If you need to generate a report with data derived from a Google service, a CSV file, or a database, look no further than Google Data Studio.
Google Data Studio is a Google-ized dashboard and reporting tool that makes the often tedious task of transforming your data into informative reports for an audience very simple. In other words, if you have data, and you need that data to be represented in an easy-to-view format, Google Data Studio might be the tool for you. And like the other Google tools, Data Studio is free to anyone with a Google account.
Usually working with such a tool can come with too many options, steep learning curves, and less-than-stellar results. That's not the case with Google Data Studio. In fact, the results you get with Google's tool are shockingly good (considering the price and the ease of use).
But how do you get started? Let me show you.
What you need
You need only two things:
- A Google account
The account part is simple. It's the data that might trip up some users. Or could, had Google not done such an amazing job with the tool. Google Data Studio can use data from the following sources:
- File upload (CSV file of tabular data with a regular structure of rows and columns)
- Attribution 360
- Campaign Manager
- Cloud Spanner
- Cloud SQL for MySQL
- Display & Video 360
- Extract Data
- Google Ad Manager 360
- Google Ads
- Google Analytics
- Google Cloud Storage
- Google Sheets
- MySQL (must be able to reach your MySQL server from a public-facing address)
- Search Ads 360
- Search Console
- YouTube Analytics
There are also quite a lot of third-party data sources to select from (such as Adform, Adobe Analytics, Amazon Ads, and more). You can also upload a CSV file, or connect to a remote database. All of these combined make a very flexible sourcing of data.
Once you've signed into your account, go to Google Data Studio and click the + button associated with the Blank new report (Figure A).
In the resulting window, click CREATE NEW DATA SOURCE at the bottom right corner. You will then be required to select the source for your data. Let's say, for example, your company has a YouTube channel it uses for advertising and/or client instructional videos, and you want to work the data from that channel into the report. To connect to that source, hover your cursor over the YouTube Analytics button and click SELECT. In the resulting window (Figure B), select from a channel and then choose an account.
Click the CONNECT button in the top right corner. In the new window (Figure C), customize the data you want to use and, when finished, click ADD TO REPORT.
When prompted, click the ADD TO REPORT button in the verification pop up, and your data will be available to the report.
Adding elements to the report
Now that your data is available to the report, you need to add elements that make use of the data. You can select any number of the following elements:
- Time series
- Bar chart
- Combo chart
- Pie chart
- Geo map
- Scatter chart
- Bullet chart
- Area chart
- Pivot table
- URL Embed
- Date range
- Filter control
- Data control
To add an element, click Insert (from the Menu toolbar) and select the type you want. Let's say you want to add a Geo map, which represents viewing areas for your YouTube channel. Click Insert | Geo map. When the blue rectangle appears, drag one of the handles to resize the map and release. The map will appear, showing the concentration of viewers by location (Figure D). You can then drag the element to any location in the report.
You can then add text (for a label or explanation) and even add more elements to represent different aspects of your data. Keep adding elements until you're satisfied with the results. When you've completed the project, click the VIEW button in the upper right corner (to exit the edit mode). At this point, you can view your report. If you've added interactive elements (such as Date Range), it will now function as expected.
If you need to go back and edit again, click the EDIT button and keep working. When you are certain the report is complete, you can then click the Share button (directly to the left of the EDIT button) and share the report with anyone you need. You can also download the report as a PDF (which allows you to ignore custom background color, add a link back to the report, and password protect the report).
The one caveat to the PDF version of the report is that it renders any interactive element inactive. But with a link back to the original report added, users won't miss out.
Get your report on
And that is the gist of using Google Data Studio. This tool is as powerful as it is user-friendly. If you have a need to get your report on, and you don't want to pony up for expensive software, Google's take on data reporting software is certainly a great option.
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