“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”George Berkeley
As a marketer, the main issue I always have with clients is communication and expectations. Setting expectations right from the get-go is crucial, if you want to be able to deliver the right results, you have to be clear on what it is you are delivering. I can feel I did my job perfectly, but if the client is unhappy, the tree didn’t make a sound.
This is why I find reporting so important, and mostly under-utilized. We often find ourselves just conveying numbers and graphs without building a story behind them. Like a good website, reports should tell a clear story, and lead their readers in the path the writer is interested in sharing.
Building a good dashboard is difficult. Some might say it’s a form of art. We want to portray the most informative data, without losing the user in incomprehensible graphs and figures. With helpful tools such as the template gallery, multiple built-in data sources and external tools for non-google data sources, you can be up and running with your first report in no time.
google Data Studio
This free tool, is an easy starter for anyone who wants to create informative and professional-looking dashboards and reports. In this article I will give a few tips, that will help anyone create the dashboard they want with very little prior knowledge.
Tip #1 – Use Templates
There is no need to re-invent the wheel when in comes to designing your report. In Data Studio’s template gallery you can find many different templates of reports that are basically ready for use, simply replace the data source with your own, and you’re good to go. Even if you cannot find the exact type of report you need, you can get lots of ideas and designs to start with, that are a little bit nicer than a blank page.
tip #2 – get FAMILIAR with data sources
The first and most important thing to know about data sources, is that there is a free connector for every type of google service that exists out there, and then some – Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Cloud Platform, Google Sheets (check out tip #4) and even the double-click suite have simple free connectors you can use. Another very useful free connector is the File Upload connector, which can parse CSV files from any source for display in the report.
What if your data source is not Google related? Well, in addition to the 17 free built-in connectors, there are around 200 “Partner Connectors” that can connect to a multitude of data-sources.
One of the more prominent connectors is Supermetrics for Data Studio. This connector can fetch data from most social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkeIn and Tumblr to name a few, and many other ad networks and web services – Taboola/Outbrain, Snapchat Ads, Vimeo, Youtube, Shopify, Salesforce and many more.
tip #3 – Blend data
Some of the more advanced and insightful reports I have seen and created, portray a mixture of different data sources. The “Blend Data” feature might not be as straight forward than regular data sources, but here are a few starter points that will help you better understand it:
- In order to properly create blend data – a combination of data from 2 or more sources, you will need at least one identifier that is present in both data sets.
- Add the data sources from the most inclusive to the less inclusive – right to left. The leftmost data source will always show all records, then the ones to the right of it will only show the records with the shared join keys
- You can create blended data sets grouped by more than one dimension.
- Calculated fields can not be used for blended data sources, but you can work around this by creating calculated fields on the chart level (chart-specific fields)
Tip #4 – Google Sheets Connector / Upload File
If you are having a hard time finding the connector you are looking for, or if the connector you need is too expensive for you – the best way to go by is to use Google Sheets or the Upload file connector. Since there are many systems without external services to retrieve data from them, these two connectors are super helpful and you can use them to take any report in CSV or google sheets format, and add it as a data source to your report. If you do not get the report in a CSV format, it should be pretty easy to simply copy the data into google sheets, and then add it to the report.
Another cool trick I use a lot, especially if you have data in MS Excel files, but also HTML or TXT files, is the import feature to Google Sheets. Import a file into a google sheet, and their system will convert it to the sheets format in your google drive. After that, you can easily use it as a data source for your report.
Tip #5 – Pages and Formatting
Not all reports are created equal. I have created reports that showed only 1-2 KPIs and others that needed to display as many as 20 different ones. For this reason, formatting your report correctly is crucial.
One thing that makes formatting reports easier, and is not used merely as much as you would think – is “Pages”. It might seem that a reporting dashboard should contain only one page, but in reality – if you want to portray different KPIs or even data from different systems, it’s best to create a few different pages. In order to do this – find the “Add a page” button on the left side underneath the “File” menu.
Once you have created the pages you need for the report, note that there are many different options of design and formatting. You can choose a theme for your entire report, choosing the fonts and general color pallets (Or choose from an existing one). Regardless of the theme, you can adjust each graph or figure specifically to meet your brand’s colors, or make it stand out among others.
In order to get a clearer or more personalized look for your report, you can easily add images, shapes, separator lines, stand-alone text and even embed code into the report. Anything that will help you bring out the right data to the right people.
Naturally, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google Data Studio. You are more than welcome to comment if you have any other questions.