Imagine a world in which your website’s analytics turned into a chart that you can easily scan and understand.

Enter Google Data Studio. This free data visualization tool lets you illustrate your data in interactive reports. This post will explain why Data Studio is useful, provide resources to help you create your report and offer 8 bonus tips for more powerful reporting.

Why Data Studio Is So Useful

Google Data Studio saves countless hours pulling and understanding data. Capabilities include:

  • Bring in data from all of Google’s data connectors as well as supported partners like Supermetrics, Botify and more. Developers can also create custom data connections for their own platforms.
  • All your data in one dashboard, so you don’t have to pull multiple reports.
  • The reports automatically update when your data does.
  • Helps your team visualize your website’s data in a digestible way, which helps you understand trends and anomalies faster.

How to Set Up Google Data Studio

Who better to provide a step-by-step process to setting up your GDS reports than Google themselves?

Google offers a free, comprehensive video training for beginners which will teach you everything you need to know about building your report.

Check out the training here.

And because I’m a big proponent of diversifying your information sources… here are a couple more resources:

8 Quick Tips for Better Reporting

Google Data Studio has some pretty cool capabilities, if you know where to look. Take a step beyond the basics and try these 8 tips to power up your reports:

1. Determine KPIs with your client

No report is created equal. Each business will have its own set of performance metrics, and they will measure your success based on these as well. What one client cares about may be the furthest thing from another.

For instance, I have a client whose KPIs do not involve blog traffic, so obviously, we do not include it in our report. However, another client is interested only in blog metrics. So their Google Data Studio reports use many of the same tables, but completely different data.

Before you even open GDS, sit down with your client or team to discuss goals for the quarter or year. Then, tailor sections or pages of your report to hone in specifically on those goals and the metrics that impact them.

Note: A company’s set goals should not stop you from looking into their analytics for more insights. If you’re seeing that 20% of their conversions are assisted by the blog, that’s worth bringing up. That could influence their next goal-setting meeting.

2. Beware of sampling

Not the most glamorous tip, but inaccurate data is always something to be aware of.

If you cross-reference your Google Analytics data with Data Studio’s and notice some slight discrepancies, that may be due to sampling. In this case, be transparent with your team or client, and stay consistent with your data sources.

3. Add custom filters for different site sections

You can create your own filters within a chart or table for better customization within a data source. You can simply create a filter that only includes the specific info you want.

To create a filter, click on your table or chart. Go to Data > Filter > Add a Filter > Create a Filter. From there, choose your desired field and condition.

Tip: Use RegExp to add extra flexibility to your filter. Let’s say you want to filter out any queries that contain your brand name. If your brand name is Sherlock Watson (dibs), your filter would look like Exclude > Query > RegExp Contains > sherlock|watson. If your brand has common misspellings, include those as well.

4. Add filter controls

Filter controls are one of my favorite things to add to a report, because they allow users to narrow down data more specifically.

For example, many of my clients want to know how specific URLs are performing. Using a Landing Page filter control allows users to select any page or groups of pages they want data for.

To add a filter control:

  1. Click Insert
  2. Click Filter Control
  3. Choose your Data Source, Dimension and Metric

Some common dimensions I use include Date Range, Landing Page, Device Type and Query.

5. Use Data Studio as a monitoring dashboard

If you are an agency and report on multiple clients’ sites, or if your business has multiple domains, this tip is for you.

In addition to individual, granular reports, consider creating a dashboard for a quick, high-level look at the performance of all your tracked sites.

This could include metrics like traffic performance and impressions M/M and Y/Y. This way, you can save time scanning the dashboard to check for any notable changes without having to dive into individual reports.

6. Add chart interaction filters

Make your report a digital playground by adding interaction capabilities. This allows you to click or drag your mouse across values, and the rest of your data will reflect your selected filter.

For example, say you have a pie chart with all your traffic sources. You can click on any one source (or more using Command + Click) to see the data just for your selected sources. So if I want to see how many clicks a specific blog post gathered from my email platform, I’d click email in the pie chart.

To enable chart reports:

  1. Select a chart
  2. Click DATA
  3. Scroll to the bottom, where on the left you should see a section called Interactions
  4. Select Apply filter

7. Blend data

Here’s where things get interesting. Incorporate multiple data sources inside one chart to show how different KPIs relate to one another.

For instance, you could show a graph on how impressions relate to traffic, or how nonbrand paid clicks correlate with branded organic clicks.

To quickly blend data:

  1. Create two data sets you want to compare
  2. Select both graphs (Command + Click)
  3. Right-click and select “Blend data”

The third table that appears will have your combined data. Here’s an example of blending impressions with organic traffic from Google Search Console:

Note: The data source does not have to be the same to blend data. If the two fields share a dimension, they are compatible for blending. Check out more examples on data blending here.

8. Use Calculated Fields

Calculated fields let you create your own metrics and dimensions from existing data fields. For instance, you can perform basic math, apply capitalization for consistency, and even use “if/then/else” logic to group data. Here’s an example (thanks to Ben Collins for the idea):

These Mediums are inconsistent in capitalization, and in this case, two “organic” mediums are listed.

To make the style more consistent:

  1. Click on your table
  2. Click Data
  3. Click Medium
  4. Click Create Field
  5. Name your field. I usually go with the same name as the dimension/metric I’m updating
  6. Add your formula. Find the full function list here to see your options
  7. Select your type that you want the data presented in (text, percentage, etc.)

And don’t worry, this won’t override your existing Medium dimension – it simply acts as a rule that you can choose to apply. Check out the difference:

No more inconsistent capitalization or duplicate mediums. Fun bonus: once the two organic mediums were combined together, the metric I chose (users) also added together. Hats off to you, Data Studio.

More GDS Resources

So there you have it: a few of my favorite bonus tips for reporting that’s kicked up a notch. Of course, there are many, many more awesome Data Studio tips floating around in the digital universe. Here are a few more resources if you enjoyed these tips: