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Easily Create Stunning Visualizations with Google Data Studio

Jul 17, 2017
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Thanks to tools like Google Analytics and Search Console, business owners big and small have access to powerful insights on how your users and the search engines are engaging with your website. But having access to the data is only half the battle. I have spent years trying to find a simple and straight forward way to display the data we collect in a format my clients could grasp and understand. Thanks to Google Data Studio, this task is now easier than ever. 

Google Data Studio is a free and easy to use data visualization tool located with the Google Analytics suite of tools. With Data Studio, you can pull in your data from Google Analytics and Search Console as well as a number of other SQL database options. This tool will help you create powerful data visualizations that you can present to your clients, managers, or executives to show them the KPI's that matter most to them. In the video below, I give an intro to Data Studio and show how to customize reports to better meet your needs. 

 

Video Transcript: 

Hey, what's up everybody? Welcome to Hack My Growth. I'm Ryan Shelley, and today we're going to be talking about Google Data Studios. Data Studio is a powerful tool within the family of analytics tools that Google provides to almost every single user who really wants access to them. Now these tools can really help uncover how your users are actually interacting with your website, interacting with your ads, and what your performance is like overall online. Data Studio helps you make visualizations to help make even more sense out of all those data points that you're collecting. Not only can you pull data from YouTube and Google Analytics and Search Console, you can actually pull data from SQL databases off Google, or you can connect to bigger data sources like Google Big Query or some of the other tools, if you're in the 360 package.

Data visualization is an extremely powerful way to help show in a visual format how your site is performing, and visualizations are easier, a lot of times, for us to understand because we don't have to dig through the deep, deep, details of all of those numbers and digits, and we can kind of see what's going on in a very easy and simple way, but you pick the right visualizations to really tell the story the right way. Data Studio helps you start to do that. There's a lot of great, free templates built inside and you can also create your own, and you can use them again and again and again. So let's dig a little bit deeper into Google Data Studio and how you can start using it today to make more sense out of your data.

Alright, so let's dive into Google Data Studio. The first question is why should we even use data visualization? Well, visualizations can really help us better tell the story. When you're looking at a typical Google Analytics report, you're going to see a lot of numbers and you are going to see some visualizations in there, but some of the data is hard to find and sometimes it can be hard to really see trends over time, especially if you're looking at an exported spreadsheet. So what Data Studio is going to help you do is take your data and help make it more engage-able, help the data be more human so that you can better make decisions and also you can help inform those people who you're working with or maybe you're working for.

So, you find Data Studio right within the Analytics Solutions page. As you notice, Google has a number of different tools, whether Google Analytics, Tag Manager (which is an extremely powerful tool, which we will go over in a future video) Google Optimize, again another great tool from Google that lets you do some AB testing right there on your site and be able to really determine whether or not things work. It's a cool tool and, again, we'll do a video on that as well. And then right next to that is Data Studios. You can also find it under "Sign In", so once you've signed in to your Google account you're going to see these same options up here. The options down here, you know, surveys are paid and then some of these are also more pay tools, but Google's got a lot of free, great tools that you can use as well.

Now the first thing you're going to see when coming in to do this Google Data Studio are some shared reports, so these are templates that Google has already created. If I click up here on the All Templates link, you're going to see Blank Template, which means, obviously, it's blank and you can start from scratch. They've also got a Google Analytics template, Search Console template, AdWords template, YouTube Channel template, World Population Data, Ecommerce PPC template, Merchandise Store, and some others. So they're pulling some data in here, some sample data that you can work and manipulate, but you can also connect your own data sources to start really telling your story inside of Google Data Studio.

They've got this one awesome welcome to Google Data Studios and they kind of teach you little bit how to interact, so, you know, when you put your mouse over these charts, as you can see there's trends over time so you can actually look at key points along the way to say, "Okay, what was our high traffic point? What was happening when we fell down here?" All this data is live, so you can sort this live data because it's having a very interactive report available for you.

So you're not going to have to export all these columns and rows. You can actually set it into pages, and they can scroll through the pages and see the data. You just send somebody this link and then they're actually able to interact with the data you've sent them. You can set filters. There's a lot of cool things you can do. Set preferences, and click on and off, so it's almost like having a big VI software, but it's free. So you can do a lot of really neat stuff right within Google Data Studio without having to really invest in high level visualization software.

Now, there are some limitations, as with anything that's free, but for somebody getting started or for somebody that's just wanting to run really, really good reports, Google Data Studio is a really great place to start. And the great thing about it is it's already synced with a lot of your data that you're probably already using.

So what we do is we use these for our monthly marketing reports, to show our clients the success that we're having or maybe some of the struggles we're having, and to kind of give more transparency in what we're doing as an agency. So we create these reports, and we actually started with a Google template and then altered it a little bit to meet our specific needs as more of a search-focused agency, and to give our clients data that they're going to be able to use and understand, because typically what happens is you send somebody a report and they look at it, and they go, "I have no idea what this means. Thanks for sending it to me, but it makes no sense." So our whole goal is how can we use data visualization and reports to tell a better story. This is where Data Studio has helped a lot.

What we're going to actually do is show you the report we created. I'm going to show you exactly how we created it and we actually started right here with this Acme Marketing template. When you load this template in, you're going to see that it's got some pre-configured data. User sessions ... This is not my site, this is just the template. So over here it says, "Use the template." And I say, "Okay, it sounds great." As you can see it's got a couple of high level KPI's. The number of users, the number of sessions, page views bounce rate, but what I really liked about this template, what made it really, really appealing to me was these headers. They made it very easy. "How is your site trending?" So it's kind of showing site trend over time. "Which channels are actually driving engagement?" "Who are the types of people on your site? Is it male, is it female? Is it a mixture of both? What's the age demographic you're targeting?"

Then over here is actually where I made it a little bit of a different report. I actually took this top "Countries by Session" out because that wasn't very relevant to our specific users. Our users needed something a little more localized rather than top users by session, so I will show you the report that we built off of this. It's very similar. We just took this section over here and changed it up a little bit.

Here is the report that we've created specifically for ourselves and our clients. As you can see, some of the configuration is incomplete right now. What we did is we actually added what keywords are driving traffic over time, so we pulled in some search console data right here instead of just keeping this report static to Google Analytics. That's a great thing that you can do with the Google Data Studio is you can actually pull from different sources, multiple sources and put it on one page.

As you can see, we had to configure this report, though, so that we pull in the right data. Right now, it's only pulling in data from ... If we go here to Edit it will tell us where we're pulling data from. We click the column ... Sample Search Consult Data. So, that's the only data source we have right now. Things like user sessions and bounce rate and trending sessions at the time, those aren't going to make sense because Google Search Data console doesn't have those data references. We're going to actually need to tie a data source to it.

What you would do is just simply click on a specific column here, and now we've got to attach a data source to it. Now, right now it's got this default setting. Let's say I want to change it to show my specific site. What you would do is click on the data source, and it says SMA Marketing, right now you can see it says Search Console Connection, but I want to connect it to my Google Analytics account, so that I can pull data. We click on Create New Source here at the bottom.

Here's the different connectors that we have available inside of Google Data Studio. We've got File Upload, we can check our AdWords account, we can do Attribution, which is part of the 360 file, Google BigQuery, we can actually connect from a Cloud SQL database, we have DCM, Analytics, Sheets, I can pull from a MySQL database, PostgreSQL, Search Console, and Analytics from YouTube. So there's a number of different pretty cool connectors that we can do, especially if you've got your own database setup, whether it's Cloud SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL. You can pull your sources from wherever you have them stored and actually visualize them inside of Data Studio.

For this I want to connect to Google Analytics. So for this I want to click the Google Analytics and I'm going to find the appropriate account, and then you're going to want to select the property and you're going to want to select the view just like you would in Google Analytics, and then once you've done all that, hit connect. This is going to show all the different connections for data points or metrics and dimensions that Google is going to be pulling in. This is going to tell us the numbers and how we want those numbers constrained in order to give us the visualization that we're looking for.

Once you click Add to Report it's going to basically say, "Hey, this is what we're going to do." And you can just Add to Report, and now you're going to see the sessions change. We can do it again here. Now you notice it didn't change everything, so we've got to make sure that all of these are connected. The good thing is once you sync that data source, it's now going to be available in this template right here, Added Data Sources, so I can just go through it and click and make all of these live.

So what we've done, we've connected two different data points. We've connected Google Analytics and Google Search Console to one report, and now we're looking at a span between June 16th up here to July 15th, so about a month. We're looking at the user history. We're looking at where the trending is, is it up, is it down? How's the site page traffic trending over time? What's driving the traffic here? Engagement. What landing pages are performing the best.

Let's look at this. We still didn't connect the search console data, right? We're still connected to the sample data. Now, what we can do ... As you saw before we actually already had our search console set up right here, but since it's not clicked on it, it's still pulling from the sample data. So all we would have to do to change this graph is click on it, and now it's switched and it's actually pulling in the correct terms.

If you want to look at this, right now it's in edit view so when you click stuff you're actually going to be editing. You can change the style, change the type of chart that you're using, change the colors, there's a lot of flexibility inside these tools. Getting started I recommend just taking it slow and really understanding how the tool works, and then you can start working on answereing how do we make it look like this? We have the lines in it, which is all done through styles, over here, and you can kind of make it look pretty. Usually what I do if I see something I like, I go, "Okay, I like the way that looks over here. Table colors, oh, this is the color. I'm going to copy this color and I'm going to do the same thing to this one." Into styles, even row color, I'm going to add a custom color, and I just place that in there and now it looks exactly the same.

So styling is just something you do to make it pretty at the end. Focus on getting the data in, focus on making sure you've got the right types of graphs. So for things like landing pages or keywords, you're probably going to use tables. But for traffic trends or engagement you want to use bar charts and line charts. Donut charts are really helpful, especially when you're trying to show the differences between two things. And then we have a stacked line chart here, again kind of showing the difference between two things. It really helps us.

You can actually change, over here, the canvas size. So, let's say I wanted a 16 by nine, see how that shifted everything over? And now I'm actually going to have an elongated one instead of what I had before which was US Letter Portrait. So, again, there's a lot of cool things that you can do.

If you want to send this report to somebody, you just click view and now you have the view of the report. Here's where I can actually start to compare and contrast data in real time. This is going to update constantly, so you can always get access. You can drop and see even what was traffic like for the whole year so far, or kind of compare it versus the same time period as a year ago. There's a lot of interesting things that we can do within Google Data Studio to help you better understand your data.

If you want to share it, you just click Share This Report, just like anything else inside the Google ecosystem. You just put the person's name, their email address. They have to have a Google account, and then you can go ahead and send them this report that they can review and interact with.

So this is one report. It's a report that was built by Google but we augmented slightly, but there's a number of templates out there with more and more showing up. There's a couple of cool ones I wanted to show you. This one is actually from LunaMetrics, which is a great site and I recommend you checking out their blog. This is an overview of digital marketing data. Again, this is just sample user data in here and you can change it, but they've actually got a key map built in to both the conversion rates of the source traffic and the popular page titles and the bounce rate. A nice session in conversion rate tracking, the time and locations. There's a lot of cool data. You can actually do a lot of customization to this report. So this is a really good one. I'll give you the link to this report.

And then there's OwlXvi this ... and here's another one. This is OwlXvi. Now this is a really, really in depth report. It's actually nine pages in all. It tells a whole lot, from users to transactions that attributed revenue to add costs, product category session and devicing, this is built on raw data but again, you can connect your own data sources to this template and you start to understand the revenue by campaign. There's nine pages of really, really cool reports that you can explain branding, the index directory, Facebook marketing, organic search, attribution, all of the different ones are here. If you're a little bit bigger of a company and you guys are doing a lot of multichannel marketing campaign, this is great. You can actually build this chart, interact with the chart, do a slide presentation with interactive data right on your screen. It will definitely impress your bosses.

The cool thing is is it's free, and it's a tool that's already synced to a lot of data points that you're already using. So, I'd highly recommend checking out Google Data Studio, getting yourself involved, and trying to understand your data a little bit differently. These reports are going to make a lot more sense to the people, especially higher up who don't have time to really dig into the nitty gritty, but want to look at trends over time and interesting points of data along the journey.

So this is our brief overview of getting into Google Data Studio. If you have any questions, please comment below or connect with us in any of our social channels, Twitter, email, Facebook, LinkedIn. Until next time, happy marketing.

Busy Business Owner

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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