Taking statistical data on your web properties and creating meaningful analytic reports can be a challenge. Several reporting services offer help, but at a price.
In this post, you will take a sneak peek at the Beta version of Google's own free Data Studio. I decided to test its live, interactive reports.
As with all Google products, login to your Gmail account to get started at datastudio.google.com.
The initial dashboard offers a choice of templates or to start from scratch.
The Acme Marketing template provides a basic template, but don't be intimidated by the blank report.
The first thing to do is to connect to a data source. This can be a file upload, a database dump or csv file. Usually it will be a connection with your Google Analytics account.
You need to have access to an analytics account with the same Google account that you have logged in with to the Data Studio. Follow the wizard and add the source to your report. This can be a particular view created in your analytics account.
Now you have access to all the data on your account or view and you can pull this into the report as required.
The editor allows you to customize the layout and theme, as well as add headings, text blocks, and images to the report.
Use the text tool to add a heading by creating a box and then formatting text within. This box can be stretched and moved around the page or duplicated for use on other pages.
Links can also be added to text blocks. The right sidebar provides formatting controls.
Once any page element has been created, you can right-click on it to duplicate or delete it, position it behind or in front of other elements or make it report level so that it appears on every page.
You can add an image or logo to personalize it by using the Image tool.
The reports also allow the data to be updated immediately for a new time frame. The Date range tool can be customized for a particular period or set for the last 28 days, last month, last quarter etc.
This can also be set for the entire report or changed for particular pages, so you can have a year overview followed by spotlights on specific periods.
The main statistical tools include various graphs and charts, scorecards showing one figure such as pageviews, maps, and tables.
Below is a time series of sessions for the entire view.
On the right, you can change the green and blue blocks to alter the dimensions and metrics. This one is set to show sessions per date.
This combo chart displays data on pageviews and sessions organized by user type.
When you run out of space, click Add page on the top left. This page will include all the elements you have set as report-level, such as header and logo.
For more detailed reporting you can use a table with multiple columns to show sessions, pageviews and users for particular pages.
You can adjust the width of the columns. In the right column, you can change the style of the element. You can also use the Arrange menu item to line up the elements perfectly.
If you want to hone in on a particular section of your site you can create a filter so that certain elements only show statistics for certain section. For example, for articles with the text segment /news in the URL.
Click on the data tab of the right-hand column, and scroll to the bottom. There you can add a predefined segment set up in your analytics account, or a custom filter, like the one on the figure below:
These filters can be complex, including and excluding certain types of dimensions.
The reports can be shared online and will be updated automatically when you change the date range. There is no core print facility but a Chrome extension is available that allows you to export a multi-page report to the PDF format.
The look and feel of the Google Data Studio reports are limited only by your imagination. It is worth taking some time to set the initial report up, as the subsequent report can be entirely automatic.
Although you are free to add and delete pages and elements at any time. A great time-saving facility.