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How to get started with Google Data Studio in 3 parts

By Brett
September 08, 2020

With this short training for Google Data Studio, you will be able to create your own custom report in minutes. This video covers the 3 key parts of using Data Studio: connecting to data, designing visualizations, and creating an awesome dashboard you can share.

Whether you are just starting to explore the world of data, or you are a seasoned data scientist, Data Studio can help you. Not only is it a 100% FREE tool to use, but you can also create and share reports in just minutes.

Once you have the basics mastered, you can learn more advanced (but still easy!) techniques like forecasting:

If you would like to learn about custom visualizations we have built in Data Studio, check out our video on statistical significance testing. It can be used for digital marketing campaigns and more.

View Transcript

If you have not used Google Data Studio, it’s actually pretty easy to get into, it’s pretty easy to use, and today we’ll just kind of go over a couple of things. One is how you can connect to the data. Two, we’ll go over some basics of designing visualizations, and then three, I’ll just kind of show you how to create an awesome dashboard that you can share.

So an example we have here is actually a dashboard we created at my company for some linear attribution modeling, and the cool thing about creating these dashboards is not only can you share them with anyone who really has like a Google account, like a free Gmail account, but you can go in and really make these very interactive. So for instance, we have here, say an account manager, I could click on a particular account manager and it updates the whole report, so it’s really cool to kind of see how your data can interact and create a very visual and powerful report. So the first thing is you just want to go to Data Studio, just do a search for it, the nice thing is Data Studio is completely free to use if you have any type of Google account, whether or not it’s a paid, you know, account with your work, or you have maybe a free account, like just a Gmail account, that perfectly will work for this situation. So once you get in there, you would actually just click into there and you’ll be taken into this sort of main dashboard within the tool kind of gives three sections, one are reports, these are the actual visualizations where all the data comes together, you visualize it into a report that might have one page or multiple pages; the second thing you’ll come across is data sources, if you just started this will probably be blank but as you bring in data sources it will get listed here and you can actually interact with them which is very powerful if you want to have other people to start using the same report and actually interact with it and changing say variables and things like that, they’re gonna need actually access to the data sources, which once you get a data source they’ll have this little three little dots here and you can go in and share and you can give admin access to any of these, so somebody can come in and change them, for instance we create these custom visualizations in order to do that you need to make sure that that’s enabled on your data source; the last thing here is Explorer, this is something only just for you, so you’re gonna you can do an Explorer, it’s basically a quick way to analyze the data set, it’s based off of Looker’s look functionality, so it works very much that way if you’ve ever used Looker, you can basically come in, filter and play with your data and you can actually save it but it’s really only saved on your particular computer so other people can’t access it, so it’s just sort of a limited thing, it is something they’re kind of continuing to grow out, so I could see in a year or two this being a much more powerful tool.

So let’s just start with reports, so if we just wanted to click in a blank report here the first thing we’ll do is basically say you need a data source you need something to put onto the page, the most common one I see is Google Analytics. Google Analytics we do a lot at my job, so if you just click on Google Analytics you will see a list of all of your accounts, you can click on accounts, you can click on a particular property, and then you can click on a view, we’ll say your reporting view, add it here, what’s gonna do is going to actually make that connection and then you say add it to report, and then it’ll go ahead and immediately just dump a table right onto your page, this one has the page titles and then number of new users, but we’ll get into that in a second. I did want to go in, if you want to start editing these, so if you go into resource you go to manage added data sources, and here you can actually see that data source and you can edit it, which is really cool because you can even go in and actually add new fields or change attributes of a field, you can also see this community visualization access, if you want to use any of the custom ones say the ones we built or somebody else built like Super Metrics, you just turn that on and you save it, there’s another thing about data freshness, this is how quickly the data is updated from the source if it’s ever just sitting there, now every time you kind of reset that it will pull the data set fresh, but if it’s just been sitting there for a while and someone else is using it, say not an admin comes in, it might be a few hours behind. The other thing that you might find that’s really cool is you can add other types of really cool data sources, you know Google Analytics is a really common one but for instance I pulled in this data here from, this is from Wikipedia of the list of the tallest buildings, so I just pulled in this table into Google Sheets and then I could go over here into the report, click Google Sheets and then I can actually see tallest buildings right here, as one of my most recent ones, I click on that one I’ll actually go to the building’s table and then add, I’m using the first row as header because it had a header row there, of the title of all the columns, another one thing you can simply click on edit, you can sort of see what are all the different fields, so we’ll just close there and then we’ll close this out, so if we actually go in into our data sets, so here by default it’s going to create a table generally and then we’ll connect to one of your data sources here, we can switch it to tallest buildings, if I click that it’s going to kind of break this because it’s not gonna know the attribute you want to look at, so basically there are two types of attributes, this is gonna apply to all your visualizations, one are dimensions which are things like categorical data where you might have States, who’s your source, information like that and then the second thing are metrics and metrics are the numbers, how things are counted what’s the temperature, how many people came to your site, how tall is the building in feet, so we could go in here to dimensions and I can click say the name of the building, and then over here it’s gonna default to record count obviously these there’s just one record for each one of the buildings, not really a super useful chart field but we could go in and look at some of these other ones like, say floors so the cool thing here is it knows to sum this metric so if you click here you can actually take change your type of aggregation, so if you just wanted the average number of floors say you’re aggregating building and that’s another one we can see in here, but here this is just one row so we have each building and then how many floors, so you have your data you can kind of mess with the dimensions you can mess with the metrics you can do a summary row which is kind of cool where it kind of totals everything up, here we have a grand total of 6212 rows, you actually expand this out, this is a lot of buildings here so you can see but that’s a lot of floors, out of 74 buildings there’s over six thousand floors, but so the thing you can also do here is sort, so right now we’re sorting by floors but we can actually sort by the name so we can sort by any of the chart fields that we’re using, so we’ve filtered by name, this goes in reverse alphabetical order so descending, if we clicked ascending it’s gonna start with this one, now that has this null value and I can actually go in here and we’ll remove that a little bit later here, if you want a secondary sort you might be kind of cool say you have two things with the same name for whatever reason you can start doing a secondary sort on that. Now the next kind of thing here is kinda cool is this filter so you can add a filter and then I can go and say remove so I would say exclude and then I would select a field of name, and is null, now you save that and now the null has been removed and the cool thing too about this filter is if I were to create a new visualization, let’s say let’s do just a simple bar chart here we have floors again so we have the particular buildings and then all the floors, let’s just scoot this up and move this over here, you can now see them and once again we can go in and apply a filter, sorry add a filter and then remove nulls, so we see that filter so it’s important to give your filter a nice name that you can find again, so here we have all it kind of organized from the most floors to the least in a kind of visual things which is kinda cool since these are buildings and it’s tall and kind of get an idea of how much taller this building right here is than all the other buildings.

So that’s kind of a nutshell how to get the kind of core visualizations, as I said you can insert any of these standard visualizations of pie charts, bar charts this combo chart where you can have two different axes, you can bring in maps if you’re familiar with pivot tables, those are pretty common in Excel, you can build them a variation of them here, there’s a lot of different things here as well, the other thing you can do is as I said when we’re building these charts this little clicker right here is community visualizations and here you can get to the ones that are made by other people other than the people at the Data Studio team although some of these are made by the Data Studio team but these are a lot of different ones for instance we have a stat analyzer we can come in and see if you know some variations that like say you have different sources and they’re different amount of traffic each and they each are converting, is their significance there? And how much one is converting over the other or is that just noise? You can do a lot of really cool things here gauges, sankey charts but the key thing is you have to turn on that allowing the community visualizations or otherwise it won’t work and it’ll get throw up a big warning, once you have these all up and running then you can kind of get that up there you can do a couple different things, one is you can click the view and this is how this will be viewed through anyone who comes in and actually is a just a viewer of yours, not an actual editor if you click back to edit on this main thing you can actually change the layout so you get things like is the navigation on the left so you can have sort of like pages in this particular instance, since we don’t have pages we want to create more pages you could do it here and then we go back to view, you can see page 1 page 2 and page 2 is blank, there’s a lot of other things too where you can kind of change the size here we are doing kind of a landscape we can change this to a portrait or even these other like 16 by 9 ratios, so anytime you want to actually edit the main layouts you do it just without clicking on any of the visualizations, if you want to actually go in and edit this style of the visualizations and you click on a visualization instead of being in this data section right here you’re gonna click style and do a lot of different things for instance you could get rid of the header, you could get rid of the row numbers, you could wrap text if you need to for very long texts, you could say you want to show pagination maybe want to get rid of it, you may need to show all those pages and then it’ll become a scroll once people go to view, you can also do things like hide and show null values, so if I go into view the cool thing again is you can kind of share this with really anyone who has a Google account so you just go out and share you can invite people or you can just get a link, you just click on the share, it will just create a link of who it can be shared with, get link here anyone in my company can get it, but if I change it I can actually say anyone with the link, so we just could share out the link and anyone go and view that and they could just very quickly access it, well the last thing I want to kind of go over is, if you’re actually creating this report you want to share it is this interaction here where I kind of come in and click this and it changes the whole map, I mean all the different graphics on on the page, what you do is go into edit you’re gonna click on your particular table or visualization and then down near the bottom, where below add filters you have this interactions you have called applied filters so as you are filtering this data it’s gonna filter everything else on the page that has this interaction so it’s really cool like way to make the whole thing kind of play together nicely. So that’s sort of Data Studio in a nutshell, feel free to comment if you have any additional questions.

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About the Author
Brett uses analytics to help clients put all the pieces together—from identifying KPIs to finding the right data to measure those KPIs and then collecting that data. He’s been in digital marketing for 8+ years and brings analytics leadership to the Anvil team. If he’s not drilling into data, he’s probably hanging with his kids or maybe playing some D&D.
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