May 31, 2019

Google Data Studio: the ultimate guide for marketers

23-MINUTE READ | By Misty Faucheux

Data VisualizationLooker Studio (Google Data Studio)

[ Updated Nov 7, 2023 ]

As marketers, we have to justify our successes, and the most comprehensive way to do that is with marketing reporting.

Typically, marketing reports are created in products like Excel or Google Sheets, and whilst spreadsheets are powerful reporting and analysis tools, if you don’t present the results in a simple and understandable way they can become a numbers dump. In short, they might make sense to you, but not your stakeholders.

Reports don’t mean much if they’re not readable. Visuals make it easier to showcase your important KPIs, but with the above mentioned systems, this can be extremely time-consuming. There are tools, however, that make it easier. One such tool is Google Data Studio.

In this article we’ll provide you with a comprehensive overview to Google Data Studio for marketers so by the time you read this, you’ll be creating interactive dashboards and beautiful reports in a breeze.

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What is Google Data Studio?

Data Studio is one of the many tools offered by Google as part of the Google Marketing Platform that lets marketers create comprehensive visual reports and dashboards from their numbers. We run a lot of different campaigns using Google platforms, including monitoring SEO with Analytics or creating paid search campaigns with Ads.

Google Data Studio connects with these different platforms to create more appealing, easy-to-use, customizable dashboards that easily display your objectives. These dashboards are more visually appealing than the ones that you can create in Analytics, and you can also add more widgets. And, with products like Supermetrics, you can add all your marketing platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.

The benefits of Google Data Studio

The major benefit of Data Studio is that it’s extremely user-friendly. While it might not be as robust as some other tools on the market, it’s easy to learn, and Google has a ton of tutorials to help you create comprehensive reports.

As mentioned, it allows for more metrics than Analytics, which is important if there’s more than you need to say than the handful of widgets that you can add to the Analytics dashboard.

Like a spreadsheet, you can also do calculated metrics and dimensions. For example, if you want to see the total conversions across all your different campaigns, you can create a formula for that in Data Studio.

Another major benefit is blended data. As a default, your charts will only be pulled from a single data source. But with a blended data source, you can create charts from several different data sources. For example, if you wanted conversions from more than your Google Ads campaigns, you could create a blended data source and add the ones from DoubleClick as well.

In addition to the above, Google Data Studio reports are also:

  • Interactive
  • Fully customizable
  • Come with pre-built templates
  • Free
  • Offer unlimited Google Analytics reporting

How to automate marketing reporting in Google Data Studio

The way that Data Studio works is that it connects to you data sources and automatically pulls in your data, without you needing to remember to refresh your data. You can also pull in data from virtually any date range. You can also do all of this in real-time, meaning you’ll get the most up-to-date data possible.

Once your reports are setup, you don’t need to worry about manually updating the data. The connectors will continually refresh your metrics and dimensions. All you have to do is change the date range and pull the new report.

Data Studio reports are also easily shareable. You can assign users permissions, allowing them to view or edit your reports in the same way you would for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Google Data Studio connectors

Google Data Studio requires connectors to pull in data from your different platforms. You access these connectors via the Connect to Data tab in Data Studio.

Google Data Studio connectors

By default, Data Studio has over 160 connectors. These connectors allow Data Studio to directly access your data and refresh it. Once you connect to your data, you don’t need to worry about manually updating your data. Data Studio will do it for you.

One thing to note: If you’re connecting to a Google property, the connector will mostly likely be free. Other connectors from third-party companies may not be free.  For example, Supermetrics comes with free templates to easily and quickly create new reports. If you only wish to run Google Analytics reports, you can connect to Data Studio for free.

How to connect your marketing platforms to Google Data Studio

Like everything else with Data Studio, it’s pretty straightforward to add a connector. Simply log into your Data Studio account, and navigate to DATA SOURCES. Then, follow the below instructions:

  • Click the “plus” sign.
  • Find the connector that you want to use – if it isn’t listed in the first few, do a search for the connector.
  • Click “Select”.
  • At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a button that says “Authorize”.
Google Analytics connector for Google Data Studio
  • At this point, a pop-up screen will appear telling you that Google Data Studio wants access to your campaign – click “Allow”.
Authorize Google Data Studio connector
  • You’ll be directed back to the main screen, and you can select the profiles that you want to add to Data Studio.
  • Once you select the right profile, click Connect in the upper right-hand corner.  Your data will now populate, and you can create a report from it.
Populate data in Google Data Studio

For every platform that you’re using, you will have to do this. But once you’re done adding your connectors, you don’t have to worry about refreshing the data.

How to connect Google Sheets with Google Data Studio

Many marketers use Google Sheets for reporting purposes. If you’re already storing data in one of these spreadsheets (for example, your Facebook Ads data or Pages insights), you can connect Google Sheets to Data Studio following a similar process to the one previously listed. To add Google Sheets, follow the below instructions:

  • Go to DATA SOURCES, and click the plus sign.
  • Select Google Sheets from the data sources list.
  • Pick a Spreadsheet and Worksheet that you want to add, you should see every spreadsheet connected to your account. If you have many, you’ll have to scroll down to the right one.
  • Now, you’ll see all the dimensions (green highlighted) and metrics (blue highlighted). You can manipulate these fields by changing the names of fields, disabling the ones that you don’t want to show up and adding calculated fields. If you wish to add a metric, click the three dots next to a dimension, and pick one of the functions.
Google Analytics connector for Google Data Studio
  • Change the name of the data source to one that makes more sense to you. Data Studio creates a generic name that isn’t always the most descriptive.
  • Once the sheet is connected, you can select Create Report to add the report.
Connect Google Sheets with Google Data Studio

How to connect Google BigQuery with Google Data Studio

If you use Google BigQuery and store your marketing data in a data warehouse, you’ll be happy to know that we built a BigQuery connector that lets you visualize all your marketing data that’s stored in BigQuery in Data Studio. The connector provides greater flexibility than Google’s native BigQuery connector since it fetches and combines data from multiple tables. It also works with data tables that are not from Supermetrics, provided you have appropriately named the fields. To visualize your Google BigQuery data in Google Data Studio, follow our simple step-by-step instructions.

How to create marketing reports & dashboards in Google Data Studio

After you connect all your ad, analytics and/or social accounts to Data Studio, it’s time to start creating reports. Think about the purpose of your report/dashboard. You want to be able to glean actionable insights from it. Also, be consistent with your campaign naming conventions (more info in this handy post) so you can easily create columns of combined data in Data Studio. If need be, change the names before importing the data into the report.

To start building your report, follow the below steps:

Click on a Blank report.

Create marketing dashboards in Google Data Studio

Select the Data Source that you want to use.

Create marketing dashboards in Google Data Studio

Click Add to Report.

Create marketing dashboards in Google Data Studio

Add charts to your report by clicking Add a chart in the top menu. You can select from 30 different charts.

Create marketing dashboards in Google Data Studio

Add your dimensions and metrics from which you want to build your chart or graph. At the bottom of this menu, you’ll see Filter. Add a filter to reduce the amount of data shown on your report. For example, if you’re running a multi-city campaign, but you only want to report information for one city, you could filter out the rest of the cities. You must use naming conventions to keep track of your different filters.

Create marketing dashboards in Google Data Studio

Pick a date range. For example, if it’s a monthly report, you’ll want that report to only reflect that time frame.

Create marketing dashboards in Google Data Studio

Feel free to experiment with different layouts. You can nearly fully customize any portion of your report. Once you have the report setup the way that you want, you can now share it with your team.

Google Data Studio templates

If you don’t want to take the time to manually create templates from scratch, you can leverage third-party templates from sites like Supermetrics. Supermetrics has a gallery of pre-made Google Data Studio templates for PPC, SEO, Social & Analytics that you can use right away. Simply select a template that you like, and hit the Use Template button.

Next, pick the Data Source report that you want to copy over:

Google Data Studio templates

Once the report is imported into your new template, you can further customize the template. Everything in the report can be adjusted based on your needs. You can change headings, delete boxes and more.

How to share Google Data Studio reports and dashboards

To share the report, click on the + symbol in the upper right-hand corner. Enter the names that you want to send the report to, or get a shareable link.

Facebook Ads Google Data Studio template

You can also create a PDF of your report to be delivered to certain people automatically. Click on Schedule email delivery, which is the icon that looks like a clock.

How to share a Google Data Studio dashboard

Select the people to whom you want to send the report, the date, time and how often you’d like it to repeat. Finally, click Schedule.

How to share a Google Data Studio dashboard

Google Data Studio best practices

While Google Data Studio is relatively easy to use, beginners should use templates at first. It will make the report building go faster, and you won’t have to manually set up each and every chart or graph. Once you use these for a bit, then feel free to start manipulating them or creating your own. The following tips are also good to keep in mind when using Google Data Studio.

  • Make your reports visually pleasing. That’s one of the major benefits of this system over standard spreadsheets: you can make the reports more attractive and interesting to review. But you should also add context. A chart without an explanation is just a chart. You can customize any element by selecting the Style tab on the right-hand menu. This allows you to change colors, font sizes and fonts, and even add headers.
  • Connect all your marketing platforms asap. Whether you plan on running reports or not, go ahead and connect all your data sources right from the start. It will make it quicker to launch a report if you’ve already connected your different accounts. You don’t want to constantly be going through the process of setting up a connector unless you actually do have a new source. If you’re already in the data connector setup, it will save time in the long run.
  • Customize your reports. You can select from the two themes, but you can also create a custom report. This is especially helpful if you want to add your company’s or your client’s logo to the dashboard. For example, for every client, you could add a specialized header, add their logo color scheme and actual logo. If it’s for different departments within an organization, you could customize the heading based on their goals.
  • Schedule automatic reports. To eliminate the need to constantly go into Data Studio, schedule the reports to be sent to yourself as well as your stakeholders. If it shows up in your inbox first thing in the morning, you won’t have to waste time logging into Data Studio. You’ll have all the data that you need as soon as you need it. If you need to do analysis for a meeting, for example, you can quickly scan the data, pull your personal insights and provide actionable plans – before you even grab a coffee.

If you want additional tips & tricks, check out our article with 4 Rules For Creating The Perfect Marketing Reporting Dashboard.

Google Data Studio vs. Tableau vs. other dashboard tools

Many marketers often need to choose from multiple types of reporting tools. Of course, spreadsheets are the go-to, especially when it comes to analysis, but visualization platforms like Data Studio really come into their own when it comes to marketing reporting.

But how does Google Data Studio stack up against other reporting tools?

Let’s start with Tableau, which is a popular business intelligence tool. It creates visually stunning reports, and you can dissect data extremely well with it. It doesn’t natively integrate with Google products, but you can store data in a data warehouse. Like Data Studio, you have to use connectors to pull data from non-native sources.

One challenge with Tableau is that it can take a long time to setup everything. Users have reported that it can take up to 45 minutes to execute a query, especially if dealing with large data sources. On the other hand, you can add your Data Studio connectors and create your reports in minutes. Further, Data Studio tends to be a lot easier to use, especially when it comes to adding custom dimensions and metrics.

Other products like SAP Lumira, Databox and others tended to be more expensive than Data Studio. For example, based on ratings, SAP Lumira was easier to use and setup, and the quality of support was better. But it didn’t meet everyone’s requirements as far as needs, and users didn’t feel like the report interface and graphs and charts were comprehensive enough. It is good for creating benchmarks for different business segments, and it’s also hosted on Google, allowing both internal and external access. It also requires connectors like Data Studio, and there’s a wide community of them.

Databox slightly edged Data Studio in overall ratings, but not by much. The reporting offerings in this one also left something to be desired. They were great for high-level reporting, but not for getting down to the minute details – something that Data Studio does well. Once you understand how the tool works, it can be extremely powerful, but there is a steep learning curve. It can also sync with many different platforms, including Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, HubSpot and more.

Megalytic was one of the few that customers reported was easier to use and setup than Data Studio. Like Data Studio, Megalytic has built-in templates, and you can quickly create and share reports using automated data refreshes. You can also import different data sources and customize reports. One of the major differences between the two is that Megalytic has widgets to automatically add Facebook Pages and Facebook ads data into your reports without connectors. You also don’t have to log into each of your Google accounts to add data sources. You can simply choose which profile you want to use.

Google Data Studio pricing

Google Data Studio is free to use as part of the Google Marketing Platform. There is a paid version available as part of Google Analytics 360, which starts at $150,000 per year. Read more about Google Data Studio pricing!

Getting the most From Google Data Studio

While these steps will help you get started, you can do more with Data Studio. For example, if you wish to add a summary page to your report, you can add multiple pages to a single report or use formulas to create more advanced dimensions. Experiment with calculated fields and filters. You can even create responsive chart filters, which allow you to show the information for a single dimension throughout every chart. And, this is easily done by just selecting a dimension within the chart or graph.

You should start by building a standard report with all of your different campaigns and then experiment with blended data or other advanced features to make your report more robust. One thing to always keep in mind is that you should focus on your audience. And, it does make sense to focus your report or dashboard around one or max of two KPIs. You’ll be better able to showcase your successes, and it will make the report easier to understand for your audience.

To help you take the next steps, we’ve collected a series of articles and resources on Google Data Studio below. And if you’d like to take Supermetrics for spin, start your 14-day free trial of Supermetrics for Data Studio to level up your marketing reporting!

About Misty Faucheux

Misty Faucheux is an Integrated Online Marketing Specialist at Faucheux Enterprises and a guest writer for Supermetrics. She is a digital marketer, specializing in SEO, SEM, content marketing/writing and social ads. Misty helps companies develop a cohesive online marketing strategy that directly addresses their overall business goals and objectives. You can find her on TwitterLinkedInInstagram and Flickr.

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