Google Data StudioThe tool for creating effective reports
Google Data Studio is a Google tool specifically designed to create dynamic dashboards and effective reports in a short time. Data Studio transforms data into reports that are easy to read, customize and share. This tool focuses on Data Visualization, i.e., the presentation of data in a visual form that everyone can understand, even those unfamiliar with numbers. Moreover, Data Studio provides predefined templates for those who do not want to create a report from scratch.
The strength of Google Data Studio lies in the fact that it connects to so many data sources through the presence of pre-integrated connectors. Once a data source, e.g., Google Analytics, is connected to Data Studio, the data is automatically imported into the tool and transformed into the metrics and dimensions one wants to represent within the report. Moreover, the dashboards created are dynamic, i.e., the data within them have automatically updated thanks to the direct connection to the marketing platforms.
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Google Data Studio: What is it?
Let us begin this mini-guide by answering a simple but necessary question: Google Data Studio, what is it? It is a free tool for creating dynamic dashboards and effective reports. It was launched by Google in mid-2016 and had the characteristic of being easy to use, customize and share. These three elements have made it particularly popular with marketers who must report periodically to customers or top managers within the company. Being able to visualize data clearly, allows progress to be monitored and targets to be reached more quickly.
Gathering the necessary data and then organizing it within tables and charts is a task that can take hours. Typically, all this data must be downloaded, for instance, from Google Analytics and then reported within Excel sheets. Then, within Excel, the graphs and tables can be created. This process, however, implies that one must also think about the visual aspect of the report. This, in reality, still needs to be done because there is a tendency to focus more on the data. As a result, the result often needs to be clarified. With Google Data Studio, this problem is overcome because one can create reports that are visually very clear and, therefore, able to support management decisions.
Reports vs. dashboards
As already explained, Google Data Studio is a tool for creating dashboards and reports. These two terms, however, often need clarification. For this reason, before explaining Data Studio, it is good to clarify the differences and points of contact between reports and dashboards.
Reports and dashboards are similar in that they have visual elements such as graphs and tables within them, and their purpose is to provide information.
However, already on this point, a first difference arises. While the report tends to be very detailed and consists of many pages, a dashboard must occupy the space of a computer screen.
The effectiveness of the dashboard lies in the fact that, within it, all the data one needs is visible at a glance. A dashboard is a visual representation of crucial data, a snapshot of what is happening to a business. On the other hand, the report can contain dashboards and written text precisely because it is more complex, and a summary and suggestions can also be included. On the contrary, a dashboard presupposes a high level of understanding of the subject matter on the part of the reader and consists of few or no explanations.
Google Data Studio: Why use it?
Google Data Studio: Why use it? and what are its advantages? It is legitimate to ask these questions to understand this reporting tool’s potential. We start from the assumption that companies need data. Not by chance, the data-driven approach is increasingly used. Thanks to data, it is possible to know exactly whether the set objectives have been achieved or whether something in the adopted strategies is not leading to the desired results. So let’s find out what the benefits of Data Studio are
Free of Charge
As already mentioned, Google Data Studio is free of charge. This is a great advantage because it allows anyone to use this tool without incurring monthly fees.
Connection and Dynamism
Data Studio creates a direct link to data platforms, such as Google Analytics. This makes it possible to create dynamic dashboards. In fact, once imported into Data Studio, the data will automatically update whenever there is an update to the data source itself. The concept of dynamicity consists precisely of this: there is no longer a need to create a new report whenever you want to examine a different metric or dimension. It is, in fact, sufficient to select it so that the new data is immediately visible.
Through so-called Data Visualization, i.e., the visualization of data, reports take on a much more comprehensible appearance. Thanks to the elements provided by Data Studio, such as graphics, fonts, and colors, the data are presented as if a story were being told. It is no coincidence that we speak of Data Storytelling, an expression used to mean a new way of displaying the performance of a business.
Data Studio can also mix data from different data sources. This is of great help when one wants a more global view of the company’s online presence.
With Google Data Studio, file sharing is very simple. The report’s author can decide what kind of access to the file to give to his co-workers or clients. There are two ways of accessing the data: ‘edit‘ and ‘view.‘ In the first case, one has the capability to intervene on the report (any changes are saved automatically); in the second, only to view it.
How does Google Data Studio work?
Let us now move on to the more operational part of this reporting tool and ask how Google Data Studio work. Let us now see, in detail, what connectors are, how, thanks to them, dashboards become dynamic, and how one can create a report either from scratch or using the ready-made templates of Data Studio.
Let us begin to understand how Data Studio works by starting with the concept of ‘connectors.’ Data Studio works with different data sources (data sources), such as Google Ads or Google Analytics. Pre-integrated connectors are the mechanism by which the platform establishes connections with data platforms, including Google Analytics. Three different types of connectors can be imported: Google Connectors, Partner Connectors, and Open Source Connectors. The first is native to Google, while the other two are owned by third parties and need integrations to import data into Data Studio.
All Google Data Studio Connectors are listed below:
- Attribution 360
- Campaign Manager
- Cloud Spanner
- Cloud SQL for My SQL
- Display e Video 360
- File Upload
- Google Ad Manager
- Google Ads
- Google Analytics
- Google Cloud Storage
- Google Sheets
- Search Ads 360
- Search Console
- Youtube Analytics
Here are some of the 160 Google Partner Connectors with which you can connect to third-party marketing platforms (therefore not owned by Google):
- Ad Data + Google Analytics
- Adobe Analytics
- Amazon Ads
- Amazon Seller
- Analytics Canvas
- Bing Ads
- Content King
- eBay Seller Central
- Facebook Ads
- Facebook Insights
- Instagram Ads
- Instagram Public Data
- LinkedIn Ads
- Pinterest Analytics
- Twitter Analytics
To see them all, check out the official site. Finally, there are 3 open-source connectors:
- Chrome UX Report
- GKE Usage Metering
Google Data Studio: dynamic dashboards, in what sense? When we say that dashboards are dynamic, we mean that updates to the data that occur within the data sources are automatically available in Data Studio and thus visible within the dashboards themselves. This is possible thanks to the presence of the pre-integrated connectors, which have already been mentioned, which establish a link between the data sources and Data Studio. This way, it is possible to create comprehensive and up-to-date reports quickly.
As we shall see later, Data Studio also provides users with ready-made dashboards (i.e., templates). Thanks to these, you can produce good reports without worrying about their visual aspect. However, let us see how to create a report from scratch using these-called blank canvas, i.e., a white square sheet. On this subject, I suggest you read this article on creating effective dashboards.
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Google Data Studio Tutorial
Now that you have learned the functions and specifics of this important reporting tool, let’s now see step by step how to start creating dashboards and reports from scratch, thanks to the Google Data Studio tutorial that you are about to read. The first thing to do to use Data Studio is to create a Google account if you don’t already have one. Once inside Google Data Studio, there are two options: use the ready-made templates or a blank canvas. The latter, as anticipated, is a white squared sheet on which a report can be created from scratch. Let us consider, for the moment, this second option. It is therefore necessary to click on START A NEW REPORT, select the data source and click on ADD TO REPORT. Finally, in the upper part of the page where UNTITLED REPORT is written, you can enter the name you want to give to the report you are creating.
When creating the first report in Google Data Studio, Big G provides its data sources (e.g., Sample Google Analytics Data). Using this data, you can start to understand how the real data will be displayed, i.e. of the company within the tables and graphs provided by the tool. You can, in fact, also add a new data source to your account by clicking on the blue icon with the ‘+’ in the bottom right-hand corner next to CREATE NEW DATA SOURCE. This will create a new connection.
Immediately after, the Google Analytics connector must be selected . Obviously in this Google Data Studio Tutorial we use the latter as an example. From time to time the connectors you need will be selected. For the operation to be successful, you must authorize Data Studio to access your Google Analytics account. The next step is to choose the account property, as well as the view, that you want to link to Data Studio. The latter accesses user data via the Google Analytics API. However, before importing them, it allows users to view all metrics and dimensions available, giving them the ability to both disable each field and access and edit the fields from the reporting screen itself.
As explained, Data Studio offers a number of elements to customize your reports. In the toolbar, you can choose from various graphs and tables to shape the visual appearance of the report you are creating. Let’s see them in detail:
- Time Series
- Bar Chart
- Combo Chart
- Pie Chart
- Geo Map
- Scatter Chart
- Bullet Chart
- Area Chart
- Pivot Table
The graphs must, of course, be linked to the data to be displayed. In this regard, one consideration must be made when creating graphs or tables within Data Studio: it is important to verify that the data displayed is actually correct. To be sure of this, just compare them to the data source and see if they match.
Returning to the so-called “visualizations”, except scorecards and bullet charts, these need metrics and dimensions to work. It is therefore necessary to click on one of the icons in the toolbar and then draw a box inside the blank canvas. Once this is done, you will see the selected graph appear with the default data made available by Google. To make changes, including precisely those concerning the metrics and dimensions (indicated by the red arrows), there is a table located to the right of the report.
Let us see, one by one, the options available:
- changing metrics and dimensions
- add filters (by clicking on the blue button with the ‘+’ at the bottom of the DATA table)
- change the type of table in use
- select date
- edit date source
- choose the style of the graphs and tables (by clicking on STYLE)
To modify a dimension, just click on the current one (for example the date) to display a list of new fields. At this point, you can select the dimension of your interest. Once selected, the corresponding data will be visible on the report. The process for editing a metric is the same. If the metric you want to use does not exist by default, you can create it by clicking on CREATE NEW METRIC.
If the objective is to create a report, therefore a document that includes an in-depth analysis of the company situation, it is necessary to have several pages. To add new pages to your report, simply click on ADD A PAGE at the top left of the toolbar.
Within a blank canvas there is also the possibility to recreate the interface of other reports. Why do this if the templates provided by Google Data Studio already look great? One of the reasons may be the need to include the company logo in the report. Another reason may be that you don’t want to give anyone in your organization access to Google Analytics. One way to overcome this problem is to create a dashboard or report to be incorporated into the corporate site. This is a very simple procedure: click on the “<>” icon at the top right and take the dashboard or report embed code and paste it into the HTML page of your CMS editor. By doing so, other colleagues outside the team will only have access to the Google Analytics data they really need.
Once the report has been created, it will be immediately available on the Data Studio home page. In addition, the reports created can be easily copied, downloaded and shared. To share a report, go to the
“view’, i.e., the one represented by the eye icon.
Then you have to click on the icon with the little man, i.e. the SHARE THIS REPORT. A window will appear with two sharing options: enter recipients’ names or email addresses, or send a link. When you share a report, you can decide whether or not to allow the recipient to make changes to it.
Data Studio has two levels of access: ‘edit‘ and ‘view.’ In the first case, it is possible to edit the report, be it the graphs or the data source. For these reasons, it is best to grant ‘edit’ access only to a few trusted persons. To all others, whether customers or colleagues outside the team, it is advisable to have the reports viewed from the front end. In this way, data can be shared without the risk of being tampered with.
When you’re done customizing your report, you can decide to use it as a template for future reports. To do this, open the report you want to use as a template and click on the COPY icon in the upper right corner. Finally, in the CREATE NEW REPORT window, select the data sources to use and click on the CREATE REPORT button.
To download the report, however, simply click on the down-arrow icon in the top right-hand corner.
Finally, another interesting feature of Data Studio is that it offers the possibility to mix data from different data sources . By merging different data sources, a more global picture of business performance can be obtained. Specifically, to combine data from various sources, you need to select one of the elements on the toolbar and then click on BLEND DATA in the table alongside the report. Finally, you need to choose the data source to add and how the two data sources are connected.
Google Data Studio Templates
Google Data Studio: predefined templates available to users.
Previously, we explained how to build a report from scratch using only your imagination. However, it can be very tiring to imagine a presentation of KPIs which, in addition to being exact, is also visually exhaustive. A good way to fill this need is to use the templates provided by Data Studio.
Here is Data Studio’s default template for Google Ads:
Using the templates made available by Data Studio is very simple : just click first on the template you want to use and then, on the next page, on the button at the top right with the words USE TEMPLATE. After that, a table with the writing CREATE NEW REPORT will appear in which there are two different sources of data: one is the default one from Google while the other is a new source, i.e. a real source of data. By clicking on CREATE REPORT and continuing, for the moment, to use the data provided by the demo account, you will find yourself inside the example report provided by Google. It is immediately visible that the template proposed by Google Data Studio is much better than the one that can be created starting from a blank sheet.
However, when you decide to use the predefined templates you should never lose focus on your business. In fact, Google reports tend to be structured in such a way as to include several metrics to provide a broad view of the situation. Instead, the ideal is to borrow the graphs you like best and transport them, together with the company objectives, within a blank canvas. The result will be a clear but above all specific report.
Let’s see below what are the templates made available by Data Studio:
- Acme Marketing Website
- Display e Video 360 Performance Report
- GA Audience Overview
- GA Acquisition Overview
- GA Behavior Overview
- Ecommerce Store
- AdWords Report
- YouTube Channel Report
Google Data Studio: Facebook
Google Data Studio: is Facebook one of the data sources from which data can be imported? Absolutely. Let us assume that we want to know the performance of a Facebook Ads campaign. Using Partner Connectors made by Google partners makes it possible to connect Data Studio to non-native Google data sources. Next, it will explain how to filter data in one’s report for Facebook Campaigns.
Filters and date are the most important elements within the report as they allow you to refine the data that appears. The filter control and date-range control can be set at page or report levels. By default, the filter control is set at the page level, but if you prefer to have it at the report level, select the MAKE REPORT LEVEL option while editing the report.
Now let’s see what to do to add both a date-range control and a filter control to your report. In the first case you have to click on the date icon in the toolbar and draw a rectangle in the area of ??the report where you want to add this date-range control. Next, select SELECT DATE RANGE in the table on the right. Similarly, in the second case, click on the appropriate icon in the toolbar and, immediately afterwards, draw a rectangle in the area of ??the report where you want the filter control to appear. Subsequently you can select the filter settings from the panel next to the report.
Let’s say we need to create a report on a Facebook Campaign. However, since this campaign is made up of six different campaigns, you need to create both a report on the entire campaign, reports for campaigns as categories, and individual reports on individual campaigns. What can be done if the data source is an advertising account that contains other campaigns within it which, therefore, contaminate our data? We must necessarily filter the data we want to view, so that the report includes only those. At this point, let’s see how to create filters using the Filter Manager.
To filter data and create groups simply click on RESOURCE in the menu above the toolbar and select MANAGE FILTERS from the drop-down menu.
Then, on the next page, click on ADD A FILTER.
Once on the CREATE FILTER page, you must name this data set and select the parameters to filter the desired result. To add the necessary parameters, simply click on OR or AND.
Let us assume that we need four sets of filters. The procedure is as follows: name the first group, for example, CONVERSIONS, enter the campaign ID for each conversion campaign, and then use OR to combine the various campaigns. Finally, when finished, save the filter. Immediately afterward, you must repeat this same procedure for the other groups. Once this is done, you can apply this filter to any available graph or table. You must simply click first on the element to which you want to bind a specific filter and then click on ADD A FILTER from the table that says DATA. Once the desired filter has been chosen, the selected element will display only the data corresponding to that filter. Read this article to learn more about this topic
How to use Google Data Studio strategically
To make the best use of Google Data Studio, it is necessary to have a good strategy in place and to have some basics of web analytics. In fact, you need to know in advance what data you want to show, as presenting all of it can be confusing.Reports must be able to communicate in a narrative way the impact that the strategies adopted have had on the company’s objectives. Therefore, attention must always follow them.
When it comes to funnel marketing, the so-called AIDA model is used:
Although this model shows how the customer acquisition process is structured, it does not provide indications of any kind on the reference target. This is a context-insensitive model. Without a precise context and target, however, it is impossible to understand what impact marketing activities have on company objectives. That is to say, whether or not they lead to good results. An alternative model can be the one that allows you to apply a data-driven approach (i.e. based on data) to your strategy. Let’s see below which phases it is composed of:
In the “awareness” phase, i.e. the first of the marketing funnel, a company wants to make its brand known to new potential customers. In this case, the concrete actions will have to do with content and social media marketing, but also with display advertising. In short, everything that can make an unknown brand start to create a space for itself in the minds of future consumers. When you want to create a report, you must match each marketing action with specific KPIs. This is the only way to get an exact picture of the situation. In the case of brand awareness, the KPIs to be taken into consideration will be the traffic arriving on the site or on social networks, as well as the impressions generated by display advertising.
After making its brand known, a company moves on to the second phase of the marketing funnel: that of the “capture intent”. In this case the goal is to encourage potential customers to want to know more about the products/services offered. The aim is therefore to establish a more direct dialogue with consumers. There are many ways to do this and they range from the inclusion of pop-ups in the company blog, through which the user is asked to leave their email, to calls to action on social media. In this case, the KPIs to be illustrated in the report will be the number of new emails and subscribers to the brand’s social pages.
The next phase, i.e. the third, of the marketing funnel is the one called “educate”. Once the dialogue with potential customers has begun, the brand must leverage their interest to educate them, more and more, about its products and services. To achieve this, you can send free product samples or invite potential customers to register for a webinar. In doing so, the distance between the goods or services offered and the final consumers will be further reduced. In a report on this step of the funnel, the number of webinar subscribers can be included among the KPI
Finally, there is the fourth and final phase: that of the sale or “sales”. In this step of the funnel, potential customers must transform themselves into full-fledged customers by buying the products/services they have previously come into contact with. In this case the reference KPI will be the increase in company turnover.
It is advisable, before using Google Data Studio, to create a diagram in an Excel sheet that includes both the marketing funnel and the related KPIs. Once this is done, it will be possible to customize your report within the tool and make it effective also from a visual point of view.
Google Data Studio and reporting
As we have seen, Google Data Studio is really a useful tool for those involved in reporting because it allows you to create effective reports in a short time. Thanks to the pre-integrated connectors, data is automatically imported into Data Studio allowing the creation of dynamic dashboards. The latter offer an immediate vision and impact on business performance and can be assembled to create detailed reports.
In fact, let’s not forget that the meaning of Data Studio is to provide the management of a company, or customers, with a clear vision of marketing actions and the results they bring. The numerous graphics made available, as well as the wide choice of fonts and colors, serve precisely to transform the numbers into visual elements that are understandable and able to simplify decision-making. Finally, the ease of sharing documents allows anyone who needs them to have access to the reports without risking the data undergoing unwanted changes.
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