Getting Started with Google Data Studio – Build Top-Notch KPI Dashboards [Part 1]

How do you deal with the extensive amount of data available for your business? If you are like most business owners or marketers, you have access to tons of data from all kinds of sources.

In this post, we will show you how to use Google Data Studio to create top-notch all-in-one interactive reports.

We will go through:

  • The importance of defining your KPIs
  • Types of data sources and GDS connectors
  • Google Data Studio templates and visualizations
  • Sharing your Google Data Studio reports

Let’s dive in!

Your Quick Access Links

Start your Google Data Studio dashboard by defining your KPIs

You’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of reports you have to keep an eye on every day. The secret, or better call it the challenge, is to visualize the data in such a way that it feels easier to answer the questions you have about your business. This will help you make the right decisions and take the proper actions.

How do you do that? Well, here’s your answer:

Define your marketing objectives and your KPIs

Start your dashboard from the whiteboard. You will have to ask the right questions so that you can build the dashboard that gives you the right answers. 

We cannot stress enough how important it is to define your marketing objectives and goals.

Do you want to raise awareness for your business?  

  • You’ll want to look at website traffic, organic traffic, YouTube video views, and so on.

Do you want to get more sales and leads?

  • Then you’ll want to look at the number of transactions, the average order value, lifetime sales per customers, or the churn rate.

You decide! With Google Data Studio you are in control. You have the full reins over the data you want to see and how you see it.

Google Data Studio connectors and data sources - Connect what matters most to you

Now that you’ve decided on the metrics, you might ask yourself how can you pull them into your dashboard?

By using Data sources and Google Data Studio connectors. As Google puts it, “Connectors connect Data Studio to your underlying data. Connecting to your data creates a data source in Data Studio.”

There are three types of Google Data Studio Connectors:

Google Connectors

These are 16 free of charge Google Connectors built and supported by Data Studio:

  • Google Ads
  • Google Ad Manager
  • Search Ads 360
  • Display & Video 360
  • Campaign Manager
  • Google Analytics
  • YouTube Analytics
  • Search Console
  • Google Sheets
  • CSV File Upload
  • MySQL
  • Cloud SQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • BigQuery
  • Cloud Spanner
  • Google Cloud Storage

As you can see, you can connect to both Google’s systems and your own database platforms.

If you have your internal customer database built with PHP and MySQL, you can pull any powerful metrics you’re tracking.

Or, if you connect Data Studio to Google BigQuery, you basically connect it to your database engine and pull out the data that interests you more.

Partner Connectors

Google doesn’t provide any connectors for non-Google products. That’s where the partner connectors step in. There are 177 third-party connectors for you to create crystal-clear reports, from all sorts of data sources. Take for instance those built for Facebook, Instagram, Amazon Ads, or Bing Ads. You can enhance your dashboards with data from all these platforms.

Some third-party connectors are free, while some require a monthly or annual subscription. As the APIs (application programming interfaces) may change, you should make sure the connectors you use are up to date.

Open Source Connectors

These are the community connectors built by the Data Studio community.

If you couldn’t find the connector you need, you have the option to create one yourself, or hire a developer to build a connector for you. 

Here is the full list of data sources and connectors.

As we said in our What is Google Data Studio introduction, make sure you don’t overcomplicate your dashboard by adding too many data sources. Just remember: less is more!

Struggling with building a Google Data Studio dashboard customized for your business?

Fear not, we’re here to help. Let's take your reporting to the next level!

Google Data Studio templates

When starting a Google Data Studio dashboard, there are plenty of templates for you to choose from the Report Gallery. You can build your report from a handy, robust default template, or you can choose the blank one, and start from scratch.

Our suggestion is to check other dashboards for inspiration and borrow what suits you best. 

From customer journey to sales funnel dashboards, you’ll find enticing ideas and metrics to add to your own custom report.

Want to access your Google Analytics metrics on mobile?

Here’s our FREE in-house built mobile-friendly Data Studio template. Access your KPI dashboard on-the-go!

Google Data Studio visualizations

To help you have a better interpretation of your data, you can add any visualizations to your report in Google Data Studio: pie charts, line charts, bar charts, scorecards, geo maps, tables or pivot tables. 

You can use Data Studio’s default visualizations, import them from the community, or create your own.

How to share your Google Data Studio reports

Whether you share it with your clients, coworkers, stakeholders, your boss, or any other partner, the sharing process is simple as a click of a button. 

If you are familiar with Google documents, the process of sharing Google Data Studio reports is pretty similar to sharing a regular Google doc, with different levels of access: View or Edit. Anyone with View access (recommended for clients or outsiders) will see the front-end of your report, while those with Edit access (your team or other people you trust) can manipulate your charts and tables, adjust data sources and see your data.

Pay attention! Reports and data sources are shared separately. You can share reports without sharing its data sources.​ But, if you share a data source with Edit access, other editors may be able to modify the data source in ways that break your reports.

When sharing a report or data source in Google Data Studio, the most important thing you need to understand is how permissions work. Below you can see what actions different access levels can perform, for both reports and data sources.

There are some other ways to share a GDS report:

  • Get a report link (short URL)
  • Download as PDF
  • Schedule email delivery
  • Embed it in your site or article.

You can also share reports on social media channels platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Slack, and via chat. Simply copy and paste the URL of your report, after you made sure the report is shared publicly so others can view it.

There will be times when you want to prevent others from accessing, sharing, copying, downloading, or even printing your data. You can stop sharing at any time. 

Wrapping up on getting started with Google Data Studio

Building dashboards can be both exciting and exhausting, as I’m sure many of you have already found out. But if you want to be different – stand out from the crowd in a world overloaded with data and Excel reports, you have to get more visual. 

Designed to reflect your business, GDS dashboards can show you the most up-to-date metrics to drive results. Just let Google Data Studio be the curator of all your reports.

However, there’s so much more to learn. So, stay tuned for the next posts on getting started with Google Data Studio, this fun-to-explore playground. We’ll break down all the nuts and bolts of Google Data Studio, including enticing formulas, how use calculated fields, and more.

Cheers!

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