Learn how to get the most out of Google Data Studio by creating custom sales report dashboards in just six steps. | Bplans Blog

Reports are vital for establishing the success of marketing campaigns and tracking sales trends. However, extrapolating the necessary information from various marketing platforms is often time-consuming and difficult. So too is the task of compiling a report in such a way to clearly show the results of your campaigns and provide insight into what next steps you need to take.

The possible solution to this issue lies in Google Data Studio. This free platform is an effective tool for marketers and business owners, providing you with the means of transforming your data into visuals and graphs that are easy to interpret. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then depicting your data through a dashboard of charts, graphs, and tables is surely more valuable and insightful than a written report.

So, how do you use Google Data Studio to create a visually appealing, informative, and factually correct dashboard that targets only the data you wish to display? In this article, we’ll cover the basics of Google Data Studio—what it is and what it does—and provide you with the know-how to build a custom dashboard for your sales report.

What is Google Data Studio?

Although Google first introduced Data Studio in 2016, it’s gained momentum as a reporting tool only recently. This is largely due to a growing demand for a sales reporting method that draws data from various sources and provides a more detailed, yet easily understandable, report. 

Google Data Studio is a free tool that you can use to create clear, concise, and attractive visual report dashboards that summarize key results of your sales and marketing campaigns. You can customize these dashboards to your specifications, ensuring that the information they reflect is relevant to your needs. Additionally, you can easily share them with team members, clients, and other interested parties.

The best way to learn more about Google Data Studio is to use it. You can never underestimate the importance of firsthand experience, so let’s work through the basics of setting up your custom sales report dashboard.

Set up your Data Studio Dashboard basics

The best place to start is always at the beginning. Setting up the basics for your dashboard is as essential as capturing the necessary data since, without it, your reporting will be haphazard and unreliable.

1. Select your template

The first step in creating your custom dashboard is to select your template, which you can do once you log in to Data Studio. Google Data Studio provides a range of templates for you to use, depending on your requirements and the content of your report. The templates you can access include the following:

  • Google Ads Search Performance Overview
  • Google Ads Campaign Performance
  • YouTube Channel Report
  • Google Analytics Audience Overview
  • Ecommerce Store performance

Data Studio templates provide a basic structure around which you can build your report. While this is perfect for more standardized indicators, you may wish to build your own template from scratch. With Data Studio, you have the option of selecting a blank report that you can customize entirely to your specifications.

To start with a blank report, click on the + Create button in the left-hand corner of your screen and select Report from the dropdown menu. 

2. Add your data sources

Once you’ve opened your template, it’s time to add your data sources. These are the channels from which your data will filter through to your dashboard. They’re available through connectors that include popular sources such as Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn, and MailChimp. 

There are over 430 connectors that you can employ to link your data sources to your dashboard. Google itself has almost 20 connectors linking to its various tools. The balance of the connectors partners with Data Studio, allowing you to draw data from social media, search engines, CRMs, and other external, non-Google-related channels.

Once you select Blank Report from the templates, a block opens up, prompting you to add your data source. Scan through the connectors available and choose the one that you wish to add. If you have multiple sources linked to a connector, you must select the specific source that your information should come from. For example, you may have several Google Analytics accounts, but not all are valid for the dashboard that you’re creating. In this case, select the source that applies and then click Add.

You can link to multiple sources, either when you initially set up your dashboard or at a later stage. Data Studio now starts to pull data from the linked source. At this point, you can begin to customize your dashboard with charts, tables, and graphs showing the specific data relevant to your needs.

3. Identify your metrics

Sales performance is measured against preset goals. It’s vital to know how a product or marketing campaign fares compared to these goals in order to know how successful it has been. By selecting the right metrics for your dashboard, you can track the subject’s progress, identify any issues, analyze trends, and initiate the next steps. 

Each data source that you link to your dashboard measures a set of metrics. These metrics can vary from one source to another, and once you’ve added each source, you select the metrics you wish to extrapolate data for. For example, Google Analytics has metrics for the number of visits, pages per visit, and conversion rate, while Facebook Ads measures page Likes, post engagement, and cost per click.

Once you’ve identified the metrics that you wish to include, you can start to build your report and customize the visuals.

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How to build your sales report dashboard

This step is where it all starts to come together. By now, you’ve added your data sources and identified the types of metrics that you wish to report on. Click Add a Chart and select one from the dropdown menu. 

1. Select your chart

There are plenty of options, but your choice depends largely on the type of data it will display. These are some of the most popular charts. 

Scorecard

Scorecards display one metric from a data source and are most commonly used to measure KPIs. Each source has several metrics that you can choose to display on a scorecard, including clicks, click-through rate, and total sales.

Time series chart

On a time series chart, you can track changes over a specific period. Time, such as days of the week, is displayed on the horizontal axis, while the measurement, for example, the number of site visitors, is on the vertical axis. Metrics are indicated as a series of markers between the two axes. You can include up to five different metrics on one time series chart.

Pie chart

Pie charts are circular charts that reflect your metrics as pieces of pie. The size of each piece of pie is proportional to the metric’s percentage of the whole pie. For example, if 50% of users purchase from your e-commerce store on their first visit, then 50% of the pie will be allocated to that metric. If a further 25% visit your store more than once before purchasing, then a quarter of the pie is allocated accordingly. Data Studio allows up to 10 metrics per pie chart.

Bar chart

A bar chart represents your data in two different ways, depending on whether you use one or two categories of information called dimensions. Dimensions are displayed on the horizontal axis and the metrics on the vertical. A bar graph with one category or dimension, for example, the medium by which a user accesses your site, can have up to five metrics, such as the number of users or sessions. A two-dimensional graph measures only one metric, but may also group the data by city or state as its second dimension. 

Geo map

A geo-map depicts data specific to a preset geographical area. The chart presents in map form showing only the zoom area, which is the portion of the world you have set it to display. 

To use a geo map in Data Studio, you must provide the following information:

  • The zoom area, for example, the United States.
  • The geographic dimension, such as city or state.
  • A metric, such as population or number of users.

Once set up, the geo map shows data for the prescribed metric from each city or state in the US.

2. Make your report interactive

You can configure your report to enable users to interact with the data. By including filter controls, you allow users to change the report’s parameter values and filter the data displayed. For example, if a report reflects sales over a year, you can change the date parameters to reflect sales over a month or even a week. Having access to this more targeted information provides better insight into sales performance and assists with trend analysis.

Data Studio also enables you to embed visuals from external sources into your dashboard. By clicking on Insert, selecting URL embed, and pasting the relevant URL, you can include webpages, Google Docs, and even YouTube videos into your report presentation. 

3. Personalize your visuals

Data Studio allows you to personalize your dashboard. You have complete control over how it looks, to the extent of customizing it with your, or your client’s, corporate colors or company logo. Being able to control the visuals of your dashboards is an essential step towards maintaining consistency within your department or company. 

You can change the look of your dashboard by selecting the Layout and Theme tabs on the toolbar. Data Studio has two built-in themes that you can use, or you can create your own. The latter is a great option if you’re presenting reports to a client or the Executive Committee, as you can tailor almost every aspect to create a visually appealing and impressive dashboard to suit your audience.

These are some of the elements of your report that you can customize:

  • Background color
  • Text font, size, and color
  • Text alignment
  • Borders
  • Chart colors
  • Chart size
  • Background color of your charts

Once you’re satisfied that your dashboard contains all the necessary charts and data and is visually appealing, you can share this with your clients and colleagues.

How to share your dashboard

Data Studio allows you to share your dashboard simply by inviting others to view or edit it. If you wish to share it with a larger audience, you can generate a link to the dashboard that you can then embed into any suitable website, or you can paste it to social media.

Most sales reports are designed for clients or company executives, so a simple sharing option is sufficient. The Share menu is located in the top right-hand corner of your screen. Clicking on this provides several options that include downloading your report as a PDF and scheduling a delivery by email. To invite individuals to view your dashboard, select the first icon on the list and add the recipients’ details.  

Automated and informative reporting

Google is constantly creating ways to streamline administrative functions, and Data Studio is one of these tools. Although tedious and time-consuming, reports are an integral part of measuring performance. However, when compiled on a platform like Data Studio, they become more engaging and informative through customization and interactivity. 

The effectiveness and clarity of your reports depending on your understanding and use of Google Data Studio. Should you feel out of your depth,  feel free to contact an experienced digital agency for assistance. At the end of the day, the more precise and on point your dashboard is, the better prepared you will be for setting your goals and next steps.

AvatarDenis Zakharych

Denis Zakharych is the Founder and Managing Partner at Viden. A Google and Facebook certified expert, with over 8 years of experience in digital advertising and analytics, now looking to share his knowledge to help brands grow.