Google Data Studio Tutorial! How to Automate Your Reporting Dashboards?

Data Visualization is one of the hottest areas in the market. One cannot ignore it if they are into Analytics, be it Traditional or Digital. So, what exactly do we mean by Data Visualization? Data Visualization is nothing but presenting the available data sets in a meaningful and graphical format. This enables different teams in a company to identify the patterns in their key metrics and take decisions quickly. Enter Google Data Studio.

Why do we need a data visualization tool like Google Data Studio?

Most of you, who are working in any kind of job must be creating some kind of report or a dashboard with some of your relevant key metrics to show your boss so that he/she can keep track of the performance. If you are from the Digital Marketing and Analytics team, unfortunately your full time job sometimes can be creating weekly reports, monthly reports, quarterly reports and what not. Most of the times we create these reports by pulling the data manually from different tools, paste it into an Excel sheet and create charts out of the data. Why do we do this?

Why do we create custom reports?

Because we don’t want our bosses go through a Reporting console or a tool where they can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data. So we create customized dashboards or reports with the metrics they are only interested in. For example, there is no point in showing a graph on Page load time to a Chief Marketing Officer or a chart on Campaign spend to a Chief Technology Officer. Now that we understood the importance of reports, let’s look into the difficulties (read: boring and tedious) of reporting. As a web analyst, we will have access to multiple sources of data viz., Web Analytics, Mobile Analytics, Search Console, Adwords, Ecommerce Transactions, Campaign reports and multiple offline sources.

Grabbing data from multiple sources, putting them correctly in an Excel sheet and making charts out of the data without missing anything is a nightmare. First, it is very boring and tedious. Second, it is prone to lot of errors. So, we can solve this situation using a smart tool which can automate this whole process. Google Data Studio is the exact tool which serves this purpose. We will learn how to use Google Data Studio in creating smart dashboards and automate the entire process of reporting.

Getting started with Google Data Studio

Sign into the Data Studio using this link. Once you are logged in, you will be presented with a list of ready to use templates and sample reports which can be taken as a reference in creating new ones as shown in the below screenshot.

google data studio sample dashboards

Data Sources is the heart of Google Data Studio which helps in pulling the data from different sources. At the time of this tutorial following are the supported data connectors viz., AdWords, Attribution 360, BigQuery, Cloud SQL, DCM, Google Analytics, Google Sheets, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Search Console, YouTube Analytics and File upload. These data connectors should be more than sufficient to pump your existing data into Data Studio. In this post let us see how to create a data source from your Google Analytics account and add data to the report.

Creating a new data source

When you start a new blank report, you will be presented with a new empty dashboard which looks like this.

google data studio new report

On the top you have the report name, which you can modify and the most important one is the “Create New Datasource” button on right side bottom of the screen. Once you click that button, you will be have a screen where you can create a new data source. Before that you need to select from the list of connectors. For this post, I am going to select Google Analytics. Once you select Google Analytics, Data Studio will ask you to Authorize the connection. Go ahead and authorize the connection. Once your connection is authorized, all your Google Analytics accounts will be listed down as shown in the below picture.

google data studio create data source google analytics

Select the appropriate View from the concerned account and property. Before clicking connect, do not forget to name your data source. If you create multiple data sources it becomes extremely difficult to identify which data source contains what data. The next screen looks like the below picture which contains all the list of fields that are imported. Go ahead add them to the report. After this, a popup with confirmation will be shown which you need to say okay.

google data studio create data source google analytics add to reportIntroduction to Report options

Data Studio reports mainly consists of 3 important sections. Menu bar, Side bar and the reporting area. Menu bar consists of all the options for the types of graphs and metrics you want to add to the reporting area. Side bar contains the selection of data and styling of the graphs. Other important options include sharing the report with your friends/colleagues and toggling between Edit and View Mode.

google data studio report optionsAdding metrics and graphs to the report

There are 10 types of charts you can choose from. You can see the list of Before adding a chart, let’s add a nice title to our report. You can do this by adding “Text” to your report. Once you add the Text object, on the right side bar you will notice the Text properties where you can format your text as needed. I will make the text 48px in size and bold. I will also add the rectangle object with the width of whole page and height of one unit (as shown in the grid). You can change the color of the rectangle as needed from the right side properties bar. Now your report should look something like this.

When you select one of the types of chart, you need to select the dimension and a metric related to the chart. If it is a scorecard you need to select just the metric. You have the options on the right sidebar to select the metric. In this case since we have already added a data source to the report, it is automatically selected. I will be selecting the “Sessions” metric and also add a comparison with previous period so that Data Studio shows a nice increment/decrements indicator below the metric. On the sidebar, you have two tabs namely Data and Style. Data is the place where you add dimensions. metrics, filters and Segments. Style is where you change the color of text, size of text, background color and other cosmetic features.

google-data-studio-scorecard-chart-explanation

Now, let’s add some more metrics and graphs. The most used of the charts in my experience is the score card which is a great way to show a snapshot of the metric. Let’s add the Sessions, PageViews, Average time spent, Bounce rate and Pages/session as our top metrics using the Scorecard chart type. Now, let’s add a line chart showing the trend in the pageviews on a daily basis and a table showing the top pages report. Let’s also add  a Geo Map showing which country brought the most visits. Also, let’s add a pie chart showing the split between marketing channel groups and a bar graph showing the gender ratio of the users visiting the site. Finally, let’s add one more important item to the report which is Date Range. Insert a date range object to the top left of your report. Now our report should look like below. You can share this report with anyone and they can simply change the date range on the top and see the changes in the numbers.

google-data-studio-final-report-explanation

We will look into more of the complex things you can accomplish using Data Studio in further posts. Let me know what is the most complex thing you have done using a Google Data Studio in the below comments. You can also contact me for building customized dashboards for your company.

Ram Manohar

Author: Ram Manohar

Independent Digital Analytics and Tag Management Consultant. Web Analytics Expert with 8+ years of experience. Well versed in Digital Analytics, Web Programming, WordPress and Digital marketing. Contact me for consulting!