A Crash Course in Google Data Studio

 In Analytics, Data Visualization, Marketing

Google Data Studio is an interactive reporting tool. You can connect a data source such as Google Analytics and create beautiful data visualizations that you can share with anyone.

I began using Data Studio the day that Google released the free version and I’ve been using it ever since. I mostly taught myself through trial and error and hope I can make the learning curve a little less steep for you.

Why Use Google Data Studio?

There are many data visualization tools on the market now and Data Studio is an excellent choice. It’s great for marketers or anyone who needs strong reporting capabilities without the cost. While it doesn’t have the functionality (yet) of some enterprise tools like Tableau or Domo, it’s still a great tool for the following reasons:

    • It’s Free (or you can’t afford Tableau)
    • Unlimited Number of Reports
    • Import Data from Several Sources
    • Click-and-Drag Functionality
    • Fast Learning Curve
    • Share with Anyone

To get started, access Google Data Studio through your Google account here: datastudio.google.com

Data Studio allows you to create an unlimited number of reports. When you gain access, you have the option to either use a blank canvas or a premade template. I recommend you start with a template because you will be able to see how various charts are setup and how it’s using the data sources. You reverse engine how Data Studio works

google data studio start


Connecting To Data Sources

The beauty of Google Data Studio is that you can connect to a data source and import that data. This allows you to build an automatically updating report depending on the data source.


In this course, I will be using data from Google Analytics. Once you understand the fundamentals of connecting to a data source, you should be able to successfully connect to the other sources like AdWords or a database.

Connecting to Google Analytics

I will be using the Google Analytics demo account so we have plenty of data to work with or if you don’t have access to an account. Learn how to setup the Google Analytics demo account here: analytics.google.com/analytics/web/demoAccount

First, we must create a new report. Go to your home screen in Data Studio.

Either start from a blank report or a template.

Once you’ve started a new report you can create a new data source. Data Studio includes some sample data if you’d like to use that. I’d recommend and try adding your own source so you can learn how it works.


In this part, I’m choosing the Google Analytics data source. Select it and you will be asked to connect to your Google Analytics account. Once selected, click the blue “Connect” button in the top right.



You have the ability to customize the format type of dimensions and metrics. You can also change the names of them if you’d prefer. For this course, we’re just going to “Add to Report” AS-IS.

Once you’ve connected to a data source you should come to a blank sheet.

Important: You have the ability to toggle between “Edit” mode and “Report” mode.

Click the edit button to enter ‘Edit’ mode. When you’re ready, click the ‘View’ button so you can see the interactive report.

The next step is to add a chart. In this example, I am choosing the time series charts to show the traffic trend. Click the time series chart button and click and drag the area where you want the chart to be added.

There are many types of charts in Google Data Studio and they are fairly flexible to edit. It’s not as flexible as creating charts in Microsoft Excel though. For example, if you want to change the title of an axis in Excel, you would need to change the field name when you create the connect. You cannot just click on the axis name and change it.

Types of Charts:

  • Time Series Chart
  • Bar Chart
  • Pie Chart
  • Table
  • Geomap
  • Scorecard
  • Scatter Chart
  • Bullet Chart
  • Area Chart

Under data source, choose your Google Analytics view. The “Time Dimension” should be set to Date. The “Metric” should be set to dimension.

Configuring the Data Sources

Configuring the properties of your data source is probably the most difficult part of using Google Data Studio.
Data Sources: The location that the data is coming from (ex. Google Analytics, AdWords, Sheets, MySQL, etc..)
Configuring the property is determining what you specifically want to see from those data sources (ex. Sessions, Users, Bounce Rate, Goals, etc.)

To be able to see a visualization, you must select at least one dimension and one metric.

Dimension: Think of dimensions as non-quantitative measures. Dimensions are attributes such as pages, URLs, dates, city, time of day.

Metrics: Think of metrics as a quantitative measure. For example, sessions, bounce rate, click-through-rate, time-on-site are all measures.

Learn more about dimensions and metrics

In the screenshot below, we are creating a chart that is looking at conversions by month. You could also change month to date, week, day or year depending on how you want to look at the data. Maybe instead of conversions, you’d like to look at sessions or page views.

Filters: Filters are crucial to making successful reports. Often, the marketer needs to pull a certain segment of data rather than all of it. For example, if you want to look at sessions from just organic search, then you would need to create a filter. Otherwise, Data Studio will show you all the sessions.

Let’s create a filter for a time series chart that only shows data from organic search.

Creating a Filter

  1. Click ‘Add a filter’
  2. Name your filter
  3. Choose to include or exclude data
  4. Choose a dimension or metric
  5. Set the logic or regular expression
  6. Enter your value

It may take some practice to get the hang of filters. Once you understand how to create the it will allow you to create powerful reports.


Styling & Layout

While it’s not as flexible as Excel, Google Data studio if fairly flexible in how much you can style and edit your report. Everything

Everything is click-and-drag.

To style a chart – simply click on it. You will see two tabs on most charts: Data and Style. Click ‘Style’.

Most of the styling section is pretty self-explanatory. It’s similar to styling in Microsoft Word. You change text sizes and colors. You could add background colors or even a grid behind you chart.

I’d suggest you play around with the settings to become familiar with the tools and what they do.

Also, you can create reports with multiple pages. Go to ‘Page’ in the menu and either click ‘New Page’ or ‘Duplicate Page’.

This is obviously a useful feature since many of your reports may need to be more than one page.


Sharing Reports

Sharing report is part of what makes data studio so useful. It’s the same as sharing as you would in Google docs or sheets.

To share a report – click the share button in the upper right-hand corner of your report.

You have the option to send someone an email notification with access to the report. Or you can directly share the report with a link.

There are several ways you can customize the sharing of these reports.

To share the report, click the icon with the person and the plus sign.

First, you decide who get access to these reports:

  • Anyone
  • Anyone with the link
  • Anyone from your business

Then, you decide what level of access they have.

Anyone with the link can:

  • View: People will only be able to view the report, but not edit.
  • Edit: People will be able to view AND edit the report.

Be careful who you give editor access to. They can mess things up.


Thanks for reading and I hope this article was helpful in understanding Google Data Studio.

Please let me know if you’d like me to explain or clarify anything written here.