How to use Google Data Studio (plus template)

A Step by Step Guide on How to use Google Data Studio

If you work with data at your organization, you probably struggle with presenting the metrics that matter in a clear, concise, and visually appealing way. At Whole Whale, we face this battle every day. We love data, but we don’t love the look of cluttered Excel sheets. Although informative, Google Analytics’ default dashboards aren’t the best looking things we’ve ever seen.

Reports get even more complicated when combining data from multiple sources in one view. Want to analyze your AdWords and Facebook campaigns side by side? Good luck making it look pretty in a spreadsheet.

We’re here with good news – Google has developed a data visualization tool to create beautiful, shareable, and easy to assemble reports. Google Data Studio is part of the paid Google Analytics 360 Suite, which believe us, is no bargain. Luckily for fellow riders of the free GA train, the free version now offers access to Data Studio.

Data Studio makes it easy to load, present, and share data in customized reports. Visualizations include bar charts, pie charts, and time series, among others. Look at all that data! You can even customize fonts, colors, and logos to stay on brand – #whaledit. 

How to use Google Data Studio dashboard


One of the coolest Data Studio features is the ability to add multiple data sources to one report — mix and match Google Analytics, AdWords, and YouTube Analytics seamlessly. You can even upload your Facebook analytics data, as long as you put it in Google Sheets first. That’s right – any data you put in Google sheets can be uploaded to Data Studio too.

Reports are dynamic, meaning you can refresh data sources to get up to the minute data.

Data Studio has the same functionality as Google Docs and Sheets, so reports are viewable and editable for multiple users simultaneously. Sharing is a piece of cake, too. Just click ‘Share’, and copy the link to send to team members.

How to use Google Data Studio dashboard


Enough talk! Time to dive in and learn how to use Google Data Studio. Whole Whale even created a Google Data Studio Template for Nonprofits to help you get started. Make a copy of the template file, connect your org’s data sources, and you’re off! Don’t worry – we’ll help you navigate along the way.

After clicking the template link, accept Google’s terms and conditions and make a copy of the file in your own account.

How to use Google Data Studio make a copy


The first step to creating a new report is connecting your data sources. Click on ‘Create New Data Source’ to navigate to the data source menu.

How to use Google Data Studio Create Report

How to use Google Data Studio connectors


Our nonprofit template incorporates Google Analytics and AdWords data, so you’ll want to connect both. To connect Google Analytics, authorize access for Data Studio and choose the desired account, property, and view.

How to use Google Data Studio

Click ‘Connect’ in the upper right hand corner to add the data source to your report.

How to use Google Data Studio spreadsheets

Follow the same process to connect your AdWords data, click ‘Create Report’, and you’re ready to go.

How to use Google Data Studio create new report


Google will tell you ‘One or more of the Data Sources used in this Report is not attached’, which refers to the data sources we used to make the template. Don’t worry about this message – click ‘Maybe later’ and proceed to your report.

Once inside, the Properties Panel is where you can configure and customize your charts.

How to use Google Data Studio dashboard

The Data tab is your control panel for changing data sources. Use the Style tab to experiment with fonts, color scheme, and display options.

How to use Google Data Studio edits

Connecting Google Analytics and AdWords lets you see data from both sources side by side on the AdWords page.

How to use Google Data Studio revenue tracking

Data Studio’s top menu bar is where you can find available chart options — customize your report here, changing existing charts or adding new ones to tell a story with your data.

How to use Google Data Studio traffic dashboard


This template is a great starter, but it only scratches the Data Studio surface. Remember, you can connect YouTube Analytics, MySQL, and DCM data directly, as well as any data that can be transferred to Google Sheets. You’re just a few clicks away from an all inclusive, easy to understand, customizable report to share with your team.

In our experience, the best way to learn Data Studio is by diving in and trying it. Google also offers great video tutorials to help you learn. We shared resource links throughout the template to help, too.

Updates on How to use Google Data Studio

As of February 2017, Google announced unlimited reports for free users. All DS users can create and share unlimited reports, a capability that was previously limited to enterprise 360 subscribers. Thanks Google!

As of March 2017, Google introduced Google Analytics segments in Data Studio. This feature has been much sought after and requested by Data Studio users. Ask (Google) and you shall receive.

How to use segments in Data Studio

Segments in Data Studio work exactly the way they do in Google Analytics. Applying a segment to your Data Studio widget filters data the same way it would in a Google Analytics dashboard or report. There are three types of segments available:

System: predefined GA segments available to all users in any view. Automatically usable in Data Studio.

Custom: user defined segments, like custom metrics and dimensions, that aren’t available in all GA views. Must be added to Data Studio report to use.

Shared: segment created and shared by another Analytics user. Must be added to data studio report to use.

Once a segment is added to Data Studio, all report editors can apply it to any combination of widgets. This includes a single chart, a group of charts, a page, or the entire report.

To add a segment to Data Studio, you must be able to edit the report and you must have access to the segment in GA. The data source for the widget must be based on the GA view in which the segment is defined. Only one segment at a time can be applied to a widget, group of widgets, or page.

Segments in DS synchronize with Google Analytics. This means that updates to a segment’s configuration in GA carry over to Data Studio. Synchronization occurs when you refresh the data in your report or when the cache expires. You can turn off synchronization using the Resources –> Segments menu.

How to use Google Data Studio template


Be careful when changing data sources for a widget where a custom segment is applied. If you connect a new data source, and its configuration is different from the view in which the segment was created, the segment can break. Ideally, you should avoid changing data sources for widgets where custom segments are applied – unless you’re certain that the new data source supports that segment.

Let’s do a quick tour of segments in Data Studio. Segments are located below Filters, in the bottom right of the data editing panel.

How to use Google Data Studio Segmenting


Choose ‘system segment’, ‘custom segment’, or ‘shared segment’. When you apply a custom segment, you’re giving all report editors access.

How to use Google Data Studio Custom Segments


To apply a segment to an individual widget, click on the widget and then select the desired segment.

How to use Google Data Studio Widgets


To add a segment to the entire report, click on ‘report and theme settings’:

How to use Google Data Studio Theme Setting


Then, choose the segment you want. The segment will now apply to your entire report.

How to use Google Data Studio Settings


We’re nerding out about Data Studio segments, and we’re having a blast playing around with them. We can’t wait to see the Data Studio features that Google continues to roll out in 2017.

To continue learning how to use Google Data Studio, check out this awesome tutorial from MarketLytics and this Facebook ad template from Supermetrics. Or if you feel like you’re ready to start creating dashboards of your own, here is our Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Dashboards.

Questions about the template, segments, or Data Studio visualizations in general? Tweet as @WholeWhale or send us a message here.