Humans are extremely visual creatures. 90% of the information processed by our brains is visual. When we’re born we inherently understand images, but we learn to process text and numbers only after a lot of learning and practice. Even as well-versed adults we may still get overwhelmed when presented with a smattering of numbers and words to interpret, say in a business report or database. At this point our eyes glaze over and we revert back to our toddler selves and cry, “But where are the pictures?” (Maybe that’s just me?)
Enter Google Data Studio. Earlier this year, Google introduced its new tool that allows marketers to turn data into visual reports and dashboards. Not only does Data Studio make information a little easier to digest through crisp visuals, the tool is dynamic and can be a significant timesaver. It’s already become my best friend for monthly reporting. On the flip side, the tool is still in beta so there are limitations. Here are some of the pros and cons of Google Data Studio from my experiences so far.
- It’s F-R-E-E free! Each Gmail address can create up to 5 reports for free. Larger organizations can purchase Data Studio 360 to get unlimited reports and dedicated support.
- It’s super easy to connect other Google products like Analytics, AdWords, Sheets, and YouTube. You can also use an API to import other sources. This allows you to put information that’s historically stored in separate places side by side and tell a more robust story.
- You can add dynamic date range controls to your reports. This is the feature I really love. I can build a report to share with my team or my clients and they can update the timeframe each month/quarter/whenever their heart desires. I save time updating reports, they save time asking for them. (Depending on your situation you may not want to give someone else the ability to update the timeframe whenever they want. In that case, you simply set the date range in edit mode to the timeframe you want your stakeholders to see.)
- It’s probably prettier than whatever report you’re putting together right now. Adding a little color and visual interest can go a long way.
Sample reports from Google Data Studio
- As I mentioned, Data Studio is still in beta so it can be a bit buggy. However, I haven’t run into anything majorly out of whack that I haven’t been able to work around or eventually figure out. For example, someone recently reported in the help forum that the date range selector stops working if you group it with an image. Not a huge deal, just don’t group them together. The good news is the product will only continue to get better and more user friendly.
- Piggybacking from the last point, Data Studio support is pretty much in beta, also. There is a help center that explains the very basics and a help forum, but be prepared to spend some time searching for answers to specific issues/questions. The paid 360 version says it comes with “enterprise-level” service and support, but for now us little guys have to use our sleuthing skills.
- Unfortunately, Data Studio doesn’t yet support Google Analytics segments. This is a pretty big deal since A LOT of marketers use segments to define data. Without the ability to connect segments the tool may be essentially useless for some. Complaints are all over the help forum so hopefully segments become available sooner rather than later.
All in all, I give Google Data Studio a thumbs up and encourage you to try it out for yourself. Happy reporting!