Creating a Simple & Stylish Report Using Google Data Studio

How data is displayed can be the difference between your report getting read or not. Create a simple and stylish report using Google Data Studio in 4 steps.

Creating a Simple and Stylish Report Using Google Data Studio

In this article, I will review:
Reporting before Google Data Studio
STEP 1: Map out the important metrics to include
STEP 2: Outline the look and feel of your report
STEP 3: Add desired charts to the outlined report
STEP 4: Share and/or download a PDF of your report
Final thoughts

Sometimes it’s not what you show, but how you show it that can make a difference – and presenting data is no different. The way in which it’s illustrated can sometimes be the difference between someone reading your report – or not.

That’s why using data visualization tools such as Google Data Studio (GDS) has been a godsend for many. It’s a way to create customized and mostly automated reports that are visually appealing.

Because of its ease of use and increase in data connectors, GDS has continued to gain popularity since its release in 2016. Even Google Search Trends can confirm its gradual rise of interest over the years.

Google Search Trends for "Google Data Studio"

The number of searches for data studio templates has also recently hit an all-time high. And while the free templates available may be fine and dandy for some, they’re not always the best option for all. It’s sometimes necessary to create a simpler and more custom dashboard based on your client goals and desired KPIs.

Reporting Before Google Data Studio

Prior to using Google Data Studio, I used good ole fashion Excel. There would be different tabs for the various performance metrics. There was also a ‘data dump’ tab that would auto-populate all the other tabs with updated metrics.

Here are a couple examples of what that used to look like:

Excel Data Visualization Examples

Pretty, right?

Similar to my Excel reports, the approach to creating a stylish Google Data Studio report is the same. For the sake of this article, I will focus on how to create a pretty slide in a simple monthly reporting template.

STEP 1: Map out the important metrics to include

Depending on who will be receiving this monthly report, make a list of all the performance metrics that your audience wants to see.

Your list can look something like this:

  • Overall website engagement: sessions, pageviews, pages / session, bounce rate, % new users, and average session duration.
  • Default channel grouping breakdown: % breakdown, referral traffic sources breakdown, and other traffic sources, etc.
  • Goal completion breakdown: total goal completions, goal conversion rate, and goal completion location
  • Organic traffic breakdown: sessions, pageviews, bounce rate, events, goals, devices, and landing pages.
  • Search engagement breakdown: impressions, clicks, click-through rate, average position, and top search queries by clicks.
  • Technical analysis breakdown: # status codes, # error types, and delta.
  •  Keyword visibility breakdown: keyword ranking summary, top keyword ranking increases, and top keyword ranking decreases.
  • Link building breakdown: # backlinks, # referring domains, # new links and date found, and # lost links and date lost.

…and so forth.

STEP 2: Outline the look and feel of your report

Now it’s time to map out how all those important metrics will fit within your report. I like to start from the ground up: meaning I’ll start with the background, then add layers of design elements and charts.

The first step is deciding on a report background color. I highly recommend sticking with a light background with dark letters. I do not prefer using a dark background with light letters. That’s because it’s easier on the eyes, and it’s also easier on a printer should someone need to print it.

To do this, click on “Customize” in the Theme and Layout panel. Then select a background color. In my report I’m going to use a light grey.

Then add a banner to the top with what the slide is about. To do this, add a shape box followed by a text box. Both are located in the top navigation.

Next, you can add boxes that will outline where charts will go (before you add the charts themselves). To do this, use shapes and text boxes. I also recommend only having a few data points per slide as to not overwhelm the reader.

Keep on plugging away until you have everything mapped out. You can go a step further and add text boxes for where you plan to have everything.

STEP 3: Add desired charts to the outlined report

Now it’s time to add your charts the way you envisioned it. For the bar chart, you’ll need to click on “Add a chart” and then select “time series chart.”

 The other thing you’ll want to do is add a custom date range. That will allow the data to auto-populate in the future and provide a more comparative analysis.

This can especially come in handy should you share the Data Studio link and someone want to adjust the timeframe with a filter.

For the rest of the boxes, I will use hard numbers and add month over month (MoM) and year over year (YoY) deltas. To do this, click on “Add a chart” and then select “scorecard.”

Unfortunately, as of writing this article, there is not a simple way to add both MoM and YoY data with one scorecard. You can only select one timeframe at a time. There are ways around it, which I’ll explain in a different post.

Fortunately, there’s a workaround for this by duplicating the scorecard and overlaying one over the other. Just make sure to give your scorecard a background color so it can hide the contents of the other card.

Keep plugging away at this until all the other boxes look exactly the way you want.  When all is said and done, this one sheet will look like this:

Google Data Studio Template Example

Follow this same approach for all the other slides. Here are a couple more examples from this monthly reporting template I recently put together:

Google Data Studio Report Examples

STEP 4: Share and/or download a PDF of your report

Once everything looks good, then it’s time to either share the link or PDF it. I will usually PDF it and email it to the client.

Download Google Data Studio Report

Final Thoughts

As you can see, putting together a stylish report takes time, but it’s really easy if you follow the four steps I mentioned: outline the important metrics first, then map out how it will look in Data Studio, add the charts, then download.

I will also include a title slide and executive summary slide to my monthly reporting templates. The executive summary should pull out nuggets of data from the rest of the report. This is where you’ll interpret the findings and say what happened, what caused it to happen, and what your next steps are.

You can also consider an appendix if needed. That way you can use the first few slides for the high-level data, which leadership may want to see, and leave the appendix for the more granular data, which the sales and marketing team may want to see.

Now go forth and create some really simple, stylish and impactful reports! If you need a place to start, download the SEO Google Data Studio Template within our tools section.