Google Data Studio offers advanced reporting visualization that includes customizable dashboards, charts and graphs. While the product is only a couple of years old, marketers have rush to embrace the platform since it allows them to show different data in a more visually appealing way. Yet, most people only scratch the surface of the capabilities of the platform. In this article, we break down ways to make your reports more meaningful to both you and your stakeholders and clients with some advanced tips and techniques.
Establish a strategy – before doing anything
It’s easy to get lost in Data Studio, especially if you don’t have a goal in mind. So, put together a strategy before you even begin adding your first connectors or importing data. Think about what you actually need. You might even want to talk to your stakeholders and find out what they really want to see in your reports.
Too much data can be overwhelming to everyone. So, it’s important to really understand what will address your goals as well as fulfill the needs of your audience. The report should also answer how insights can be put into action for future campaigns or pivots.
Adding date range filters
Most marketers want to see how campaigns are performing over a certain time period. With Date Range filters, you can group data by specific date ranges.
To add a Date Range filter, you can select the icon, and then draw a shape on the report where you want the filter added. Within the Date Range Properties panel, there is a “Data” tab. Use the default date range selection. In the “Style” tab, you can change the look of how the data appears on the report. Similar to Google Analytics, you can select predefined options like Last 7 days or Last quarter, or you can customize the data.
One issue with the Date Range filters is that it will by default add the filter to every element on your page. Yet, you may want other charts or tables to have different date ranges. So, how do you correct this?
The best way to ensure that your Date Range filter is applied only to certain elements is by limiting the filter to either a single element or a group of them. First, you must group the elements together. To do this, follow the below steps.
- Select all the charts that you want to group.
- Right click on the set, and select “Group”. Alternatively, you can click on the Arrange menu, and then click “Group”.
Once you group charts, tables, etc., the data filter will only be applied to the selected elements. To change the date of certain filters, you would apply the same principle. Select the icon, and then draw the shape over the widgets that you wish to change. Be sure to group the widgets that you want to add the filter to first.
To take this one step further, you can also add the Date Range filter to every page of a multi-page report. By default, the date will only appear as a page-level object, meaning that it will only appear on the page where you add it. To make it appear on every page in your report, do the following:
- Start editing the report.
- Select the Date Range control icon.
- Click “Align”, and then “Make Report-level” menu.
You’ll now see the date range on every page.
One note about Date Range filters: These can only be applied to data sources that have a date dimensions. If your data doesn’t have any dates associated with it, this won’t work.
Besides the date range filers, you can also add filter controls for other fields as well, including:
You can find the filter controls in the top right corner of the canvas.
You can also add Object filters, which can be applied to a single visualization. To do this, select the table or chart that you want to filter. And, then, do the following:
- Go to the visualization properties.
- Then, data and filter.
- Add the filter that you want to apply to your chart or table.
You should remember that the filer will override any existing filter that you have, but you can reuse the filter to other parts of your report. You can see all your filter by going to Resource and Manage filters. You can also create filters here and then apply them to sections of your report.
Adding multiple pages into a single report
As mentioned, Data Studio allows you to showcase different types of data into a single report with the use of pages. You can treat these like multi-page reports in Word or similar programs. For example, you could add an overview or summary page, and group like data from different data sources on a single page.
You can generate pages by clicking Page, and then one of the options. If you like the format of the page on which you are currently working, then you can duplicate the page and simply edit the other content.
You can also add a page within the toolbar simply by clicking the “Add a page” button.
Both sections allow you to easily create new pages as well as navigate to the page of your choice.
Once you produce your pages, you can change the Data Sources and Style of the page within the “Current Page Settings”. When you click “Select Data Source”, you’ll be able to scroll down to see all your integrated data sources and add them.
If you want the new page to look like the first page, then you should duplicate the page instead. This will copy all your existing charts and data into the new page. This might be handy if you want to compare different date ranges within a single report. Or, you can edit the data to better match your goals. Either way, you’ll have some predefined fields and charts already added to your new page.
Always label your pages. This way, your stakeholders and clients will know what each page is for and add context to the new pages.
Add blended data fields
Data Studio lets you import data from all your different campaigns, but that’s going to be a “so what” if you can’t compare and contrast this data – which is truly the beauty of the platform. Within the past year, Data Studio introduced blended fields, which allows you to combine the data of different platforms as long as they have a shared data point. This is known as the “key”.
Think of it this way: Let’s stay that you’re comparing data from a Yahoo Gemini Campaign with a Google Ads campaign. While the names of fields might be slightly different on the platforms, they’re basically the same thing: clicks, conversions, impressions, etc. If your shared data points have the same names, you can combine the data into a single field.
Now, you can create a comprehensive paid search report that shows the whole picture of how your marketing efforts are working. It’s pretty easy to setup blended fields. Just be sure to start with your primary data source and then add the secondary ones.
To read a comprehensive breakdown for setting up Data Studio, check out this article.
Creating advanced dimensions using formulas
In many respects, Data Studio works similar to certain Excel reports. Like Excel, you can add advanced reporting elements by using different formulas. Known as calculated fields, they allow you to manipulate the data within your data sources. These calculated fields can both dimensions and metrics, and they appear as new fields within the data source. For example, you can use a formula like REGEXP_MATCH() to return a specific value if X matches Y, or CONCAT(), which combines text from various sources.
To create a calculated field, follow the below instructions:
- Begin by editing your data source.
- At the top of the “Field” column, you’ll see a blue “plus” button. Click on it.
- Give the field a name.
- Enter the formula that you want to use for this field.
Once the field is created, you can implement the formula by applying the calculate field to a row of data within a chart.
The formulas within the calculated field use one of the following syntaxes: Functions or Arguments.
- With Functions, you can generate formulas that use mathematical equations, logical comparison, text handling and more. A formula can also use multiple functions.
- Arguments instruct he function to act upon a certain command. It requires one or additional field-expressions to be used as arguments: Some form of text that corresponds to a field name within the data source.
There are many types of functions you can use for calculated fields. The whole list can be found within Data Studio Help. One example of how you can use these fields is by cleaning up campaign tagging. We’ve all seen databases where there are different cases for say address, i.e. ADDRESS, address and Address. You can easily fix this by changing all the cases to lowercase.
You can do this by using the formula LOWER (___). For example, the easiest way to change all these to lowercase is with LOWER (Medium). It might be helpful to review the functions list, and then experiment with a few of the calculated fields. See example below:
LOWER(Source) – This would convert any source data (i.e. newsletter, AdWords, Facebook, etc.) to lower case. If you wanted to convert these back to uppercase, simply use “Upper(Source)”.
Create a theme
We call make reports for different stakeholders – whether it’s our internal team, clients or upper-level management. For all these different people, the reports are going to be slightly different – and that should be reflected in the style of the report.
Luckily, you can adjust the layout of your Data Studio report by tweaking the layout.
While the default themes are Simple and Simple Dark, you can tweak the theme to a custom one that’s designed specifically for your client. Change the chart palette, colors and more. What’s more is that you can edit the border and background, potentially adding your stakeholder’s or client’s colors.
Combine your multiple Google Analytics properties
Sometimes, you have multiple Google Analytics properties. Perhaps, you have different business units, or maybe you’re running some special marketing campaigns that have their own individual landing pages – and separate Analytics account. For whatever reason, there weren’t rolled up into a single account and now live in different properties.
This can be quite frustrating if you need to produce a single report with your results across all your different platforms. Well, Data Studio can cure this problem by combining your different Analytics properties.
With the Blended Data feature or even by importing a Google Sheet with your data, you can now create a single report for all your different Google Analytics accounts. This makes it easier to create automated reports for your individual business units or marketing efforts, and then a roll-up report for the entire organization. This eliminates all the manual labor of trying to combine the reports later on in the process.
Sometimes, you want to add more data to your existing template – without having to redo it from scratch. One advanced feature is being able to embed Google Docs, YouTube Videos, Google Sheets and webpages to your report via the URL embed feature. And, the content can be live, which makes the reports more interactive.
For example, perhaps, you’re reporting on the effectiveness of a video on YouTube, but most of your stakeholders have never seen the video. You can embed it into the report and then share the entire report with your team or organization.
To do this, go to the upper navigation bar, and click “Insert”. Then, select “URL embed”.
Select the area where you’d like to add the URL, and then paste the link into the box.
This is also a good way to personalize reports. For example, you can add the website of the client you’re currently working on or for whom you made the report.
Take advantage of the community connectors
Data Studio is developed by Google, so naturally it allows to report data from such platforms as YouTube, Google Analytics, Google AdWords and other Google-supported services. However, It is important for the marketer to see the “bigger picture” while reporting, and fetch marketing data for example from social networks and payment platforms. This is where community connectors come into place – they are easy to use and allow you to effortlessly to pull data from almost any source you need into Google Data Studio. Supermetrics offers 21+ high-quality connectors, which you can explore here.
Google Data Studio is an effective tool within the marketing arsenal. With it still being relatively new, however, most of us have barely scratched the surface of what can be done. Understanding some of the advanced capabilities of the product will enable you to produce more robust reports.
Before adding these items to existing reports, you may, however, wish to experiment with a dummy template. Nothing is worse than accidentally erasing or ruining existing data because of a bad function. Once you perfect your template, you can duplicate the processes into existing or new reports.
This article was updated on August 13th 2019 and originally published on July 31st 2017.