Now fully out of Beta and into the wild, I’ve spent the last couple of months digging into Google Data Studio to get to grips with the platform and assess its strengths and weaknesses for marketing reporting and analysis. In this post, I’ll be looking at the topic of data visualisation and how marketers can use Google Data Studio to create more effective dashboards for better insights.
What is Google Data Studio and why should I care?
Google Data Studio is a free data visualisation and reporting platform that enables digital marketers to connect multiple data sources to a single dashboard for simpler analysis, collaboration and reporting. While that might not sound particularly exciting, it’s worth unpacking further. Anyone can learn how to pull a report from Google Analytics.
Being able to translate data into a concise, relevant and actionable insight is another matter entirely. This is where Google Data Studio can help you improve your analytics workflow in a number of ways.
Your marketing data in one place
One of the biggest draws of Google Data Studio is its quick setup and low barrier to entry. Hooking up data sources such as Google Analytics, Search Console or AdWords is incredibly easy. Within minutes you can have a report providing an overview of your key metrics across each of these data sources, removing the need to jump between windows, rely on Excel exports or worry about API integrations.
For me, the ease of these integrations is a massive plus. There are obviously a number of dashboard tools like Geckoboard and Klipfolio which do a similar job, but the simple fact Data Studio integrates with your existing Google products through the use of your email address makes set up totally painless.
Granted, there are limitations and I'm not suggesting it's perfect. If you’re planning to draw upon any segments from a session-heavy Google Analytics account, you won't know whether or not your data is being sampled which is a flaw, something which needs addressed going forward.
Create effective data visualisations (without a designer)
Google Data Studio’s simple drag and drop framework makes it incredibly easy to start layering up your required tables, charts and map data, literally within minutes of creating an account. Forget having to compile your SEO report in Excel before graphing them out - tell Google Data Studio the metrics and dimensions required and let it do the hard work for you.
While Google Analytics’ Custom Dashboards do much of what Data Studio does, the ease with which reports can be segmented, filtered and styled makes Google Data Studio stand head and shoulders above GA in terms of visualising datasets. But perhaps the bigger draw is in the quality of the visualisation on offer. You can really customise your report format, importing imagery alongside the standard options of graphs, pie charts, metric scores and so on giving you the ability to make reports look fantastic.
Streamline your data analysis
In my experience, too many marketers fail to recongise the benefit of dashboards and instead default to Google Analytics' standard reports to kind of 'rinse and repeat' their analysis month in, month out. My advice in this situation would be to automate as much of your reporting as possible. While automation is obviously possible in Google Analytics, Google Data Studio allows you to take the customisation aspect much further and help you dig into complex datasets with ease.
Once you've spend the time configuring your data sources, metrics and dimensions then the time-consuming bit of your job is pretty much over with, ultimately giving you more time to analyse the data collected. The date-picker makes it incredibly easy compare and contrast key metrics trends over time without the effort of having to set up the report each and every time enabling faster, more intuitive analysis to take place.
The same data, viewed differently
I personally find that the process of visualising a dataset through a variety of lenses help me identify trends and anomalies within it which I might otherwise have missed. When it comes to Google Analytics, I find that viewing data through the same flat table layout again and again can lead to a kind of ‘data blindness’. Switching up how we view data can have a big impact on how we interpret and ‘see’ the meaning within it. This is where I’ve found Google Data Studio most helpful; inspiring me to think about the relationship between key metrics and dimensions differently, allowing new insights to come to the fore.
Go and get started
Hopefully this short primer has given you some idea of what's possible with Google Data Studio and data visualisation. The best thing I can suggest is that you to take some time to experiment with the tool, try out different visualisations and reports and find out for yourself what’s possible and what suits you and your needs.