Jul 2, 2019

It’s time to stop using the Google Ads overview report for Data Studio (and do this instead)

By Supermetrics

DashboardsGoogle AdsLooker Studio (Google Data Studio)Performance Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Oct 31, 2023 ]

10-MINUTE READ · By Amy Hebdon

PPC marketers who work with paid search need the best reporting tools possible to monitor and communicate performance. 

The good news is that between Supermetrics and Data Studio, you can create a custom report that’s far better than any paid reporting solution on the market.

So what’s the catch?

Having full customization means you’re on your own when it comes to assembling your report of dreams. 

You want flexibility and power? You got it. But now you’re staring at a blank canvas with no idea where to start.

Enter: reporting templates. Google Data Studio and Supermetrics each have their own gallery of dashboards and reports that are free to use and make it easy to choose a layout and get started.

If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes looking through dashboards for paid media, you’ve come across the mother of them all – the Google Ads Overview Report:

Google Ads Overview Report

The Google Ads Overview Report in Data Studio is a great sandbox to start customizing dashboards, but it’s not the best report to use as-is. Unfortunately, because it’s so easy to update it with client data, many marketers are using it with few if any customizations. 

In this article, we’ll deconstruct the Google Ads Overview Report and build out two better reports (for both client reports and internal use) to improve your work and wow your clients.

Where the Data Studio Google Ads Overview report falls short

Like many other marketers, I’ve learned a lot about Data Studio functionality just by copying and adjusting the Google Ads Overview Report. It’s actually pretty good. 

But like a plate in a salad bar, it doesn’t get really great until you add things to it. On its own, the report needs some fixing up.

The device breakdown section is a mess

Let’s start with an obvious problem area: the device breakdown charts.

The device breakdown

Did you find what’s wrong with this picture?

Problems with the pie charts:

  1. There’s no legend.
  2. The slice colors are based on dimension order. Each chart is sorted by its own metric, which is driving inconsistent colors across charts. (Without a legend, this is a real design problem.)
  3. There’s no clear reason for this information to be included. It’s not answering any questions, encouraging any action, or showing a change over time.

It’s a hybrid report with no target audience

Is the report meant to be client-facing? 

The scorecards, pie charts and table are good visualizations for decision makers, but they aren’t very useful for the marketer who’s checking in on day-to-day pacing and performance.

On the other hand, there’s a data control that allows you to choose your account from within the page. You wouldn’t send this feature to your client, right?

Data control

The date range control (which randomly defaults to the last four weeks) adds to the mystery.

And the time series charts wouldn’t be appropriate for high-level client reports, but they aren’t useful for internal management either.

As it exists, the report doesn’t work for any audience.

Why all the chaos?

Why did Data Studio publish a report template that needs to be modified in order to be useful?

Because you’re supposed to modify it.

The Google Ads Overview Report is a nice, cleanly designed placeholder for you to add meaningful charts and data.

It solves the “blank page syndrome” so you can get to work on customizing without starting from scratch or worrying about design skills.

But it’s not a plug-and-play report to send to clients or monitor pacing. So let’s look at how you can customize it for each of those needs.

Plug-and-play report

How to create a better client-facing report

To make this template worthy of decision makers and leadership teams, we’ll give it a marketing makeover.

What makes a good client-facing report?

  • Client-facing reports help decision makers, leadership teams and other stakeholders quickly understand what happened and why it happened (including the impact of the work done by the agency or account manager).
  • Reports should “cut to the chase” and help the reader focus on the most important metrics and activity.
  • Because the end reader isn’t as involved in daily account activity, metrics and performance should be augmented with descriptions and context.

Lead with business KPIs, not search traffic

Good marketers use clearly defined goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and help their clients and management teams keep their eyes on the prize.

Lead with business KPIs

Keep your reports consistent by prioritizing KPIs, rather than secondary metrics like clicks and impressions.

Before – Scorecards:

The template scorecards lead with Clicks, CTR and Impressions – which aren’t priority metrics and are not where decision makers should be focusing their attention.

The template scorecards lead with Clicks, CTR and Impressions

After – Scorecards:

The new report kicks off the report with KPIs that immediately tell the reader the most important story.

Priority metrics

The main table in the report also emphasizes the wrong metrics.

Before – Campaign Table:

The table features three metrics: CTR, CPC and Cost / Conversion (or CPA). Each of these metrics is a calculated formula; the raw data is nowhere to be seen. Even with the heatmaps, it’s unclear what conclusions to draw from this table.

CTR, CPC and Cost / Conversion

After – Campaign Table:

The new table swaps CTR and CPC for the raw Conversions and Cost data. We’ve also added month over month change columns. Finally, we’ve swapped the table styling, with two heatmaps becoming bars to better show the relationship between the metrics.

Example of better relationship between the metrics

Looking at this table, you immediately notice that Campaign 1 earned the lion’s share of conversions, and that Campaign 5’s CPA is much higher than all others.

You can also see that the comparison columns for Campaign 5 have no data, meaning it just launched (or became re-active) recently. This immediately inspires questions about what happened and why.

Use text to provide context and analysis

The Overview Report is off to a great start by using headings and microcopy above the charts that follow. (Microcopy is short, targeted words and phrases that add helpful context for end users.)

Many reports – even paid solutions – have charts and scorecards with no explanatory copy, so we’ve got to give Data Studio credit for baking in headings.

There’s still room for improvement though.

Before – Microcopy:

The text doesn’t add context or provide information that’s not immediately clear just from reading the scorecards below.

Before – Microcopy

After – Microcopy:

The microcopy has been updated to provide more context for readers. Adding an objective quickly informs the reader of goals and priorities.

After - Microcopy

Busy clients and leadership teams aren’t going to look at a dashboard of numbers and immediately know what to do next.

A good report doesn’t leave readers guessing, and it doesn’t make them wait until a meeting or phone call to answer important questions.

The updated template includes sections for Analysis and Next Steps so you can help your audience understand what happened and why.

Analysis and Next Steps

For instance: Why did the conversion rate go down? Was there a change to the marketing (such as new ads or bid adjustments?) Was there a change to the offer, price or landing page? Was there new or increase competition? Is there a seasonal factor?

If you were reporting on the data highlighted in this article, you’d use this section to explain why Campaign 5 was launched, whether it will stay live next month, recommended changes for the landing page, and so on.

Be sure to explain your work and your role in the results, not just the results themselves.

Tell a story with data

Not all great stories begin with “once upon a time,” but how can a monthly, metrics-based report possibly tell a story?

Analytics Evangelist Brent Dykes says that storytelling with data needs three elements:

  1. Data
  2. Visuals
  3. Narrative

With Data Studio, data is easy. Use Google Ads as your data source, and you’ve automatically got 119 fields. (Use Supermetrics and that number jumps to 374.)

Visuals are as easy as adding a chart. Just be sure you’re using the best chart for your data. And include a legend.

That leaves narrative – the actual story behind the events. Many dashboard reports overlook narrative entirely. But without it, your readers are missing the explanation and engagement they need to drive change.

Tell a story with data

Image source: Forbes.com from Brent Dykes

Narrative isn’t just a written summary of what happened, and it’s definitely not just sentences that describe the data in your charts.

Here’s how the updated report adds narrative features:

  1. We’ve removed the date picker. By delivering a self-contained report on “last month,” the story of the report has a beginning and an end.
  2. We’ve used the journalists’ technique of leading with the most important info (in our case, KPIs).
  3. We’ve been selective about which metrics we’re including, and which ones we’re excluding, to reduce noise and clutter.
  4. We’ve updated the microcopy to provide needed context for the metrics.
  5. We’ve added Analysis and Next Steps sections to give more explanation, key insights, and an action plan.

The updated report meets the requirements for “storytelling with data,” so you can drive understanding and action every month.

How to upgrade your upgraded client-facing Google Ads template

You can grab the upgraded Google Ads Template For Clients here. But don’t just take it and run!

  • Update the report to reflect your goals and KPIs.
  • Choose the charts that show what matters most to your readers.
  • Update the microcopy and analysis for relevant context.
  • Add additional pages and charts for more granular performance details.
  • Consider using Supermetrics for additional dimensions and visualizations that aren’t native to Google Ads, like:
    • “Branded vs. Non-branded search queries” as a dimension
    • Full ad creatives (headline, text, body) from Google Ads

Customization is key!

How to create a better internal report

As you can see from the example above, customizing a report increases its value. This goes double for your internal pacing reporting.

What makes a good internal report?

  • Internal reports are for you and your team who are “in the weeds” every day.
  • They’re more likely to be pure dashboards without needing microcopy for context.
  • They should help you monitor pacing for spend and KPIs.
  • They should give you multiple views of daily performance and comparison to other time periods.

It would be impossible to create an internal template of much value within Data Studio, since it will be unique to:

  • Your goals (leads, CPL, revenue, ROI, etc)
  • Your top priorities, dimensions and metrics
  • Your budget (fixed, flexible, incremental changes)
  • Your pacing needs (do weekdays and weekends behave equally?)
  • Threats and opportunities within your account performance

To setup pacing, you’ll need to use calculated fields. Calculated fields are not retained the template once you change the data source.

Once you’ve customized your Client-Facing template, you can create a copy and modify it to meet your pacing needs.

Visualizations for Better Internal Reporting

Here are some visualizations I like to use for internal reports:

Conversions and spend MTD (compared to MTD target and overall goal)

Conversions and spend MTD

Daily monitoring of key metrics (was the drop on May 21 expected?)

Daily monitoring of key metrics

Aggregate metrics MTD compared to previous period

Aggregate metrics MTD

Daily performance by segment (campaigns, ad groups, keywords) against key metrics

Daily performance by segment

Time series by segment to show recent and sustained trends

Time series by segment

Update your internal dashboard reports so you can easily see and compare your key metrics all at once without having to adjust filters or sources.

You can use Supermetrics to integrate multiple platforms, data sources and accounts across different MCCs.

Templates + Customization = Holy Grail

Good client-facing reports tell a story through data, visuals and narrative to help readers take action.

Good internal reports help you monitor performance to find opportunities and catch pacing issues and threats before they become problems.

By starting with a Data Studio template and updating it to your needs, you can quickly create professional-level reports that improve performance and drive action.

And of course, you can supercharge your visualizations and data reporting when you use Supermetrics. Start your 14-day free trial of Supermetrics for Data Studio to take your reports to the next level!

About Amy Hebdon

Amy has managed Google Ads since 2004, and is the founder of the Google Partner agency Paid Search Magic. Together with her husband James, she also co-hosts The Paid Search Magic Podcast and runs the free facebook group Google Ads for Savvy Digital Marketers.

Turn your marketing data into opportunity

We streamline your marketing data so you can focus on the insights.

Book Demo