Google’s Data Studio: Why You Should Use It and How to Get Started


Google’s Data Studio came out of Beta in 2018 and is now providing data organization and visualization to millions of users. If you haven’t set up a report, or maybe have missed this tool entirely, let me introduce you to something incredible.

Google’s Data Studio’s Origin Story

Google created Data Studio back in 2016, but was in beta until October 2018. It’s a free service you can sign up for on Google’s Data Studio Page. To utilize the functionality, you’ll need to at least have one data source (like Google Analytics) working on your website. But the tool is very powerful and can not only use multiple data sources (like Search Console, SEMrush, Youtube, Amazon, and more), but also can combine the data sources to provide better information.

While it’s very powerful, you’ll also run into common Google product issues like number errors without explanations and very little or unhelpful documentation.

Basic Data Studio Concepts: How it Works

image of the google data studio charts available

Google’s Data Studio connects data sources, like Google Analytics, and pulls the information into a slide-style document to display the data in your choice of charts. Not all charts will work with all data displays, so if you get an error, try changing the chart style first.

To adjust Data Sources, the dropdown Resources-> Data Sources will allow you to add new ones or adjust the ones you have.

Once you have at least one data source, you can change the information shown in a chart by adjusting the Data (right column). Depending on the chart you’ve chosen, you can choose the following:

Google’s Data Studio connects data sources, like Google Analytics, and pulls the information into a slide-style document to display the data in your choice of charts.

You can also filter the results which will come in very handy.

Why you should use Google’s Data Studio

The Data Studio tool is very helpful at automating things you might be doing manually, or allowing you to do things you don’t normally have time to do.

The most obvious use is creating a customized PDF for website statistics. You’ll have to design it and build it out – or use/start with one of the few pre-made templates – but then it will automatically populate site data every period (monthly, yearly, etc.). For example, Google Analytics provides tons of information, but not necessarily in a way that makes sense to clients. You can present this same information automatically in a chart or table that allows better analyzation and understanding of the information. And better understanding can lead to better action items allowing you to reach your goals faster.

The second use is combining data to get new data. The Data Studio has a whole list of sources including 18 from Google directly, and over 170 outside contributors. Google’s sources include analytics, ads, sheets, database and more. Outside Contributor’s sources include SEMrush, Adobe Analytics, and Amazon ads. The more Data Studio is used, the more “templates” will be available to simply save within your Data Studio and duplicate. It truly is a mecca of data.

Combining Data Sources provides an incredible amount of new useful information.

My current most useful report for combining resources is for keyword and ranking information. In the early 2000’s, we could see all the search keywords people were using to get to your site (from Google). You could use that data to better align your website pages to what people were searching for or otherwise revise your website. With Google’s Data Studio, you can now combine Search Console information with Google Analytics to create a list of all the search keywords people are using, how many impressions for this keyword/keyphrase, which page that is showing up, where you’re ranking for that keyword on average, comparison between this month and last month, and more.

list of keywords shown in Google data studio, per the explanation above

Getting Started with Google’s Data Studio

There are a few simple steps to get started with Google’s Data Studio.

Step 1: Sign up for a free account with Data Studio. Data Studio reports can be shared between Google accounts, but it does take a few steps. Use whatever Google account you use to access Google analytics and Search Console. Otherwise, you will need to provide access to this Google account to connect sources.

Step 2: Choose a Template to get started. Below, you can see some common templates provided by Google. The easiest way to start understanding the data studio is to start with a template, though in the future, you can create your own.

a view of the data studio templates

Step 3: Click CHOOSE TEMPLATE. Choose “Search Console Report” to directly follow the directions below. In the upper right is a button to choose the template. For now, you can scroll through the one you’re looking at to see if it has some data you’d like to see. Whichever one you choose, click the button to start hooking up your data to this report.

Step 4: Connect the Sources. It’s now going to display Original Data Source and New Data Source options. You’ll need to connect your data here. Below, you can see the list of sample data sources that Google provides. If you want to skip this to take a look at the report, feel free. You can also go back, copy another report, and add your own sources then.

If you’re ready to connect a data source, choose “Create New Data Source” in blue. Google will now pop up a list of the data source you can choose. To make this report work, you must choose the same type of data sources they chose. Their data sources are 1) Search Console Data (URL) and 2) Search Console Data (Site).

view of the dropdown for adding google data sourcesOn the data source list, choose the Search Console source from the list, and then click Authorize. Sign into the Google account that you need to use for this Search Console data.

Now you’ll see a list of sites that are under your Search Console on this Google login.

Tip: If you don’t see the site you’re looking for, make sure you signed into the correct Google account and you have this site set up in the Search Console. 

When you click on the site, you’ll see the two options: Site Impression and URL Impression. This report uses two separate sources, Site and URL for this report (see above). So you’ll want to add one source (SITE or URL) this time, and then repeat these instructions for the other one.

After you choose the site and the Table (Site or URL), click “Connect” to add connect this source. Google will now list out the tables you’ll be including. In the upper left side, in light grey, is the “name” of this source. Re-name this Source so you’ll know this one is the URL or the SITE Search Console Data Source.

google data studio tables listed Click “Add to Report”, and you’ll see the original dropdown (above) with your new source in the dropdown.

Make sure you match your URL source to the original URL source. If you switch them up, it will not work.

Connecting the sources are the most difficult portion of this report, so congratulations! Follow these same directions again to add the other source and then you’ll be ready to view the report!

Make sure you match your URL source to the original URL source. If you switch them up, it will not work.

There is a bug when renaming a source. Sometimes you’ll rename the source and Google won’t remember it or save it. I’m sure this will get fixed at some point, but if it doesn’t rename the source and you forget if this one is Site or URL, you can edit it later.

Once the sources are all connected, click Copy Report.

Fixing Issues With Sources

Sometimes, especially when Google doesn’t correctly save your source’s new name, you might have an issue with sources. You can tell when you get something like this:

google errors on the data - showing invalid dismensions

The table configuration was incomplete, and you see invalid dimensions on the right side.

The Data Source Isn’t Correct

First, check if your data source is correct for the entire report. You can double-check under the top menu: Resources -> Manage Added Data Sources. You can add new data sources to the report here, see how many tables are associated with each data source, and edit the source itself.

Second, you might find the wrong data source for this particular table. At the top of the Invalid Dimensions/Metric sections, you’ll see “Data Source” and it lists the data source for this table. Click the edit pencil and double-check if this is the correct source for this table. Since we’re using a pre-made template, if you’re seeing this error, it will be an issue with the sources you added to the report, not on the particular table. BUT in the future, know that you might need to edit the source here to pull the correct information.

Basic Navigation Google Data Studio Reports

Now that you have your first report working, you’ll probably wonder how to do a few basic items.

Introduction to Google’s Data Studio Summary

This article explains how to get started on a Data Studio report, but there is way more power under the hood. Make sure you click around and familiarize yourself with the basics.

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