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7.2 Importing data to analytics

How to import data into Google Analytics

Your business probably uses a variety of systems to run different areas of activity. You might have a CRM system to manage and track customer relations, a CMS that includes metadata about the content it serves on your website, and an e-commerce system crammed with product and transaction information. Google Analytics supports the import of data from external sources such as these, enabling you to combine this with data collected via Analytics itself. You can then use Analytics to organize and analyses all this combined data to give you a much more comprehensive picture of your business.

What are the data import requirements?

To use Data Import, you’ll need the following:

  1. A formatted CSV file: containing the data that you want to upload.
  2. A Data Set: this holds the uploaded data in Google Analytics and defines how it will be joined with specific hit data already collected by Google Analytics. If you plan to use custom dimensions or metrics as either the key or import dimensions/metrics, you’ll need to create those before creating the Data Set.
  3. One or more Views: so that you can report on the data.

Once you’ve readied your formatted upload file and target Data Set, you can import the data using the Manage Uploads page (more about this shortly).


What data can be imported to Analytics?

Assuming you’re using Universal Analytics, Google Analytics can import the following types of data:

  1. User Data: import user metadata, such as a loyalty rating or lifetime customer value, and use these values with Analytics segmentation and remarketing.
  2. Campaign Data: use campaign tracking IDs and import ad-campaign-related dimensions such as source and medium, letting you expand and reuse your existing non-Google campaign codes.
  3. Content Data: group content by importing content metadata such as author, date published, and article category.
  4. Product Data: gain better merchandising insights by importing product metadata such as size, color, style or other product-related dimensions. Note, to import this type of data, you must be using Enhanced Ecommerce (‘Key Account Features of Google Analytics’ playbook, page 45).
  5. Refund Data: align your internal ecommerce reporting with Google Analytics by importing ecommerce refund data. (This import type also requires you to be using Enhanced Ecommerce.)
  6. Cost Data: include third-party (non-Google) ad network clicks, costs and impression data to gain a more complete picture of your ad spend.
  7. Custom Data: provides support for importing custom data sets.

To use Data Import, you’d typically export the desired data from your CRM, CMS or other system as a CSV file (or for smaller amounts of data, you might even create the upload file manually using a text editor or spreadsheet). You then import the CSV file into your chosen Google Analytics Property. The uploaded data is added to or modifies data already collected for that Property by the JavaScript tracking code, mobile SDK or Measurement Protocol.

To begin, you sign into your Analytics account, click the Admin tab, navigate to the Property and select “Data Import”. When you configure Data Import, you create a Data Set which defines one or more dimensions to use as a key. Data Import uses this key to match values in the uploaded data to values in your collected hit data. The additional data that you upload is then added to one or more import dimensions or metrics, which can be standard or custom dimensions and metrics. Imported dimensions and metrics can be used in reports, remarketing lists and other Google Analytics tools alongside standard data collected by the website tracking code, mobile SDK or Measurement Protocol.

Note, however, that each import type (as listed above) has a pre-set list of dimensions and metrics that can be used as keys, and import dimensions/metrics as appropriate to that import type. You’ll select from this list of available dimensions and metrics when you create your Data Set. It’s not possible to import using custom variables (these are not supported in Universal Analytics – see ‘Key Account Features of Google Analytics’, page 20), nor can you use time-based dimensions such as hour, minute, etc., nor geo-dimensions like country, city, and so on.

What restrictions apply to data imports?

  • Real-Time reporting does not support custom dimensions: any custom dimensions that you’ve imported will not appear in Real-Time reports.
  • You may not upload or associated personally identifiable information with User Data Import: for data protection purposes.
  • Imported data is subject to any filtering you’ve set up on the Property: this means filters may exclude some data or transform your imported data.
  • There’s a limit of 50 uploads per day per Property: also 50 Data Sets in total per Property.
  • Maximum size and data limits: there’s a maximum upload file size of 1GB – but then, a CSV file would have to contain a phenomenal amount of data to get anywhere near that size. There’s also a limit of 1TB total data uploaded per Property (Premium accounts).

Once created, a Data Set cannot be deleted. You can, however, unlink a Data Set from all Views to prevent its data from appearing in reports. The uploaded files themselves can be deleted, but this takes effect only from that point onwards. Any reports run after the file has been deleted will not display the uploaded data, but historical reports (from dates prior to the deletion) will still display the data.

Importing and reporting

Once you’ve readied your formatted upload file and target Data Set, you can import the data using the Manage Uploads page for that specific Data Set. This page displays the status of the files that you and others have uploaded for that Data Set. Anyone with Read & Analyze permission can see uploaded files, but you must have Edit permission at the Property level to upload data or delete uploaded files.

Display the Manage Uploads page

1.       Sign into your Google Analytics account, and switch to the Admin tab. If you have more than one account, select the appropriate account in the Account column.

2.       In the Property column, select the Property that contains the Data Set.

3.       Click “Data Import”, locate the Data Set you want, and click “Manage Uploads” at its right.

To upload files, simply click the “Upload File” button and select the files. To delete uploaded files, select the ones you want and then click Delete.

Depending on the type of data that you’ve imported, you can use either a standard report or create a Custom Report to display the imported data. Imported Cost Data, for example, can be analyzed under Acquisition > Cost Analysis, and Product Data under Enhanced Ecommerce > Product Performance. Google provides a handy table listing the import types and available reports for each type.

Note that uploaded data needs to be processed before it can show up in reports. Once processing is complete, it may take up to 24 hours before the imported data begins to be applied to incoming hit data.

To help you get to grips with Data Import, Google offers a set of step-by-step examples of how the process works. Start with the import example overview, and follow up with the set of examples based on real-world use cases, illustrating how Data Import can be used to augment and enhance the default data collected by Google Analytics with offline business data generated by your own systems and processes.


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