Get more from your marketing data with Google Data Studio

Now out of Beta, I’ve spent the last couple of months digging into Google Data Studio to get to grips with the platform and get a sense of its strengths and weaknesses for reporting and analysis. In this post, I’ll be sharing a few pointers to help get digital marketers started on integrating the product’s strengths into their workflow.

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 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 and 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.

You don’t need to be 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 accounts. 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.

While Google Analytics’ Custom Dashboards can 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 this respect. 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.

Speed up your data analysis

Too many marketers use a kind of ‘rinse and repeat’ approach when it comes to data analysis, relying on Google Analytics standard reports month in month out. This is far too time consuming and labour intensive to carry out on a regular basis. Google Data Studio helps speed up your workflow immensely by providing access to more detailed, ‘living’ dashboards. Once you spend the time configuring your data sources, metrics and dimensions then the hard part is over with. 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, a different approach

In the same way that data visualisation can empower you to deliver more visually impactful reports, so too can the act of visualising a dataset through a variety of lenses help you identify trends and anomalies within it. I find that viewing your 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.Where I’ve found Google Data Studio most helpful is in 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. The best thing I can suggest is that you to take some time experimenting with the tool, trying out different visualisations and reports to see what’s possible and what suits your own needs best. Start with a practical issue you want to know more about, then see how the tool can help you find relationships within the data to make sense of that issue.

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