August 03 2017

Has Google Data Studio Changed the World of Analytics Reporting?

Google DataStudioBrace yourself: the world of website analytics reporting has just changed. Google Data Studio was announced in the summer of 2016 as part of Google’s new 360 Suite of products. While initially available only to customers paying for the costly 360 platform, Google soon allowed non-paying customers to have access as well. This means that between Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Data Studio, Google is providing three extremely powerful tools at absolutely no cost. What’s more, when these three tools are used together, you can collect data that is highly relevant to your business needs and display your results in a way that will actually make sense to your company.

The Data Studio Difference

There are many ways to view Google Analytics reports. You can navigate directly to one of Google’s default reporting screens, you can create custom dashboards or custom reports within the Customization section, or you can export your data via the API into any number of third-party tools. Until Data Studio was introduced, that last option was only available at a cost from vendors who had created their own reporting tools linked to the API.

Data Studio differs from the other Google reporting options in the amount of personalization and customization available. If you’ve ever created a slideshow presentation for a presentation, the interface will be very familiar. This is because you can add custom text, imagery, and branding elements in addition to being able to pull data directly from Google Analytics. Additionally, you can pull in data from other sources such as Google AdWords and YouTube, as well as from your own spreadsheets. This data is displayed on reporting “widgets”, which could be graphs, charts, tables and more.

Simply put, Google Data Studio gives you the freedom to create the type of reporting that you’ve always wanted: simple, readable, and actionable. And, you can easily share this data with people who don’t need to be data geeks to get it.

Ease of Reporting

Google Analytics does a great job of collecting data. You can compare current data against historical data, add multiple dimensions to split out subsets of data, and create custom audience segments to laser focus your results. However, when you try to reflect any of these things in a report, especially one that is easily shared with peers and coworkers, things can get tricky. Google Data Studio allows you to not only pull all of these things onto a report, but to set them in place for ongoing access without needing to update settings every time.
In addition to giving you increased access to customized data, Data Studio allows you to customize the look and feel of your reporting, bringing in brand elements and industry verbiage that will be relevant to your audience. If further explanation is needed for some of the terms in your report, you can add an explanation adjacent to the data. For example, if the term “Users” means nothing to your team, but everyone understands “Unique Visitors”, then you can add custom text containing those terms.

While informative, the reporting is also interactive. Filter controls allow even novice analytics users to filter the report based on things like location, device and traffic source. You can also hover over graphs and charts to get more detailed information as well as sort tables by metric. Data can be exported to a spreadsheet if necessary, and sharing is as simple as typing in an email address.

Data Studio & Tag Manager

Google Data Studio is already pulling in website traffic data from Google Analytics, but you can add even more detail if you’re using Google Tag Manager. Google Analytics won’t tell you specific actions that a visitor took on your site, so you’ll want to set up event tracking in Google Tag Manager that picks up signs of visitor intent. Since Google Tag Manager is made for non-developers, it’s easy to strategize and implement the events that should be in your reporting. In addition to calling out the number of times a visitor interacted with one of these intent actions, you can add filters to other reports to only show data on a visit where that action happened. Similarly, you can show data not related to these events to segment the type of traffic that results in low interest.

Data Studio helpful tips

  • Always keep a clean copy of your reporting template to make copies of. This will let you maintain consistency as you develop new reports over time.
  • Build audience segments in Google Analytics based on visitor attributes and activities. Those segments can be applied to any Data Studio widget along with the standard reporting filters.
  • Save filters in Data Studio so that you can easily apply them across multiple reporting widgets.
  • Use the ‘Compare Dates’ feature to reference your website’s performance compared to earlier dates to gauge areas of growth or loss.

The right reporting fit

Looking at your website data without any customization is like getting a view from ten thousand feet. You can see a lot all at once, but you might miss those small details which can tell a big story. Your data should be used to answer questions that you have about your website’s performance. What are the results of your latest digital advertising campaign? Which pages are most popular in geographic locations where you’re looking to expand? How long does it take a visitor to get from awareness to conversion? Those answers can be found in Google Analytics already, but finding them can seem like an exercise in frustration, especially if you’re pulling reports on a regular basis.

Data Studio is the perfect option anytime a report needs to be customized, whether you’re referencing data for yourself or need to present to a group. If you need need some help with your website analytics and reporting, get in touch.

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posted by
Patrick Trayes
Patrick Trayes
Associate Director of Client Analytics

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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