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Visualizing Success With Our New Data Target Card in Google Data Studio

By Jessica
February 28, 2020
Read Time: 7 minutes

Time and again, marketers look at dashboards that are full of metrics with no context. You can tell exactly how many conversions you got this month and how many you got last month. But do you really know if your performance is good or bad? Maybe last month was terrible so this month’s conversions look great by comparison. Or maybe last month was really good so this month’s conversions seem subpar. We’ve worked with countless clients who were only comparing conversion metrics month-over-month. The problem was their benchmark for success constantly changed. It’s harder to hit a moving target, and it’s harder to tell how far off from good you really are.

So we recommend establishing consistent targets and visualizing your success against those targets in your Google Data Studio dashboards. And we’ve created a Data Target Card that can be found in the community visualizations gallery to help you do just that!

Example Google Data Studio Data Target Card

Setting Targets

First things first, it’s necessary to establish a consistent target for each of your primary KPIs. Typically, to set a target our team benchmarks data for 3 months after tracking is put into place. This allows us to get a feel for how your site normally performs on a monthly basis. We set the target equal to the average number of conversions over that three-month time span. This ensures that the targets we set are achievable. If we set targets that we rarely achieve or we easily surpass each month, they become irrelevant and useless. (Note that it’s important to periodically revisit the targets you set, either quarterly, if seasonality impacts your business, or else every six months.) Once you’ve set your target, you can get a more holistic view of your performance—more than just how well you’re doing compared to the previous month. And of course, we want our clients to see the targets in their dashboards, so they can easily identify their level of success. This is where Google Data Studio comes in.

Google Data Studio and Custom Visualizations

One of the reporting tools that we have found the most success with at Anvil is Google Data Studio. Like many other reporting platforms, Data Studio comes with a series of visualization options that are ready to use “out of the box.” However, it also allows users to create their own visualizations with custom JavaScript and CSS through the community visualization feature. Our team took advantage of this opportunity and created a custom visualization that displays how far over or under a target any given metric is. The best part? We’ve made this tool completely accessible to everyone (we also created a statistical significance calculator that anyone can use too)!

Creating Custom Fields For Targets

Importing the Data Target Card is extremely easy, but first, you will likely have to create a custom field for your monthly targets. To add a custom field you need to be the owner of the data source that contains the actual metric.

Follow the steps below to create a custom field in your data source.

  1. Click Resource at the top and then select Manage added data sources.

Google Data Studio Manage Data Sources

  1. Click Edit in the source that you are pulling the KPI from.
  2. Click Add a field in the top right corner.
  3. Give the field a very clear name, e.g., Monthly Target - Contact Us Form Submits.
  4. Create a case statement in the formula box to assign each month a target. If there is an error in the case statement, it will show an error message where the green checkmark is currently, and you will be unable to save the field. In this example, we are comparing actual form submits to the target (11) for the month. If we wanted to do YTD targets, we would need to adjust the case statement so Jan would have a target of 11, Feb 22, Mar 33, etc.

Google Data Studio Data Source Management

  1. If you receive the green circle with the checkmark, you can click Save.

Congratulations! You have now created a new custom field for your target.

Importing the Data Target Card

Now, importing the Data Target Card is the easy part!

  1. The first thing you have to do is turn on community visualization access in the data set. To do this, click Resource and Manage added data sources like you did to create the custom field.
  2. Click Community visualizations access.

Google Data Studio Community Visualizations Access

  1. When the drop-down appears, click the top radio button and click Save
  2. Click the community visualizations icon.

Google Data Studio Community Visualizations Icon

  1. Click Explore More.
  2. Scroll down until you find the Data Target Card listed.

Google Data Studio Data Target Card by Anvil Analytics + Insights

  1. Click it and then click your dashboard or report where you want to place it. It will automatically populate with sessions and pageviews.
  2. On the right side, update the target and actual fields. Update the target field to be the custom field you just created called Monthly Target - Contact Us Form Submits. Update the actual field to be the goal conversions from Google Analytics.

Updating the Data Target in Google Data Studio

Your visualization is officially up and running!

Adjusting Style Elements

The last piece is making the visualizations look good and match your brand guidelines. To change the colors of the positive and negative values, click Style and scroll down until you see the two A’s underlined with the current color scheme. Click the arrows to adjust the colors.

Visualization Styling in Google Data Studio

Additionally, if you want to view the difference between the target and actual values as raw data instead of a percentage, you can change that option right above the text color.

Example Raw Data Data Target Card Visualization in Google Data Studio

Wrap Up

Measuring performance in a consistent manner each month is extremely important to truly understand what success looks like. In the example in this blog post, we used contact us form submits, but the Data Target Card can be used for any of your KPIs. Users don’t want to calculate their success each time they look at a dashboard. Giving your audience a quick, easy-to-read measure of how successful your efforts have been over a given time frame is crucial to the effectiveness of your dashboards. Your clients will thank you for putting their KPIs in perspective!

See it in action!


If you’re interested in learning more about how to use an attribution model for effective reporting in Google Data Studio, read about our Multi-Touch Attribution Model!

About the Author
Jessica joined the Anvil team after earning her degree in Marketing. She really enjoys getting to work on something different every day in her role, whether that’s helping with a Facebook project or solving an issue in Google Analytics. Her problem-solving prowess extends beyond work, too—she loves games and is her family’s pinochle champ.
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