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[Guide] Google Analytics Cost Data Import Tool

November 29th, 2012

by Aaron Aders

Google Analytics (GA) recently announced the creation of a new feature called the Cost Data Import Tool. The idea behind this tool is pretty easy to understand: you manually import costs related to the online advertising channels that you track through GA, and then you’ll be able to subtract this cost from the revenue that’s already being tracked to calculate ROI for each channel. This new functionality will allow organizations to understand the real return that they earn for each advertising channel that isn’t tracked within GA (such as Bing ad networks), and make better decisions in the future when allocating advertising spends.

How to import advertising channel cost data:

Step 1: Create Your Custom Data Source in GA

To use this tool, you must first apply for the whitelist for the Public Beta Multi-touch Attribution Modeling Tool. Once you’ve been accepted into Public Beta, go to Admin > Custom Definitions > New Custom Data Source. Add a Name, Description, Type (Cost), and Enabled for each outside advertising channel.

Step 2: Create Your Cost Spreadsheet

Organize your costs related to each online marketing channel for easier data entry. Google Analytics is currently accepting data in whole day increments by Metric (Adcost, Adclicks, Impressions) or Dimension (Source, Medium, Campaign, etc). GA provides an in-depth explanation of data requirements.

Step 3: Upload Your Cost Data

Here is the second big catch of this new tool – in the current version you have to format your data to exact GA requirements that must be imported via API. You can use a number of third-party resources, or develop an API yourself, that will format and upload your data for you. Current third-party applications offering this service include:

If you can get accepted to the whitelist, organize your costs, and upload these data through a third-party provider then you will be on your way to having a comprehensive view of all advertising channel performance in one dashboard. This is powerful because now you will be able to analyze and compare multiple attribution models with the ROI baked in! This takes dashboarding to a whole new level and will allow quick and informed decision-making on advertising spends at the strategic level.

For more Google Analytics tips and tricks, check out our free guide to Google Analytics.

Aaron Aders

Co-Founder, Market Research Director at Slingshot SEOAaron is a co-founder and Market Research Director at Slingshot SEO. Building on more than a decade of Internet marketing experience, Aaron has contributed in many roles including Graphic Designer, Project Manager, Systems Analyst and Chief Operations Officer.


As Co-Founder & Market Research Director I develop Research Collateral at Slingshot SEO Inc. I love to jump off cliffs, climb rocks and adventures in general@wellbelove Project Glass reminds me of – 9 days agoFollow @AaronAders

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