Google Data Studio Tutorial

Table of Contents

Having data is one thing. Accessing it is another. And understanding and analyzing it is a whole different field. And visualizing it? Perhaps this is one of the most valuable skills nowadays. But how can we go from having data to understanding, analyzing and visualizing it, knowing that there is a tight budget? There are many visualization tools on the market. From my point of view, Google Data Studio is a very good option, since it is completely free and accessible to everyone (even if you don’t have data of your own!).

In this post I will guide you through the most useful tools in Data Studio. We’ll start with the basics before moving on to the intermediate functions. Finally, we’ll review the advanced options.

Like most Google tools, Data Studio can be difficult to master, but it’s well worth the effort. Once you get comfortable with its features, you can use it to create reports for your clients, coworkers, or management team.

Access Data Studio at

1. Log in to Data Studio

To log in, you will need a Google account; I recommend that you use the same one as your Analytics, Search Console and/or Google Ads account.

You will arrive at the Data Studio overview page. Click on the “Home” tab to see your dashboard.

2. Explore the Data Studio dashboard

If you’ve used Google Docs, Sheets or Drive before, this dashboard should look pretty familiar.

1. Reports

This is where you can access all your reports (equivalent to a workbook in Tableau or Excel).

There is an option with which you can filter the owner of the report:
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2. Data sources

Data sources list all the connections you have created between Data Studio and your original data sources.

Data Studio currently supports more than 500 data sources.

Google Data Studio data sources.

The most popular sources are:

  • Google Analytics
  • Youtube
  • Google Ads
  • Google Search Console
  • BigQuery
  • YouTube Analytics
  • PostgreSQL
  • 360° Ad Search
  • 360° display and video

If you use Google Analytics and/or Search Console (which I highly recommend), you will have to individually connect each view and property, respectively.

So if you have three GA views for three different subdomains, you’ll have to set up three different data sources.

Don’t worry; it’s an easy process.

3. Explorer

Explorer is a tool that allows you to experiment or adjust a chart without modifying the report itself.

For example, you have created a table in Data Studio that shows the top landing pages by conversion rate. As you look at this chart, you think, “I wonder what I would find if I added the average page load time.”

Since you don’t want to edit the chart in the report, you export it to Labs, where you can modify it as you want. If you decide the new graph is valuable, it’s easy to export it back into the report.

4. Product Description

Takes you back to the Overview tab. I don’t know why it’s here; I never click on it.

5. Report Gallery

This is a collection of templates and examples. I’ll comment more about the gallery below.

6. Connect to data

This is where you add data sources (You can also add sources within a report). Let’s add our first one:

I recommend starting with Analytics or Search Console.

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In this example, I will connect Analytics; however, the process is almost identical for other sources.

If you want to follow exactly what I’m doing, connect the Google Analytics demo account for the Google Product Store. It will ask you to authorize the connection, and once that’s done, you’ll need to select an account, property, and view. To finalize the connection, you have to click “Connect” (top left).

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Leave the option “Edit fields in reports” set to “On”. If you are creating a report, for example, for a client or an intern, and you want to give them editing permissions without giving up full control of your data, you can disable this option. Click here to learn more about editing fields.

In this menu you will see a list of all the fields in your Analytics account (both standard and those you have added).

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Feeling overwhelmed? No worries. There are many things we could do in this step: add new fields, duplicate existing ones, disable them, change field values, etc. We can also do all of these things in the report itself, and it’s much easier.

So let’s move on quickly. Click “Create Report” at the top right.

Data Studio will ask you if you want to add a new data source to the report. Yes, you do.

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Here’s what you’ll see. It’s pretty rigid, but not for long!

Click “add a chart” on the toolbar. Data Studio makes it easy to compare chart types with handy illustrations.

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Choose the first option under “Time Series”. This type of chart shows changes over time.

Once it appears in your report, the right side panel will change. This is what you should see:

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By default, the dimension is “Date”; you can change it to any of the time-based dimensions, including “Year” or “Time”, among others.

In this case, I’m going to opt for “Date”.

Data Studio will automatically select a metric (i.e., what is displayed on the Y-axis) for you. Change whatever you want; for example, it defaults to “New Users” for me, but I prefer to see “Goal completions”, which are leads.

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Make sure you have selected the chart to see the panel on the right:

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You have two options for adding a metric (or dimension): you can click on the blue plus icon. This will bring up a search box so you can find the field you want. Another way is to drag a field from the right into the metrics section.

To remove a metric, just hover your mouse over it and click on the white “X” that appears.

Now let’s add a table. This time choose the third option:

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My chart defaults to Medium (for dimension) and New users (for metric) so I change it to Country and Goal completions. I think the formatting of this chart could be improved. Change the “Rows per page” from 100 to 20 (much easier to read) and check the box to add a Summary row.

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Finally, click on “Style” to go to the style tab. Select “Add border shadow.” This is one of my favorite ways to make a data visually stand out from the page.

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To view click “View” in the upper corner. This will switch you from Editor mode to Viewer mode.


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Finally, we need to name the report. Click on “Edit” and double click on the title to change it (right now it is “Untitled report”).

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And with that, the first report is officially done. To share your report, click on the familiar icon above the Graph Editor and add the email addresses.

Okay, don’t share the report yet, because I’m about to reveal secrets that will help you improve it significantly.

Tips for beginners

1. Use templates

No need to reinvent the wheel. If you’re not sure where to start with Data Studio, I recommend you take a look at their templates for inspiration.

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Pay attention to the report creator. Many templates have already been created by the Data Studio team; you can find them all in the “Marketing Templates” section. But there are also more than 45 user submissions, located in the “Community” section. Some of my favorite templates:

2. Publish your report

Want to show off your data analysis and visualization skills to the world? Submit your report to this gallery using this Google form.

To to it right, read the full instructions at this link. In addition, these are some points to keep in mind:

  • Don’t share sensitive information. I recommend that you create a report with publicly available data so there’s no chance you’ll get in trouble for sharing data that doesn’t belong to you. (Pro tip: recreate one of your existing company reports with dummy data from one of Google’s sample data sets.)
  • Make it awesome. Public reports are awesome, so don’t hold back on design, features, etc.
  • Add context. Provide on-page explanations of what you’re measuring or monitoring with captions, instructions, and even a video showing the report.

3. Connect to more than 150 sources.

As I mentioned, you can pull data from Google’s own sources into Data Studio, such as Search Console, Google A

ds, YouTube and Campaign Manager.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are also more than 120+ partner connectors, i.e. third-party bridges between Data Studio and platforms like Adobe Analytics, AdRoll, Asana, Amazon Ads and AdStage (and these are just a few).

Check out all the options here.

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4. Create your own report theme

Whether your report is created for internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, the management team or customers, it will be more effective if it looks good.

To adjust the style and format of the report, click on the Design & Theme option in the toolbar.

Any changes here will be applied to the entire report, which means you only have to choose fonts, colors, etc. once, rather than each time you add a new module to the report.

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Change the “Current Theme” dropdown to “Custom”. Use your brand’s style guide to choose primary and secondary colors, fonts, and text color. You may need to be creative here. If you are creating a report for a client and don’t know their hex codes, go to the client’s website to pick the colors.

On this tab, you can also create a custom graphics palette and edit the border and background settings.

5. Incorporation of external content

You can embed external data just as you can share your own.

With the URL embedding feature, you can insert Google Docs, Google Sheets, YouTube videos and even live web pages. Embedded content is interactive and much more powerful than a screenshot.

To add content, click “Insert” in the top navigation bar, then choose “Insert URL”.
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From there, simply paste the URL. You may need to resize the box that appears to fit the entire length and width of your content.

The options here are pretty endless. One of my favorite ways to use this feature is to embed a Google Form to measure the usefulness of the report to my audience.

  • If a section of the report needs additional context, I will add a short video explaining what they are seeing and how to interpret the results.
  • To customize a report for a client, I’ll add the URL of their website, blog and/or any pages they’ve hired me to create or improve.
  • And for the HubSpot blogging team, I’ll add the latest version of the Search Insights report so they can compare the progress with the results.

6. Send out scheduled reports

If you have a group of stakeholders who need to see your report on a recurring basis, consider using Data Studio’s “scheduled report” feature. Click on “Share” and then click on the clock in the top menu to set it up.

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First, enter the email addresses of your recipients, then choose a schedule: daily, every Monday, or every month.

This is especially useful when working with clients, as you may not want to give them access to the live report.

7. Report download

You can also download your report in PDF format. This is useful for one-off situations, such as if your boss asks you for a status report or your client wants to know how an ad has performed so far this month.

To download the file, click on the downward facing arrow next to the clock.

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Data Studio offers the option to download the current page or the entire report. You can even add a link to the report so your audience can drill down if they wish and add password protection to ensure the security of your data.

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8. Embed reports

You can even display your report on your company website or in your personal portfolio, which can be a great way to highlight the results you’ve achieved for a client or project.

Click on the square brackets icon in the top navigation bar.

This box will appear:

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Adjust the width and height as needed.

Intermediate tips

9. Add a date range

Allow your users or clients to select the dates they want to see the information. For example, my reports always default to the last 30 days. You can change it to your preferences like “yesterday”, “last 7 days”, “this year”… In short, you can choose a custom period. To enable it, first navigate to the page where you want to give users control of the date. Make sure you are in “Edit” mode. Then click on the calendar icon in the toolbar.

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A box will appear in your report. Drag it to the position you want – best somewhere in the top right or left corner for your audience to see it first – and adjust the size if necessary.

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Clicking on this module will bring up a panel on the left side of your report called Date Range Properties. Set the default date range to “Automatic Date Range” if it is not already set.

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The user will be able to select a date range using the date range widget, and all reports on the page will automatically update to that time period.

There are two ways to override this:

  1. Set a time period within a specific chart. That time period will always override the date range control.
  2. Group the charts you want to be affected by the date range control with the module. Select the charts, then choose Arrange > Group.

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From now on, only charts in this group will be updated when someone adjusts the date range.

Make sure this setting is clear and easy to understand, otherwise they will probably assume that all charts they are viewing on your current page are using the same time period.

10. Add filter controls

Give your users even more flexibility with filter controls. Like the date range control, a filter applies your settings to all the reports on the page. For example, if someone filters out everything other than organic traffic, all reports on that page would show specifically organic traffic data.

Add a filter control by clicking this icon in the toolbar:

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The filter will appear on the report page. Resize it and drag it to the position you want. While it is selected, you should see a panel on the left side:

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In the data tab, choose the dimension you want users to filter on. These dimensions come from your data source (in this example I have chosen “Medium”).

The metrics part is optional. Basically, if it’s checked, users will see the values of each dimension subcategory in the filter (this will make more sense once you see the screenshot below). You can sort these values, but you cannot filter by a metric.

You can add an additional filter to your filter control. For example, if you have added a filter for Source / Medium, you may want to exclude the “baidu /organic” so that your users don’t see it as an option.

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Customize the format and appearance of your filter control in the style tab. You have a few options: list/check all that apply filters, like this one:

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Or “search all” filters, which allow your users to search by numeric and text terms using operators like >=, and <, or “equals to”, “contains”, etc., respectively. This can be a nuisance for people reading the report; they also have to be somewhat comfortable with the search operators. Unless your filter dimensions have 10,000 values (unlikely), stick with the list filter.

11. Create interactive chart filters

Want to make it even easier for your audience to filter the charts in your report? Create responsive chart filters.

It sounds very fancy, but this simply means that selecting a dimension on a chart filters sets all charts on that page for that dimension. For example, if you click “organic” on this chart, the other charts on the page will update to show organic traffic data only, just as if you had applied a traditional filter control.

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You can also create chart controls for time, line and area charts. If a user highlights, for example, the months of January through March on a time chart, the other charts on the page will also show the January through March data, just like with the date range control. And also, similar to the filter controls, you can group chart controls.

To activate a chart control, select the corresponding chart. In the right panel, scroll to the bottom and check the “Apply filter” box.

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Add a legend next to charts that support interactive filtering to let users know that it is an option:

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12. Add data controls

Data controls can be considered as one of the best features of Data Studio. If you place one of these controls in your report, users will be able to choose the source of the data that goes into the charts. Pretty nifty, isn’t it?

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Not only does this save you from having to rebuild the same report for different groups, but it also means you don’t have to worry about accidentally sharing sensitive or confidential information. Each user can select only the data sources to which they have been granted access.

You can include multiple data controls in a single report.

Add the data control widget to your report by clicking on this icon:

Then choose the primary source you want users to feed from:

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13. Add a breakdown of dimensions

Instead of explaining what a dimension drilldown is, it is easier if I show you.

Suppose we want to see the users by source. To find out, we create a simple bar chart.

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This is interesting, but some context is missing. Is all of this organic traffic coming from Google? (In this example, where the data is from the US, it’s pretty obvious. But imagine creating the same chart for China or Japan, where Baidu and Yahoo have a much larger presence).

What about referral traffic? Clearly we get a significant number of users through referral links; is a single source driving most of them, or is it fairly evenly distributed across a wide variety of sources?

We could create a separate bar chart for each source, first filtering by medium and then choosing the “Source” dimension and the “Users” metric. We can also click a single button and have Data Studio do it for us:

Under Drilldown Dimension, click “Add Dimension”.

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Add “Source.” Here’s what you should see:

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Go to the “Style” tab and check the “Stacked Bars” box. This will convert your normal bar chart to a stacked bar chart (you should see the chart type update accordingly).

Data Studio will automatically make your bar charts 100% stacked, which means that each bar will go to the top of the chart. This style is misleading. For example, here it suggests that each medium drove the same number of users. Uncheck this box:

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Check it:

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14. Using the Data Studio Explorer (Labs)

Go to your Data Studio control panel and select “Explorer (Labs)” from the left menu.

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Add a new data source by clicking the blue button in the lower right corner. The explorer tool is confusing at first. It looks a lot like the core of Data Studio. However, after spending some time in the Explorer, I have come to appreciate its unique value.

Unlike Data Studio, any modifications you make to a chart in Explorer are temporary. This means it’s a good place to experiment with your data and try different ways of visualizing it without making any permanent changes. Once you are satisfied with your chart, just export it back to Data Studio.

To do this, click on the little share icon in the top navigation bar.

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Next, choose whether you want to add your work in the Explorer, to a new or existing Data Studio report.

Advanced features

15. Create report-level filters

By default, a filter is applied to all charts on that page, but what happens if the user moves to the next page? The filter will not be applied.

This is confusing for non-technical people and inconvenient for the data-savvy. To take a filter from the page level to the report level, just right-click and select “Make report level”.

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16. Create combined fields

Data Studio is powerful because it can incorporate more than 400 data sources into a single report. Thanks to a new feature called “combined sources” it has just become even more powerful. Warning: maybe it’s a bit technical. Stick with me and I promise it will be worth it.

If you’re familiar with JOIN clauses in SQL, you’ll understand the data merging right away. Don’t know what SQL is? No problem.

The best way to think about data blending is with a Venn diagram. You have two sets of data. Each data set has unique information, for example, data that lives in the green and blue areas, respectively.

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But they have (at least) one piece of data in common: the information in the blue-green overlap section.

This shared data point is known as a key. If your datasets do not have a key, they are not mixable.

For example, suppose you want to compare user behavior on your website with user behavior in your app. The key is the user ID, a custom dimension that Google Analytics has created and that your app analytics software also uses.

It combines the GA website behavior report with the app usage report. This gives you all the records from the first report along with any matching ones from the second; in other words, if a user has visited the site and used the app, they will be included. If they have only used the application but not visited the site, they will not be included in the new combined data.

This is known as a LEFT OUTER JOIN. Why should you care? Because the order of your data sources is important.

Put your primary data source first, that is, the one where you want all the values, regardless of whether there is a match in its second source.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s set up a mixed field.

First, add a chart to your report:

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Click “Blend data.” This panel will appear:

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Select your first data source on the left. Remember that this is the main data source. Next, add your second data source. Data Studio allows you to add up to five data sources in a chart, but for now, let’s limit ourselves to two.

Now choose your join key(s). If the field exists in both sources, it will turn green. If it doesn’t exist, you’ll see this:

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Remember that the key acts as a filter for the second data source. In this example, only records that match the GA view landing page for your website will be pulled from Google Search Console.

Choosing multiple keys will further limit the number of records pulled from the second data source.

Once you have chosen your binding key(s), the rest of the process should be familiar:

Choose the dimensions and metrics you want to see for your first data source. Then do the same for the second one.

You can also limit the results by adding a filter or date range (or, in the case of GA sources, segments). Filters, date ranges and segments applied to the leftmost data source will be carried over to the other data sources.

Once you have finished customizing the report, click “Save”. Congratulations: you’ve just created your first merged data chart!

Another thing you can do is create two separate charts and then combine them. Data Studio offers a great shortcut for that. Just select both charts, right-click and choose “Merge Data”. Unfortunately, Data Studio can get confused quite easily, so I would make the effort to learn how to blend data using the right panel.

17. Create a basic calculated field

When your existing data doesn’t give you enough information, it’s time to create a calculated field.

Calculated fields take your data and, as the name implies, perform calculations on it.

It’s probably easiest to explain this with an example. Let’s say you want to see the cost per lead. You can create a calculated field that takes the “Cost” metric and divides it by the “leads” metric.

Once you create this field, it will update automatically, so you can change the chart’s time range, dimensions, etc., and the average transactions per user data will update accordingly.

There are two ways to create a calculated field:

  1. Create a field at the data source level, which will make that field available in any report that uses that data source. It will also be available as a filter control or in new calculated fields (such as the starting calculated field).

Obviously, this is a good option if you plan to use this custom metric more than once. The only warning is that you must have editing rights on the original data source. You also cannot use a calculated field from the data source with combined data.

2. Create a field at the chart level, which means you will only be able to use the field for that specific report.

All limitations of the other type do not apply here: although you cannot use a chart-level calculated field in another chart, filter control or additional calculated field, you do not need to have editing rights to the original data.

You can also use a chart-specific calculated field for data combination, which we will see in the next step.

Creating a data source calculated field

Add a chart to your Data Studio dashboard, then choose the data source you want to divert your new field from.

Click “Add a new field” in the lower left corner.

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(You can also do this by clicking on the pencil next to the data source and then selecting “Add a field” in the upper right corner of your fields menu.)

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Use the menu on the left to find the metrics you need; click on one to add it to the formula. If the formula has an error, a red notification will appear below the editor explaining what went wrong. If your formula works, you will get a green check mark.

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Click “Save” to add your new field to the data source. You will now be able to add this calculated field to any chart as a normal field.

Create a calculated field at chart level

This option is a little easier. Simply click “Add a field” below the existing dimension(s) and metric(s) you have selected.

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Next, select “Add a new field”. This panel will appear:

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From here, enter the formula for your new field (simply typing in the name of the desired metric will open a menu of options) and click “Apply”.

Your new field will be added to the chart.

An excellent summary of the sample calculated metrics, including:

  • No Bounce Rate
  • Page views per transaction
  • Value per session

Check it out for inspiration.

If you want to get some practice before you start working with your own data, Google offers a handy sample exercise.

18. Creating an advanced calculated field

Well, there’s a lot you can do with simple algebraic calculated fields. But there’s even more you can do once you enter functions and RegEx.

Don’t panic. Let’s walk through them step by step.

If you’re comfortable with functions in Google Sheets and/or Excel, then you already know how to use functions in Data Studio.

For example, let’s say you majored in English and have always been annoyed that “Source” in Google Analytics is lowercase. You can use the UPPER function to transform the source to uppercase.

Just click on “Add dimension” > “Create new field”.

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Next, enter the UPPER formula:

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As Google Sheets expert Ben Collins points out, this trick will also standardize any custom naming; for example, if some people on your team used “chat” for a campaign and others used “Chat,” the UPPER function aggregates both.

You may want to create a new field for City and Country: just click on “Add dimension” (since City and State are categorical variables, not quantitative) > “Create field”.

Then use the CONCATENATE function to join the City and Country fields.

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See the complete list of functions supported by Data Studio.

One of the niftiest is CASE; if you’re not familiar, it’s essentially an IF/THEN statement. This function allows you to create custom groupings.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at the table we created in the last step:

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Data Studio treats Facebook mobile traffic ( and desktop traffic (facebook) as two different sources. There is also the desktop traffic, which arrives via a link shim, which Facebook implemented in 2008 to protect users from possible spam. What if you want to combine all Facebook traffic into a single source?

A CASE formula solves this question skilfully. Here is the formula:


WHEN condition THEN result

WHEN condition THEN result

ELSE result


You can have one condition (like the example below) or several. The ELSE argument is optional, so feel free to omit it if you don’t need it.

This is the formula we will use to group the Facebook traffic:


WHEN REGEXP_MATCH(Source,”^(||$”) THEN “Facebook”


This formula tells Data Studio, “If the source matches, or, call it ‘Facebook'”.

To add a CASE formula, you must be able to edit the data source.

Click the pencil icon next to your source to bring up the data field editor.

Then click “Add a new field” in the upper right corner.

Enter your formula.

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If the formula works, you will see a green check mark. Give your new field a name and click “Save”. You can now add this field to any chart or data visualization that uses this data source.

You may be thinking, “Okay, great, but was that formula written in Klingon? How do I come up with my own?”.


Now that you know Data Studio inside and out, you’re well prepared to create impressive interactive reports for your co-workers, clients, and executives.

Good luck.

What should I do now?

If you have more questions and want to know how we work, contact us and one of our consultants will contact you for advice.

For further information on this and many other topics you can check out other articles in our blog where you will find references on this, and many more topics.

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