Your head may be swimming with the literally thousands of combinations of Google Sheets formulas you could use to automate your work.
These functions offer a limitless possibility, but also a limitless waste of time spent learning them.
The good news: to master Google Sheets, you only really need to learn 10 formulas.
If you prefer working directly in a cheat Sheet, grab it here (also available at the end of the post).
Pick a formula directly from the menu below, or browse through each formula at your leisure.
At the bottom of the post, we’ll also walk through 10 ways for digital marketers to hack these formulas together at work (stuff like stripping apart URLs into component parts).
Table of Contents
 Arrayformula
 Split
 Index
 Left and Right
 If and Iferror
 Today and Weekday
 Text
 Combining Ranges with { }
 Query
 Formula Hacks for Digital Marketers
ARRAYFORMULA
This one confused me for a long time. But once I figured out how to use ARRAYFORMULA, I’ll never go back – because it’s an instrument of laziness.
It allows you to write a formula once, and apply it to an entire row or column.
No more copy and pasting across a sheet – and when that one arrayformula breaks, you only have one cell to check (instead of 1000 if you’re copypasting).
How it works
There’s one key to understanding ARRAYFORMULA: everything must be a range. You can’t just run a vlookup on cell A2 – you’ve got to pass the entire array (A2:A, or some section like A2:A6).
=ARRAYFORMULA( VLOOKUP( A2:A, data!$A:$C, 3, 0))
That’s really all there is to ARRAYFORMULA. You write a formula as you normally would (VLOOKUP in this case), rewrite any individual cells (A2) as ranges (A2:A), and wrap the entire thing in ARRAYFORMULA().
When to use it
Anytime you want to run the same formula across multiple cells. Think about arrayformula as a replacement for copypaste within spreadsheets.
I find myself using it most often when I want to populate an entire column.
For example, using our sample Twitter data, what if we wanted to subtract the number of followers from number following, for the entire column?
Input
followers  following 
174,193  58,028 
109,189  44,409 
32,454  1,720 
1,845  893 
2,115  1,041 
Formula
=ARRAYFORMULA(B5:B9  C5:C9)
Output
116,165 
64,780 
30,734 
952 
1,074 
SPLIT
SPLIT helps you separate a string of text, separated by a character (like a comma), into separate cells.
The delimiter (separating character) can be any value – a space, a comma, a pipe (“”””), a phrase (“”www””).
For example, let’s try splitting a tweet out into words:
Input
Knowing #SQL is a must for every #Analyst, even if they are not going to hack at databases.
Formula
=SPLIT(B3," ")
Output
Knowing  #SQL  is  a  must  for  every  #Analyst,  even  if  they  are  not  going  to  hack  at  databases. 
INDEX
If you ever want to pull a specific value from a range of cells – INDEX is your sniper.
You pass it a range, a row, and a column, and it returns the value present there.
To demonstrate, let’s take the 2 x 2 range below. What if we wanted to pull the value in the 2nd row and 2nd column?
Input
1  2 
3  4 
Formula
=INDEX( B3:C4, 2, 2)
Output
4
Now, let’s try pulling the value from the 2nd row and 1st column:
Formula
=INDEX( B3:C4, 2, 1)
Output
3
LEFT and RIGHT
LEFT and RIGHT allow you to slice off a segment of text from either side of a cell.
Each of them only takes two arguments:
LEFT(text, # of characters) or RIGHT(text, # of characters).
Let’s take a date string, for example:
Mon Aug 22 22:58:54 +0000 2016
Using LEFT or RIGHT, you could pull out any of the individual date values: the day, the month, the date, the hour or the year.
Let’s start with pulling just the year:
Input
Mon Aug 22 22:58:54 +0000 2016
Formula
=RIGHT( B5, 4)
Output
2016
What about pulling the month? We could combine LEFT and RIGHT:
Input
Mon Aug 22 22:58:54 +0000 2016
Formula
=RIGHT( LEFT( B9, 7), 3)
Output
Aug
IF and IFERROR
If you’ve used spreadsheets before, you’ve likely written an IF function.
They let you embed logic into your formulas – and keep formulas in your sheet from running when they don’t need to:
=IF(A2="", do nothing, run this function)
This simple IF statement keeps the function from running if A2 is blank – if there’s nothing for the formula to process, no reason to run it!
This keeps your sheets clean and fast – running a bunch of formulas unnecessarily will slow things down.
Input
Blank cell
Formula
=IF( B5="", "Don't run the function", "Run the function")
Output
Don’t run the function
IF has a cousin, IFERROR, that further helps bulletproof our sheets.
There are many functions, like VLOOKUP or QUERY, that will throw error messages when they fail:
Error – Did not find value in VLOOKUP evaluation.
These make your sheets ugly, and may cause other calculations downstream to fail – so I use IFERROR to set the output in the event of an error.
Input
name  score 
steve  78 
Formula
=IFERROR( VLOOKUP( "lisa", B11:C12, 2, 0), "No result")
Output
No result
Both IF and IFERROR become really powerful when used with ARRAYFORMULA, since they allow you to keep entire columns or rows clean with one formula.
Working with Dates
Making dates update automatically in your spreadsheets is *the biggest* consistent timesaver I’ve found.
There’s one key function that is the keystone for all date automation: TODAY.
TODAY returns, er, today’s date, which lets you easily build date ranges. Say we wanted to pull the last 7 days for a report:
Formula
Start date  End date 
=TODAY()  7

=TODAY()

Output (as of publishing)
7/16/2017  7/23/2017 
What if we wanted to pull the current month to date?
That gets a little tricker. We’ll have to use the DATE function, which accepts a (year, month, day) and creates a date value.
If we input DATE(2016, 1, 1) we’d get January 1st, 2016. But how do we get the current month?
That’s where handy functions called DAY, MONTH and YEAR come in. Inputting MONTH(TODAY()) will pull today’s month (same for DAY and YEAR).
So, putting together DATE, MONTH, YEAR and TODAY, we can find the first day in this month:
Formula
Start date  End date  
=DATE(YEAR(TODAY()), MONTH(TODAY()), 1)

=TODAY()

Output (as of publishing)
7/1/2017  7/23/2017 
What would you guess the WEEKDAY function does? That’s right – it pulls the weekday that a date falls on.
But instead of telling you Saturday or Sunday, it returns a number (1 = Sunday).
Say you wanted to pull sales numbers for only Sundays, WEEKDAY is your best friend.
TEXT
TEXT can take any value and reformat it: a number into currency, a date string into MM/DD format, and so on. It’s your formatting swiss army knife.
You set it up as TEXT(text to format, format to display), and it accepts the folllowing formats:
"$0.00"

Currency 
"YYYYMMDD"

Dates 
"#"

Integer 
"0.000"

Floating numbers 
It’s very useful to avoid having to manually format numbers. For example, if you wanted the number 48 to appear as currency ($48.00):
Input
48
Formula
=TEXT ( B5 , "$0.00" )
Output
$48.00
I use it most often in combination with QUERY – becuase when comparing dates ( AND A > date ‘yyyymmdd’ ), your date has to be correctly formatted.
Let’s try formatting 1/1/2017 as yyyymmdd for use in a QUERY function.
Input
1/1/2017
Formula
=TEXT ( B11 , "yyyymmdd" )
Output
20170101
Combining Data Ranges
This is not a formula at all, but it’s been *so helpful* in building spreadsheet templates.
If you have two datasets you want to combine, you can nest them in { } to form one data range.
There are two ways to do this:
1. Stack ranges on top of each other, by separating them using ;
2. Combine ranges next to each other, by separating them using ,
Let’s try stacking them first:
Input
range 1  
1  2 
range 2  
3  4 
Formula
={B4:C4 ; E4:F4}
Output
1  2 
3  4 
Now let’s try combining them next to each other using a comma as the separator:
Formula
={B4:C4 , E4:F4}
Output
1  2  3  4 
QUERY
The big kahuna of Sheets functions. QUERY lets you combine all of them into one powerful ball of Google Sheets formula magic.
It’s a bit complex to cover in this space, so we devoted an entire monster post to it. Learn to master the Google Sheets query here.
Formulas in Action (for Digital Marketers)
Before we dive into these examples, as a reminder you can grab the accompanying Google Sheets cheat sheet from the bottom of the post.
1) Importing a Sitemap into Google Sheets
Formula
=IMPORTXML("http://codingisforlosers.com/postsitemap.xml","//*[localname() ='url']/*[localname() ='loc']")
Output
http://codingisforlosers.com/blockspringgoogleanalyticstemplatetutorial/
http://codingisforlosers.com/acquisitionchannelreportblockspringgoogleanalytics/
Etc for the remaining pages.
2) Import meta title from a URL
Formula
=IMPORTXML("http://codingisforlosers.com/", "//title/text()")
Output
Spreadsheet Automation Templates – Coding is for Losers
3) Import meta description from a URL
Formula
=IMPORTXML("http://codingisforlosers.com/", "/html/head/meta[@name='description']/@content")
Output
Access a library of spreadsheet dashboard and automation templates, using services like Blockspring and Zapier to automate your data analysis work.
4) Extract root domain from a URL
Formula
=REGEXEXTRACT("http://codingisforlosers.com","^(?:https?:\/\/)?(?:www\.)?([^\/]+)")
Output
codingisforlosers.com
5) Extract protocol + root domain from URL
Formula
=INDEX(SPLIT("http://codingisforlosers.com/supermetrics","/"),1)&"//"&INDEX(SPLIT("http://codingisforlosers.com/supermetrics","/"),2)
Output
http://codingisforlosers.com
6) Extract path from URL
Formula
=REGEXEXTRACT("http://codingisforlosers.com/blockspringvssupermetrics","http://[^/]+/(.*)https://[^/]+/(.*)")
Output
blockspringvssupermetrics
7) Extract the first URL from a paragraph of text
Formula
=INDEX(REGEXEXTRACT("i love http://codingisforlosers.com", "\b(([\w]+://?www[.])[^\s()<>]+(?:([\w\d]+)([^[:punct:]\s]/)))"),1)
Output
http://codingisforlosers.com
8) Extract email from a paragraph
Formula
=REGEXEXTRACT("reach out to help@codingisforlosers.com for help","[Az09._%+]+@[Az09.]+.")
Output
help@codingisforlosers.com
9) Extract hashtags from a paragraph
Formula
=REGEXREPLACE("hey there from #losershq", "((^\s)[^#]\S*)([^#\w\s]\S*)", "")
Output
#losershq
10) Strip punctuation and hashtags from a paragraph
Formula
=REGEXREPLACE(LOWER("HEY THERE, what's up @losershq?"),"[^azAZ]"," ")
Output
hey there what s up losershq
That’s all!
I know that’s a lot of material to pick up off the bat, so feel free to grab the cheat sheet below and learn at your leisure.
If you’re ready to dive wayyy deeper, also check out all of the Coding is for Losers courses on mastering Google Sheets.