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How to Visualize Data With Google Data Studio

You’re familiar with Google Docs and Sheets, but have you used Google Data Studio?

The free tool lets you turn data into eye-catching visuals and easy-to-read reports.


.@Google Data Studio turns data into eye-catching visuals and easy-to-read reports, says @fatmirhyseni via @cmicontent. Share on X

Whether you’re reaching executives reviewing analytics (82% of CMOs say they lack the experience to effectively do it) or you’re telling number-based stories to your website visitors, visualization can be a compelling and dynamic format.

Data Studio also is user friendly – you don’t need to write code or know what SQL (structured query language) is. With pre-built data connectors, Data Studio handles all data authentications and access rights to use for calculations, transformations, and data visualizations. It also can convert raw data into the metrics needed for easy-to-follow reports and dashboards.

And, like other tools in the Google family, you can create content in a community – editing and managing comments, dashboards, and reports within and outside of your company.

It is truly drag-and-drop technology, offering the ability to customize charts, graphs, colors, shapes, images, and logos.

Consider purpose and formats

Before you log into Data Studio, think about what data you want illustrated. Do you want to analyze your website metrics? Display multiple data points on the same chart to tell a longitudinal story? Create a graph to illustrate concepts? Develop a standardized report for your team?

At the same time, you also need to identify what data is available and where it can be accessed. Data Studio lets you choose data from a single source or multiple points. It accommodates a variety of data products (Google and non-Google), including:

Begin to consider the format options for sharing that data:

  • Line, bar, or pie charts
  • Geographic mapping
  • Area and bubble graphs
  • Paginated data or pivot tables
  • Interactive reports with filters and data-range controls
  • Content catalogs or libraries with built-in hyperlinks and clickable images
  • Annotations for your reports

At this point, you just need to narrow your format options; the final decision can come later.

TIP: To learn more about Google Analytics and Data Studio, check out this YouTube video from those Google teams.

Now that you have the foundation of what you want to achieve with Data Studio, it’s time to create the visualization. Let’s walk through the steps of creating an original report.

1. Create the file

On the Data Studio landing page, click on Blank Report. Though you can create several types of data reports and publish them on different pages within the same document, this example collates the related graphs on a single page.

TIP: Check out the templates available on the same page to see if one matches what you’re looking to create. A Google Data Studio template could save you time and effort. If you need help, review this Google resource.

.@Google Data Studio provides templates to make data visualizations easier, says @fatmirhyseni via @cmicontent. #dataviz Share on X

An empty page appears. Go to the top left to input the report title.

2. Hook up the data

Though Data Studio provides sample Google Analytics data sets for users to play with, you can select a new data source.

Go to the bottom right of page and click on the plus to create a new data source.

The new screen details the source options for the new data, ranging from the Google-provided services to CSV file uploads and other databases:

In this example, let’s click on Google Analytics as the data source.

This screen appears:

Going from left to right, choose the designated Account.

Then pick the Property – the name of the website or application the tracking data comes from.

Now, pick the View – the Master View collects all the data without filters.

Finally, click Connect in the upper right.

Now you can filter, sort, and arrange your data. Data Studio lets you specify the data type and whether you want the data aggregated.


TIP: If Data Studio imports a field you don’t want to include, click on the three vertical dots next to it to disable it. 

3. Build your visualization

Once your data is ready, click the arrow icon in the top right.

Select the graph type you want to build. In this example, we will select bar chart highlighted in the red box. (Remember, every chart type requires a different data arrangement.)

A bar chart requires you to select one dimension and at least one metric. If you add multiple metrics, you will see multiple bars for each category.

In this example, the bar chart will show the channel (dimension) with sessions and page views (metrics) sorted by the session numbers (the x axis): 

The hardest part is done. Now, you need to style the graph.

Click on the graph. On the right side, choose Style. This screenshot for this example shows the design options, including:

  • Change the text color, grid, bar, or background
  • Change the font size
  • Convert the bar to a heat map or default table


Using the data visualization

You can do a few things with the share feature. You can collaborate on the visualization with your team or clients. Depending on their level of access, they can view or edit the reports through an invitation or a shared link.

The visualizations also can be shared by embedding them into online and offline content, from websites and blog posts to annual reports.

Data visualizations from #GoogleDataStudio can be shared with anyone on the internet, says @fatmirhyseni via @cmicontent. #dataviz Share on X

To access the sharing features, click the Share button on the top right. A pop-up presents several sharing options. You can add people or use the Manage Access tab. The latter enables you to allow the visualization to be found, viewed, and even downloaded by others on the internet.

Think visually

Google Data Studio is a powerful way to transform your data into appealing visual charts, graphs, and tables. It’s fast, easy, and free. More importantly, data visualizations let you present your information in a more valuable and helpful way to your audiences, from your executives to your site visitors.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute