How to Import Ad Platform Cost Data into Google Analytics

The Team at Sona
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Many organizations and digital marketers utilize Google Analytics (GA) to track and analyze website performance, user behavior,  traffic, conversion rates, cost per click (CPC) and to calculate return on ad spend (ROAS) just to name a few. These insights can be utilized to improve and execute marketing strategies and to maximize return on investment. But to achieve this, the data that is fed into GA must be comprehensive and inclusive of all relevant channels.

For those that market exclusively through Google channels, a Google cost analysis report is highly effective and efficient. Yet the most successful brands employ omni-channel marketing approaches to better align with the increasingly broad range of channels that consumers utilize to search for and interact with content. This can include, for instance, other search engines such as Bing, third-party websites, and ads on social media platforms like Facebook Ads, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn. For cost data from non-Google marketing channels, additional steps are required for unifying datasets and deriving insights on campaign performance.

Non-Google Ad Platforms Lack Built-In Cost Integration

Measuring and comparing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns across these disparate channels presents some challenges. This is attributable to non-Google advertising platforms not having a native integration with GA. Marketers are forced to collect spending data on each platform and then attempt to bring it all together in one place to analyze the data and gain actionable insights.  

So, if non-Google platforms do not offer native integration, the question then becomes, can Google Analytics import cost data from other ad networks? Fortunately, yes it is possible to import data into GA, and doing so can provide many benefits.

Benefits of Importing Cost Data into Google Analytics

There are many benefits to importing ad cost data from third-party platforms into Google Analytics. Some common benefits include:

  • Improved advertising expense visibility. Having data for all your campaigns in one location makes it easier to analyze as well as identify key trends.  
  • Leverage Google's attribution models. You can run all your data through Google’s models to gain insights into the effectiveness of campaigns.
  • In-depth reports. Use Google Analytics’ advanced reporting features to get in-depth reports for your entire campaign

Cost Data Import Into Google Analytics

The process of uploading expense data from other platforms into Google Analytics is not too complex. You can achieve GA ad expense data upload by performing the following steps.

#1 – Ensure that you are tracking existing campaigns correctly

Make sure that GA is tracking your existing campaigns correctly. This means that Google Analytics can tell you where your web visitors are coming from. The easiest way to set up campaign tracking is by creating UTM tags for all your website links.

Google Analytics provides a campaign URL builder tool that makes it simple to add custom parameters to your links. To create a custom URL, you will have to complete several fields, including your website URL, campaign source (i.e., newsletter), campaign medium (i.e., email), and campaign name (i.e., Black Friday sale).

Google Analytics Campaign Builder

#2 - Set up your data set source within Google Analytics

Once you are sure that you are tracking your existing campaigns correctly, you will need to do a one-time setup for your data source within GA. Start by clicking on the small gear icon located on the left-hand side of the screen. This will direct you to the “Admin” screen.

On the “Admin” screen, look under the Properties column for the “Data Import” option and click on it. Then select “Cost Data” from the list and give your data source a name.

After you have entered the name, click “Continue”. You will then need to select the data set schema. Be sure to select Date, Medium, Source, and Cost from the list. At the bottom of the screen under Import Behavior, you must specify what you want to do when imported data is repeated. The default setting is to sum multiple data rows, but you can also choose to overwrite repeat data rows. For our purposes, the latter is the preferred method. Finally, save the changes and you will find your new data set in the Data Import menu.

Setting up sources in Google Analytics

#3 – Prepare your campaign and cost info

Most platforms allow you to export your data into .CSV format. You will need to include the following headers/columns in your spreadsheet: 

  • Campaign name (ga:campaign)
  • Source (ga:source)
  • Medium (ga:medium)
  • Ad spend (ga:adcost)
  • Date (ga:date)  

Ensure that the campaign name source and medium match the fields that are in Google Analytics for that particular campaign. The date column must be in YYYYMMDD format and be sure that you do not have any blank rows in your spreadsheet.

#4 – Import Cost Data

The final step is to upload the ads data into GA. Under the new data source that you have created, click on “Upload File.” Select the appropriate file and click Continue. If the upload is successful it will state “Completed” under status and also offer an option in the far right column to download your data file. If the upload data is not successful, the status box will display the reason for the error.

If you realize that you made a mistake or need to amend your data, simply repeat the above steps. Be sure to select the “Overwrite” option when importing your new data file.

When Will Your Cost Data be Available in Google Analytics?

Your data can take upwards of 24 hours to be processed and show up in the reporting section. To check the status, go to Acquisitions > Campaigns > Cost Analysis to see if your data is available.

Automating Cost Data Synchronization

While the process of importing data into Google Analytics may seem straightforward, for most organizations it is not a scalable solution. If you are running ongoing ad campaigns on many platforms, you would need to regularly export and upload CSV files for every campaign. This is not only time-consuming and costly, but human error can produce skewed or unreliable data.

An automation solution that integrates seamlessly with all ad platforms and reporting tools ensures that data is up to date while freeing up your marketing team to focus on tasks that provide more value.

Going Beyond Cost Data Analysis in Google Analytics

In addition to being time-consuming, manually importing data into GA presents other challenges. For one, delaying the routine upload of data can lead to issues attributing relevant metrics to the correct dimensions within GA. Moreover, Google Analytics’ attribution is heavily biased towards Adwords and makes it difficult to combine data from marketing tools such as a CRM.

Importing cost data into Google Analytics also provides marketers with limited insights. You can see how your ad spend is impacting website performance and conversion rates but lack the deeper insights that come from incorporating the data in your CRM and other marketing solutions. Additionally Google Analytics does not incorporate the following:

  • Attribution from OTT, TV, radio, or direct mail
  • Easily enable data exporting to other platforms

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive method to incorporate your cost data, CRM data, and other datasets, consider the Sona Growth Platform. Our industry-leading customer data platform seamlessly imports data from a broad range of sources. This eliminates the need to manually import cost data into Google Analytics. Furthermore, as our platform imports data from all relevant sources, stakeholders gain complete visibility of their marketing campaigns as well as actionable insights that drive growth.  

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