One of the biggest challenges that marketers and executives face today is collecting, managing, and interpreting all of the data that surrounds us. It pours in from our website, our social media pages, our ad campaigns, our email platform, everywhere. When used properly, this data can help us make better business decisions. That’s why understanding and using tools like Google Data Studio is so important to all businesses, small and large.
Data Studio is a powerful data visualization software which can help you display real-time data from sources like your website, social media pages, CRM, and ad software. Fire up Data Studio, connect your data sources, and you’re ready to go. Within a few minutes, you can create interactive dashboards that visualize trends, evaluate marketing campaigns, and predict future outcomes.
Although Data Studio is free, don’t let that fool you. It is a powerful and robust business intelligence tool. Google Data Studio can help you make data-driven decisions – and impress your team, boss and clients while you’re at it. So, how can you get the most out of Data Studio?
Plan Your Metrics
Before you create your dashboard, take a few minutes to plan out the types of data you want to visualize in Data Studio. Start by defining your goals and identify which KPIs will help you measure your progress. For example, if your company relies on inbound leads to fill your sales pipeline, you may want to track each step in your sales funnel to see where improvements can be made. If you want to understand which marketing initiatives are creating those leads, you can dig deeper by measuring traffic and conversion rates by channel or campaign. And if you want to know which channels produce the least expensive leads, you can use cost data to determine Cost Per Lead and Return on Investment.
After you identify these key metrics, think about the different chart types available in Data Studio and figure out which ones align with your data. Here are a few examples:
- Scorecards display real-time values, like numbers or dollars
- Time series show data over time and identify patterns
- Bar charts compare data sets and identify patterns
- Pie charts identify proportions within a data set
- Scatter plots identify potential correlations and proportions
- Heatmaps compare data relationships
- Stacked Area charts compare proportions over time
- Geo maps indicate proportions based on a location
There are other chart types available, too, so take time to plan accordingly. Remember, you can always start with just a few key metrics and expand your dashboard as your data visualization skills improve.
Design Your Dashboard
Visualizing data in a user-friendly manner is one of the most important aspects of designing an effective Data Studio dashboard. Good design will help you understand and interpret data quickly and accurately, while poor design can lead to poor decision-making. Following basic UX principles will produce great outcomes. Here are a few:
- Users read information in a “Z” pattern, starting at the top of a page and moving left to right as they scroll down. Place your most important KPIs in the top left position of the page.
- Use larger text sizes and colors to help your most important metrics stand out.
- Label each page of your dashboard in the upper left corner and include a date range selector in the upper right hand corner of your dashboard.
- Denote trends using colors that a user would find familiar. For example, positive trends should be indicated by the color green and negative trends should be indicated using the color red.
- Group related metrics together to give the user a fuller picture of the data.
- Deliver information in bite-size chunks. Long pages with too many graphics or unreadable charts can overwhelm a user.
If designing a custom dashboard seems like a daunting task, there are plenty of Data Studio templates that can help you get started.
Get Data from Nearly Everywhere
After some experimentation and planning, you now should have a basic understanding of what you want your Data Studio dashboard to look like. But before you can start visualizing your data set, you’ll need to connect data sources to your dashboard.
Data flows into Data Studio dashboards through connectors. In addition to Google’s own connectors – which include popular sources such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Ads, Google My Business and YouTube – there are hundreds of free and paid connectors available, too. You can use these connectors to collect data from:
- Social media sources like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit
- Advertising platforms like AdRoll, DoubleClick, The Trade Desk and TripAdvisor
- Email providers like MailChimp, Listrak and Constant Contact
- CRM software like Salesforce, Trello, HubSpot and ZenDesk
- Search engine marketing platforms like SEMRush, Taboola and Bing Ads
- eCommerce software like Amazon, Stripe and Shopify
- Database sources like MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Excel
- Call Tracking and SMS software like CallRail and Twilio
Although there are many connectors available, don’t worry if you can’t find the one you need. Google Data Studio allows developers to build their own custom connectors for any data source that has an API.
Combine Data Sources
Tools like Google Analytics or Facebook Analytics allow access to data from only one data source at time. Marketers often resort to manually compiling and managing data on spreadsheets, which can be both time-consuming and prone to errors. This approach also makes it difficult to understand how data across the entire digital marketing ecosystem is related.
Data Studio changes the way data is collected by allowing you to combine multiple data sources within the same dashboard – and even within the same charts. This blended approach gives you the advantage of seeing your data in a completely new way. Looking to visualize your lead generation process from all your marketing channels through your website and into your CRM? Want to see how your paid search ads perform on days when it rains? Need to identify keywords that drive traffic and revenue to your eCommerce store – and which ones don’t? With Data Studio, this information (and more) can be tracked and reported in real-time, available right at your fingertips.
Answer Questions with Calculations
With Data Studio, you are able to not only aggregate data all in one place; you can also create customized calculations to streamline analysis and interpret your data with ease. These calculations are created using calculated fields, a feature which allows you to create formulas from existing metrics. Once you create a calculated field it is available to use anywhere on your Data Studio dashboard – just like the metrics that come standard with each data source.
Calculated fields are especially helpful when you are unable to answer questions with the fields available within a particular data set. From simple arithmetic to mathematical formulas and even logical comparisons (like IF/ELSE statements), calculated fields add another layer of usefulness to your Data Studio dashboard.
Where to Begin
By now, you’re probably excited about the possibilities Data Studio can bring to your business. There are many aspects to consider when using data visualization tools like Data Studio, and you may feel a bit overwhelmed. Begin with small steps. Define your goals and KPIs. Start a simple layout with basic widgets. Share your dashboard with your colleagues and get input. Refine and learn. With a bit of practice, you will be able to gain insight with data and use it to make informed decisions about your business.
Synapse Marketing Solutions is a performance-driven digital agency that leverages data to guide our clients’ marketing strategies. Our unique approach results in marketing campaigns that generate brand awareness and grow revenue while continually optimizing performance to prevent wasted marketing budgets. We believe in using tools like Google Data Studio to guide decisions and be the transparent and account partner that many companies need to guide their digital transformation. Contact us today if you would like a custom Data Studio dashboard for your business.