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    Importing Contacts


    To move your existing contacts to ONTRAPORT you will need to export them from your current system and then import them into ONTRAPORT.  

    Export Contacts from Another Program

    Typically, you’ll find the Export feature under the File, Settings, Contacts, or Preferences menu of your software. Follow the instructions there, and create a CSV file from your contact list. If given the choice, use "Windows CSV". 

    Prepare your CSV File for Import

    These articles provide more information on special circumstances. In most cases you will not need to refer to these. 


    Recommended Fields for Your First Import

    These are the basic, default fields for the Contacts collection in ONTRAPORT.

      First Name   Zip Code
      Last Name   Country
      Email   Fax
      Title   SMS Number
      Company   Office Phone
      Address   Birthday
      Address 2   Website
      City   Referring Page
      State   Contact Tags

    • The Name field in ONTRAPORT is created dynamically by combining the First Name and Last Name fields. See our article on Combining and Splitting Fields in Excel to reformat a single name field into First and Last Name fields.
    • Contact Tags must be formatted correctly for import into ONTRAPORT. Tags must be in one field (column), separated by */* to import correctly. See this article for more information on importing Tags.
    • The Campaign, Lead Source, Medium, Content, and Term fields are for UTM parameters and cannot have data imported into them.
    • To import credit card information, sales history, etc. please see our article on Custom Developer Work

    How to Import Contacts

    1. Login to ONTRAPORT

    2. Go to the Contacts > Settings > Import Contacts 

      import contacts menu

    3. Be certain your file is a .CSV  file. We do not import XLS or other formats. 

    4. Step 1 of 5: Drag your CSV file into the grey box or click Browse Computer to upload the file

      import contacts step 1 of 5

    5. Step 2 of 5: Check the Don't include header row (Will not be imported) box if the first line of your CSV file includes the field names such as First Name, Last Name, etc. Then click Next: Import Settings. Look at the display to verify that the file will import correctly. You should see the individual fields in columns, with at least three lines of records displayed. If all the content is on one line and in one field verify the CSV file is formatted correctly. 

      import contacts step 2 of 5

    6. Step 3 of 5 has three distinct sections, the Duplicate Contact Manager, the Merge Settings, and the Usage Agreement. 

      1. In the Duplicate Contact Manager section select your merge preference. This setting determines what happens if an existing Contact Record is found during import. 


        • Merge and underwrite with new imported data (default). This setting does not change any data already found in the existing record, but will add any new data. For example, if the existing Contact Record does not have the phone number, but the record you are importing does, ONTRAPORT will add the phone number to the existing record. This is almost always the setting you will use when importing contacts, especially if you are importing "lists" from other email service providers such as MailChimp or AWeber.

        • Merge and overwrite with new imported data. This setting will update fields with the data in the import when a matching Contact Record is found, even if data is already in that field. If the existing Contact Record has a phone number in it, and the imported record has a different phone number, the import will overwrite the existing data and the newly imported phone number will be written to the Contact Record. You cannot reverse this action easily, so use with caution. An example use of this feature is a mass update of an area code in a phone number. You can export contacts with the old phone number, use Excel to update the area code portion of the phone number in the CSV file, and then import the file using merge and overwrite

        • Create New Entry. This setting will always create a new entry for each record in the import file. This can lead to duplicate Contact Records; ONTRAPORT allows you to override the built in protections against creating duplicate Contact Records by importing Contacts with this setting. Use this setting with caution, as deleting and merging duplicate records is a manual process. 

          NOTE: Importing Tags is the one exception to the above settings. In all cases imported Tags are added to the Tags the Contact has, even if the contact already has other Tags. 

          duplicate manager settings

      2. Merge Settings: Select which field to use to merge contacts with if a match is found in your database. The E-Mail field is selected by default, and is the recommended setting

        Step 3 of 5 - merge settings 

        Note: Checking the box next to Import these Contacts with bulk mail set to 'Opt-Out' is very rarely used. This will prevent you from sending the contacts bulk email, and can only be reversed by the contact opting in again. An example of the proper use of this check box is if you are importing a list of contacts who have opted out and you want to market to them using Postcards or Facebook Custom Audiences to encourage them to opt back in. This can also be used to upload a "suppression list" or a list of contacts that have previously opted out.

      3. Usage Agreement: Read and confirm you understand the four items listed in the Usage Agreement by checking the check boxes. You are agreeing that all of the email addresses are from contacts expecting to receive email from you, that none of them are borrowed, rented or purchased and that you must maintain a bounce rate of less than 7% with complaints at less than 0.35%. The final check box reiterates our zero-tolerance in regards to spam. If you have a question about any of these requirements, please reach out to our Postmaster team at 

        When finished, click the Next: Match Fields button at the top right.


    7. Step 4 of 5: Select the Fields To Be Imported into ONTRAPORT. The fields in your import CSV are listed on the left. On the right, use the drop down boxes to select the ONTRAPORT Contact Record field you want to import the data into. To skip importing a field, click Select None. You can create a new field in the Contact Record if there is not already a match by clicking Create new field. If you have several files to upload from the same source check off the Remember My Selections check box for faster processing next time. When finished, click the Next: Add Rules button at the top right. 

      Step 4 of 5: matching fields

    8. Step 5 of 5: Add Rules To Your Imported Contacts (Optional). This step allows you to take actions on your new contacts as you import them. Click the + Add New Two common use cases are shown below:

      Add Tags to Your Imported Contacts. This use case is often used when importing contacts from a list-based email service. In some services you duplicate the contact in several different "lists" to segment your audience. In ONTRAPORT you only need a single Contact Record for each contact and you use Tags or other criteria to segment them. In this image we show a Rule to add the list name to the contacts so we can segment them later. This tag is added to all of the imported contacts.

      Step 5 of 5 add a tag rule

      Add the New Contact to a Campaign. In ONTRAPORT, Campaigns are used extensively to automate actions. While you may not have any Sequences yet, this example adds the contacts to the a Campaign we have created to send a monthly newsletter. Don't worry if they are already in the Contacts database and on this Campaign; adding them again does not affect their current subscription or position in the Campaign.

      Rules are very powerful in ONTRAPORT, but are entirely optional during the import process. 

    9. Click Finish and your import will start. 

    10. Archive a copy of your CSV import file on your computer. The uploaded file will be visible in the import section for up to 60 days, and is then deleted. 



    Q. When I checked the box to import contacts with "bulk mail set to Opt Out", I got this warning. What's it mean? And do I have to make imported contacts opt-in again?

    opt out warning

    A. The checkbox for "Bulk email set to opt-out" means that by marking it checked, you will NOT be able to email those imported contacts from ONTRAPORT. This is usually only used to create suppression lists or for a very specific reason that you would NOT want to be able to communicate with those contacts via email. If you want to email the contacts you are imported, leave the box UNCHECKED. 


    ONTRAPORT does not require you to have your contacts opt in again to start emailing them, so in most cases you should leave this box unchecked. If you are uploading a "suppression list" or a list of contacts that have previously opted out, go ahead and check the box. You can then use ONTRAPORT's other tools, such as Facebook Custom AudiencesPostcards, etc. to encourage them to opt back in.

    Q. Where can I get more information and ask specific questions about importing contacts?

    A. The ONTRAPORT Community Q&A Forum provides answers from our Certified Consultants and other members of our user community.

    Q. I imported contacts and sent an email to them, but the email didn't fire!

    A. Imported contacts must be approved before you can send them bulk email. Check the field Bulk Email Status in the contact record to see if they are set to "Pending". You can add Bulk Email Status as a column heading in your Contacts database to view them all at a glance.

    Q. Why are my imported contacts blank?

    A. Blank contacts will occur when a column in the CSV is not mapped to the corresponding field in ONTRAPORT correctly, or there were blank cells in the CSV that got added as blank contacts in the system.

    Q. Why isn't email going to contacts I imported today?

    A. Imported contacts must be approved before you can send them bulk email. Check the field Bulk Email Status to see if they are set to "Pending". You can add Bulk Email Status as a column heading in your Contacts databaset to view them all at a glance. Other reasons include the email address missing because the field was not mapped correctly during the import process and the Bulk Email Status being set to "No". This can happen during the import process if the check box for "Import these Contacts with the bulk email set to no" is checked.

    Q. Why are my contacts listed as "Pending Review" or "No" in the bulk email status field?

    A. All imports are subject to approval by our Email Delivery team to ensure compliance with our anti-spam policies. Sometimes the import will be pulled randomly for a manual review. If the import is selected for manual review, you can expect 1) an email sent to the administrator of your account with additional questions that need to be answered, 2) a slight delay after your administrator responds to that email with his answers, typically 24 - 48 hours, and 3) a confirmation email that the Contacts are ready for you to mail. Please contact Support by email if the Contacts have been in review for 24 hours or more.

    Q. I am usign a Mac and my imported file is not showing correctly. All the data is in one cell. What's up?

    A.  When using Excel on the Mac, remember to save the CSV file as "Windows CSV" and not standard "csv".

    Q. I'm in the EU and my file isn't separated by commas. It is separated by semi-colons. How do I import this file?

    A. Check our special instructions for Converting Semicolon Separated Fields. CSV files are often separated by semicolons in the EU, north Africa, and other areas where the decimal separator in currency values is the "," instead of the "." Another method for dealing with this is found in our Answers section under My Import Failed!

    Q. My date fields are all messed up!

    A. ONTRAPORT accepts dates formatted using forward slashes or dashes in Month - Day - Year format. Note that this format is used even if you have your account set up to another display format.


    You can use two or four digits for the year, but be aware that two digit years default to the current century. A birth date of 02/14/1984 should be formatted with the four digit year, otherwise "12/14/84" will be imported as the future date "12/14/2084". Here are the acceptable import formats with how they are interpreted by the import process using that example birth date:

    Using Forward Slashes:

    MM/DD/YY (12/14/84 .... results in "12/14/2084" in the database)
    MM/DD/YYYY (12/14/1984)

    Using Dashes:

    MM-DD-YY (12/14/84 .... results in "12/14/2084" in the database)
    MM-DD-YYYY (12/14/1984)

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