Google has a wide range of free tools for business users. One of the most popular tools within its product suite is Google Data Studio.
If you’re looking for an easy way to visualize data, analyze information, and improve decision-making in your business, Google Data Studio is an excellent solution.
While there are lots of other tools on the market that provide similar features, it’s tough to beat this free solution from Google.
This in-depth guide explains everything you need to know about Google Data Studio, including how it works, what you can do with it, and how to get started. It’s the perfect resource for any beginner or business user that wants to take their data to the next level.
What is Google Data Studio?
Google Data Studio is a free data visualization platform.
It’s a simple way to sync data from multiple sources into a single source of truth for reporting. This enables business users to create visual dashboards and informative reports—perfect for analysis, presentations, and sharing.
As a business intelligence solution, Google Data Studio can transform raw data into valuable insights that are easier to interpret. This helps organizations get more from their data, reducing risks and making more informed decisions to reach goals.
Here’s a sample report that shows information about the site traffic to a marketing website:
What Can You Do With Google Data Studio?
Google Data Studio can be a valuable tool for different departments within an organization. Business intelligence encompasses data from multiple sources with different end goals and use-cases in mind.
With that said, lots of people seem to use Google Data Studio for marketing purposes.
Data Studio makes it easy to:
- Create custom graphics, tables, and charts
- Pull specific data sets and numbers from any source
- Add text to graphics to add clarity to the report
- Adjust colors and fonts
- Add branding to the reports with your business logo or your client’s logo
- Use videos to explain sections of the report
- Share reports with your team, stakeholders, and clients
Here are some of the top use cases of Google Data Studio:
Marketers love using Google Data Studio to analyze data. The tool makes it really easy to consolidate data from multiple sources into a single report—allowing for an in-depth analysis on a single screen.
For example, you could create a custom report that evaluates your site traffic data, online sales, paid media performance, and social media performance. Then you can look at those reports to see if there is a correlation between different data sources.
Lots of marketers rely on Google Data Studio to monitor key performance metrics. Rather than trying to make sense of raw data on a spreadsheet or database, you can simply pull the numbers you need and compile them into customizable dashboards.
Data Studio eliminates the need to bounce back and forth between multiple platforms to check on KPIs from different sources.
Since all of the data is updated in real-time, you can keep an eye on your performance metrics at-a-glance without having to create a new dashboard every time.
Reporting and Visualization
Data Studio reports are highly shareable. This means it’s a popular choice for reporting purposes.
For example, maybe a marketing manager wants to share a monthly report with the VP of Marketing. Or maybe the VP of Sales needs to share quarterly data with the C-Suite.
SEO firms can even create custom dashboards to share with their clients—visualizing the impact of different SEO strategies.
The possibilities here are really endless.
How Google Data Studio Works
The outputs and reports from Data Studio might seem complex. And while they may be true for what’s happening behind the scenes, the concept is actually very straightforward.
Google Data Studio syncs with data sources from different platforms. This allows you to create different graphs, tables, and visual reports.
Then you can customize all of the dashboards according to your specific needs and goals.
The cool part about Google Data Studio is its dynamic reporting. So once you set up a dashboard, the information will be updated automatically—as soon as the data from the main source is updated.
Let’s break down the main components of how Google Data Studio works:
The tool relies on data connectors to pull information from different platforms and then consolidates everything under one roof.
Google Data Studio supports more than 800+ data sets from 650+ connectors. Some popular options include:
- Google Ads
- Google Analytics
- Google My Business
- Google Search Console
- Instagram Insights
- Facebook Ads
- YouTube Analytics
- Google Sheets
- Constant Contact
It’s worth noting that while Google Data Studio is 100% free, you may have to pay for third-party connectors if you’re trying to pull data from a non-Google platform.
Data Transformation and Data Visualization
This is really where Google Data Studio shines. You can use it to take raw data from any source and put it into a dashboard or report that allows you to interpret something meaningful.
It does all of the number-crunching behind the scenes, and you can really bend and transform the data to get an end value that’s aligned with your goals.
You can use Data Studio to apply math functions, add dimensions, create custom formulas, and apply arithmetic operations.
The data visualization aspect makes everything neat and tidy, packaged into an easily digestible report. You can create different types of charts within a dashboard or report, including:
- Scatter plots
- Bar graphs
- Combo chart
- Pie charts
- Pivot tables
- Time series
- Bullet charts
You can even apply custom data controls to anyone who views the report. For example, you can add dimension filters, like a geographic region to the report in the form of a checkbox. This means you don’t have to create multiple reports for different areas. Whoever is reading the report can simply select the geographic filter, and the report will adjust automatically.
These interactive reports provide a pleasant experience for anyone viewing them.
As previously mentioned, Google Data Studio makes it easy to share data and reports with just a few clicks. It all depends on how you want the data delivered.
You can set it up so that other users can edit the dashboards or share reports with view-only access.
Google Data Studio also allows for real-time team collaboration. Similar to how Google Drive works, team members can all edit and make changes to the same report, and everything will be automatically saved.
If you’re presenting a report to a client or stakeholder, those users can get an email notification that includes an access link—always up to date with the latest data.
Getting Started With Google Data Studio
Now that you understand how Google Data Studio works, you can start to use it for your business. Here are some basic steps you need to know to get started:
Step 1 — Set Up Your Account
Navigate to Google Data Studio. From here, you’ll be prompted to set up your account by answering some basic information about yourself.
In addition to your location and company name, you’ll also need to set up your email preferences.
Step 2 — Go Through the Tutorial Report
The easiest way to learn how to use Google Data Studio is through an interactive tutorial.
From your main Data Studio dashboard, the Tutorial Report should be one of the first things you see on the screen:
Take some time to click through the reports and see how interactive things are.
There are sticky notes on the screen telling you to try different actions, such as changing a data range or sorting a table.
Step 3 — Connect Your Data Sources
You don’t need to connect every data source from the beginning. Start with something simple just to get yourself acclimated with the tool and how it works.
I recommend pulling data from a Google source. This ensures the entire process is free.
Most marketers start with Google Analytics. This is a straightforward way to get the ball rolling and build some momentum.
Step 4 — Create Your First Report
Once you have some data to work with, you can turn that information into an actionable report. You can start with a blank report and customize everything from there or select a template.
You’ll see templates across categories like:
- Google Analytics
- Google Sheets
- YouTube Analytics
- Google Ads
- Search Console
There’s a template for everything. Here are some of the templates related to Google Analytics:
Once you’ve found a template that aligns with your goal, you can add your own data and replace that information with the sample data.
After everything has been set up to your liking, you can share the report as well.
Alternatively, you can continue adding new data sources and adding depth to the report. Or you can create new reports for different use cases.
By now, you should have a firm grasp of what Google Data Studio does and how it works.
If you follow the quick tutorial outlined above, you can even get your first report generated within a few minutes.
I don’t expect you to become a Google Data Studio expert overnight. Like anything else, mastering this tool takes some time and practice. But overall, it’s really user-friendly. So you shouldn’t have a tough time figuring things out.
Don’t be afraid to play around with your dashboards and try new things. This will really help you get the most out of your data through visualizations and reporting.