Across all industries, it’s becoming increasingly more important for businesses to use data to drive their decision-making and improve strategy. These strategies and decisions may be unique to each business, but one common thread that ties all businesses together is the need to turn complex data into actionable insights.
Not everyone wants to or can spend hours sifting through spreadsheets and analytics platforms in order to uncover insights. This is where visualization platforms such as Looker Studio step in. Looker Studio is Google’s premier data visualization tool that empowers businesses to convert complex data into actionable insights in an easy-to-read, digestible format. Unlike other visualization tools, Looker Studio is a free solution that automatically integrates with other Google products such as Google Analytics 4, Google Sheets, and Google Search Console. By learning how to create dashboards within Looker Studio, businesses can visualize their data and uncover insights more easily and efficiently.
Understanding the Basics of Google Looker Studio
Google Looker Studio is a comprehensive reporting tool that extends beyond data visualization. It provides a suite of features tailored to a wide range of business needs, enabling users to explore data in real-time, craft custom visualizations for specific datasets, and much more.
Real-time Data Exploration
One of Looker Studio's standout features is its ability to provide real-time insights:
- Direct Database Connection: By connecting directly to databases, Looker Studio reflects current and accurate data in all reports.
- Instant Updates: Any changes in the connected data sources are immediately reflected in the reports, ensuring timely insights for decision-making. There’s no need to reconnect a data source to refresh data – Looker Studio handles that behind the scenes.
Support for Multiple Data Formats
Looker Studio's versatility is evident in its ability to pull from a wide range of data formats using Connectors. Google offers Connectors to all of its own products, but there are also over 800 Community Connectors. These connect directly to any data source that’s accessible by the internet. This flexibility ensures that businesses can leverage all existing data, regardless of its format. Of the more than 800 connectors available in Looker Studio, these are some of the most popular:
- Google Sheets, CSV & Excel:
- For businesses that depend on spreadsheets for data collection, Looker Studio's support for Google Sheets, CSV, and Excel means that this data can be directly imported and visualized.
- Google Analytics 4 (GA4):
- Track your most common website traffic sources and trends
- Analyze user demographics and behavior
- Measure website conversions and goal completions
- Identify areas for improvement and optimization
- GA4 is a powerful tool for tracking website traffic and analyzing user behavior. Looker Studio makes it easy to import and visualize this data, allowing you to create comprehensive reports on your website performance. With this connector, you can:
- Google Ads:
- The Google Ads connector for Looker Studio allows you to visualize campaign performance metrics like clicks, conversions, and cost-per-lead to optimize your ad spend and maximize ROI.
Once imported, Looker Studio offers tools to transform the data, including filters, date range selectors. You can also blend data sources.
Automated Scheduling and Alerts
Automation is at the heart of Looker Studio's reporting process:
- Timely Reports: Schedule reports to be generated at specific intervals, such as the first day of every month, to ensure timely insights.
- Threshold Alerts: Set up alerts for specific data thresholds, ensuring that key stakeholders are immediately informed of crucial changes.
Designing Your Report
The design phase is the most important step. While aesthetics are important, it’s crucial that your data tells a story and conveys the right message to your stakeholders. Looker Studio makes it easy to design a report that captures attention, facilitates understanding, and drives action.
Looker Studio offers a range of customization options for the overall look of your dashboard:
- Layouts: Looker Studio caters to all needs, whether it's a grid layout for a comprehensive view or a single-page layout for focused reports.
- Themes: Align the dashboard's visual appeal with your brand's identity, choosing from a range of themes or creating a custom one. Themes ensure each page of your report is cohesive and consistent, allowing you to focus on showcasing your data in the most effective way.
With over 30 chart types available in Looker Studio, you can be sure that your data will be visualized in a way that makes sense. Some of our favorite chart types at Marcel Digital include:
- Scorecard: Use this chart to display a summary of a single metric.
- Time Series: Demonstrate how your data changes over a set period of time.
- Table: This chart type arranges data in a grid of rows and columns. Each column is representative of a dimension or metric, whereas each row is an individual data record.
Annotations for Clarity
Sometimes, reports can be difficult to understand without additional context. Annotations in Looker Studio serve as a guide for people viewing the report:
- Data Context: Provide context to specific data points, explaining spikes, drops, or anomalies.
- Guided Insights: Use annotations to guide viewers through the report, highlighting key insights and takeaways.
Building the Dashboard
Constructing a report in Looker Studio is a meticulous process that requires attention to detail at every step. From initiating a new project to adding interactive elements, each phase plays a crucial role in ensuring that the final dashboard is both informative and engaging. Below are the following steps to create a report that’s effective for your business:
Create a Measurement Plan
Before building a dashboard, it’s important that all stakeholders are in agreement as to what metrics are directly measurable to your success. These are considered key performance indicators, or KPIs, and can be anything from users to form submissions to phone calls. Work with your team to remove all the noise and think about what matters to your bottom line.
Build Out a Wireframe
Another key step before actually building out the dashboard is creating a wireframe. There are many benefits to wireframing, including seeing how data lays on a page, if the layout is effective in its data storytelling, and flagging any potential issues. Wireframes allow you to showcase the design of a report before actually including the data, which can detract from understanding if your design makes the most sense.
Choose a Theme
As mentioned before, Looker Studio offers a handful of premade themes as well as the opportunity to create your own. The theme of your dashboard can be impactful, so be sure to carefully consider how color or font can impact data.
Add Data Sources and Charts
Import all data sources before building out your pages to ensure you have everything you need to create a comprehensive dashboard. Add each chart type, such as time series or score cards, to the report and apply any appropriate filters or date ranges.
Build All Pages
Using your theme, data sources, and chart options, create a full-fledged dashboard that tells an effective story for your business. Consider breaking out your report by channel, region, or page path. Here at Marcel Digital, we also like to include a Marcel Impact page that showcases the efforts of our SEO and Paid teams for each of our clients.
Advanced Features and Customizations
Looker Studio's advanced features take standard reports to the next level. By harnessing these features, businesses can delve deeper into their data, uncovering insights that might have otherwise remained hidden.
Looker Studio fosters a collaborative environment:
- Real-Time Collaboration: Multiple users can collaborate on a single report, making it easy for teammates to work simultaneously on the same report, view each other’s edits, and provide feedback and suggestions in real-time.
In-depth Data Drill-down
Looker Studio allows users to delve deeper into data:
- Granular Insights: Click on specific data points to view underlying data, revealing detailed insights. This can filter the entire report to show the performance of a specific campaign or channel.
- Trend Analysis: Track data points over time, uncovering patterns, and trends that might be crucial for decision-making.
Sharing and Collaborating on Your Report
Flexible Sharing Options
Looker Studio offers a range of sharing options to cater to different needs:
- Public and Private Modes: Decide who gets to see the report by toggling between public and private sharing options, ensuring data security and targeted distribution.
- Custom Access Levels: Grant different levels of access to users, from view-only to full editing rights, ensuring that the right people have the right level of control.
Maximize the reach of your reports with Looker Studio's embedding options:
- Versatile Integration: Embed reports into websites, apps, or other platforms, ensuring that insights are accessible to a wider audience.
- Interactive Elements: Even when embedded, reports retain their interactive elements, allowing users to explore data and derive insights.
Leveraging Google Looker Studio with Marcel Digital
At Marcel Digital, we specialize in transforming raw data into actionable insights using Google Looker Studio. Our team's expertise in data visualization, combined with a deep understanding of your unique business needs, ensures tailored reports that drive data-driven decision-making. Whether it's seamless integration with your business tools or ongoing support, we're committed to empowering your business to harness the full potential of Looker Studio.
Have questions or need expert guidance? Reach out to our team. We're here to help and guide you every step of the way.
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