How Google Data Studio can help your Business

Google Data Studio best dashboard

A free version of Google Data Studio has been released a bit less than two months ago. We have been working with it since then and can finally give you our first impressions. After a short introduction about its features, this article will give you some concrete examples on how you can apply it to your daily business.

What is Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio (360) is the data analysis and visualization layer of the Google Analytics 360 suite: Analytics 360, Tag Manager 360, Attribution 360, Optimize 360 and Audience Center 360.

It comes in two versions: the “360” version (Premium) and a free version (available only in the US for now), which has the same features but allows to connect a maximum of five data sources.

The first (positive) impression is that, despite some limitations compared to other tools like Tableau or Power BI (against which it still cannot compete in terms of functionalities), Data Studio is amazingly simple to use and, out of the box, its integration with the other products from the 360 Suite makes your life very easy if you want to your display Analytics KPIs, Big Query table contents or data from your Spreadsheets.

Let’s keep our findings summary for the conclusions and try right away to implement a couple of common use cases with Google Analytics and Data Studio!

Use Cases and Measurement Plan

When you start with Web Analytics you first define your business objectives, then you decide how you are going to measure them, derive the KPIs and set your targets. If you have done your measurement plan right, implementing it in Data Studio will be the easiest part.

For our example I would like to focus on 3 pretty common business goals

  • Generate Leads
  • Keep Customers Happy
  • Maximise Revenue

Let’s simplify things for the exercise and define one KPI per goal. Mind the user-centric metrics definition.

Business Goal Metrics Calculation
Generate Leads Leads Amount of submitted forms
Keep Customers Happy Social Actions per User (Page Shares + Likes + Comments) / User
Maximise Revenue Total Revenue per User (Ads Revenue + E-Commerce Revenue) / User

How are we going to get these numbers?

Metrics Measurement Data Source
Leads Custom Metric Google Analytics Custom Metrics
Page Shares, Likes, Comments Social Actions Google Analytics “Regular” Metrics
Social Actions per User Calculated Metrics Data Studio Calculated Metric
Ads Revenue Ad Sense Revenue Google Analytics “Regular” Metrics
E-Commerce Revenue Revenue Google Analytics “Regular” Metrics
Total Revenue per User Calculated Metric Data Studio Calculated Metric

I will not cover the implementation & configuration of custom metrics (e.g. with Google Tag Manager). Still, you can read my other posts about tracking user engagement or setting up a measurement plan.

Read all our Web Analytics post

Before starting with the implementation, let’s also define a couple of segments that we will evaluate against these KPIs:

  • Traffic Source
  • Campaign
  • Device Type

Implementation

Here is the plan

  • Setting up the project and importing data sources
  • Creating calculated metrics in Data Studio
  • Visualizing KPIs

Setting up the project and importing the data sources

  1. Go to https://datastudio.google.com/ and sign in with your Google credentials
  2. Click on the “+” button bottom right of the page to create a new project
  3. Click on CREATE NEW DATA SOURCE bottom right of the page to add your first data source
  4. You’ll be presented with all importable data sources. Select “Google Analytics” and drill down to your property. Finally click CONNECThowto-01-addDataSource.png
  5. Your first DataSource will be connected with the name of the property. Just click on ADD TO REPORT top right of the page and you’ll be done with the first step.

Creating calculated metrics

You have connected your Google Analytics View to your report. This includes default, custom and calculated metrics and also default and custom dimensions that you have configured.

For our use case this means that the following metrics will already be accessible

  • Leads (custom metric)
  • Ad Sense Revenue
  • E-Commerce Revenue
  • Social Actions

But the following ones will need to be calculated (you can also do it in Google Analytics directly, but I want to show you how to do it in Data Studio)

  • Social Actions per User = Social Actions / Users
  • Total Revenue per User = (E-Commerce Revenue + Ad Sense Revenue) / Users

Find here a list of available functions to implement more complex custom metrics. I wanted to keep it simple for this example. Let’s start with the Social Actions per User

    1. From the screen where we paused our instructions you should click on the “+” above the metrics and dimensions list and specify the metric as suchName = Social Actions per User
      ID = calc_socialActionsPerUser
      Formula = Social Actions / Usershowto-04-socialActionsPerUser.pngNote: Data Studio will highlight the syntax and autocomplete metrics and dimensions that you use in your formulas.

    2. Click on CREATE FIELD
    3. Let’s now create the Total Revenue / User metric in the same wayName = Total Revenue per User
      ID = calc_totalRevenuePerUser
      Formula = (Revenue + AdSense Revenue) / Users
    4. For this metric set the type to Currency and chose the one you are using in Google Analytics (we use CHF)howto-05-totalRevenuePerUser.png

Visualizing The KPIs

We have all the metrics, we have the dimensions, we just need to visualize them.

Data Studio allows you to simply drag and drop visualizations on your reports, choose the metrics and dimensions you want to display and adapt the styling. This good interface map on Google Support gives you an overview of every button of the Report Manager.

Let’s start by choosing a perfect widget to visualize KPIs vs. Targets: the Bullet Chart. Let’s use it for the Leads Generation business goal.

  1. Click on the Bullet Chart icon and draw it on the dashboard
  2. Select your custom metric Leads
  3. Type your three range thresholds to show a color gradient along the visualization
  4. Define your target (in my example it’s 500 leads / month)howto-10-bulletChart.png

To give it a bit of appeal, let’s add two scorecards which would show in big numbers

  • The amount of generated leads
  • The amount of new users (to give an idea of a ratio between new visitors and new visitors who become leads => you could even create a new metric for this)
  1. Click on the Score Card icon and draw it on the dashboard
  2. Select your custom metric Leads
  3. Select Previous Period to compare the value with the previous period of the selected date range (this will add a small green or red number with the increase or decrease)howto-11-scoreCards.png

To add a title simply click on the [T] icon and type it.

In the exact same way, you can produce a widget to measure your Total Revenue / User KPI against a target and show the total revenue next to it.

Since we don’t just need to look at numbers but also to analyze segments, we are going to add three filters to drill-down into our acquisition channels by

  • Traffic Type
  • Source
  • Campaign

Here is how you do it. The same procedure applies to all dimensions.

  1. Click on the Filter icon and draw it on the dashboard
  2. Select the dimension Traffic Type (or Source or Campaign)
  3. Leave the default metric Sessions (this will just allow you to sort types)howto-12-filters1.png
  4. Click on the Style Tab
  5. Check the Expandable option, it will give a compact view to your filterhowto-12-filters2.png
  6. Add a date range selector by clicking on the Calendar icon next to the Filter icon and drawing it on the dashboard.

One more step to go: let’s add a visualization to show the engagement. Maybe we could show it together with leads and revenue performance? We want to find out how the three metrics distribute over device types, so let’s pick the table visualization.

  1. Click on the Table icon and draw it on the dashboard
  2. Select the dimension Device Category
  3. Select the metrics (Users, Total Revenue per User, Social Actions per User and Leads)
  4. Select a sort method (can also be a dimension if you want)
  5. Select comparison to previous period (this is really fancy)howto-13-table.png
  6. Click on the Style tab. For each of the columns you will be able to choose whether to display it as a heatmap, a bar chart or a simple number.
  7. You’ll be able to choose a color for the heatmap gradient or for the bars
  8. For bar charts you can choose to display or not the numbers
  9. For each column you can also chose to display or not the delta to the previous period (in percentage or absolute numbers)howto-13-table2.png

You are all set. Turn off the “Edit Mode” (top right) and check out the full dashboards for the three KPIs.

howto-20-full-dashboard.png

  • Colors show you immediately how desktop is generating more leads (impressive ratio to the amount of users), has a fair engagement and is loosing in revenue / user with respect to the previous month.
  • Mobile is by far the most popular device type and its users are the most engaged and also the ones who generate more revenue, but they seem to be less keen to fill-in forms on their smartphone. Is a bell ringing already?
  • Tablets are performing poorly against all KPIs even though lead generation is improving. Maybe another bell ringing?

I challenge you to get such a great overview with a standard Google Analytics dashboards.

Reporting, Analysis, Drill-Down

Ok, quite a nice dashboard for a such a short exercise already. The fun is only about to start.

From a reporting perspective you can either group filters to individual widgets like you would do in PowerPoint (select all, right click, group), let them act at page level, or even at report level (right click on the widget and select Make report-level).

Filters work all together so you can select only a traffic type, see the impact on the numbers, and then drill-down on the sources by applying other filters. Same for campaigns or any other dimension you would like to use as a filter criterion (e.g. Country, Language, …)

Being able to select relative dates like “last 30 days”, “last quarter”, “this quarter”, etc. gives you a nice shortcut to date selection.

From a visualization perspective you should have already noticed a couple of big differentiators compared to Google Analytics dashboards.

  • Being able to set targets to your KPIs (bullet chart)
  • Being able to show score cards and define time comparison per widget
  • Defining heatmaps, deltas and different visualizations within the same table
  • Having the option to choose between 9 visualizations and create branded reports by including images and free text

The reports are also sharable and shortcuts appear seamlessly among your Google Docs.

Our Take

That was it for a concrete show case on how you can apply Data Studio to your business. Here is a summary of strengths and weaknesses that we have found.

Strengths

  • Very easy to use
  • Great “upgrade” in terms of visualization and analysis options with respect to Google Analytics dashboards
    • Provides interactive filtering (only via the “filter control” widgets)
    • Provides basic ETL (calculated metrics and dimensions)
    • Provides a good set of out-of-the-box visualizations options
  • Provides collaboration functionality (consistent design with Google Docs)
  • Perfectly integrates with other Google products
  • Is still in “beta” version, a.k.a. will improve over time

Weaknesses

  • Allows to display data coming from different data sources on the same reports, but does not allow joining data sources into a unique data model. For the moment the only solution to aggregate data in the same visualization is to use Google Sheets and then connect to it. This does obviously not scale, but it can be a good solution until Google develops this functionality (it is in their roadmap, although they didn’t communicate any timelines yet).
  • Not ideal for ETL (data-in should be fairly defined already).
  • Does not allow filtering by clicking on any visualization (e.g. a pie chart portion or a country on a map)
  • Is still in “beta” version (another point of view).

The technology is still new, documentation is there but the community is still experimenting a lot and coming up with questions, ideas, improvements, bugs and limitations. So the ground is still a bit shaky, but our initial opinion is definitively positive.

Data Studio might not yet be a replacement of advanced BI tools like Tableau or Microsoft Power BI, but it certainly provides great capabilities compared to Google Analytics Dashboards and an amazing out-of-the-box integration with other Google products like Analytics, Big Query, Sheets or AdWords.

By sitting in the Google Ecosystem and being available for free, it may have a big competitive advantage with respect to the previously mentioned tools in terms of implementation for companies that already work with other Google products. Its capabilities, in beta mode, have still a lot of room for improvement to beat the competitors, but it looks like Google is working on the gaps and we are pretty sure that Data Studio will become a really great product in the future.

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Summary
How Google Data Studio can help your Business
Article Name
How Google Data Studio can help your Business
Description
After a short introduction about Google Data Studio features, this article will give you some concrete examples on how you can apply it to your business.
Author
Publisher Name
Atos Consulting Switzerland
Publisher Logo
Andrea Rapanaro
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Andrea Rapanaro

Senior Business Analyst and Manager at Atos Consulting CH
Quick learner, customer focused and pragmatic business analyst specialized in Web Analytics and with strong technical knowledge coming from a developer background.

I have over 8 years of experience in consulting and hands-on experience in Web Analytics, especially with Google Analytics (10+ years), Google Tag Manager (3+ years), Google Data Studio (1+ years) and Microsoft Power BI (2+ years).

I am also a proud dad, a passionate football fan (AC Milan) and I like to spend all my free time writing on my food-blog (www.cucina.li). What can I cook for you? 🙂
Andrea Rapanaro
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3 thoughts on “How Google Data Studio can help your Business

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