Visualizations for Beginners | How to Start With Google Data Studio

Visualizations for Beginners | How to Start With Google Data Studio

To extend the value of your data, it’s customary to create an ongoing report that tracks your website performance over time. But if you’ve used Google Analytics for a while, you know that pulling data directly from the user interface is manual. So Google has created Google Data Studio to streamline your data extraction and reporting needs. 

Google Data Studio is very easy-to-use with a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to customize your charts’ design and data. Here are the most basic 7 steps to get you started with Google Data Studio. 


  1. Connect your data source.
  2. Create your first chart.
  3. Add dimensions and metrics.
  4. Add a date range.
  5. Create a filter.
  6. Switch up colors.
  7. Adjust data formatting.

1. Connect your data sources

The first thing you’ll need to do is to connect your new report to a data source. When you create a new report, Data Studio will prompt you to choose a connector.



Or if you’re using a template, it will prompt you to change the data source as well after clicking into “Use Template.”



Now here’s a quick summary of all the different connectors you can choose from in Google Data Studio.

Data Studio automates your data extraction needs by directly connecting your reports to your desired data sources. Google essentially did the heavy lifting, so that you can have the data ready for reporting. With just a few clicks, you can automate your reports to pull data from different platform connectors all at once. Google Data Studio offers three types of data sources: 


  • Google data sources 
  • Partner data sources 
  • Open Source data sources


Each data source will have its own unique metrics and dimensions according to what’s originally in the platform’s user interface. There is no need to pick and choose your data sets just yet. 

Google Data Sources


You can guess it from the name. Google data sources include all platforms that Google owns: Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Ads, BigQuery, Google Sheets, YouTube, and more. 

Partner Data Sources


Partner data sources are connectors that were created by 3rd parties specifically for Google Data Studio This list includes connectors that actual platforms created themselves, or the platforms can partner with a community data source to create the connector for them. One popular community connector that gives you exclusive access to various data sources like Adobe Analytics, Facebook Ads, and more is Supermetrics. With a paid subscription, you have access to a variety of core 3rd party platforms. 

Open Source Data Sources


These connectors are created by Google’s open source community on GitHub for public access.


2. Make your first chart


When you open up a new report and connect your data source, you’ll automatically see a preset table on your page. You can change your chart by clicking into the table, navigating to the right modal and click into “Chart > Table.”



From there, you’ll see all the chart or visualization options that Google Data Studio has to offer. 



Quickly, select any that you like for your first chart. Every chart has its own configurations, so choose wisely for your first one.

You can also add new charts by using the “Add a chart” dropdown in the top nav menu right above your report.

3. Add dimensions and metrics 

Now it’s time to push some data into your chart. We’ll use the pie chart as an example for now. All you have to do is drag and drop the metrics and dimensions under “Available Fields” into the left column of the same modal under the appropriate categories. In this case, I have “Default Channel Grouping” under Dimension, and “Pageviews” under Metric. 

Learn about the difference between dimensions and metrics here.



Since this is a Pie Chart, it will only allow one variable for each, but play around with another chart to see the multiple options.

Voila, you have your first chart!



4. Customize your report’s date range.  

To make data filtering simple, all you have to do is click the calendar icon on the top nav menu to add a date filter to your report.



Then, drag and drop anywhere onto your report like my example below.



When you click into the date range filter, the side modal will change. Feel free to change the date range to a time that changes dynamically or even select fixed for a one-time report.




This date filter will save you so much time in adjusting the reports whenever you check back into the data. You can also customize each chart’s time individually by clicking into each chart, and selecting “custom” under Default Date Range (rather than Auto where it refers to the date range filter on the report page).


5. Add necessary data filters.

This is optional, but you can filter the data in your chart to only show a certain type of data. Click “Add a Filter” under the Filter section on the side column. You may need to scroll a bit to find it.



And a modal will pop up on the bottom. 



Set your filter to whatever dimension or metric you’d like. And you’ll have a set of different condition options in the dropdown next to your selected variable. It will change depending if it’s a dimension or a metric. 

Once you save the filter, Google Data Studio will save it for you for future use in other charts for the same report. So make sure you label your new filter to something you can refer back to.

6. Adjust chart and report colors


Report colors can be altered easily with their predefined color palettes when you click on a blank space on your report. 



You can customize your own theme for an overall cohesive look. 

Or you can alter individual charts by clicking into each chart and navigating to the “Style” tab in the side modal. 



Again, these settings vary by chart. But the general idea is that you can define exact colors for each piece in the chart, select how values are presented, and even add a legend. It’s very similar customization options to a Powerpoint chart. So it’s all very intuitive to customize. 

7. Adjust Data Formatting 

Google Data Studio will show the data values exactly how the platform defaults raw data. So if you’d like to customize it to be cleaner and easier to read, all you have to do is click into the pencil of the target metric or dimension on the “Data” tab on the side modal. 

The pencil appears once you hover over the formatting icon. In this case, it’s ABC.



Click into the pencil, and you can adjust the formatting to any of these options in the drop down menu.



Sort Your Data


Another way to format your data, especially if you’re using a table or a line graph, is to select which metric to sort under the “Sort” section. 

Generally, Google Data Studio will automate this to be the first metric you dragged in. But you can change it to whatever you like (dimension or metric) by clicking into the metric that’s there.



And you can configure it to “Descending” or “Ascending,” so your top-of-mind values are on top of the report once you refresh the page.


There you have it. We created a simple chart and explored all the basic functionality of Google Data Studio. Feel free to explore all the different charts, settings, and options that Google Data Studio provides to make your reports truly unique and valuable.


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