Google Data Studio Report Tutorial

Reports in Google Data Studio are used to tell stories with data

Every report you create should have some purpose. The purpose can be to provide actionable insight, give recommendations or persuasion. 

  • The person who creates the report is called the ‘report author’ or ‘report creator’.
  • The person who edits the report is called the ‘report editor’.
  • The person who consumes the report is called the ‘report viewer’.

Best Practices for creating a report in Data Studio

Following are some best practices for creating a report in Data Studio:

  1. Understand who your report is meant for.
  2. Keep it short and simple.
  3. Use a report template whenever you can to create a new report.
  4. Avoid pulling data directly from a data platform into your reports.
  5. Avoid charting data for the current day in your reports.
  6. Avoid using functions and calculated fields in your reports.
  7. Distribute related charts across multiple pages.

#1 Understand who your report is meant for

Before you create and send any report always ask yourself following three questions:

  • Why I am reporting, what I am reporting? I am reporting because …..
  • How does this affect the recipient(s)? I am presenting this report to the board of directors because……
  • What actions recipient(s) should take on the basis of this report? I am presenting this report so that he takes this action………

For example, when you choose to report ‘bounce rate’ to a CEO then what actions you want him to take?

  • Do you want him to optimize the marketing campaigns and reduce the bounce rate?
  • Do you want him to fire the marketing manager because he is responsible for bringing crappy traffic to the website?

If you can’t think of any action that the CEO should take on the basis of the bounce rate then why you are reporting him the bounce rate?

As we move up in an organization hierarchy (esp. in big companies) we tend not to bug senior management with minute details.

Minute details are for the managers (because they have to manage the campaigns) or for the colleagues (because they are directly working on optimizing the campaigns).

So we should avoid presenting tactical dashboards (like copy-paste versions of Google Analytics screenshots) to senior management and present them only business bottom line impacting insight, possibly in few lines of plain English.


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#2 Keep it short and simple

I can’t put enough stress on the importance of simplicity. If your reports are not easy to understand than it won’t have any impact. It is as simple as that. So stay away from using industry jargon and ambiguous words as much as possible.

If you can’t avoid using a technical term then explain it first each time you use it. Don’t assume people already know about it because you trained them once.

It took me several days before I could successfully retain the definition of a bounce rate in my memory when I first started to play with web analytics.

So these technical terms are not as easy to remember as you may think especially for the people who know little to nothing about web analytics.

Present less fluff and more substance. If your reports are 10 pages long then no one is going to read them let alone take any action.

#3 Use a report template whenever you can to create a new report

If you create a new report from scratch then you would need to spend a lot of time creating the layout and format of your report.

You would need to spend a lot of time creating and bringing individual report components (like tables, scorecards, charts, etc) together in a way that is visually appealing and at the same time make your report meaningful and easy to understand.

However, if you use a report template, then you just need to do two things (most of the time):

  1. Change the data source
  2. Do some minor cosmetic changes to the report (like change the name of the report, add your company logo, etc).

#4 Avoid pulling data directly from a data platform into your reports

A rookie mistake that most Data Studio users make is that they pull data directly from a data platform into Data Studio and then try to manipulate it there.

Data Studio is not meant for data manipulation. It is not a spreadsheet. 

When you manipulate data in Data Studio, it slows down your report. This is especially true for large data sets.

Manipulating data in a spreadsheet is a lot easier than manipulating data in Data Studio. When you choose to manipulate data in Data Studio, you make it unnecessarily hard to use.

That is why we first pull the data from a data platform into a spreadsheet (like Google Sheets or Excel) and manipulate the data there, and only after that use that data in Data Studio.

#5 Avoid charting data for the current day in your reports

By default, Google Data Studio uses UTC standard time. If your data set doesn’t use UTC, you may see discrepancies when charting data for the current day (due to differences between UTC and your timezone).

Such discrepancies increase significantly when you live farthest from London (like in Australia, New Zealand, etc.) where the time difference between UTC and your timezone is pretty big.

So if you live in Australia and you pull the data for the current day (from the data set which uses different timezone say ‘UTC’) in data studio, it may not show you any data for ‘today’. 

Moreover, I don’t see any real benefit of analyzing an incomplete data set.  So avoid charting data for the current day in Data Studio.

#6 Avoid using functions and calculated fields in your reports

The use of functions in calculated fields can greatly increase the load time of your reports in the data studio. Even the use of calculated fields themselves can greatly increase the load time of your data studio reports.

If you want to do any type of data manipulation (whether it is aggregation, mathematical calculations, manipulating string data, etc) do it in Google Sheets and not in data studio.

#7 Distribute related charts across multiple pages

By default, a Google data studio report is made up of only one page. But you can add multiple pages to a Data Studio report. Additional pages provide a mechanism to reduce the complexity of any given page. 

It could be tempting to add all of your charts and other components onto one page. 

However, spreading out your report across multiple pages helps in minimizing the complexity of any given page. It makes your report much easier to consume. 

Six methods to create a new report in Data Studio

You can create a new Data Studio report in the following ways:

  1. From the home page
  2. From the template found in the template gallery.
  3. From the template found in the report gallery.
  4. While editing a report
  5. While editing a data source
  6. By making a copy of an existing report

Creating a new report from the Data Studio Home Page

There are two ways to create a new report from the Data Studio Home page:

  1. Via the ‘Create’ drop-down menu
  2. Via the ‘Blank Report’ button

#1 Via the ‘Create’ drop-down menu:

When you logged into Google Data Studio, you see the ‘Create’ drop-down menu on the top left-hand side:

Click on the ‘Create’ drop-down menu button and then click on the ‘Report’ link to create a new report from scratch:

#2 Via the ‘Blank Report’ button

The second way to create a new report from scratch is by clicking on the ‘Blank Report’ button:

Google Data Studio Template Gallery and Report Gallery

If you create a new report from scratch then you would need to spend a lot of time creating the layout and format of your report.

You would need to spend a lot of time creating and bringing individual report components (like tables, scorecards, charts, etc) together in a way that is visually appealing and at the same time make your report meaningful and easy to understand.

However, if you use a report template, then you just need to do two things (most of the time):

  1. Change the data source
  2. Do some minor cosmetic changes to the report (like change the name of the report, add your company logo, etc).

The template gallery list ready to use report templates. Use these templates to create fully functional and attractive templates in seconds.  

You can find the Google Data Studio template gallery in two places:

#1 When you logged into Google Data Studio, you see the template gallery link on the right-hand side:

When you click on this link, you can see the list of available report templates:

#2 The second place to look for report templates is the Data Studio Report Gallery: https://datastudio.google.com/gallery

The Data Studio report gallery lists report templates under the following four categories:

  1. Featured (these are the reports templates featured by Data Studio).
  2. Marketing Templates
  3. Community (Data Studio report templates built by the community)
  4. Community Visualizations – Data Studio reports with Community Visualizations

If you want to submit your own report to the Data Studio Report Gallery then click on the ‘submit your report’ link and then follow the on-screen instructions:

Creating a new report via template gallery

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to Google Data Studio: https://datastudio.google.com/navigation/reporting

You should now see the available report templates on the right-hand side:

Step-2: Click on one of the report templates say ‘Acme Marketing’:

Step-3: Check whether the template meets your requirements and if it does then click on the ‘Use Template’ button on the top right-hand side:

Step-4: Select your data source from the ‘New Data Source’ drop-down menu:

Click on ‘CREATE NEW DATA SOURCE‘ link, if you do not have an existing data source to select:

Step-5: Click on the ‘Copy Report’ button. 

Your new report would look like the one below:

At this point you can do the following things with this report:

  • Change the name of the report.
  • Add your company logo.
  • Add/edit/remove individual components of the report.
  • Change the layout/formatting to meet your requirements

Needless to say, you need to know the Google Data Studio user interface really well before you can use an existing report template as your report.

Creating a new report via report gallery

If you want to use a template from the report gallery to create a new report then follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to  https://datastudio.google.com/gallery

Step-2: Select the template you want to use. Let’s say we want to use the ‘GA Acquisition Overview’ template (listed under the ‘Marketing Templates’ gallery):

Step-3: Click on the ‘GA Acquisition Overview’ template. This action will open the report template in a new tab.

Step-4: Click on the ‘Make a copy of this report’ button:

Step-5: Select your data source from the ‘New Data Source’ drop-down menu:

Click on ‘Create a new data source‘ link, if you do not have an existing data source to select:

Step-6: Click on the ‘Copy Report’ button.

Your new report would look like the one below:

At this point you can do the following things with this report:

  • Change the name of the report.
  • Add your company logo.
  • Add/edit/remove individual components of the report.
  • Change the layout/formatting to meet your requirements

Creating a new report while editing a report

There are two ways you can create a new report while editing an existing report:

#1 While editing an existing report, select File > New report

The new report will open up in a new tab. 

Now select an existing data source schema or click ‘Create a New Data Source’ to create a new schema: 

Note: You can not add any chart to your report without first adding a data source.

#2 While editing an existing report, select File > Make a Copy

When you copy a report, you get the option of keeping the current data sources attached to that report or replacing them with different data sources:

You can select a new data source from the ‘New Data Source’ drop-down menu:

Click on the ‘Copy Report’ button to complete your process of duplicating an existing report.

When you copy a report, the copy inherits the following components from the original report:

  1. Chart components (like ‘Table’, ‘Scorecard’, ‘Pie chart’, ‘Bar chart’, etc).
  2. Interactive components (like ‘dimensions filters’, ‘date range controls’, ‘data control’,’Google Analytics Segments’ etc)
  3. Design components (like ‘images’, ‘text boxes’, ‘rectangles’, ‘lines’, ‘circles’, etc)
  4. Embedded external components (like ‘videos’, ‘Images’, ‘Google Docs’, etc)
  5. Pages

Note(1): Copying a report does not create copies of its data sources. 

Note(2): If you want to use any existing report as a template then just make a copy of it.

Note(3): If you see an ‘(Unknown)’ data source while copying a report then it means that data source schema has not been shared with you and you must select a different data source schema from the ‘New Data Source’ drop-down menu:

Creating a new report while editing a data source schema

You can create a new report from within the data source editor. 

Follow the steps below:

  1. Create a new data source schema or edit an existing schema.
  2. Click on the ‘Create Report‘ button on the top right-hand side:

Components of a report in Google Data Studio

A report in Data Studio is made up of one or more pages. By default, a new report is made up of just one page.

Adding another page

If you want to add another page to your report, then follow the steps below:

Step-1: Open an existing report by clicking on its name (under the ‘Reports’ tab):

The report will open in the view mode.

Step-2: Click on the ‘Edit‘ button at the top right-hand side:

Once you clicked on the ‘Edit’ button, you will see the report in the ‘edit mode‘.

Step-3: Click on the ‘Add a page’ button on the top left-hand side in the report editor:

Once you click on the ‘Add a page’ button, you will be redirected to the new page of your report:

If you want to navigate back to page 1 of the report then click on the ‘Show Page Control‘ drop-down menu:

From the drop-down menu, click on ‘Page 1’:

Each page is made up of canvas. 

Here is what the blank canvas looks like:

A canvas is made up of the grid lines.

When we create a report in Data Studio, we add components (like ‘tables’, ‘scorecard’, ‘bar charts’ etc) to this canvas. 

Following is an example of a canvas which contains one component of type ‘table’:

Following is an example of a canvas which contains two components: one table component and one scorecard component:

Each component is made up of one or more fields.

You can change the layout and theme of this canvas through the ‘Layout and Theme panel‘ on the right-hand side:

Related Articles

 

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