How to prepare your CSV file for importing contacts in ActiveCampaign



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In this article, we'll share best practices for importing contacts from a CSV file into your ActiveCampaign account—from removing what you don't need, to sharing a downloadable sample CSV import file. These tips should help you avoid import errors, partial imports, and long import times.

Make your CSV file as small as possible

Our importer will run through every column and every row of your file during the import process, even if you only plan to map some of the items to fields in your account. This can cause slowed import times, especially if you have a large number of columns and/or rows you don't need.

Before removing any information from your master file, create a copy of it first then work from the copy.

  • Columns
    Only include columns you wish to map to fields during the import process and delete any columns you don't need
  • Rows
    Remove all empty rows and rows that do not contain an email address (contacts who do not have a unique email address in the file will be skipped by the importer)

Use proper field formatting

Depending on how certain fields are formatted, you may receive an error or an unexpected result during the import process. This is especially common for contacts who have multiple values for a single field in your file, such as a  checkbox or list box. To avoid this:

  • Date Field values
    All date field values must use the following format: YYYY-MM-DD. Note that this format uses dashes only and does not contain any spaces or slashes. If this format is not followed, field values will default to a date in 1899.  
  • Multiple tags for a contact
    Tags must be separated by a comma. For example, Tag1,Tag2,Tag3.
  • Multiple values for a single field (Checkbox and List box fields)
    Make sure that these field types use the double-pipe || delimiter between options. For example, if you were to import a list of contacts who have multiple values for a field in a single cell, you would format the cell like this: Value 1||Value 2||Value 3
  • Email address fields
    Make sure all email addresses in your file are spelled correctly and are properly formatted.
  • Special and accented characters
    Make sure all values in your CSV file are enclosed in double quotes and that your CSV file uses UTF-8 character encoding. 
  • Remove line breaks
    Line breaks are relatively common and are not supported by the importer. Make sure to remove all line breaks from your file prior to import. To learn more, visit Error importing a CSV file
  • Emojis
    Emojis should not be used during a CSV import at this time. If you attempt to import a CSV file with emojis in the CSV's cells (i.e Name 🙂 ), the whole import will get stuck and not progress. 

You can also use this sample CSV file to set you on the right path for formatting your import fields.

Break up large import files into smaller files

If your import file is large, you can expect slower import times. To avoid this, break your import file down into smaller files and import them one at a time, waiting an hour in between each import. This best practice can also make it easier to see and troubleshoot any import errors you may experience along the way.

The chart below is our recommendation for the maximum number of columns and contacts a file should have for import success:

Maximum number of columns Maximum number of contacts
1-5 250,000
6-10 150,000
11-16 125,000
17-25 80,000
26-29 65,000
30-39 50,000
40+ 35,000
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