26.10.2022 | Nikolay Valiotti

How to Visualize and Present Data in Looker Studio

How to Visualize and Present Data in Looker Studio

Looker Studio (former Google Data Studio) is a free BI tool for turning data into fully customizable dashboards and reports. In just a few clicks, you can connect to data sets and pull information from databases, Google Marketing Platform products, Google consumer products, social media platforms, and flat files.

Today, we’re going a step past data collection and building a few different types of dashboards.

For those out of the loop, Looker Studio was formerly known as Data Studio. With this move, Google unified Looker Studio with its other business intelligence products “under the Looker umbrella.” Now, Looker Studio is part of the complete enterprise BI suite that allows companies to infuse their workflows and applications with data-driven decisions. Looker Studio Pro, a paid version of Looker Studio for enterprise customers, is also part of the rebrand.

Now, let’s move on to the guides.

How to Start a Looker Studio Report

Just like Data Studio, Loker Studio has a visual editing interface, where you can build dynamic reports and dashboards with a drag-and-drop feature and just a few clicks.

As you start building, you have three options: a blank, a template, and a product integration.

Creating a New Blank Report

Creating a New Blank Report

  1. Click Create at the top left (the Plus icon) and click Report.
  2. Add your initial data in the report editor tool by clicking Add data to report. (You’ll learn more about adding data and connectors in the next section.)
  3. You’ll see a table with fields collected from that data source.
  4. Open the properties panel to change the style or edit the data.
  5. Click Untitled Report at the top left to name your report.

Creating a Report From a Template

To speed up the process of creating a dashboard with a template, you need to:

  1. Open the Template Gallery.
  2. Scroll through or search by category and open the template you like.
  3. Click Use my own data to use the report as is or Edit and share to customize it to your unique requirements.

Looker Studio offers templates in nine categories:

  • BigQuery
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Ads
  • Google Sheets
  • YouTube Analytics
  • Search Console
  • Display & Video 360
  • Search Ads 360
  • Apigee

You can interact with templates the same way you’d interact with a custom report. But as mentioned, you can only modify and share it after clicking Edit and share, which copies the template to your account.

The template will use data from a source shared with you or a data control. Templates with a data control make it possible to use that report with different data without having to edit the data source connection.

Creating a Report From a Product Integration

Finally, you can integrate Looker Studio into partner products through the Linking API. This is also a shortcut, allowing you to use data from a product without setting it up yourself.

If you’re considering product integration, below are guides for further reading:

Google Analytics

How to Add More Data

One of the biggest benefits of Looker Studio dashboards is that users can view multiple pieces of data on one screen, where key data is supplemented by additional information. For example, you can combine data from different Google Analytics sets, add data from Google Ads, YouTube, and anything that can be pulled into Google Sheets, offering an in-depth overview for business intelligence.

To add new data to an existing report:

To add new data to an existing report

  1. Click the Add data button.
  2. Open the Connect to data tab to create a new data source. Select the type of data you want to connect to, specify the required data set, and provide your authorization (depending on the set).
  3. Open the My data sources tab to add an existing data source. This will open the report editor with your source, where you can select the type of data to add to the canvas.

The list of services you can connect to and use for your reports is available here.

Remember that partner connectors aren’t free; integrations come with monthly, quarterly, and annual subscriptions. Connectors built by Google are free. Developers can also build and deploy custom connectors for free using Google Apps Script and even distribute them among other users from the community.

Most sources maintain a live connection, but some choose to use extracted data sources, which are static snapshots of data. Or you can fetch your data through file uploads to visualize data that is not supported by available connectors (effectively act like extracted sources).

How to Add Charts and Controls

Charts refer to any component with data visualization, and controls make it possible for you to interact with that data.

Adding a Chart

To add a chart to an existing report:

  1. Click Edit at the upper right.
  2. Find the page that stores the chart and click Add a chart.
  3. Select the chart you need.
  4. Click the canvas.
  5. Customize the chart by opening the properties window on the right.

Adding a control

To make your dashboard more interactive, you can add filters, data range, and other controls:

  1. Click Edit at the upper right.
  2. Click Add a control in the toolbar.
  3. Choose the control type and drag and drop it into the report.

Use the properties window on the right to customize the control (Control field, Style tab).

Adding Other Components

Use the toolbar or the Insert menu to add other components to the page, such as:

  • Text, images, lines, rectangles, and circles for more visual appeal and context.
  • Embedded external content (videos, Docs, and external websites) for a multi-media experience.

But use additional components sparingly to avoid a cluttered, distracting look to your dashboard.

How to Share Your Dashboards

Here is how you can share your data stories.

Here is how you can share your data stories

Share on Looker Studio

Open view access to all (even those without a Google account), and limit edit access to specific people. Or if broad access is not recommended for the type of data used, you can invite the users to your dashboards who have the required permissions.

Click Share at the top right and manage the settings.

PDF Download

For a snapshot of your report, you need to:

  1. Click Share.
  2. Click Download.
  3. Configure the download options, and click the final Download.

Scheduled Email Delivery

This feature sends an email with a preview of your dashboard, a link, and a PDF attachment. To set up automatic email delivery:

Open the dashboard you want to share (requires editing permission).

  1. Click Share at the upper right.
  2. Click Schedule email delivery.
  3. Enter the email address(es), write the subject line and your message, and select specific document pages if needed.
  4. Enter the date and time for the delivery.
  5. Set the frequency to keep the recipient updated on future changes.

Link

You can generate a short URL to a Looker Studio report to share, use on web pages, or do anything else you can do with links. The link can include the report’s current settings, such as filters and date ranges. Learn more about getting a report link.

Embedded Report

This feature allows you to incorporate business intelligence reporting tools into other software applications.

You can integrate your dashboards via HTML iframe, in the new Google Sites, or using oEmbed (to post on Reddit, Medium, and other supported platforms). Further instructions are available here.

Social Media

Share your creations on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack or on chat applications like iMessage or Hangouts. Just copy and paste the URL, and the Open Graph protocol behind these platforms will automatically make a rich object into a social graph.

How to Improve Looker Studio performance

If you’ve made your intuitive smart reports and dashboards but notice slow loading speed and poor responsibility, it may be affected by:

  • The amount of data being queried
  • The complexity of the queries
  • The performance of the underlying data set
  • Network latency

Some of these factors are within your control. For example, you can adjust the data freshness rate. This means changing the frequency at which data in the cache is updated; extending the interval between the updates, to be exact. By pulling data from a storage system to answer repetitive queries, you will not only improve performance but also reduce expenses for paid services. The fewer queries you send, the lower the costs.

In a more extreme scenario (when live connections are still slowing down the dashboard), you can limit the data usage to an extracted source, which we mentioned above. Normally, Looker Studio goes directly to your data set when the cache expires, or the cache can’t serve a new query. By choosing the fields you need (+ adding a date range and applying filters), you can extract up to 100MB of data from any existing source. Thus, the queries will pull from a snapshot of data.

Important note: Performance tuning leads to an inevitable trade-off between speed and responsiveness on one side and fresh data and user customization. You can’t change one without affecting the other. So, consider the business use of the dashboards, the audience for it, and other factors that dictate how granular it should be.

In Conclusion

Used by millions worldwide, Google tools are supplied with tons of documentation. The information in this article was pulled from official Looker guides. If you want to learn more about other aspects and capabilities of Looker Studio, feel free to visit the overview page.

With practice, making Looker Studio dashboards becomes easier, and you’ll be able to make them more detailed, interactive, and collaborative. You can also embed your creations into websites or share automated dashboards to empower other teams with key business metrics in real time.

Make sure your Looker Studio dashboards are not just prettier-looking reports. With various data sources, you can tell a story that goes beyond a single data set and provide a high level of overview with many business intelligence insights to uncover.