Preparing your CSV import file

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:

  • 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
  • Multiple tags for a contact: Tags must be separated by a comma. For example, Tag1,Tag2,Tag3.
  • Date fields: All date fields should follow this format: YYYY-MM-DD
  • Email address fields: Make sure 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

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
Have more questions? Submit a request