Google Data Studio (GDS) is one of my favourite tools for a few key reasons:
- It’s free (provided you have a Gmail / Google workspace account)
- It’s powerful, because it connects to more tools and sources with more flexibility than many other dashboard and tracking tools
Having said that, I’ll admit Google Data Studio isn’t the most intuitive tool to use. It does take awhile to get on top of.
In any case, hopefully this article can help you get on top of GDS.
Primer: What is Google Data Studio? Why care?
GDS is a free tool from Google that allows you to create dashboards and reports using multiple information sources that connect with the tool.
For example, you can create a dashboard using Google Analytics information and information manually entered into a Google sheet. This is better than using Google Analytics by itself, because you can add more dials, charts and diagrams to the same page of information and get a better view on your business performance than simply looking at the sheet or Google Analytics alone.
With this out of the way, let’s get to the how-to.
Map The Customer Journey
The first step is to map out your customer journey to find out where your traffic comes from in the most common cases, and how those people travel through your business all the way to referral.
Mapping the journey helps you visualize what’s happening before you get into the numbers. It gives you a structure to work from.
Growth marketers might view this as mapping the growth model of your business.
Use a tool like www.miro.com to create a diagram, starting from the sources of the traffic and mapping out the key stages. Here’s an example for a SaaS application like AirTable (one of my favourite tools):
An easy way to think through the user journey is also using the AARRR framework, to consider how people find out about you, where they sign up, and what happens after.
Create Your Measurement Plan
A measurement plan is simply a list of KPIs you want to use to track the marketing activity overall.
You can go as detailed or high level as you like here. It will depending on the amount of manpower and need for detail your business has, but the idea is to get the numbers to drive each of these actions on the board.
A helpful way to think about this from my view is to consider each number like a lever. See an example below:
You’ll notice that each part of the journey could have many KPIs, but if you’re new to this, start with the basics and add complexity over time.
- CTR = clickthrough rate. The number of people who visit a page and click through to your target page.
- CVR = conversion rate.
- Activation rate = a broad term, but used to describe the number of people who signup and actually start using your offering.
Prepare Your Data Sources
Now you have your measuring plan, you can think through – where am I going to get this data from?
The simple answer for many of these is going to be Google Analytics. For others, it may not be so simple. If you run an app, it would be handy to have the usage data in a separate Analytics property, for example.
Preparing Google Analytics Data
Google Analytics data is easy to work with in GDS, however, you’ll want to make sure you have your specific segments created ahead of time. This will allow you to more easily filter the results you need.
For instance, in our AirTable example, we want to know how many people from the blog clicked through to the signup page.
You’ll want to create a segment for that ahead of time in Google Analytics.
A quick guide to creating Google Analytics Segments:
- Go to Google Analytics https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/
- Go to the admin settings by clicking the gear in the bottom-left, and click segments:
- Click Create New Segment:
- Add the parameters you need to create that segment. In this example, we’d make it that their landing page had to come from urls with /blog/
Preparing Other Data, Through Sheets
When in doubt, an easy way to prepare the data is to simple have a Google sheet. However, it can be a bit tricky adding time series (e.g. events that happen over time) to GDS so keep in mind that you have to format your tables in a specific way:
- Make sure you have the dimensions of your data (e.g. labels like Number of Referrals, Downloads, Clicks) along the top. Read more here: https://support.google.com/datastudio/answer/6402048?hl=en
- Dates down the left-hand side.
- All dates, numbers, etc. have their fields formatted to match. You’ll have to physically select them just to double check.
Create Your GDS Dashboards
Now with the KPIs mapped out and your data sources, you can start building your business’s marketing dashboard using GDS.
- Go to https://datastudio.google.com/overview and click the button to get started:
- Create a blank report:
- Add the Data Sources that you’ll need to pull information from. Use the sources you prepared earlier, and for our example, let’s select Google Analytics. You will be asked to authorize access for any Google Product or other source.
- With the data sources selected, start by adding a Date Control so you can use this to filter the time-window of your data rather than doing it on the chart level (which you will see in the next step):
- Next you can build the dashboard by selecting charts to add and then modifying their parameters. In this case, let’s add one using a time series graph to review the number of blog visitors over time:
- Select the parameters you need to show the correct information on your graph/chart. For example, you may need to select A) the right headers (dimensions), B) exactly what metric you want to track (users, conversion rates, etc) and C) which segments to apply:
- Repeat the steps for each of your KPIs.
- Add labels to the page to help with understanding your report at a glance:
- You can add different colours and so on to your charts and page by using the Layout options:
You will now have your page setup to measure the KPIs across the business and review your marketing results as a glance: