Jun 8, 2022

Google Data Studio—7 Advanced Tips for Marketers and Analysts

12-MINUTE READ | By Lachezar Arabadzhiev

Looker Studio (Google Data Studio)

[ Updated Jul 28, 2023 ]

Since Google Data Studio’s beginnings in 2016, new features and updates have been rolling out frequently to improve the platform and move the needle on data visualization.

More importantly, the Data Studio team has always listened to the community and taken its feedback seriously. As a result, Data Studio has quickly become one of the most used and insightful data visualization tools out there.

Unfortunately—but fortunately for those of you reading—most people only know how to use the basic features in Google Data Studio and are not aware of certain advanced capabilities that can take their data game to the next level.

Simply put, the advanced features Data Studio has to offer can help you, your clients and stakeholders increase accuracy, simplify your workflow, and produce more reliable data visualizations.

So I’ll walk you through the most advanced tips for marketers and analysts.

Fast forward >>

  1. Make use of data blending
  2. Take advantage of the CASE function
  3. Use parameters
  4. Automate your data transfers with community connectors
  5. Add multiple pages to a report
  6. Add date range filters
  7. Create dimensions using calculated fields

1. Make use of advanced data blending

Data analysts and architects often rely on SQL and languages alike to join data from different tables. But, if you’re running a smaller company without large hiring budgets for those roles, you might think advanced data analysis isn’t in the cards for you.

Not so fast. Thanks to Data Studio’s blend editor, you can join data from different sources without typing a single line of code. The blend editor is designed to help marketers and analysts work smarter with the drag and drop features. 

Blending in Google Data Studio helps users create table controls and charts based on many data sources. For instance, you can merge data from your Google Ads, and Google Analytics accounts to see how your marketing campaigns perform in a unified view. Initially, Data Studio featured the LEFT JOIN only, but now they have added four other joins: INNER JOIN, RIGHT (OUTER) JOIN, CROSS-JOIN, and FULL (OUTER) JOIN.

When you blend data in Data Studio, it creates a resource called a blend, which works similarly to data sources. But, don’t confuse data blending with data sources as they have several differences. For example:

  • Blends are not reusable across other reports.
  • Blends get data from multiple data sources.
  • They have no credential settings or data freshness since they inherit them from the underlying data source.

How to blend data

Blends consist of tables from different sources. When you create or edit a blend, a list of the tables appears on the UI. These tables have fields that are sourced from the underlying data source.

Note that each blend can take a maximum of five tables. Before you get started, you need to understand different join configurations since they help link tables. A join configuration features an operator which defines how to join both non-matching and matching records from the tables. It also contains a condition—set of fields—that determines how the tables relate.

Step 1: Open a Google Data Studio report.

Step 2: Select any element and click the ‘Blend Data’ option under the ‘DATA’ panel on the right.

A screenshot of a computer. Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Step 3: Click on join another table, and then select the data source.

Google Analytics data

Step 4: Configure join by selecting the join operator and the join conditions.

join operator and the join conditions

Step 5: Click ‘Save’ and view your report.

Save report

2. Take advantage of the advanced CASE function

Data Studio has an advanced CASE function to help you achieve more when organizing and sorting data. The CASE function evaluates a list of conditions, then returns the first result to match the expression. It allows you to set a default result if no conditions are met. Let’s look at an example for the CASE function.

Example of the CASE function

One of the most common uses for the CASE function is to create a group of data or categories. For instance, you can group countries into their respective regions.

    WHEN Country IN ("India","China","Japan") THEN "Asia" 
    WHEN Country IN ("Spain","Italy") THEN "Europe" 
    ELSE "Other" 

Advanced CASE syntax

A CASE statement must begin with the keyword CASE and end with the keyword END. In between is where you place clauses or sections. Let’s look at its syntax and its meaning.

    WHEN condition THEN result
    [WHEN condition THEN result]
    [ELSE else_result]

WHEN condition: It analyzes your data and returns true only if the condition is met— otherwise, it returns false. The WHEN condition takes any boolean expression.

THEN result: Every WHEN condition must be followed by a THEN clause. It specifies the outcome to be returned if the condition is true. In case the function has multiple conditions, then the CASE statement only returns the first matching true condition.

Note that the possible outcome in the THEN clause needs to match all other clauses. For instance, if the first THEN is to return a text outcome, then the remaining THEN statement and ELSE clause should return a text outcome.

3. Use parameters with Google Data Studio

Data Studio is changing how marketers and analysts process their reports. Parameters help you interact with user data. For instance, you can create calculated fields which pass values back to your data source SQL query or contain input from the report users. Parameters are super useful as they can help you save time by creating report templates.

Primary uses

  • Display results based on the user input
  • Send parameters to a community connector
  • Send parameters to BigQuery data source SQL query

Sources of data

Parameters can obtain data from these sources:

  • Component properties panel
  • Link to the report
  • From a default value
  • Controls placed on the report

Parameters appear as purple fields at the bottom of the available fields list in the data source and report editors.

How parameters work

Note that the report editors can access all the data controlled by the parameters. This feature allows editors to request different data from your defaults. Understanding how parameters could affect reports before turning on this feature is important.

Furthermore, some parameters can return sensitive data that you don’t want to share or even share a different schema that isn’t compatible with the existing report. You can set the parameters to return only safe data, such as weather.

How to create a parameter

You can create a parameter while still editing the report. All you need to do is select a component and then click ‘ADD A PARAMETER’, located at the bottom right. Remember to select a data source based on your desired data source.

How to create a parameter

Configure the parameter by filling in name, ID, data type, and the default values, then click save.

Configure the parameter

4. Automate your data transfers with community connectors

Although Data Studio is developed by Google, you’re not limited to only connecting with other Google products. If you want to source data from a platform that Google does not have a native connector for, you can use Community Connectors. They connect seamlessly with Google Data Studio. Here is how to connect to community connectors.

  1. Sign in to your Google Data Studio account.
  2. Click ‘Create’ then ‘Data Source’.
Create data source
  1. Scroll down to the ‘Partner Connectors’.
Partner Connectors view
  1. Select a connector and click ‘Authorize’.
Select a connector
  1. If the connecter features editable parameters, they’ll appear at the bottom. Additionally, connectors that feature custom parameters come with further instructions on the page.
  2. Use checkboxes to disallow or allow editing of the parameters in reports.
  3. Click ‘Reconnect’ in the top right.

Note that you have to click reconnect for changes to be reflected in the data source.

5. Add multiple pages to a report

You can create a single report showcasing different types of data in Google Data Studio. Take it as creating a report with multiple pages in other editing programs such as Microsoft Word. For instance, you can add a summary and an overview page and then use a single page to group data from various sources. 

There are two ways to create a page on Google Data Studio. One, you can click the page, then ‘new page’. Alternatively, if you want to continue with the same format, click the page and then duplicate the page.

This will copy all the existing data and charts to the new page and save you the trouble of adding them manually. Duplicating the page can be very useful, especially when comparing data depending on different date ranges.

Add multiple pages

After creating the page, you can use the current page settings to change the style and data sources. You can also edit the predefined fields to match your requirements better. It’s important to name your pages so that your clients and stakeholders can easily understand the page’s intent.

6. Add date range filters

Date range filtering is a very critical feature for marketers and analysts. It’s the best way to find out how something has been performing in a given period. The data you obtain from date range filters can help you make data-driven decisions. If you want to see how your campaigns have been performing, then you need to group data by date ranges.

How to add date range filters

Step 1: Select the filter icon > date range filter

date range filter

Step 2: Draw the shape anywhere on the report 

Draw the shape anywhere on the report

Step 3: Use the style tab to change how it should appear on the report

Use the style tab

Just like with other tools such as Google Analytics, you can set a predefined period such as the last 30 days, seven days, or six months. This is what users will see first before adding their filters. Google Data Studio adds the filter to all elements in the report.

But, sometimes, you may need to show different date ranges on some elements, such as tables and charts. You can solve this issue by limiting the filter feature to a group or a single element. Group the elements together first by following these steps:

  1. Highlight the charts that you want to group
  2. Right-click and select group. You can also achieve this by clicking ‘Arrange’ then ‘Group’

After successfully grouping the items, the data filter will only appear on the selected elements. By default, the date range filter only appears on a single page. If you’re creating a multiple-page report, you can make the date range filter appear on every page by following these steps:

  1. Click the date range icon
  2. Select ‘Align’
  3. Click the ‘Make report level’ menu

The date range will now show on all pages of your report automatically. It’s important to note that date range filters can only be implemented on data sources that feature date dimensions. This feature won’t work for data sources without any dates associated.

7. Create advanced dimensions using calculated fields

You can achieve endless opportunities on Google Data Studio by applying formulas which are also known as calculated fields. They allow you to manipulate text, and geographic information, evaluate data using branching logic and perform arithmetic.

The calculated field results are displayed for every row of data. These calculated fields can be metrics and dimensions, and they show up as new fields. For instance, you can use a formula such as CONCAT() to combine text from different sources, just like in Excel.

There are two types of calculated fields, which are determined by where you place them—chart-specific or data source-specific. Both have their own advantages over the others.

Difference between chart-specific and data source-specific calculated fields:

Chart-specificData source-specific
You can create calculated fields based on blended data.You can’t use it with blended data.
You can add fields quickly without the need to access the data sources.You need access to the data source to add calculated fields.
Only report editors can create chart-specific calculated fields.Only data source editors can create data source-specific calculated fields.
It can only be applied to a specific table or chart.It can be used on any report connected to the data source.

You can achieve three main things using the calculated field: 

Basic Mathematical Computations: You can use operators such as Addition (+), Subtraction (-), Division (/), and Multiplication (*).

Manipulate data with functions: Examples of functions include;  DATETIME_DIFF(Start Date, End Date), SUM(Quantity), ROUND(Revenue Per User, 0), ROUND(Revenue Per User, 0),TOCITY(Criteria ID, “CRITERIA_ID”)…

Branching logic: You can use CASE statements to achieve if/then/else.

Wrap up

Google Data Studio has endless features to improve your data analysis and marketing campaigns. Some features help you complete basic tasks, while others help unlock the full potential of Google Data Studio and enhance your data stories. The advanced features might take some time to learn, but they’re absolutely worth it. Increase your efficiency and accuracy and make your work easier by using these features.

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About the author

Lachezar is the Founder and CEO of SkildLabs, an eLearning company focused on creating better learning experiences with the power of education and technology. 

From digital marketing at Microsoft to audience analytics in the marketing agency world—WPP and IPG—Lachezar combines data and design in unusual ways to tell stories that impact people’s lives.

In addition, Lachezar is a best-selling author on the Udemy and LinkedIn Learning platforms and the owner of datastudio.ca, a blog offering tips and techniques on data and visual storytelling.

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