, it’s much more than product identifiers. Imagine 5 billion barcode scans daily – the global impact of GS1 in action!

This year, at the GS1 Global Forum in Brussels (albeit remotely due to a bad flu I caught at home), I had the honor of attending and contributing as a speaker.

This blog post aims to shed light on some of these topics, highlighting the importance of GS1 standards in the evolving landscape of e-commerce and digital marketing and sharing what I learned from Google and other GS1 key players attending the forum this year.

GS1 Global Forum: A Convergence of Industry Leaders

The forum serves as a global annual event promoting GS1 standards, offering a unique occasion to interact with industry leaders in the international trading community on GS1 standards and technologies meant to facilitate the distribution and traceability of products.

In my presentation, available on our academy platform, I discuss our approach to data integration. I walk through how we merged GS1 Digital Link with our Product Knowledge Graph, revealing deeper insights into products.

Additionally, I explore how we utilize GS1 Web Vocabulary to build tailor-made ontologies, exemplified by the Eyewear Ontology for EssilorLuxottica Group’s eyewear products.

Finally, I explain how we leverage the GS1 extension of as a foundation for proposing SEOntology, a novel approach to search engine optimization.

Here is an early implementation of the GS1 Digital Link for Oakley conducted with the EssilorLuxottica SEO team 💪.

In the same vein, Dom Guinard​ from Digimarc and Sven Böckelmann​ from Benelog provided inspiring real-world examples for GS1 Digital Link and EPICIS 2.0 (the Electronic Product Code Information Services standard). Below is Puma introducing a 2D barcode with the Digital Link that enables an engaging digital experience at the point of sale.

Google’s Commitment to GS1 Digital Link: Overcoming E-commerce Complexities

During his talk, Matthias Wiseman from Google offered valuable insights into the company’s collaboration with GS1 and its commitment to standardized product data. He addressed the ongoing challenge Google faces in acquiring accurate and detailed product information directly. Wiseman emphasized the importance of GS1 Digital Link as a solution to this challenge.

A single barcode can now offer a direct link to a product’s online counterpart by acting as a gateway to a wealth of product information. This innovation aligns perfectly with Google’s mission to refine its global shopping graph, ensuring consumers discover the most relevant and detailed product information effortlessly.

Enabling online merchants to showcase inventory variations

Google’s recent introduction of structured data support for product variants also tackles some challenges, empowering merchants to showcase a wider range of options and ultimately enhance the shopping experience. This initiative reflects Google’s broader strategy of leveraging structured data to decipher the vast array of online product information.

Previously, Google only saw one “face” of a product from structured data, even if it came in numerous versions. With ProductGroup and its supporting properties, we can tell Google how products differ (size, color, etc.) and group them under a single parent (or canonical) product. This helps Google understand the product offering and display the specific options relevant to each search.

Start building your Product Knowledge Graph today and lead the way in digital commerce innovation. Click here to learn more and transform your product data into a powerful asset!

Understanding intricate certifications for products

Beyond product variants, understanding intricate details and certifications like organic or vegan status remains equally critical for Google. Matthias also presented the recent introduction of the support for class, originally derived from the GS1 Web Vocabulary, that addresses this need. This markup empowers Google and other entities to grasp critical product certifications, adding another layer of detail that significantly influences consumer decisions.

Improving company data

Furthermore, Google recognizes the importance of understanding business details for a comprehensive understanding of product data. Including properties like vatID and other business details for signifies a step towards achieving this goal, enabling a clearer representation of business identities and their offerings. Doreid has recently blogged on how adding vatID has contributed to creating the Google Knowledge Graph panel for three major retail brands.

Wiseman’s presentation underscored Google’s commitment to leveraging GS1 standards and technologies to overcome the challenges of managing complex product data. As AI-assisted interactions become increasingly prevalent, the significance of accurate, detailed, and standardized product information becomes paramount. Google’s initiatives not only aim to enhance the consumer shopping experience but also empower businesses to present their products more effectively in the digital marketplace.

Digital Product Passport

One concept that also captured my attention at the GS1 Global Forum was the upcoming Digital Product Passport (DPP). While GS1 is already seasoned in product data sharing across diverse industries, introducing the DPP and its supporting legislation marks a significant shift. This new framework defines a unique, comprehensive dataset for each product, accessible electronically and with relevant information. Between 2026 and 2030, the EU’s Digital Product Passport will be implemented across different product categories to promote a product’s sustainability, recyclability, and circularity.

Once again, here I see the potential of a standard that empowers everyone in the value chain (not only the marketplaces) – consumers, businesses, and even authorities – with complete product information. Imagine improved traceability, streamlined compliance checks, and detailed records of potentially harmful substances throughout a product’s lifecycle.

The DPP has the potential to revolutionize product transparency, compliance, and sustainability across the EU market, and I’m eager to see how it unfolds and how we can sustain its growth.

Our Commitment and Collaboration with GS1

Attending the GS1 Global Forum reinforced our commitment to leading the way in product discovery, SEO, and digital marketing. This dedication extends beyond data and technology; we strongly believe in open standards. Why? Because open standards counterbalance the concentration of power in the hands of a few players, promoting transparency and fairness for consumers and citizens alike. This aligns perfectly with our values of responsible AI and SEO best practices. On that note, a huge thank you goes to Can Berk Yakar and Kim Renberg, who represented WordLift with passion and expertise at the recent GS1 Global Forum!

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