Google Data Studio is a free product that you can use to easily create beautiful and powerful charts, dashboards, and reports. It plugs into most Google products for free (Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google Search Console, Google Sheets and more), and there are companies building connectors for other platforms all the time.
If you want to combine data across platforms, Google Data Studio makes it (relatively) easy. If you want to create reports which aren’t available in Google Analytics (or Google Ads etc), then Google Data Studio is great for that. If you want to make dashboards that people will actually use, then Google Data Studio is the right choice for you.
Best of all (after the fact that it is free), Google Data Studio is incredibly easy to use (for most things). In fact, most of the time if you can’t get the data you want from Google Analytics straight away, it makes more sense to just build a report in Google Data Studio, as it takes so little time.
For all of these reasons, I highly recommend anyone who does any sort of analytics work to try out Google Data Studio.
[Please note: I am not being paid to endorse this product, I just like it]
Saves You Time
Google Data Studio is a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor for report building (or a Data Visualisation platform if you want to get all fancy about it). This means you grab the thing you want from the menu (I’ll use the example of a pie chart here, but there are dozens of options) and place it wherever you want on the page. Then you chose what data you want to be used in that pie chart, and it shows it right away. You can resize it, change the style, and make it look however you want.
You can filter the data for just that pie chart, or add a drop-down menu so you can filter the pie chart whenever you need to. You can add a date picker so that you can decide what time frame the pie chart is showing, and you can compare that time frame to other time frames (including by showing percentage changes). You can even make it so you can use your pie chart as a filter – click on a segment and it will filter the rest of the page by what you clicked on.
You can build what would normally be considered crazy complicated reports in minutes. It is frankly ridiculous how handy this platform is. If you spend any amount of time investigating or reporting on web stats, Google Data Studio gives you the tools to do it faster (and better).
And like Google Analytics, there is a large community using Google Data Studio, and Google lets them share their workings. That means that you can find (for free) templates that you can simply plug your own data into and get advanced reports in an instant.
Combine Stats, Make Up New Stats, Combine Stats Across Platforms… Do Whatever
If you have stats coming from two different sources, you can combine them with Google Data Studio. You just make a “blended Data Source”, which combines the data into a whole new data source just for that report and bam – now you can make charts from this new data. I’ll be honest, it can be a bit of a pain sometimes, but it’s getting easier all the time as Google irons out the wrinkles.
Plus you can always just Google any problem you are having to find the answer, and most of the time someone will have done exactly what you want already!
You can also invent new stats on the fly, and these will be updated when you change the data range or any other filters you have working on your reports. For example, I made a report for the conversion rates of different donation pages (as conversion rates are usually session-level), and it helped to optimise a charity campaign I was working on. Previously I would have done this all in a spreadsheet, but with Data Studio I had a dynamic report in seconds that never needed updating.
Another interesting thing you can do with Google Data Studio is to combine stats from multiple accounts. So if you are working across multiple companies, or work for a company with multiple divisions, you can combine that data to create powerful benchmarks and trend spotting tools. In the UK, charities can share anonymous access to their Google Analytics data via the CharityComms Digital Benchmark – which is run using Google Data Studio.
Make Beautiful Dashboards & Reports
If you have ever made a dashboard within Google Analytics, you should know that it’s not a thing of beauty. I mean, yeah you can add in some maps and do other fancy things, but the dashboard itself is pretty ugly.
Considering that most people find stats boring to start with, this puts Analysts at a real disadvantage when trying to convince people to look at the stats themselves. Google Data Studio fixes all that. You can add your logo, change the colours fonts, add images, add text, add links – whatever you want! As I’ve already mentioned you can add in drop-down menu filters too, so you really can make a user-friendly version of a dashboard to suit any need.
In a lot of ways, it’s like making a website for your stats – which means you can make them so much more engaging than with native Google Analytics Dashboards.
You can also download your report as a PDF, or schedule your report to be sent periodically to whoever. No one will ignore your delightful reports anymore! Well, hopefully not anyway.
[Pro Tip: You can add Google Analytics to Google Data Studio, and then make a report from those analytics to see which of your dashboards are actually used]
This is still a relatively new platform so bugs and kinks are still being worked out. It does keep getting better all the time, but still, here are the things which are currently most annoying about Google Data Studio:
- If you add too many stats to one report, it can slow it right down (especially if they are custom metrics).
- Using regex to create some custom metrics can be a real nightmare until you know what you are doing.
- You can’t currently connect to directly Google My Business for some reason (you have to pay for a connector from a third party company).
- There are no vertical lines in tables, so you have to draw your own.
I suspect that three of these things are short term problems (but regex is here to stay).
If you work with web analytics in any capacity (but especially if you work with Google Analytics), you can easily take it to the next level with this product. Google Data Studio makes your work easier, faster, more powerful, more accessible, and looks better.
You should definitely consider it, especially since it is free (here’s the link again – note it’s not an affiliate link, I just really like Google Data Studio).