Power Query Challenge – Joining two tables fully

Left Outer + Right Anti = A better Full Join

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit

A sample file is available below.

If you prefer reading to watching, please continue to read this post.

The situation:

I have two tables.  One is Sales Table; One is Traffic Table.  What we need to do is to combine them into a single fact table.

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit1

With Power Query, it is an easy job.  We can merge the two tables with Left Outer Join!

BUT… If we do that with Left Outer Join, we will miss some data points.  The following screenshot depicts the situation:

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit2

Those traffic records with “?” do not have a matching record in the Sales table.  As a result, those traffic records are missed in the output, and most of the time without any notice/warning… 😑 

In ideal world, every store should have sales every day.  However in real world, there may be zero-sales days… sad but true.  In those days, we had visitors (Traffic In) but no sales, which is no good.  In this case, if we use Left Outer Join, we will miss out those data with Traffic but no sales.  

You may suggest we use the Traffic table as the anchor table to merge sales data to it, it will solve the problem (by using Right Outer Join; or swap the order of the tables).  Well, that’s only true when all stores have traffic data.  Nevertheless, only a few stores (in our example, 3 out of 8) have traffic data.

Thus we need a Full Join to return a result like this:

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit3

This, however, cannot be achieved directly with Full Outer Join in Power Query.  We need to achieve this with extra steps.  Let’s see how we do it with Power Query!

You may download a sample file to follow along.
Sample File - Start
Sample File - Finish

Load the two tables into Power Query

Select any cell in the Sales table

  1. Go to Data tab
  2. Select From Table/Range

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit4

In the Power Query Editor

  1. Under Home Tab –> Close & Load
  2. Close & Load to…
  3. Only Create Connection
  4. OK

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit5

Repeat the steps above for Traffic table.

Edit the Queries

Now we should have the two queries loaded to connection only, as you can see in the Queries and Connections pane.  Right click the Sales query and Edit

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit6

First (failed) attempt – Merge Queries with Full Outer Join

If you have experience with merging queries in Power Query, Full Outer Join should be your top-of-mind solution for this problem.  Nevertheless, it’s not a convenient way as the layout of the output will not be what you want…

Let’s have a look!

Select the Sales query

  1. Go to the Home tab of the Power Query Editor
  2. Merge Queries
  3. Merge Queries (Note: This step is not necessary if we are working on the same query)
  4. On the first (Sales) table, select the matching columns 
  5. Select Traffic as the second table
  6. Select the matching columns (in the right order)
  7. Select Full Outer Join (all rows from both)
  8. OK

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit7

Now we should have a new column called Traffic

Click the double arrows icon in the column header, and then

  1. Check Traffic In only
  2. Un-check the box
  3. OK

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit8

Here we go!

We have the Traffic correctly mapped to the Sales table.  From row 53 to 56, the four records with traffic but no sales are displayed there.  However nothing is under the Date and Store columns…

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit9

Wait… what if we go back one step and check also the “Date” and “Store“?

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit11

Well, although we get the Date and Store information as expected, we’d also got two extra columns across the entire merged table…

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit10

This is obviously not an ideal layout.  Who wants two columns for the same attributes?

We will need many tedious steps to convert this layout back to normal.  Therefore I am going to do it with another approach, which is exactly the topic of today. 😁

Second attempt – Left Out Join + Right Anti Join followed by Append

A. Merge Queries with Left Outer Join

Repeat the Merge Step described above.  But this time we do a Left Outer Join:

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit12

Note: Expand the “Traffic In” column only

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit13


B. Duplicate the Sales Query

  1. Right click the Sales query on the Queries pane
  2. Select Duplicate

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit14

On the Query Settings on the right,

  1. Rename it to “TrafficWithNoSales
  2. Delete the steps “Expanded Traffic” and “Merged Queries” by clicking the x

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit15


C. Doing a Right Anti Join

  1. Select the TrafficWithNoSales query
  2. Go to Home tab
  3. Merge Queries

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit16

On the Merge queries dialog box:

  1. Select the matching columns
  2. Select Traffic
  3. Select the matching columns (in order)
  4. Select Right Anti (rows only in second)
  5. OK

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit17

The result we have should contain only one row!  All the TrafficWithNoSales records are stored in the “Table” under the Traffic column.

Click the “Table” to open it.

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit18

Yeah… We’ve got a table showing the records where we have Traffic but no sales.

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit19


D. Append the “Sales” and “TrafficWithNoSales” queries

  1. Select the Sales query
  2. Go to Home tab
  3. Append Queries
  4. Select “TrafficWithNoSales
  5. OK

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit20

Note: The columns “Date” and “Store” in the two tables must be exactly the same.  Otherwise the Appended result may put them into different columns.  You may need to rename the column headers if required.

Almost there…

Now we have the TrafficWithNoSales records nicely appended to the Sales table merged with traffic data.

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit21


E. Replace null with 0

  1. Go to the Transform tab
  2. Replace Values
  3. Replace Values (Note: this step is not necessary)
  4. Replace null with 0
  5. OK

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit22


F. Final touch – Sort the columns

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit23

Tip: We may also rename the query to something more meaningful, e.g. Sales with Traffic data


Here we go!  A fully joined table as a result:

Excel Tip - Full Outer Join revisit24

Load it to your workbook as you wish.

How do you solve this problem?

Would you do it differently? Please leave your comments below.


About MF

An Excel nerd who just transition into a role related to data analytics at current company......😊 Recently in love with Power Query and Power BI.😍 Keep learning new Excel and Power BI stuffs and be amazed by all the new discoveries.
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6 Responses to Power Query Challenge – Joining two tables fully

  1. meargi says:

    Amazing! you saved my evening 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zane D says:

    Greeat blog you have here

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mma173 says:

    The way I would resolve this is different. I read both of your solutions.

    • I combined (appended) both tables (Sales and Traffic).
    • Removed all columns except for Date and Store.
    • Removed duplicates based on both columns.
    • Merged the result twice again based on both columns: first time with the Sales Table then with the Traffic Table.
    • Expanded the needed columns.


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