Google Data Studio (Looker Studio) – visualization tool

Google Data Studio (Looker studio) is a visualization tool that we use every day. It is a fairly simple and intuitive tool for creating visualizations from connected data and has a nice set of benefits. In many cases, the biggest advantage is that the tool is free to use. There is also a paid version that offers extensions to some features or a connection to a Google Cloud Platform account.

Being included in the Google family, there are many benefits – from easier integration with GA4 or Google Ads, or the ability to set different levels of report display rights (including public sharing).

What is Looker Studio used for and what are the key features?

We approach Google Data Studio (Looker) as a tool that provides personalized access to the actual data we need to see. There’s nothing easier than opening an updated report every morning, finding out the data that’s critical to me, and not having to click through Google Analytics 4 or dozens of other systems looking for what I need to see.

The ability to see multiple views is a big benefit – after all, a marketing manager needs to see different data than a business owner.

In Data Studio (Looker) we also combine data very often – especially for smaller projects, we can visualize an overview with information from Google Analytics 4 and campaigns from Facebook or Google Ads or classic Google Spreadsheets – all on one page. In addition to linking data, GDS also allows basic operations with metrics and working with strings – average/weighted average, percentages, etc. These operations are often easier to do in the visualization.

Another benefit is the linking with BigQuery, which serves as an acceleration engine, there is a cache of data and this will help in loading speed compared to pulling data directly from GA4. More on that below.

Using a tool always comes with some risks – like the tool stops being developed or even gets canceled and you have to transfer the visualizations in a complicated way elsewhere. In this respect, Data Studio (Looker) is safe – there are a lot of updates going on at the moment, there is a strong community around the tool (tutorial articles) and more connectors are being created all the time. And if you miss any of the connectors, you can write your own and get the data into Data Studio (Looker) as well.

What can be visualized in Data Studio?

We can say that basic visualization is the most common at the level of all Google services. But more or less everything can be visualized – you just need good input data and usage. In fact, there’s no point in visualizing something you can’t continue to work with in the business. In addition to Google services, you can also connect Facebook, Sklik or even Marketing Miner via a connector. It should be noted that some connectors are paid, for example Facebook. Data can also be downloaded to Big Query and then to Looker.

In general, we would say that visualizations with a connection to Analytics can be done more for smaller or medium-sized companies. When you have e.g. 500,000 users per month on your website, Data Studio (Looker studio) will already be slow.

In addition to basic metrics such as for visits Source/Medium or Ecommerce overview, reports can be prepared within GDS (Looker) directly for display on the phone or “Bounceratecheck”. Bounceratecheck is just such a feature of ours with a rather internal name – within this report we display a campaign table, where a weighted average of the immediate abandonment rate is made based on the visit source.

Because we tailor all reports to the client’s needs, it’s very much about negotiation. In Data Studio (Looker) we solved for example visualization of funnel from events (now GA4 takes care of it, but there is no such option in classic Universal Analytics). The second specific solution was connecting and comparing data from the e-shop on the backend (conversions recorded in the administration) and data in Google Analytics 4. Here we linked transaction IDs and tracked the performance of resources (mainly PPC campaigns) in more detail,” says Tomáš Ondříšek.

Report interactivity and templates

Data Studio (Looker) is definitely not the most interactive tool, but it is functional and clear, and user-friendly reports and visualizations can be created here as well.

There are countless pre-made templates for the tool, both free and paid. For the paid variants, you usually just need to change the data source to your own and everything works as it should. Within the paid templates, the data is often transformed a bit via custom dimensions or various other calculations to make the template not so easy to copy.

We don’t use templates at Archetix. We provide clients with solutions tailored to their needs – either from customized data from many sources or because of the company workflow. Clients also receive reports in their corporate colors.

Our specialty is the preparation of documentation. Within each report you will find links to the document where you will find full explanations and details of calculations, use of metrics or with additional links to follow-up reports, tables or tasks in internal systems.

Data transformation and use of BigQuery

A few words have already been said about basic transformations. In Data Studio, you can bend and fit data in various ways and also work with regular expressions. You can also easily create custom fields – metrics.

Problematic situations come with large amounts of input data. Data Studio (Looker) with direct connection to GA4 and other services loads everything in real time and does calculations over it for customized reports – generating a report can then be a matter of tens of seconds, which makes life quite complicated for some continuous work.

This is where BigQuery comes in. Even though Analytics retrieves data from BigQuery, it’s faster to link GDS (Looker) directly.

And what if BigQuery is not enough? You must have a lot of data – it’s a challenge. In this case, it’s better to preprocess the data somewhere else. Reducing the number of tables and charts within a single report will also help a bit.

Shortcomings of Google Data Studio (Looker studio)

Finally, we must not forget the shortcomings of the tool. However, they are much less than the positives, so we plan to continue working with the tool.

  • GDS (Looker) is slow with larger data volumes
  • limited manipulation of source data
  • no view of the source data form – metrics and dimensions are listed, but the source table is no longer visible (as in PowerBI); for larger databases the problem with nested fields

Training on GDS (Looker)

There are countless videos or publicly available courses to deepen your knowledge of Google Data Studio (Looker Studio). At Archetix, from time to time we list training courses or do customized training – for example, in companies. You can view the training offered here.

Dare we say that there is nothing in Google Data Studio (Looker) that surprises us. We don’t use everything on a daily basis, but we can set up the almost impossible. So don’t hesitate to contact us, we’ll be happy to help!

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