The pros and cons of Google Data Studio

Google’s proprietary dashboarding tool Data Studio is a fairly user-friendly solution for dashboarding. Its primary aim is to make data insights and reporting as accessible as possible to ordinary peasants like ourselves. Also, it’s free!

But it is by no means perfect: the trick is to determine its exact value for every campaign you develop. Sometimes Data Studio will do the trick just fine -- other times you may need heavier weaponry. Your choice should depend on the type of infrastructure you own, the channels you use, and most importantly: the crowd you present your results to.

Access & Speed

Accessibility and speed are easily Data Studio’s strongest features. This can be largely accredited to the fact that the connection between Data Studio and other Google services like Analytics and AdWords is practically seamless. For example, Data Studio will import all the default dimensions and metrics from Analytics to get you set up quickly and without too much effort.

Once your data sources are hooked up, you have instant access to all the digits you would expect to see in Analytics. Adding these metrics into your KPI dashboard is as easy as dragging them around, allowing you to create something presentable within an hour.

Monitoring in style

Data Studio’s second big advantage is that you can make your KPI dashboards look pretty very easily. Graphs and charts look clean by design and provide you with enough options to play around with styling elements such as colours, labels, size, fonts and borders. You can drag your metrics around and arrange them as you see fit, creating minimalistic pie charts with a hole in the middle or cramming as much information as possible into every square pixel. Remaining consistent in colour and size will almost always result in a handsome dashboard.

Embedding your achievements

Lastly, you can embed your dashboard into any environment capable of reading HTML by copying and pasting an iframe snippet (make sure your sharing settings are set correctly). This means your intended audience does not have to log in to Data Studio or click on any shared links. You could, for example, import your KPI dashboard into your Intranet environment or the back-end of your CMS, exhibiting your impeccable digital achievements to anyone allowed to see it.

Data sources

As for the cons, Google Data Studio can sometimes feel somewhat limited compared to other dashboarding tools. Klipfolio for example, offers possibilities to include multiple data sources in a single diagram. This is Data Studio’s most bothersome shortcoming. This means that for every line graph, pie chart or table, you can only select one single data source, prohibiting you from showing the results of multiple channels in one compact overview. There are tools available that will allow you to connect multiple sources to Data Studio. However these tools can be very costly and in that combination a tool such as Klipfolio would be a much more cost efficient solution.

Custom field syntax

Another downside is that the creation of complex custom fields can be somewhat iffy at times. The field syntax strangely looks like other languages (SQL, for example) but cannot really be compared in practice. This would not be so much of a problem if the Studio’s feedback would reach beyond the default “ could not parse formula ”. Let’s just say Google Data Studio rarely rewards a desire for complexity.

No PDF export

Finally, Google Data Studio doesn’t allow you to export your dashboards to PDF. That is not an oversight, but a conscious decision: Google most likely prefers that you and your colleagues access their service directly instead of sharing PDFs. If you desperately want to carry around your KPI dashboard on a piece of PDF, you can always use the Print option built into your browser. Do remember that Google Data Studio has been designed with interactivity in mind, favouring mouseovers to display detailed data instead of showing every value outright.

Selecting your best dashboard tool

The dashboard solution you pick needs to match your goals, whether those goals are specifically related to your campaign or to the perceived value of digital marketing within your organisation. Some dashboards you create for yourself; others you build for your boss. Always consider the following question when you shortlist a range of dashboarding tools: how fast will this let me convince the stakeholders in my organisation?

More tips

If you think Google Data Studio could be your dashboard tool for your next campaign, read our 3 Tips to make Google Data Studio work for you and become more popular at work.

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